Just in Time for Party Season! Rudolph’s Cranberry and Lime Christmas Cocktail


Rudolph’s Cranberry and Lime Christmas Cocktail

Difficulty Level:   Easy                         Prep Time: 5 minutes                     Makes: 2 cocktails (for size of champagne flute)


  • 8 Tablespoons warm sparkling apple-cranberry juice (Martinelli’s or similar)
  • 5 Tablespoons sparkling wine
  • fresh cranberries
  • 1 lime
  • a little more sparkling wine or juice for “topping off”


1. Put a small handful of cranberries into your champagne flute/glass.

2. Cut your lime into thin wedges.

3. Place a small saucepan on low heat.

4. Pour in 1 cup of apple-cranberry juice and warm for approximately 2-3 minutes.


*Before I remove, I always touch juice lightly to make sure it is warm but not too hot to drink.

**Also, Martinelli’s has a variety of other flavors, but I’ve tried some with this, and I definitely like this flavor the best.

5. Using a tablespoon, measure out 8 tablespoons of the warm apple-cranberry juice first. Put straight into flutes/glasses.

6. Using the same tablespoon, measure out 5 tablespoons of the sparkling wine. Put straight into flutes/glasses.

7. Use either your juice or sparkling wine to “top it off.”

8. Squeeze your lime wedge into the mix and then throw in lime wedge.


Ah . . . Those Starbucks Holiday Drinks! Peppermint Ain’t My Bag . . .

Bah-Humbug . . . to peppermint flavored anything (except those little mints that do come in handy post-Mexican fiesta)!

Starbucks has three seasonal drinks advertised in store right now: Eggnog Latte, Caramel Brulee Latte, and Peppermint Mocha. I have only myself to blame for dropping $4.15 on the latter. I KNEW that I like next to nothing that is peppermint flavored, but I thought I’d get the Peppermint Mocha for two reasons:

a) It’s been a while since I’ve attempted to play an active role in my Food Blog Challenge 2011. How am I going to spearhead my massive following of people also taking the challenge? (Cue crickets).

b) I wanted to get something a little less fattening than the 15 grams of fat that comes in a tall Eggnog Latte, so I opted to get the Skinny Peppermint Mocha (which was useless because now I’m drinking a beer . . . more calories than fat but . . .)

The Peppermint Mocha was a mistake.

Starbucks describes the drink this way: “Peppermint lovers, rejoice! Espresso, steamed milk, bitter-sweet chocolate and peppermint flavor swirl beneath a layer of classic whipped cream and silky, chocolate curls.” Sounds pretty tempting, right?

No, thanks.

This drink has peppermint syrup and chocolate in it, which may very well sound tempting. However, to a non-peppermint lover, if the chocolate and the espresso do not mask the peppermint, I have discovered, upon my research, that nothing is going to redeem the drink.

I may be the only little holiday soul that feels this way, but I really do not love peppermint. I don’t mind that the flavor of peppermint is nauseatingly ubiquitous at Christmas, and I would actually line my mantel with candy canes if I thought that Baby O wouldn’t spend inordinate amounts of time standing under each one and repeating, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” (She’s two). It’s just the taste of peppermint that I do not prefer. It’s very . . . false . . . to me.

Photo courtesy of D. Robertson

The thing about the drink is that chocolate follows up the entire thing. I’m picky, I imagine. I want to end my coffee with coffee. I was all confused at the end of this cup.

After reaching the bottom of the cup, I proceeded to do some research. Was I a holiday misfit?

Here’s what appeared in my Bing search when I typed in “Peppermint Mocha Reviews”:

–Oh, why bother breaking it down? It was basically a lot of people who are pleased with the drink and very few who aren’t.

I can stand being in the minority . . . on a similar note . . .

Photo courtesy of Maggie Smith

I also found something else:

a Kahlua Peppermint Mocha Review

This review states that “while the peppermint is in the attack and finish of the liqueur, it doesn’t overbear the chocolate notes or leave you saying, “Wow, that’s a lot of peppermint!” Unlike a peppermint schnapps in some cocktail recipes, Kahlúa has definitely found a striking balance in their latest liqueur. You won’t feel like the peppermint owns this Kahlúa recipe just because the name comes first in the label.”

Hot Damn! I do not like the Starbucks drink or peppermint-flavored stuff in general, but maybe I should give this Kahlua number a try. Is it possible that peppermint could grow on me if I just try hard enough?

Shake, shake, shake. Kahlua says, “It is decidedly so.”

Have you had any of these holiday drinks? Do you love the Peppermint Mocha or something else? Chime in.

Pumpkin Product Review #2: Kashi Pumpkin Pecan Chewy Granola Bars

Courtesy of ponsuwan

According to Kashi Yoga-Shule, kashi is a Sanskrit term meant to reference the “divine inner light” that permeates at the center of all beings. How can you find it? Yoga, of course. All flippancy aside, achieving this divine inner light takes time and effort and is a predominant and useful goal of yoga enthusiasts that many of us could probably use.

For most Americans trolling through under the fluorescent lights of their nearest grocery, however, Kashi is not the divine inner light so much as it is some cardboard-tasting crap in that fancy-schmancy organic aisle—you know, the one placed discreetly next to the frozen foods, even though most of the organic, boxed products being sold there seem as though they would sell much better in the “regular” snack aisles.

In the American grocers’ defense, though, Kashi has become a more prominent fixture in the grocery within the last decade. It was the year 2002, in the middle of a Wal-Mart SuperCenter, when I first spotted two shiny, happy faces beaming obnoxiously bright smiles at me from the front of a Kashi GoLean! Crunch cereal box. As mentioned, my immediate thought was, “Wow! That is obnoxious!” Their faces, ones I remember as one older, gray-haired grandma and the other her freckled, red-haired grandson, were side-by-side hugging. Cereal was nowhere in the photo. 

Okay, so a little marketing weirdness to start, but since then, the GoLean! packaging has become much more tame—a bowl of actual cereal with some flying milk in the background, for action—but the taste is the same, and the company, despite or because of–who knows?–their constant endorsement of their “7 whole grains,” is gaining more and more shelf space. Thank goodness, too, because while I do not enjoy every Kashi product, I genuinely enjoy and am willing to pay a little more for some of their products: every one of the cereal bars, the Oatmeal Dark Chocolate cookies, the Peanut Peanut Butter granola bars (last one mentioned not for everyone). I don’t even know if the following statement is an unpopular notion anymore (because I’m too afraid to “get into it” with someone about eating habits and because I’m so afraid of appearing cliché), but I am wholeheartedly behind the movement to eat more foods with natural ingredients, and buying Kashi products gets me a little closer to this goal. (Yes, I know that natural does not necessarily mean great for me.)  

This is why I was really rooting for Kashi’s Pumpkin Pecan Chewy Granola Bars. They were performing as decently as a granola bar could with their nutrition. Too bad they just weren’t passing muster with their taste.

Here are the pros and cons of this bar:


     *low in sugar, high in fiber, relatively speaking, and no saturated fat

     *warm blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and related fall flavors

     *the mix of crunch and softness appealing

     *all natural ingredients and that Kashi constant, “7 grains”; goes well with coffee–leaves a little guilty for eating this as a breakfast product


     *nutmeg flavor is pretty strong, too strong, if you ask me

     *the pumpkin fruit layer on top is rather thick and a bit waxy

     *if you’re used to foods containing high fructose corn syrup, you’ll sense the all-natural here

     *Small in size, so I felt done before I could even acquire a good taste. To complete this review, I had to sacrifice and eat two or three (not all at once!).  

Overall grade: C+

Would I buy again?

Yes, I actually would, and here is what I’d do. I would cut these bars into thirds and pair them with a nice, strong coffee and serve them as a precursor to a breakfast or as part of a brunch. Put those little pieces on a cute plate. With all of the other stuff you have to do to prep for breakfast, this will certainly save you a little time.

Kashi, I really do love a number of your products and will continue to support your company. One I recently found and enjoy is your Dark Mocha Almond bars. Unfortunately, your Pumpkin Pecan was not for this gal.

^This product is not to be confused with their Pumpkin Spice Flax, which is even worse, quite frankly. I don’t think I finished that bar.

^^You can find Kashi products at most retail grocery stores, including Giant, Target and Whole Foods.

Baking the American Dream . . . Without Another Trip to the Grocery Plus! Oatmeal Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Michelle Byrd’s Weekly Meal Calendar:

Sunday:           Do the BIG grocery shopping trip. Be all content that I have used my time wisely and that our cabinets are now set for the week.

Monday:          Realize on the way home that one little chili pepper would be great to add to tonight’s tortilla soup. (Geez, Michelle, why didn’t you think of that yesterday, you crazy girl?) Swing into the nearest Giant to pick up the tiniest of chili peppers . . . and a pack of gum wrapped in packaging that resembles a maze.

Tuesday:          Oh, crap, who forgot the buns for tonight’s burgers? Gotta have those because Matt always offers notable groans when I mention that we can use regular bread.

Wednesday:    Hell no, I’m NOT going to the grocery today. We eat our spaghetti without meatballs because in my rush on Sunday, I just forgot to grab them altogether. Also, I just left a girl who cried over the B she’d received on her essay and a boy who told me that school was useless and that if he needed to know anything, he could just turn on his TV. He called Hemingway stupid, too. Do you know that were Hemingway alive today, he just might make you his next hunting target for that?

Thursday:        Okay, so I know I was all irritated yesterday, but I’m craving some of that baby yogurt, and I’ve ripped through all four containers this week. I’ll just quietly stop into Giant.

Friday:             Yes, I spent $32 when I went in yesterday to get YoBaby!. Why do you ask?

Saturday:         Are you serious that tomorrow is Sunday already? I usually make my shopping list on Saturday. Better get busy this week because I will not forget anything. I know I said that last Saturday. Stop bringing it up.

Photo courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot

And so it goes . . .

A conversation I had last year at lunch spurred me to jot down a week-long example of the bittersweet relationship I have with my local Giant. During that lunch, a few of us fine ladies were shoveling food down our gullets in the 27.5 minutes we are allotted to do so. After getting settled, microwaving, chewing and swallowing, we were left with about 11.2 minutes to discuss something. That day, we talked of cookies–eating them, loving them, making and baking them. Usual cookie talk. Most of what we said is extremely general, except for one response. To someone else’s comment, I replied, “Yeah, you know you’ve arrived when you have all of the stuff to make cookies from scratch right in your cabinet.” I’m not 100% confident that the stares I received meant my statement was odd, but that’s how I interpreted them.

Forget the money, the fame, the pride or the freedom. Basic kitchen staples: Keys to The American Dream. When I made my comment, I meant that having these all ready in the kitchen meant I could, on a whim, hearken back to that mythical “simpler time” when people made things from scratch more often, really liked each other, and lit warm fires and cozy candles. (Men were baking from scratch, no one told anyone to “Shut up,” and everyone’s eyes stayed intact even while reading with crumby candlelight, too, which solidifies the mythical nature of my “simpler time.”) Most importantly, having staples in my cabinet meant that the grocery store might as well be a small entity located miles away, just like years ago. Back then, my YoBaby! cravings would just have to wait (for another 50 years or so).

At lunch that day, my version of The American Dream hung out in the nether regions of my cabinets. Today, it still does. I have a hard time even writing that with a straight face because freedom and pride are pretty friggin’ key to The American Dream, for crying out loud. But, hey, the chocolate chip cookie is an American icon and can easily carry the symbolism of The American Dream on its chewy top. So, when you bite into one, raise your cookie high to the sky and revere its symbolic weight. Know that you are doing something right. Finally, if you get a chance, send a box of cookies to a soldier, to a volunteer or to someone you know doing something to maintain some American ideals. With this piece, I have just inspired myself to do the same.

Oatmeal Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from a random internet source that I can no longer find, but I know, via notes, that I’ve made about four changes from the original recipe

*I’ve reduced some of the sugary contents for this recipe because I don’t want to feel sick after eating a cookie. I’ve more to eat after just one, you know. Anyhow, my favorite parts of this cookie are its level of sweetness, its soft and chewy texture, and its subtle aftertaste. If you like your cookies on the sweeter side, increase the sugar to 1/2 cup and the syrup to 2 Tablespoons.

Difficulty:  Easy              Prep time:   15-20 minutes of prep + 12 mins per batch of baking       Makes: 30-36 medium-size cookies


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon backing soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

    My poor, little, one-legged hand mixer

  • 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tablespoon syrup, maple or regular
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In medium bowl, blend flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, oats, and walnuts with fork.

3. In large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar and (regular) sugar together with a hand mixer for 30 seconds or until well blended. Hand mixer should be on medium speed.

4. Beat in egg until smooth.

5. Add syrup and vanilla. Mix on medium high for approximately 20 seconds.

6. Switch mixer to lowest speed and begin mixing in dry ingredients in medium bowl (step #2) 1/2 cup at a time. Continue mixing dry ingredients into wet until you are out of dry ingredients. Continue to mix until well blended.

7. Add chocolate chips and coconut. Mix until well blended.

8. Scoop each “cookie-to-be” on an average-sized spoon. Round slightly and place on pre-greased cookie sheet.

9. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 12 minutes. (I turn the pan at seven minutes.) Ovens will vary. Keep an eye on your cookies. **Your cookies may look slightly underdone, but I like to take them out at this point and have them cook themselves for the remainder. I find that it keeps them chewier longer.

Happy cooking! Happy eating!

Snacks are in Session! PB and Honey Grahams with Sliced Red Bananas

Hi All,

School’s back in and with that in mind, I have made a nifty snack for you to devour whether you are:

a) throwing your backpack down after a long day of work or learning

b) so sick of revising your lesson plans due to flash flood and snow days that you could scream

c) retired or work outside of the school system and could care less about how the school masses cope

This snack involves the red banana (just use a yellow one if you don’t know nothin’ ’bout no red banana). On August 29th, I gave you guys a poll regarding food you’d either never had or had not eaten within the last six months. To no one’s surprise, perhaps, single-malt whiskey topped the list. I’m still wondering if anyone who voted has ever had it. If not, now’s the time because that poll was the start to the Food Adventure Blog Challenge 2011. Here’s how it’ll work:

  • Every week, I’ll be posting something new that I’ve tried or that I haven’t had in ages. Then I’ll expound upon my experience. I challenge you to take the same risk, large or small, at the grocery store each week. I use the word challenge but of course do not picture you having to fret or sweat. Just have fun with it!
  • When I post, I invite any of you to post those new/worthy/unworthy foods you’ve tried recently. Put your comments right into the comment box. If you have ideas about how to use or cook the food, feel free to post those, too. Don’t stress out about being fancy, unless that creams your Twinkie.

Back to how the red banana as my first challenge food arose . . .

I was roaming around Wegman’s last Friday night and first glimpsed a hefty bunch of yellow baby bananas. Like a nerd who looks forward to spending a Friday night in a seven-mile-away grocery store, I became excited. My right hand reached out to grasp the whole caboodle, but my frugality steered me away from this asinine idea. How different could these bananas taste from the big deal bananas? I then told myself that baby bananas are perfect for Baby O’s toddler hands. Frugality grew crabby then and told me to step off of the baby bananas.

What did my eyes spot next? Oh, yes, they did. Red bananas, and these were fairly small, too. I snatched three of them and tossed them into the grocery cart. Frugality, you can go to hell . . . until we get to the point where I’ll need that second grocery cart. Ridiculous.

Here’s the outcome:

Red bananas taste nutty, for some reason, and are creamier than the yellow banana. Honestly, I force myself to eat most bananas because, unless I’m having an off-the-wall craving for one, I really don’t desire yellow bananas by themselves. I liked this banana better than the yellow banana, though, because of its creaminess. It’s not an expensive product either, which makes it easy for you guys to try. Important note: Not all groceries carry red bananas–careful not to drive yourself . . . nuts . . . looking for these.

PB & Honey Grahams with Sliced Red Bananas

Difficulty: SUPER easy             Great snack that serves up protein, potassium, iron (in fairly small amounts, mind you, but . . .) 


  • regular or honey graham crackers
  • peanut butter (I made the switch and now love Smucker’s Natural PB b/c no preservatives and generally creamier.)
  • red or yellow banana slices
  • honey


1) Spread a layer of peanut butter on your graham, to the degree that you like peanut butter.

2) Cover the peanut butter in banana slices. Don’t worry about perfect banana placement (unless that is your thing).

3) Drizzle honey on top. I suggest you do a light drizzle because if not, your snack will become a big mess. Want more honey? Just eat another graham treat :-).

Idiots Eating Cinnamon: The New Beer Bong? plus! Cinnamon Mangonana Smoothie Recipe

“Cinnamon challenge” appears to be a popular thing among the late teens/early 20’s set, but I’d never heard of it. While researching it, I learned a couple of other things about cinnamon along the way. Here are the results of my search.

To go directly to the recipe, simply scroll down.

Photo by Michelle Byrd

Idiots Eating Cinnamon: The New Beer Bong?                                  by Michelle Byrd

I confess: I just finished viewing eighteen minutes of various “cinnamon challenge” clips on YouTube.

“Cinnamon challenge” videos are basically this: Predominantly young individuals, it appears, are filmed as they attempt to ingest either one precise tablespoon of or one heaping spoonful of ground cinnamon. If you don’t know exactly what effect this will have on a person (which I did not), it has an unfavorable one. Most of the “stars” of the videos end up performing histrionics, spitting or spewing forth the cinnamon, yelling “Oh my gawd!” and doing a pseudo-interpretive dance. The cameraman usually doubles as the narrator, and there are often multiple spectator(s) involved.

In one particular video titled “Wife beats cinnamon challenge,” the narrator is the star’s husband and spends the entire time berating her for her ability to succeed with the challenge. Many other narrators are nicer, but all videos are equitably asinine. The titles alone can help you determine this: “The Cinnamon Challenge (WARNING PUKE)” or “Hot Girl Cinnamon Challenge Freakout.” I am pleasantly surprised to see cinnamon spelled correctly every time, simply because it’s a tricky one.

Ingesting tablespoons of cinnamon is a dumb idea. While cinnamon is magically enticing when sprinkled onto or mixed into something in just the right dose, it is rather atrocious-tasting when taken alone. Granted, I haven’t been dumb enough to try a large amount. I tasted a small amount by itself, and that was enough to give me a heads-up. It’s also a dumb idea because cassia cinnamon, the kind predominantly sold in the United States (and not “true” cinnamon), contains coumarin, a moderately toxic substance that can do some damage to your liver and kidneys3. Honestly, though, unless you are going to be ingesting tablespoonfuls of cinnamon on a daily basis, a little cinnamon is a wonderful spice to dash into pies, shakes, cookies, coffee and more.

Studying the intricacies of cinnamon and its related antics is not how I started out on YouTube. Originally, I was looking for clips of Bobby Flay’s appearance on HBO’s Entourage. Flay fetish? Methinks not. I needed to see him in various settings to determine whether I am really an anti-Flayite or not. When I failed at finding actual episode footage, I began looking for the benefits of cinnamon. It’s the next logical step.

Result after hours of research on the (entire) web? Well, I obviously learned about the cassia toxicity issue. Probably the most scientifically-based thing I learned was that there have been a couple of notable studies done with diabetics. These studies showed that cinnamon can have potentially positive, though minimal, effects on blood sugar. The researchers’ conclusion: “the effects of cinnamon differ by population” and ultimately more studies should be done2. There’s really little extensive study done with cinnamon’s effects at all. That’s why I found it more interesting that so many sources touted the benefits of the spice with absolutely no sound research to support their claims—“suppresses appetite,” “lowers cholesterol” or “balances blood sugar.” Just type “benefits of cinnamon” into a search engine, and you can find these claims everywhere. I also saw statistics like “90% of all the cinnamon brought into the U.S. is cassia”1 without any citations, which was appalling. The Internet can really sell so much of anything and nothing to the public. But I digress.

Finally, I learned that the “cinnamon challenge” has become the new beer bong. Oh, come on, there are a few similarities:

1.      Like beer bong, the activity begs for the young and naive. Newcomers evoke that “laugh-my-ass-off” (lmao, in web world) reaction necessary to make this “f-ing hilarious.”

2.      As with anything involving funnels or silverware and a crowd, spectators stand around making more-than-useless comments to warm the cold air. What’s worse now than 20 years ago is that everyone is filming comments like “It’s like that cinnamon shot right out you’re a**!”

3.      When risk-taking co-eds decide to partake, our precious resources vanish, People!

Let’s not fool ourselves. Beer bong is not dead. Some of these folks know their way around a beer bong, too. Much like excessive beer drinkers, people who’ve thrown back a little cinny-cinny report fun facts such as vomiting6 and noticing that the “sense of taste in the front of [the] mouth ha[s] disappeared”4. Maybe one difference is that no one has to do the walk of shame the next morning. Oh, wait. Maybe there is some post-challenge coverage.

Upon further review, I took note that some of the videos dated as far back as 2007, an eon in web land. Maybe this phenomenon is antiquated. What’s up next? Paprika? For goodness sakes, people, I can only tolerate intense research on one spice per year! Can someone please keep me hip before I write these things?

Cinnamon Mangonana Smoothie – recipe courtesy of Michelle Byrd  

 prep time: 5-10 minutes                serves approx three 8 oz. glasses     *medium thickness 

 1 C. whole milk

 1/4-1/2  C. orange juice, no pulp, adjusted for your desired sweetness

 3-4 dashes of cinnamon

 1 C. chopped, frozen mango (don’t need quite as much if using fresh mango). ***You can buy pre-cut, pre-frozen fruit at the grocery.               

 1 whole, frozen banana***When it looks like my bananas are starting to overripen, but I know I won’t/can’t eat them, I peel them, wrap them in foil, and freeze for this occasion. I usually keep 2-3 bananas in my freezer at a time.


1. Into a blender, pour your whole milk and 1/4 cup orange juice.

2. Add 3-4 dashes of cinnamon. ***Be careful here. You can always add more but cannot reduce.

 3. Put in ½ cup of mango. Pulse/blend as needed.

4. Once thoroughly blended, add the rest of the mango. Pulse/blend as needed.

5. Once all mango blended, cut your banana into quarters and add to blender two at a time. Pulse/mix until thoroughly blended.

6. When finished, pour into glass, put 1-2 final dashes of cinnamon on top, insert straw, enjoy!!


*Use skim milk instead of whole to save a few calories. However, prepare for a less creamy smoothie.

*I make concerted efforts to avoid adding pure sugar, which is why I add the juice. Plus, milk has some natural sugars in it, as do the fruits. If you like your stuff sweeter than I, plan to add a little sugar. Do every item to taste.

Note: All facts about cinnamon information on here are for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor if you have any further questions about the effects of ingesting too much cinnamon.

1Bitar, Byron and Anne Wilder. “Cinnamon.” A Cook’s Wares. 2010. Web. 15 Aug 2011. <http://www.cookswares.com/discussions/cinnamon.asp>.

2Blevins, Steve M. and Leyva, Misti J., et al. “Effect of Cinnamon on Glucose and Lipid Levels in Non-Insulin-Dependent Type 2 Diabetes.” American Diabetes Association. 2011. Web. 15 Aug 2011. <http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/30/9/2236.full&gt;.

3Clemenger, Kristine. “The Healthy Cinnamon—Ceylon or Cassia?” Ezine Articles.com. 2011.Web. 15 Aug 2011. <http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Healthy-Cinnamon—Ceylon-or-Cassia?&id=5312787&gt;.

4“Cinnamon Challenge made me lose my sense of taste? What happened? How do I fix it?” (posted by Tyler T.) Yahoo! Answers. 2011. Web. 15 Aug 2011.  http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100912192206AAAai2f.

5 “‘Vanilla Extract’ Produced in Mexico is No Bargain.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 18 Aug 2011. Web. 15 Aug 2011.

6″Who here has done the cinnamon challenge???” FunAdvice.com. 2011. Web. 15 Aug 2011. <http://www.funadvice.com/q/cinnamon_challenge&gt;.