I have pretty much winged it in terms of running gear, and through trial and error have found certain things that I have come to love. I’ve not been asked to review these items nor have I been compensated for profiling them here. Not to say I’m not open to the opportunity. Have a product you’d like me to review? Send it my way and I will give an honest appraisal on this site. Just don’t wait for me to have a million followers before you ask me to review your products. I may just be out of your league by then.


Product Reviews

Holiday Gift Guide for Runners and Athletes

December 6, 2018 12:00 pm

This post contains affiliate links

Today is Saint Nicholas Day, and for me that generally serves as a reminder that it’s time to start Christmas shopping! While I do pick up a few special gifts here and there in the months leading up to Christmas, I generally don’t go into full shopping mode until mid-December. I find that’s when I get the best deals, and under pressure, I know I will get done!

If you are looking for just the right gift for the runner/athlete in your life, you have come to the right place! Maybe you are the runner/athlete who is looking for some ideas to give to your family and friends. Or maybe you’re just looking for ideas for gifting yourself! And I say why not? After all, you worked hard this year, didn’t you? You deserve it! Here are some of my top picks for this year. I am happy to be able to share a few discount codes for some of them with you!

If you are looking for a nice stocking stuffer, how about a book about running? One of my favorites is Running Past Fifty: Advice and Inspiration for Senior Runners. I hate to think of myself as a ‘senior’, but I guess I fall into that category. I didn’t start running until I was in my 50s, with my first race ever being the 2013 Chicago Marathon. I had no idea what I was doing. The day before the race I met my friend Tom (‘Pacer Tom’, as he is known), and he assured me he would get me through the full 26.2. I believed him! He paced at 5:25 and brought me in at 5:24:58! The guy knows what he’s doing, and if it weren’t for him, I might never have run a race again! Tom just finished his 470th marathon, and is just 12 states away from finishing a marathon in all 50 states for the fifth time! You will find inspirational stories of runners like Tom in the book, with lots of anecdotes and inspiration and advice from some of the true experts in the field.

And speaking of stocking stuffers, how about a fun  pair of socks? You know I love my Balegas (check out this fun pair), but I am also loving the Swiftwick brand lately. Check out their fun winter holiday patterns on their website, available for both men and women. There are so many fun patterns out there, why not buy a pair or two for yourself? After all, you can never have enough socks (says the person with three drawers full of socks)!

SPIbeams LED Hat  As soon as we moved the clocks back this year, my early morning runs became pitch-dark runs.  I even skipped a few of them because I did not feel safe running in the dark. I received a SPIbeams LED Hat as part of being a SPIBelt Ambassador and boom! Problem solved! The LED lights in the front of the hat nicely light up the path in front of you, and there are two red lights on the back of the hat that can either flash or stay illuminated so motorists or other walkers/runners can see you from behind. They come in black, neon yellow, or my favorite (pictured here), pink. The hat breathes nicely and the batteries are replaceable, though I have not needed to change mine after months of use. There is an easy on/off switch, so you can wear this hat day or night. There are also LED Visors in the same color options if that’s your jam. Use code SPIAMBASSADOR for 15% off of your purchase!

And while we’re on the topic of SPIBelts, though I previously included them in my Holiday Gift Guide last year (click here to see the full post – these items remain among my list of favorites!), at the risk of being redundant, I will include them again this year. They make an awesome gift for runners and non-runners alike! They can be used not just during physical exercise, but also during travel, while shopping, or any time you want to carry small personal items (the SPI in SPIBelt!) and want to remain hands-free. They even make belts for carrying small medical devices such as insulin pumps or epi pens. Again, use code SPIAMBASSADOR for 15% off of your purchase!

And hot off the presses, check out the 2018 SPIBelt Holiday Gift Guide! They’ve made shopping as easy as 1-2-3!

And by the way, if you love SPIBelt products as much as I do (and why wouldn’t you?), head on over to their Facebook page using this link to learn about the program and how to apply. You will meet an amazing group of people and will have lots of fun along the way! Applications are due December 21, 2018, so don’t delay!

My kids have been using Jaybird Wireless Headphones for years, and when I finally got my own pair, I quickly realized why they love them so much. The TARAH, TARAH PRO, and X4 are wireless in that they connect via Bluetooth to your phone, and the the RUNs are truly wireless, with no wires whatsoever! The RUNs are sweat proof and water resistant, while the other three models are both sweat and water proof. The Jaybird App allows you to customize your sound, save it to your buds, and share your preset sound with friends. The App can integrate with Spotify to allow for sharing playlists with other people. Prices range from $99.99 to $179.99. Being the highest-priced option, I thought my kids would want the RUNs. As it turns out, they like the other three options better, because they like to occasionally take the buds out while they are working out in a gym and just hang them around their necks while they are moving between equipment. I had the opportunity to try the TARAH, and I absolutely love them for both their comfort and their sound.

Did you read my review of the ActivMotion Bar? Well why the heck not?! That’s okay, I forgive you (this time). You can read my full review using this link. Here’s the CliffsNotes version:  The ActivMotion Bar is a tool that allows the user to train using dynamic variable resistance. Generally when we train using weights, the resistance is fixed, meaning that it doesn’t change. The ActivMotion Bar employees variable (changing) resistance through its rolling steel weights within the bar itself. The ActivMotion Bar is filled with steel balls that roll back and forth within the bar when it is moved or tilted. These moves engage the core and really force you to concentrate on balance and stability. I’ve been using the ActivMotion Bar for about a month now, and it has changed the way I approach my core strength training. Through January 7, 2019 you can get 25% off of your purchase using code fitappraoch25. And right now the over-stocked 10-pound bar is on sale for $89.99 (regularly $139.99), so after the 25% discount, you can get it for almost half price! Here is the specific link to that option.

Silly rabbit! Did you think I would post a gift guide for runners without my favorite running gear? I am obsessed with rabbit, and I think you will be, too! Crafted in California by runners, for runners, rabbit is my absolute favorite when it comes to outfitting my runs. Check out their products using this link to save 10% off of your first purchase!

Finally, if all of your workouts have your muscles feeling tight and sore, I would HIGHLY recommend the MyoBuddy Massager! It comes in two versions:  Either the MyoBuddy Massager Pro, or the MyoBuddy Massager Pro Plus. These products are admittedly not inexpensive, though the MyoBuddy Massager Pro is currently on sale for $329.99; regularly priced $399.99. The MyoBuddyMassager Pro Plus sells for $399.99. In either case, this is an amazing product that is well worth the cost. Use code ACCIDENTAL and receive $100.00 off of your purchase!

Think about how much is spent on a professional massage every week, every other week, or even once a month. Over time the MyoBuddy Massager pays for itself. These massagers provide professional-grade deep tissue, warming, trigger point, and vibrational massage, which can give instant relief to muscle soreness and myofascial pain.

But wait! There’s more! If you’re still at a loss as to what to buy for the runner in your life, how about a race entry? I know I would appreciate this awesome gift (hint, hint)! It’s a nice way to support your runner’s obsession with love of running. Don’t know where to start? Why not check out The BibRave 100, listing the 100 best races in America? Voted for by runners, you are sure to find a race entry your gift recipient will love. Or just search the BibRave website where you can search thousands of races and read reviews written by runners, for runners.

I hope some of these items will help you as you weed through the commercials, catalogs, and online ads trying to find the perfect gift for the runner or fitness enthusiast in your life. What other gift ideas do you have? I’d love to hear from you! Happy shopping!

 

Product Review: ActivMotion Bar

December 5, 2018 12:00 pm

I received an ActivMotion Bar through my affiliation with FitApproach in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own and should not be taken as health care advice. Always consult your health care provider with questions or concerns about your health and any new fitness program you may participate in.

Although it is not technically winter according to the date on the calendar, believe me – winter already has made its way into the Midwest with a vengeance. While I try to get outside as much as possible, sometimes that is not an option. So with ‘official’ winter quickly approaching, I’ve been looking for new ways to keep me moving throughout the cold weather season. I’m also looking to up my cross-training game so I’m not just running in preparation for my upcoming 2019 race season.

I was excited for the opportunity to test out the ActivMotion Bar because quite frankly, I have become a little bored with my usual routine. I’m lucky to have a pretty decent home gym, but I am always looking to mix things up a little. Because when I get bored with my workouts, I simply stop working out. And that’s not good.

So what is the ActivMotion Bar? Hand-built in Detroit, Michigan, it is a tool that allows the user to train using dynamic variable resistance. Generally when we train using weights, the resistance is fixed, meaning that it doesn’t change. The ActivMotion Bar employees variable (changing) resistance through its rolling steel weights within the bar itself. The ActivMotion Bar is filled with steel balls that roll back and forth within the bar when it is moved or tilted. Think of the game labyrinth, where you use slow, controlled movements to keep the steel ball from falling into a hole.  The idea is to control the movement of the balls, which engages the core and really forces you to concentrate on balance and stability.

But what about the science? According to this University of Michigan School of Kinesiology study posted on the ActivMotion Bar website, the “ActivMotion bar resulted in greater muscle activation in seven of the nine muscles analyzed, relative to the standard bar and the medicine ball…Significant differences were found in the deltoid, latissimus dorsi, oblique, pectoralis major, rectus abdominus, trapezius, and vastus medialis muscles…Additionally, ActivMotion bar tended to result in greater activation in the erector spinae muscles, relative to the standard bar and the medicine ball…When controlled for range of motion, static weight, and speed of movement, the ActivMotion bar elicited greater muscle activation, relative to a standard fitness bar or medicine ball. Ostensibly, the increase in muscle activation was the result of the internal passive weights, which generated a dynamic moment of inertia, thereby enhancing the stabilizing demands on the muscles”.

The ActivMotion Bar is available in seven different weights ranging from three pounds to 18 pounds. Depending on your level of fitness and your overall training goals, there is a level of weight that will meet most anyone’s needs. The website is very nice in that when you go to choose your weight on the shopping page, each individual weight selected gives a little drop-down description of the level of difficulty that particular bar might present. For example, I often go for the biggest challenges with a ‘bigger is better’ type of weight training philosophy, so I naturally thought I would choose the heaviest bar. However, when I clicked on the 18 pound option, a message dropped down saying “the 18-pounder is the least most popular seller. The reason? 18 pounds of shifting mass is very, very challenging to control”. I looked through the descriptions for all of the choices and ultimately I chose the 10-pound weight based on the drop-down description that “the 10-pounder is the top choice for those who have a high level of fitness”.

Now that I have been using my ActivMotion Bar for about a month, I am sure this was the best option for me. It definitely challenges me, and I do feel I am getting a great workout without being too easy on myself by using too light of a bar and that I am not risking injury by using one that is too heavy for me. There are a wide variety of workouts that can be done using the ActivMotion Bar. The company itself sells training DVDs on the website, and there are numerous ideas and workout videos available on YouTube.

Interested in trying one out? Head on over to the ActivMotion Bar website and use fitapproach25 for 25% off of your purchase.  And right now the over-stocked 10-pound bar is on sale for $89.99 (regularly $139.99), so after the 25% discount, you can get it for almost half price! But don’t delay…this discount code is only available through January 7, 2019!

Have you tried the ActivMotion Bar? What other dynamic resistance exercises have you used to work on balance and stability?

My Gift to You for Valentine's Day

February 14, 2018 12:00 pm

This post contains affiliate links

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I hope you are having a day filled with love and happiness! To help you celebrate, I thought I would share some discounts on some products I absolutely love!

Momentum Jewelry  Who doesn’t need (and love!) a little motivation every now and then? These motivational wraps and other products can help you stay on track and remember what an amazing person you are! You can check out their products using this link, and be sure to use the promo code sharetheSPARK2018 for 15% off of your order through March 31st!

SPIBelt  I have used a SpiBelt to carry my necessities (and some things that aren’t so necessary) since I started running almost five years ago. I love this product so much, I recently became an ambassador! They have all kinds of products, including medical waist belts for diabetic supplies, insulin pumps, etc. They even have smaller sizes with fun patterns on them for kids. How cool is that? I will have a discount code (and some fun giveaways) to share soon, but in the mean time, check out their Instagram post from today for a chance to win a free SPIbelt! But hurry on over–the first person to guess correctly wins the prize! You can check out all of their products by going to their website here.

Lily Trotters Compression Socks Who doesn’t love fun socks? Add compression into the mix, and ooh la la! I don’t have a discount code to share, but these limited-edition Course-It Valentine’s Red compression socks are 50% off, with no shipping charge! I’ve been spying them for over a week and only just ordered mine today. I’m glad I got in when I did, because the L/XL size is sold out! If you wear a S/M, you are in luck because they are still available. But hurry on over to their site, because once these are gone, they’re gone! Here is the link to their website.

Legend Compression Wear  You say the red color and criss-cross stitch pattern don’t fit your style? Then Legend Compression Wear may be up your alley! Plus, they have products for men, too! If you would like to check out their products, head to the website using this specific link and you will receive a coupon code for $15 off of your first order!

Zelus Insoles  If you have followed me here or on Instagram, you know two things about me:  1) I’m as slow as molasses, and 2) I’ve been running with these insoles for a number of months and my feet and legs have never felt so good! The first 20 people to head on over to their website and use my promo code AM25EXTRA will receive 25% off of their purchase!

MyoBuddy Massager Pro  And if you really want to splurge (and of course you do!), check out this uh-mazing massager by MyoBuddy! Use it to make your entire body feel good! If you click on this specific link and then at checkout use my discount code ACCIDENTAL, you will receive $100 off of your purchase, plus no tax and free shipping! Now who doesn’t love all that??!!

I hope you are able to enjoy some of these products that I love so much! Do you have any fun plans for today? Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Holiday Gift Ideas for Runners

December 1, 2017 6:43 pm

It’s that time of year! December 1st is here, and for many of us, that means it’s time to launch into full panic mode as we haven’t even started our holiday shopping. For me personally, Black Friday left me a little meh. I bought one gift item online but most of what I saw that day didn’t seem like that much of a deal. Cyber Monday came and went without much luster for me either. And so begins my annual trek to stores both physical and virtual, trying to find just the right gift in just the right size at just the right price. I pride myself on being a procrastinator. Sometimes it works to my advantage, but sometimes…not so much.

If you are a runner, you have some ideas of your own for the gift-givers in your life. Perhaps this post will spark a few more ideas for those who are asking or need a little nudge. For those of you who are not runners, I hope you will find something here that will not only fit the bill for the runner (or other fitness enthusiast) in your life, but will also fit your budget. The items range in price from inexpensive to a little more pricey. I am happy to be able to offer discount codes for a number of them.

Momentum Jewelry  I have been seeing these on the wrists and shoes of many runners/Instagrammers/bloggers in the past year or so, and I wanted in! What a fun way to express yourself as a runner, as well as to give yourself some added motivation during a tough run or workout. I had the opportunity to check out their product a couple of weeks ago. There were so many great choices, it was hard to pick just one! I picked the Oval Motivate Wrap with the words Strength • Courage • Wisdom in Navy Peony. The day it arrived I was wearing my 2017 Chicago Marathon finisher’s shirt, and the color was a perfect match. I absolutely love it, and especially that the wrap can be washed. It came in a cute little package and it really did feel like a special gift. I’ve already added a few more to my own Christmas wish list! You can check out their products using this link, and be sure to use the promo code sharetheSPARK for 15% off of your order through December 31st!

Bottle Band  I always carry a water bottle with me when I run–usually a 1 liter capacity bottle that will last me about 5 miles. I’m used to holding the bottle and it’s never a problem…except during races. I have yet to run a race where the bottle wasn’t knocked out of my hand by at least one (rude!) runner bumping into me. I saw a post about this product on another blog recently, and thought I would try it out. Coincidentally, they were being given out at the Marine Corps Marathon expo, and I was lucky to snag one for myself. Since getting my freebie at the expo, I have never run without it. As you see in the picture here, they can stretch to fit most any sized bottle. I hear you can buy them at retail stores, but you can also get them on Amazon. You can easily slip them on and off of different bottles, but at less than $8 each, I’d just buy a few in a some different fun colors!

SPIBelt  The year I started running, my husband bought me all kinds of running-related products for Christmas, one of which was The Original SpiBelt. I had originally spotted it in a store in an airport when we were traveling and since I had not been involved in the sport before, I knew nothing about these products.  I love this belt and run with it all the time. They come in all sorts of fun colors. The one I have now is red, but I have my eye on the turquoise one. You can check them out here. While navigating the site recently, I found out they have all kinds of products, including medical waist belts for diabetic supplies, insulin pumps, etc. They even have smaller sizes with fun patterns on them for kids. So cool!

Body Glide  Okay, okay, maybe this seems like too much of a personal gift. But trust me, your runner will love it, and it makes a great stocking stuffer! I recently ran a Ragnar Relay Race in Florida and it was brutally hot and humid and during the late-morning and afternoon runs with rain in and out throughout the race. The folks at Body Glide were kind enough to supply our team with some of their product and we were ever so glad we had it. I don’t generally have a problem with chafing, but with that much moisture in the air none of us was taking any chances. They sell all types of products, several of which provide sun protection. You can check them out here and here and here!

Lily Trotters Compression Socks  There are two brands of compression socks that I love, love, love, the first of which is Lily Trotters. These are the first compression socks I tried and as you know, you never forget your first love! I won two pairs in an Instagram giveaway this past year. Prior to that, I had never worn compression socks, though many of my work colleagues do, as we are on our feet for 12 hours at a time. Runners have known for a long time the value of compression. There are some who run in them, and some who recover in them (and of course, some who do both). I have run a few distance races in them and have worn them for recovery as well. They come in lots of fun patterns and colors, and if you head on over to their website throughout the month of December, you can save 20% on your order using my promo code Accidental.

Legend Compression Wear  Legend Compression Wear is my other love when it comes to compression. They offer compression socks not just for runners, but for all types of activities, including things like golfing and hiking. As the mom of three Eagle Scouts with a passion for high-adventure hiking, you can guess what will be in these guys’ stockings this year! Legend has a wide variety of products to choose from, including leg compression sleeves and even sheer hosiery for women. My favorite product (so far!) is the Legend Compression Recovery Socks. I wore these on my flight home from Florida after my recent Ragnar race, and my legs felt like they were getting a much-needed hug all the way home. I travel for business about once a month, and I always have a pair tucked in my bag for my long flights. If you would like to check out their products, head to the website using this specific link and you will receive a coupon code for $15 off of your first order!

Zelus Insoles  As every runner knows, the single most important thing they can invest in is a good pair of running shoes. But did you know you can up your game with a better pair of insoles? I reviewed this product in a previous post. Two months, two marathons, and a Ragnar Relay later, I am still rocking my runs with my Zelus Insoles. Using patented SmartCells Cushioning Technology (which is used in things like floor mats for anti-fatigue and fall protection, not only in industry, but also in homes and places like playgrounds and volleyball courts), Zelus insoles help prevent fatigue and absorb impact to help prevent injury during all types of activities. They also offer a 30-day money back guarantee! The first 20 people to head on over to their website and use my promo code AM25EXTRA will receive 25% off of their purchase!

Photo from www.mrsdscorner.com

Oofos Recovery Shoes  Just as it’s important to take care of your feet during a run, it’s equally (if not more) important to take care of them after! One of the several benefits of having someone come and cheer a runner on during a race is having them waiting at the finish with big smile on their face and a pair of Oofos sandals in their hands! I recently had the opportunity to try these, and they definitely live up to the hype. Touted as shoes that make your feet feel like they are walking on marshmallows, these shoes would make an excellent gift for the runner in your life. They come in several styles including the thong style pictured here, as well as slides, clogs, and even a more traditional loafer-style. They even have commemorative limited-edition sandals for some of the big marathons like New York, Chicago, and Boston. Why not buy a pair for a loved one who ran one of these races in 2017 before they are gone? I especially love that they have a Project Pink collection, where $10 of each sale from that line will go towards breast cancer research. How cool is that? It’s like gifting more than just the person you are shopping for. The original flip flop style comes in lots of fun colors. You can check them out here.

Allied Medals Medal Hangers  And once your loved one has completed his or her race, why not give them a cool way to display their medal? I was more than happy to display my medals on a men’s tie rack until I stumbled upon this website. They have a wide variety of products not just for runners, but for the many athletes you are shopping for this year! These beautiful hangers are made in the U.S.A., forged in the State of Washington and shipped directly to you or your gift recipient’s home. I was given the chance to sample this product and since I’ve run five consecutive Chicago Marathons, I chose the Chicago Cityscape medal hanger to display those particular medals. I can’t tell you how much I love this product! When it arrived I was struck by how solid and well-made it is. It is absolutely stunning. Now that I have this one for my Chicago-specific medals, I have my eye on several of their products and cannot wait to replace my men’s tie rack with these awesome themed medal hangers. I urge you to buy directly from the company. Right now they are offering a 10% discount if you buy directly from their site. Use discount code Holidays17 at checkout. Now, who needs a used men’s tie rack?

Jaybird Wireless Headphones  And what holiday gift list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning these awesome headphones? I had the opportunity to test both the Jaybird Freedom 2 and the Jaybird RUN and can I just say, I love them both? It’s amazing what pristine sound can come from such small devices. When I texted my kids to brag to tell them about this awesome opportunity, they all texted pictures of themselves with the ones they already own. Who knew? Each of them owns a pair of the Freedom 2s. My middle son Michael said they are the best headphones he’s ever owned (and trust me, over the years I bought these now 20-somethings many, many expensive sets of headphones). The Freedom 2 is not completely wireless in that they have a wire connecting the two different earpieces, but they connect wirelessly to your phone.

The RUNs are completely wireless and fit snugly and securely into your ears. I worried they would come loose or get lost during my runs, but with several attachments to customize the fit, they stayed in place over several long runs. I also worried about losing the bluetooth connection, but that never happened–even on my long rungs. I prefer the Freedom 2s while strength training. That way between sets I can loosely hang them around the back of my neck. That is the very reason my kids say the chose this model over the RUNs–they like the option of taking them out but not having to put them in their pocket and risk losing them.

How about paying the entry fee for an upcoming race? There are lots of local races throughout the country, so it will be easy to find one close to your runner’s home. If your budget and their ability to travel allows, what about a destination race? My favorite (since it combines two of my favorite things–running and wine!) is the Destination Races Wine Country Half Marathon series, a beautiful series of half marathons that run through vineyards and finish with a wine and music festival! Use my promo code DRAMBJUR for $10 off of all but the Napa to Sonoma race (which sells out quickly), or if you really want to send your runner out on an adventure, go for the Los Cabos Half Marathon and use promo code LINDA10 for $10 off!

Sunny Health Indoor Cycling Bike And for the cyclist in your life, or maybe the runner who is looking to do a little cross-training, check out this indoor cycling bike from Sunny Health! I love its sturdy features and the fact that it doesn’t take up too much space. The seat and handlebars are fully adjustable, which makes it easy for my 6′ 2″ husband and me to switch back and forth as users. The 40-pound flywheel makes for a smooth ride, and its nice and quite which I love for those days when I’m up early and don’t want to wake the entire house with my early-morning workout!

I don’t want this post to get too long (too late, I know!) but I do want to briefly mention a few other things. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know I am all about safety on my runs. I almost always run alone and unfortunately I had a terrifying experience, so I take more precautions than your average Joe. Or Jane. Clipped to my SPIbelt I always have two items with me when I run:  My Storm Whistle and my pepper spray. The Storm Whistle is touted as the loudest world’s loudest whistle, and can be purchased on Amazon for less than $10.

The pepper spray I purchased is said to be ‘Police Strength’. Also available on Amazon, it gives me a little extra peace of mind.  And if these two weren’t enough, last year my youngest son purchased this nifty set of kubatons for me. What can I say? I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Alright, just a brief list of a few more items, just in case someone I know and love is looking for ideas for me here:

Hand-held or Waist-pack Water Bottle, Hydration Backpack or Vest

Lighted Gloves, Reflective or Lighted Safety Vest, Headlamp for nighttime running

Headband/Hat/Mittens/Gloves/Face Mask for cold-weather running

Subscription to Runners World or Women’s Running Magazine

Gift Cards for iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, or a Local Running Store

Foam Roller or (and!) a Gift Card for a Massage

Running Clothes or a Gift Card for their favorite running clothes brand. Check out my favorite, Rabbit.  They have lots of great sales going on right now, and of course you can always purchase a gift card so they can pick what they like!

I hope some of these items will help you as you weed through the commercials, catalogs, and online ads trying to find the perfect gift for the runner or fitness enthusiast in your life. What other ideas do you have? I’d love to hear from you!

Full Disclosure:  I received a few free products from some of these companies in exchange for my honest review and the inclusion of their product(s) in this post.  As always, all opinions are my own. I also have added affiliate links for some of the products, meaning if you purchase any product through a direct link in this post, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price from Amazon. This will not change the cost to you at all, but it can help support the ongoing costs of maintenance and upkeep of this blog. Several of the companies offered discount codes for me to pass on to you. I will not receive extra compensation or a percentage of any of these sales; I am just passing on the savings to you. In addition, I am an ambassador for a couple of these companies, which allows me to pass on a savings or promo code. Last, there are a few items listed here that I did not receive any compensation for listing, nor do I have any affiliation with the company or the products themselves. I just love these items and wanted to share my love for them with you! Now…let’s do a little shopping, shall we?

Cookbook Review! Fresh Tastes from a Well-Seasoned Kitchen

November 27, 2017 1:35 pm

This is a sponsored post. I was given a copy of Fresh Tastes From A Well-Seasoned Kitchen in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own. I also have added affiliate links, meaning if you purchase any product through a direct link in this post, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price from Amazon. This will not change the cost to you at all, but it can help support the ongoing costs of maintenance and upkeep of this blog.

With Thanksgiving and all its trimmings now a thing of the past, it’s time to start thinking about your end of the year holiday parties and celebrations! While our only Thanksgiving duty is to show up with some great bottles of wine, we are responsible for hosting our family get-togethers on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as our extended-family get-together mid-December on a cycled schedule. We are not hosting the extended-family get-together this year, which means our only obligation is to show up with some great bottles of wine. Speaking of which…if you are looking for a great recommendation, I love the 2015 Unconditional Pinot Noir from Battle Creek Cellars. It is reasonably-priced and complements most any meal. I’m no sommelier (a girl can dream), but I do know what I like.

So, back to the cookbook…Fresh Tastes is a follow-up to the original book, A Well-Seasoned Kitchen, by the author, Lee Clayton Roper, and her mother, Sally. How fun is that to write a cookbook with your mom? As avid cooks we actually already own A Well-Seasoned Kitchen, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to give this new cookbook a try. Like the first in the series, Fresh Tastes did not disappoint. But first, a minute about ‘we’. By we, I mean my husband. He is the cook in the family. I am the casual observer and chief taster. Don’t get me wrong–I can cook, and I think very well. But he loves to cook. Have at it, dude. I’ll just sit here and watch, sipping my pinot noir.

Anyhoo…back to the cookbook (didn’t I just say that?) The book itself is beautiful.  Hardcover and almost 300 pages, it’s like eye candy for the cook in your life, and would make a great holiday gift. The pages are filled with beautiful illustrations of the varied recipes. It is nicely divided into sections, starting with appetizers and ending with menu suggestions. The week I received the book, my kids were coming over for the weekend. Our family loves spicy foods, so we decided to try two appetizers–the Chorizo, Cheese and Jalapeño Turnovers and the Green Chile Canapés. Both were delicious and easy to make. Since we like spicy, we didn’t seed and remove the ribs from the jalapeños as the first recipe instructed. If you don’t like things real spicy, I would suggest you follow the recipe exactly. Rather than work with full sheets of phyllo dough, we purchased mini phyllo dough shells, which helped speed up the process. If you want to work with the full sheets, the book has a great tip on how to work with them.

Frozen tomatoes from my garden, ready to go in a pinch!

The next section in the book includes recipes for breakfast and brunch. I am honestly not much of a breakfast eater, so I skimmed through this section. A few of these recipes have a Southwestern flair (for example, Southwestern Chile-Cheese Souffle, Huevos Rancheros) so if we were to try them, those would probably be the first two we would make. Next are the sections on soups and salads. Hello. You had me at roasted. I love (love, love) eggplant, so the first recipe we tried was the Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup. We still had plenty of tomatoes from our garden (blanched and frozen in our deep freezer), so we were happy to try a recipe where we could utilize some of them. We doubled the recipe so we could enjoy it for more than one day. It was delicious. The recipe stated if the soup was too thick we could cut it with vegetable broth. We didn’t need to do that. I suspect it’s because frozen fresh tomatoes tend to be watery when they thaw. I have an excellent recipe for Butternut Squash Soup from a friend. I haven’t tried the one in this book yet, but I would love to see how they compare, since the ingredients are very different. There are a number of recipes for salads, including several that can be used as  main dishes. We haven’t tried them yet, but there are several that we have bookmarked for future meals.

The next five sections include recipes for poultry, meats, fish and seafood, pasta, and vegetarian mains. There truly is something in this book for everyone! We haven’t had our hands on this book for very long, but we have made the Eggplant Parmesan with Sausage, Mushroom and Olive Marinara Sauce (did I mention I love eggplant?) This particular recipe had to be cut in half, since as presented it serves  12 to 14 people. We also omitted the black olives. I know they’re a staple in a lot of Italian dishes, but I don’t care for them in a hot meal. The next main recipe we have our eyes on is the Chicken Pot Pie. We make pot pie quite a bit for my mom, and she really likes it. The recipe calls for either light coconut milk, evaporated milk, or half and half. I think we will try it with the evaporated milk. I’m not sure she’d like the coconut milk flavor, and I think the evaporated milk will help thicken it up a little.

Our ever-growing cookbook collection

I’m also interested in trying the Ham and Shrimp Jambalaya. We have a fantastic recipe for Orzolaya (jambalaya with orzo instead of rice) from the The Heaven on Seven cookbook. This has been one of our favorite recipes for almost two decades, so it has a lot to live up to! The recipes are dissimilar enough that we may just end up loving both!

The last recipe section in the book is desserts. I have to admit, I’m not much of a sweet eater (I know, I know!), but of course my kids love them. There are some interesting-looking recipes, a few of which I might try for our Christmas celebrations. The book concludes with 13 full menus for hosting various dinner parties. What a fantastic idea! I sometimes struggle with putting a full menu together, and more often than not things are a mish-mosh of what I like or like to make, but not necessarily what goes well together. I love the lineup for the New Year’s Even Dinner Menu and even though I won’t be cooking on New Year’s Eve, I might try it for another get-together over the holidays.

I really like this book and am thrilled to add it to our collection. There are lots of great tips and do-ahead ideas that help streamline the cooking process. I also like that the author adds stories and anecdotes throughout the book, so by the time you’ve perused it or made a few of the recipes, you really feel like you know her.

How about you? Do you like to cook? What are some of your favorite cookbooks? If you’d like to add this one to your collection (or maybe gift it to someone this year), head on over to my Instagram feed for a chance to win an autographed copy!

 

 

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