Category Archives: Product Reviews

Max’s Granola

I’ve participated in several events since launching my personal chef business and sometimes I don’t realize how many people I’ve met and gotten to know. That is, until I’m out in the world and bumping into all kinds of people who may not even know my name, but they know what I do or maybe the name of my company.

One of those people is a fellow personal chef, Debra Walter. I think I first met her at VegFest in 2011 and have run into her several times since. On a recent Saturday, my squeeze and I waltzed into Rust Belt Market in Ferndale, which is essentially a permanent craft fair right here in our town. Right by the door was none other than Debra, selling her “Max’s Granola.” We chatted for a bit and I bought a bag of granola, which is made right here in southeast Michigan in small batches.

Five minutes later when she saw me devouring it as I walked around the market, she informed me her friends call it “granola crack.” That it is. The granola is named in honor of her son Max, who was born with a brain disorder. She said a portion of the proceeds go toward research or a charity related to the disorder.

I wish I could possible convey in words how delicious this granola is! Literally the best I have ever tasted. As a person who doesn’t keep too many sweets around the house, it has proven to be my go-to at night when I just want a little something. The best part is — it’s packed with good nutritious things, including organic oats, dried fruit, nuts, pepitas and other delicious. If you see it, you should pick some up. you won’t be sorry.

Saga of Spheres

My talented and hilarious former coworker Mary E. Twomey has released the first of her fantasy fiction books in a series that features only vegetarian characters  — pretty awesome, huh? Even more awesome? You can get it on your kindle for free until June 5. (Click HERE).

Mary and I were 2 cubicles away from each other at my first job after I made the move to Michigan. We had two totally different jobs and I was always in and out and running around as a reporter, so we didn’t chat much… until I ran into her at VegFest that spring and learned I had a new vegetarian friend! Then we started going in on cases of Dr. MacDougall’s instant soups and the rest is history.

Below you can check out the trailer for the book, as well as a question and answer with her. I’m really proud of Mary, a busy wife and mother of two adorable peanuts, for following her heart and sharing her talents and vision with the world. Way to go Mary! And I hope we’re invited to one of your asinine dinner parties soon.  🙂

Saga of the Spheres Trailer

Fang-tastic Books Interview Questions

Mary E. Twomey – Author of the Saga of the Spheres.

Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to write in this particular genre?
I was reading the book of Genesis in the Bible and I was amazed that the whole world and everything in it was created in just a few pages. I wondered how messed up a universe would be that I would create. So God’s was perfect in one chapter and fully functional. Mine turned into four books and is purely fictional. Harumph.

Please tell us about your latest release.
The Saga of the Spheres quadrilogy follows the Sun, the Moon and the keepers of the elements as they battle each other for the greatest amount of light. Behind the scenes of our spinning earth are keepers of the elements who make sure that tornadoes don’t destroy cities, fires don’t ravage forests, earthquakes don’t decimate towns, and floods don’t take out humanity. They wrestle with the natural elements to ensure that the world keeps spinning smoothly on its axis. Since the beginning of time, the Sun has been fading, and the light that shines on the earth is dimming, causing the elements to be more volatile and impossible for the keepers to control. Now they must enlist the help of one man, Finn, to help them bring the light back to the Sun. The keepers war, the North Star steals light from the Sun, and the Moon is in disrepute. The end of existence is coming, and all the while the king, the Moon, Lir, remains silent.

Can you tell readers a little bit about the world building in the book/series? How does this world differ from our normal world?
This is a modern-day mythology. The earth as we know it is relatively the same, as it appears to humans. However, the Sun, the Moon and the Stars are both spheres and beings. They have desires, dark pasts, and a duty to maintain the Order so that the earth can continue spinning with little disruption.

With the book being part of a series, are there any character or story arcs that readers jumping in somewhere other than the first book need to be aware of? Can these books be read as standalones?
While jumping into a series part-way through may work for other books, it definitely will not for Saga of the Spheres. One sentence in book one could change how a new character is viewed two books later. It is a complex web of story lines that demands to be read from beginning to end.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
Writer’s block only plagues me occasionally. I make it a policy to always have at least two completely different writing projects going on at the same time. If I get stuck on one, I switch to the other. By the time I’m ready to go back, the issue has most likely worked itself out. The trick is to make the two projects nothing like each other. If I’m writing a mythology, the other must be a comedy, and in a different format. Right now I’m working on a social/political commentary that is a young adult fiction novel. I contrast that by working on a comedy screenplay when I need a breather.

When I’m working on a project, I write five days a week. Taking the weekends off to rest and let ideas simmer helps tremendously. I also think in story plots while I’m dreaming. If I’m lucky, my dreams will start where my writer’s block left off, and then tell me how it’s supposed to unfold by the time I wake up in the morning. True multi-tasking.

Do you have any weird writing quirks or rituals?
Quiet house. Loose outline written in a notebook using a fine-tipped blue Bic pen. Glasses off, contacts out (helps to keep the outside world at a distance. I focus much better when all I can see is what’s directly in front of me). Phone off.

When did you consider yourself a writer?
I wrote my first story, a mystery, before I had gone to school and learned to form letters. I still have it. It’s a page of scribbles, but I know what it says! I was three, and loved listening to my parents read to me. Though I occasionally delved into other professions, it was always understood from a very young age that I would do whatever that job I felt like (ballerina, archeologist, teacher) on top of being a writer. Writing wasn’t really a profession to me, it was just… me. While studying in class, others would take notes. I would appear the studious girl with my notebook out, but I was always working on a novel. It wasn’t a conscious choice.

Professionally I considered myself a writer when I was paid to write advertisement stories for the newspaper I worked for.

Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life?
I am a vegetarian and truly enjoy trying out new recipes. When I got married, I was not a good cook. I made it a goal to visit the library regularly and check out new cookbooks that had different dishes from the few I could make. Eight years later, I still make it a priority to cook a new dish every week or so at least. I love challenging myself in ways that yield such immediate gratification.

In my spare time, my mom and I founded and run a children’s charity, Jesus Loves the Little Children, Inc. We bake cakes and cupcakes for underprivileged kids and teens, and have a fun time sharing smiles and being goofy girls in the kitchen, covered in frosting, making a glorious mess.

I love going for walks, watching the animals at the zoo, going to church, and reading.

I have a childish joy for throwing asinine dinner parties. We had one party celebrating Brussels sprouts. There were seven different dishes featuring everyone’s favorite vegetable. My husband and I host a birthday party for Harry Potter every year on July 31. Suffice to say, it’s the weirdest thing our adventurous friends do all summer. Luckily, we have an eclectic collection of very tolerant friends.

What can readers expect next from you?
Oh, if I told you that, it wouldn’t be a surprise! The social/political commentary will be either a trilogy or a quadrilogy. I’m about halfway through the series now. If I can get my act together, the series will be done next year. More realistically, 2014.

If a producer magically calls me up and just begs to know if I have anything for the big screen, then you’ll be seeing a goofy romantic comedy I wrote a few months ago. It started out as a way to give myself a break from the seriousness of the social/political commentary, but turned into the most fun I’ve ever had writing a screenplay. So really, I’m putting this on you, readers. If you want to read my screenplay, send a producer with a medium Hollywood budget my way.

Where can readers find you on the web?, you can like my Saga of the Spheres Facebook page, or find me on Twitter (

Amy’s Organic Country French Vegetable Soup

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any store-bought food items! The good news is that it’s been a while because I very rarely eat anything out of a can or a box or the freezer. I just cleaned out my cupboards last week and ditched about 10 boxes of random rice pilaf, falafel mix, Zatarain’s (lots of rice!) and pouches of overly sodium-laden Indian food from Trader Joe’s that I used to eat for lunch when I lived in Chicago (um…four years ago!). Needless to say, these things expired as far back as 2008.

I then found myself buying a canned item this week. I can’t recall the last time I bought canned soup — not because there’s anything wrong with it. It just doesn’t occur to me and rarely sounds good to me, as much as I love soup. Maybe I overdid it when I ate Dr. McDougall’s instant soup almost every day for work during my first year in Michigan?

Either way, I decided to snag a can of Amy’s Organic Country Vegetable Soup while I was at a swanky new renovated Kroger recently (the one at Woodward and 13 is getting there, but they’re seriously need to get it together at 9 Mile and Stephenson).

Today, as I rush around trying to get everything done before teaching a cooking class tonight and working then leaving town tomorrow (do I really have time to be writing a blog on my delicious lunch?!?!?) I reached for the can. Open, heat, eat. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

As with any meal that comes from a can, box or the freezer, it has a lot of sodium in each serving — about 25% of the recommend daily allowance. (And let’s be honest, do any of us only eat half the can? So, really, closer to 50%). Fortunately, there was no salt in my raw juice breakfast and there’s no way I’ll consume 1,000 mg of sodium in my dinner, so I think I’m good.

There are lots of good things in this soup, not to mention the fact that you can taste the freshness and see actual — gasp — vegetables, beans and grains in this vegetable soup! They include big sliced mushrooms, white beans, rice, tomatoes and zucchini. That means there’s fiber, protein and various vitamins in there too.

I haven’t had good ol’ vegetable soup in a while, but I have to think this is the best out of a can I’ve ever had. I think I’ll try to keep at least one canned lunch around I guess.

Seeds of Change Jalfrezi Sauce

I bought a jar of Seeds of Change Jalfrezi Sauce a month or two ago and — just as I suspected — it came in very handy last night. It was late, I was starving, had a few random ingredients and one of my favorite shows of all time was starting a new season in about 10 minutes, so I needed something fast.

I diced and sautéed a couple of redskin potatoes and a handful of baby carrots first, since they take the longest to soften, in some olive oil. I then added chopped onion, a bunch of chopped yellow pepper and a few handfuls of fresh spinach. I then crumbled a package of tempeh with flax to add some protein.

When it was all cooked down nicely, I added the simmer sauce and let it sit on low for about 10 minutes. I had so much stuff in there, I probably could have used a little more sauce, but it was enough and it was delicious. I had a huge portion of it and there was plenty leftover for lunch the next day (or for another person to have eaten it. I thought I was out of my microwaveable rice (again, In Treatment was starting!!!) so I ate it as it was, but I think it would be great over rice, quinoa, etc. It got high marks from my squeeze, who ate it for lunch today too, so I’ll definitely be buying this sauce — and probably some of their others — again!

Frontera Grill’s Enchilada Sauce

During my time in Chicago, I ate several times at Frontera Grill, owned by famed Chef Rick Bayliss (who also owns the more upscale Topolobampo next door). I’ve been meaning to whip up some kind of enchiladas, but it just hasn’t happened yet. I saw this green enchilada sauce from Frontera at the store recently and, when I came home late and hungry today, I decided to go with it.

I can’t find a photo of the pouch of sauce online (and didn’t take one), but I bought it at Meijer in the normal “taco section” so it should be easy enough to find.

The instructions say to fill some tortillas with cheese , pour the sauce over them, sprinkle with more cheese and bake. Though this sauce isn’t vegan, I decided to veganize the rest of it and throw some tofu and veggies into the mix. Here’s what I did:

1. Thinly slice any veggies you like (I went with the simple onion and red pepper) as well as half a package of savory baked tofu (two squares). I sauteed this in a little olive oil with some cumin, coriander and salt.

2. Heat up 5 corn tortillas in the microwave wrapped in plastic wrap for about 30 seconds, or in a skillet briefly.

3. Divide veggies and tofu into the tortillas,  add cheese (I went with both kinds of Daiya vegan cheese), and roll each enchilada up, placing them seam-side down in an oven-safe dish. I went with an 8×8 glass pan and five enchiladas fit perfectly.

4. Pour sauce over top of rolled enchiladas and top with more cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until everything is heated through/sufficiently melty.

This was even better than I thought it would be and took about 10 minutes to make. Then I cleaned up the cutting board and one pan I used during the 15 minutes it was baking, so now I can sit on my couch and veg (no pun intended). Obviously you could do this with any type of enchilada sauce (and I probably will), but I’ll definitely be on the look-out for Frontera’s sauces again.

Gardein BBQ Pulled Shreds

I think even meat-eaters would like this pulled-pork like barbecue goodness. I was skeptical, even though I like this kind of thing, but Gardein’s meat-free BBQ Pulled Shreds were delicious! Even better that I get almost half the protein I need in a day in just one serving, and there’s only 2 grams of fat.

I was skeptical of the taste of the barbecue sauce more than anything, but I even liked that a lot! Perhaps it was the “new bold bbq sauce” it touts on the front of the package.

In addition to protein you get a bit of vitamins A and C, calcium, fiber and 45 percent of your daily iron — not bad!I t only costs about $4 and you can toss it in the microwave in the bag it comes in, so it’s fast, easy and way cheaper than even get a sandwich at Subway these days. Even better.

Kashi Pesto Pasta Primavera

I just had a really delicious lunch and thought I would share. I bought this Kashi frozen meal a few weeks ago and decided to give it a shot today. It was great, with multi-grain pasta, peas, peppers, and loads of pesto. It had tons of flavor, 7 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein — not bad! Of course it has a fair amount of sodium (about 750 grams/31 percent of your daily allowance), but it’s only 290 calories and really was delicious. I’ll definitely buy it again to keep on hand in a pinch.