CYBER MONDAY: Jewelmint Grandest Mystery Box

HURRY! Y'all know how much I loooove Jewelmint but I've been really broke and waiting for a great deal. Today was my lucky day and it can be yours too.
The details are in the above image and if you use my buy link for a first time purchase I will get points... which is awesome because I used all of my points to buy one of the mystery boxes for myself. Which means the hubs can give me what I want for Christmas but it's still going to be a surprise for me. Here's hoping I get one of the boxes with more than 4 pieces but even if I only get 4 that's like buying 1 and getting 3 for free! Unbeatable value!
Wondering what to expect from your mystery box? Check out my posts here or view the items I have for trade from previous mystery bags for ideas of what a mix you can get.
After the holidays I'll be sure and post an unboxing to share what I received. ;)
Enjoy your cyber steals!


Wino Wednesday: Angry Orchard Hard Ciders

Before I get into my thoughts... did you guys decide if you like Wino Wednesday or not? I don't drink all the time but when I do... erm, wait... that feels so familiar...
So, yes, I'm planning to do a Wino Wednesday any time I've tried something new and interesting in the range of wine, beer, and spirits. Sometimes that will even include a recipe for a cocktail or something to bake or make with the featured drink.

Today, I'm featuring my new fall favorite, Angry Orchard Hard Cider.

As often happens, I was grocery shopping and debating whether my treat would be beer or wine. The gnarly tree on the box of the Ginger variety caught my eye but I'd never actually tried a hard cider before in spite of loving apple cider in general with a passion. I hate admitting to picking things up because I like their packaging but honestly, who doesn't do that sometimes?

I expected I wouldn't like it to be honest. But Angry Orchard Ginger is like blending the sparkling cider my grandma used to serve to us kids every Thanksgiving with ginger ale. The flavor is sweet and light with a satisfying bite of ginger that isn't overpowering. It even looks pretty (hence why I pulled out the clear plastic cup).

If you're a fan of sweet when you drink this is definitely something to try. It's a bit deceptive though. The alcohol kind of creeps up on you and before you know it you've had too many because it's just so easy to palate.

Since trying the Ginger, I've picked up the Traditional Dry and Crisp Apple versions to sample as well. Sweet and bright, the Traditional Dry is a strong contrast to the somewhat bitter Crisp Apple. If you like your spirits with a tart edge the latter is definitely the one to go for while the Traditional Dry is one I'd use for mixed drinks featuring hard cider. My husband tried making a Snake Bite (Guinness and hard cider) with the Crisp Apple and the pairing just tasted muddy to me, I couldn't find the contrast.

Overall, Angry Orchard is just that perfect switcheroo for this time of year. In fact, I think it'd be as welcome at the Thanksgiving feast as at the pub. The only thing I didn't like about it was that the Ginger gives me painful heartburn (something I've only ever experienced when I was pregnant with the tot) if I have more than one. Refreshing, friendly, and great for pairing with the right food it's going to be an autumn staple—if I can stop the hubs from polishing them off before I get to them—for me. Try serving it with turkey burgers, Irish Nachos (I'll be posting something about these eventually, if you don't know what they are already), or BBQ Chicken & Bacon pizza. They even featured this fabulous Turkey brine recipe on their Facebook page.

Happy Thankgiving and cheers!


Unboxing: Knorr­® Ultimate Thanksgiving Cravebox™

Watch me! ♥
Dear readers,
I hope you'll take the time to watch the 'unboxing' video I put together. I won't even go into how difficult it was getting it up on YouTube. *faints*

Image credit: bosela @ sxc.hu
Thanksgiving is that meal I look forward to all year. Growing up in a divorced family with step-parents I often wasn't sure where I'd be each year. But if there's one thing I've learned about the holiday, it's that even if you're eating salmon burgers and green gelatin salad or you're halfway around the world eating it alone, it's all about being thankful for all that you DO have.
There's something inherently frightening about taking on the responsibility of preparing holiday dinners. I love to cook but only when I'm confident in my ability to prepare whatever I'm serving to perfection. It doesn't help that I married a really picky eater and inherited his lovely—but even more picky than he is—parents. :P
This year my MIL told me I was doing Christmas. Silly as it might sound that's the reason I wanted the Knorr® Ultimate Thanksgiving Cravebox™ so bad, because I need some serious inspiration. You see, I've done Thanksgiving before... but the only time I've done Christmas was when we lived in Germany and my friend helped me plan the menu and cook. Serving my picky in-laws always scares me (don't anybody tell them so!) and by nature I'm adventurous with food... as I'm sure you've noticed if you're a regular follower of RhiAlistic.
The Knorr® Ultimate Thanksgiving Cravebox™ was my first box since Cravebox's subscription system change. I comment on it a lot in the video so I won't go into it here. I love the beautiful new box but it's far from as sturdy as the old white ones. My box was discolored and bashed in on one side. :(

Aside from the beat-up box and the handful of flubs it's a great box, my favorite so far to be honest. Sure, not everything was quite Thanksgiving oriented but overall, everything in it is going to get used! It might be the first box where everything in it was a great fit for the family and I.

Pardon the tot's hiney-cameo... she wanted to be 'in the pitch-ur' but y'all know my policy on keeping my kids privacy so this was our compromise. lol

Technically, there are 7 items in this box. That's a LOT compared to the usual 4-5. When I did the math to calculate the retail value versus the $14 charged for it, the box has about a $67 value. Awesome eh?

The brands and products featured inside are:

There's a lot to love in this box. Recipes, coupons, a way to get started on those Christmas cards, time savers, and something fun to do with the kids. In the video I mention some of my thoughts on each product and what it's great for. 
I'm not alone in claiming the Dark Chocolate Pomegranates from Brookside as a favorite product from the box. They're delicious! I was thinking stirring some into brownie batter before baking would be a really delicious and unexpected way to use them. I'm still trying to pick my product from FoldedWords, there're just so many great things to choose from! I wish they had a customizable calendar for 2013, I want to do one for my grandmother who lives far away as our gift this year. I might even pass the gravy packets off to my MIL because she's had her fair share of gravy disasters too. The question is how to offer them without causing offense... *much chin scratching*
Overall, this is a terrific box and I was surprised to see so many complaints cropping up from other Cravers on Facebook about it. I'll be using everything in the box in one form or another. Maybe not all for this week's holiday, but definitely over the coarse of the month to come. I've already got plans for some of it that will get shared here on RhiAlistic and the blog Facebook page so be on the look out for some seasonal inspiration!
P.S. -- If you'd love to get a Cravebox of your own... you can learn more about this unique subscription box on the website: www.cravebox.com


Book Rhi-view: COOKIES FOR GROWN-UPS by Kelly Cooper

Cookies for Grown-Ups by Kelly Cooper
Cookbook, Baking
Release Date: December 1st, 2012
Hardcover $23.99 (136 pages, RED ROCK PRESS)
Cookie-love is forever and yet for all the remembrances it evokes, our favorite childhood cookie is not always what we want. Even Proust lived on more than madeleines. Our tastes change. As adults, we're allowed to say no to milk, choosing instead a cup of good coffee or tea, a glass of wine, an icy cocktail or a stein of what's on tap. Kelly Cooper knows this. She also knows how to concoct delicious, handheld treats sweet or savory to go with those libations. Yet many of Kelly Cooper's most inspired cookies are built on memories. Her mother taught her to bake in California's orchard-rich Santa Clara Valley, where apricots, figs, almonds and berries overflowed. Her sweet cookies brim with these and other fresh flavors, enhanced by surprise grownup ingredients, such as Gruy√©re or orange liqueur. You may not be able to imagine precisely the favor fresh thyme does chocolate until you've sampled the cookie called Dark Desire. Her savory cookies are also amazing. No solo baker invented the piquant cookie, but leading culinary writers are beginning to note that no one creates cocktail cookies better than Kelly Cooper does! Indeed, a bite of her Antipasto cookie (featuring bits of Italian salami and cheese) may well convince you to bake for your next cocktail party. Her whimsical cookies are for adults not only because each is carefully paired with a drink but because they're deliciously suited for the discerning palette. We're talking hearty breakfast cookies with dashes of maple syrup and bacon, manly game-time cookies that incorporate beef jerky and late-late night cookies to stir the senses. For any occasion, Kelly Cooper knows just how to mix beloved, familiar flavors with enlivening, new ones and that's the true secret of successful sophistication. 
Publisher Site: redrockpress.com

Not your grandma's cookies... (4 stars)

When I stumbled on this title I was instantly intrigued. I'm a geek for all the weird cupcake trends out there (I make a pretty tasty Bacon Peanut Butter one my friends constantly ask me to make for social occasions) so a book with cookies made in unexpected combos sounded right up my alley.

Cooper's concoctions are definitely not your granny's classic staples so don't expect to see a lot of oatmeal, chocolate chips, or raisins in this collection. From liqueurs and fresh herbs to cheeses and meats this unexpected series of recipes is not for the unadventurous baker.

While I found the overall tone of the recipe inspirations and explanations of each cookie dull and unmemorable, the recipes themselves are mind-blowingly clever. Each recipe also includes a beverage pairing that is equally inspired. Think of this book as the perfect gift for your friend who loves to throw cocktail parties or your secret weapon for New Year's Eve.

My favorite recipe from the bunch was the effervescent 'Man Cookie'. Made with beer, sunflower seeds, lime zest, and chopped Slim Jims it sounded like the perfect one to test on my Sunday night TV guests. While many of the recipes require a lot of work or fresh herbs (which are costly in my area) the most difficult part of this one was zesting the limes. My guinea pig guests, husband, and even my kids (thank goodness the alcohol cooks out lol) all thought they were surprisingly good. My husband even smuggled some to work to share with his crew who shared in the sentiments of them being 'weird but good'. I will definitely be making them again with another type of beer just to see the results.

The great thing about COOKIES FOR GROWN-UPS is that there's something for just about everyone. From the wine drinker to the tea drinker, the chocolate fiend to the not-so-sweet-tooth, chances are you'll find something creative and fun to try. As with the strange cupcake trend this book lends itself to being an idea book. While many incorporate things that wouldn't go over well in my home (rotten tree nut allergies) the recipes have served as inspiration for experimentation of my own. Many could also be adapted and Cooper offers many suggestions for ingredient switches.

I highly recommend this as an idea book for the advanced baker seeking inspiration and those seeking something memorable to bring to holiday get-togethers. I think many of the cookies themselves would make awesome homemade gifts for friends and co-workers, I'd even gift the book itself to a pal who thinks baking is just for ladies. Gentlemen, this book has plenty of Monday Night Football friendly treats that won't get your mancard revoked.

Notes: ARC received via NetGalley.

Check out these other inspiring cooking and baking titles:

The Rhialist (Rhianna Walker) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.