Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Having My Own Aarti Party: Massaged Kale & Mango Salad

Last weekend, Aarti Sequeira, recently crowned the latest Next Food Network Star, made her official Food Network debut with her new cooking show, Aarti Party. Since I had already been following Aarti's fun and unique pre Food Network Star "Aarti Paarti" cooking vidoes over on Youtube, I was pretty certain all along that she would be a serious contender all along and was so elated when she won. It was awesome to see a fellow food blogger win such a big competition!

Aarti is really quirky and friendly and all of her videos are so approachable, with really clever interpretations of Indian fusion dishes. Her recipes are not the wild and crazy attention grabbing type of fusion, but rather the more comfortable, yes-you-can-make-this-at-home type, each given Aarti's unique personal flair, with usually a hint or more of Indian spices and ingredients.

I watched her first Food Network episode, which featured a chicken tikka masala inspired version of sloppy joes, Bombay Joes, as well as some incredibly easy and beautiful looking Early Grey & Pistachio flavored kulfi ice cream pops, and a Massaged Kale & Mango Salad. I chose to make the salad, which immediately intrigued me, having previously been scared to death to try making anything with kale at home. I will usually taste anything, and have no fear of eating new foods, but sometimes cooking with them is another matter entirely.

I am not really sure why I feared making kale, although I'm quite certain that, in part, it had to do with an utter lack of knowledge about properly preparing it. I had visions in my head of sloppy, murky, mushy overcooked greens. This cool crisp light & fruity salad instantly erased that unpalatable image from my mind and I overcame my kale inhibition, rushing to the market to grab a healthy, fresh bunch of cavola negro kale. If I was going to give kale a go for the first time, I wanted to try the supposedly most flavorful variety.

The salad was indeed easy to prepare, with only a handful of simple ingredients ... kale, some freshly squeezed lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, Kosher salt, honey, and some freshly diced mango. The aroma released from deep green leaves while giving them their "massage" was heavenly, and as Aarti had promised, almost banana like. The salad had a really nice crispness to it and the flavor was so unique, slightly sweet without being sugary, light and tropical. Addictive and refreshing on a hot Florida night.

I measured absolutely nothing accurately; this was one of those easy recipes you can make using your eyes and measure by feel and taste alone. I left out the pumpkin seeds, since my daughter would not even consider taking a bite otherwise. And besides, pumpkin seeds aren't the sort of thing I typically have hanging out in my pantry anyway. I did not miss them at all. This is a great salad and I hope to give more of Aarti's recipes a try in the future.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nature Valley Granola Bars Giveway Winner Announced

A big thank you to all of the folks who stopped by to enter my Nature Valley Granola Bars Giveaway. I wrote out all the entries on pieces of paper, including extra entries for anyone who chose to use multiple methods to enter the giveaway, and had my daughter mix them up and draw the winning name.

Congratulations to Karen Harris.

Please send me an email using the "contact me" link to the left with your mailing info so I can let the folks at My Blog Spark and Nature Valley know to send you your prize.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My First Giveaway (Thanks to Nature Valley Granola Bars)

When the folks at Nature Valley Granola Bars and My Blog Spark offered to sponsor a giveaway on my blog, I have to say that I was thrilled. Since I already really do eat and enjoy Nature Valley granola bars fairly regularly, it is pretty easy for me to recommend them to you. I, of course, eat them as they are intended, as a crunchy portable snack. They are handy as a mid afternoon salty-sweet energy pick me up, easily tucked into your purse or backpack.

However, I actually usually use them more often in recipes, grinding them up into a graham cracker type pie shell base or sprinkled over ice cream. I have even made a delicious creamy and crunchy chicken salad recipe that uses Nature Valley granola bars crushed up and stirred into the mixture. The chicken salad recipe was actually based on a Pillsbury Bake-Off finalist's recipe and is one I have been enjoying for a few years now. I will share a new recipe I created for the giveaway below, but first I want to tell you about the giveaway!

Nature Valley is sponsoring a special event called The National Parks Project, a fundraiser to help promote and preserve the many beautiful parks across the US. Nature Valley sent me a box of their granola bars, which have specially marked wrappers that you can send in to help raise money for the charity event. They also sent me a really nice gift pack complete with a backpack, a compass, a flashlight key chain, a bright neon green water bottle, and a book called 1000 Places to See Before You Die. They have also agreed to send one lucky Lavender Blue reader the same gift pack.

If you would like a chance to win this cool gift pack, then please follow the instructions below. You can enter once for each method. You may enter any time starting now until Wednesday August 11 at 11:59pm Eastern US time. The winner will be announced sometime the next day, Thursday August 12, so be sure to check back to see if you have won. If you are the winner, you will need to contact me via email so I can get your mailing info. If I don't hear back from the winner within 3 days, a new winner will be drawn.

How to enter the Nature Valley Granola Bars Giveaway (you may choose one or all of these methods, each method counts as 1 entry, for a total of 4 possible entries per person) :

  1. Post a reply to this thread commenting on this article. Only genuine responses will be accepted, not spam.
  2. Post a message about this giveaway on your own blog and link back to this article (be sure to post that you have done so in a reply here).
  3. Sign up to be a Follower using the Google Friend Connect link on my blog and mention it in a reply here (if you are already a follower, just mention that you are).
  4. Comment on this giveaway, mentioning Lavender Blue, on at least one social networking resource (Twitter, Facebook, whichever you participate in) and post that you have done so as a reply here.

Here is what the gift pack looks like - I thought it was really quite nice.

Now I couldn't just post about a giveaway and not provide you with some sort of recipe, so here is what I created with one of my free sample granola bars.

I bashed up one of the granola bar packs, which actually contains 2 bars, leaving some large chunks. I used the crumbled chunks of granola bar as crunchy layers in my parfait, with alternating ribbons of berries, and red, white, & blue colored yogurt. It is very simple to make and of course can be altered to suit your own tastes with different fruits and yogurt flavors. Since the event is honoring our National Parks, I thought it most fitting to stick to a patriotic theme.

Patriotic Picnic Parfaits
(serves 1-2)

1 packet Nature Valley Granola Bars (2 crunchy bars inside the sleeve), bashed until crumbly
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh strawberries, diced or sliced
1 container vanilla yogurt
1 container strawberry yogurt
1 container blueberry yogurt

Per serving: Place a layer of granola on the base of a tall clear parfait glass, then add a few spoonfuls of vanilla yogurt. Sprinkle some blueberries on top, being generous, then add a few more spoonfuls of yogurt, only this time use blueberry flavor. Repeat layers using strawberries and strawberry flavored yogurt. Garnish with more mixed berries on top.