Monday, September 29, 2008

That's Decorated, Not Decaf

I don't keep my coffee snobbery a secret. I know how I like my caffeine (sixteen ounce extra-foamy double-shot non-fat cappuccino, thank you very much), and I'm not afraid to be specific about it, especially with espresso drinks as expensive as they are. And a super foamy cappuccino not only tastes amazing, but I think that they're very attractive as well.

Apparently, not everyone thinks so. At least, someone out there feels that lattes could stand some beautification. Who is this? Oleksiy, founder of OnLatte, Inc., a company that makes lattes pretty. That's right. Pretty coffee.

OnLatte manufactures machines that "print" designs onto the foam tops of lattes. Why? Because they can. Because it's cool. And because it's, well, pretty. I have to admit, the intricacy of some of these designs is quite astounding. Still, I'm a coffee purist. I like swirls of espresso and caffeinated hearts, but I'm not sure I want a robot messing with my java. I do wonder how popular this will become, and how much people are willing to pay for their drinkable frippery. Would you?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sweet Saturday

Did you vote in the first-ever Muffin Love poll? I hope so, because here is the answer to the question I posed -- what my farmer's market treat would be yesterday. So which baked sweet did I opt for? A cinnamon roll from the Black Cat Bake Shop's stand. This humongous and delicious beauty was made from brioche dough (mmm!) and topped with what tasted like a smooth cream cheese frosting (double mmm!). It was altogether satisfying, especially when paired with my black coffee. Thanks for voting, and stay tuned for next week's cavity-inducing salute to system of democracy!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

To Market, to Market

Just about every Saturday, the Best Husband Ever and I head to the local farmer's market for fresh, local produce, to taste test cheese samples, and -- wonderfully! -- to indulge in a treat. In the past, these treats have ranged from a trip to Moxiberry, which offers organic, fat-free boutique frozen yogurt in the vein of Pinkberry, to Le Petite brioche or a pastry from Bernice's stand at the market.

I like to try a different treat every weekend, have enjoyed every single option. The Best Husband Ever, on the other hand, always gets the same thing when we go for pastries. Behold the caramel roll. He knows what he likes, and he's not going to tempt fate by messing around with other pastries. I like these babies, too, but they're a little too sugary for my taste.

As for me, I'm not sure what my favorite treat is. I love the brioche at Le Petite, and I like Bernice's scones as well. Last week I tried a Bernice's cinnamon roll, and the week before that was an orange cardamom roll with poppyseeds. Both were tasty -- the latter was my favorite, tangy and intriguing -- but a little too sticky, sweet, and soggy for me. This week, I'm not sure what I will try. A cream cheese-filled croissant? A huckleberry cinnamon roll? A maple danish? And what about the muffins? Where has my muffin fantaticism gone? I haven't had a single muffin all season.

This is where you come in. What do you think I will try? Vote below in the very first Muffin Love poll and let me know! And while you're at it, why not leave a comment describing your favorite treat? Vivid and plenteous accompanying photography is greatly drooled over -- er, appreciated.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Go Go Gadget Granola Bar

A staple of my diet is a daily mid-morning snack. This energy booster usually takes the form of a granola bar because it is easy to pack, carry, and eat without a mess, utensils, and while multitasking. (My job as a para-educator has me outside three times a day to monitor recess, and as that's when I have my morning snack I need to be able to work and munch.) I ordinarily pack a LUNA Bar of some kind -- my favorite flavors include Chocolate Peppermint Stick, Lemon Zest, and Dulce de Leche. Averaging around 180 calories, 45 calories from fat, and 10 grams of protein per bar (with fluctuations depending on the flavor), these mostly organic bars are nutritious without being high in sugar or unnecessary fats. LUNA Bars do have more saturated fat than I would like, though, even if they are free from trans fats.

Seeing as I eat a granola bar every week day, the LUNA Bars soon began to bore me. As tasty as they are, I wanted something different. I enjoy two of Kashi's bar products, Go Lean Roll! and Go Lean Crunch! However, just as with the LUNA Bars, they have more saturated fat than I want and less protein. As much as I love the Chocolate Pretzel Crunch! bar, it doesn't give me as much nutrition and energy as I need from a morning snack. But what's a snacking girl to do?

Go shopping, of course! I started trying out new types of nutrition bars. I also began to be less strict about my calorie limit on the bars. Right now I'm working on returning to a healthy weight for my body type, and part of my plan is to up the calories my snacks contain. That meant that a whole new level of granola bar goodness opened up to me. I tried out a couple of Clif Bar products, who are inicidentally the same folks who make the LUNA Bar. I've always wanted to try Clif Bars but was deterred by the high calorie content -- these bars seem to average 250ish calories, with about 50 from fat, and 10 or more grams of protein. Now that I've started to incorporate them into my diet, though, I'm not sure that I'll want to ever take them out. They taste so good, if a little on the sweet side, and come in great flavors. They are organic to boot and have a lower satured fat content than LUNA Bars. So far I've enjoyed their Carrot Cake, Banana Nut Bread, Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch, and Peanut Toffee Buzz flavors. I have Maple Nut and Blueberry Crisp waiting for next week, and can't wait to try them!

Another Clif Bar product that I tried and didn't strike my fancy was the Clif Nectar bar, in Lemon Vanilla Cashew. It contained 160 calories, 50 from fat, but only 4 grams of protein. It is organic and lower in saturated fats. One aspect of this bar that I particularly enjoyed was how it's made entirely of fruit, nuts, and natural flavorings like vanilla -- no granola to speak of at all in these puppies! It makes me feel like there are not empty carbs hidden inside. However, it is a little sweet, and the Lemon Vanilla Cashew tasted so-so.

There is an organic, fully natural raw nutrition bar out there that tastes absolutely amazing. Enter the Larabar. I've read about these nutrition bars on other health-conscious blogs, and all the buzz about them is fanatically positive. The best flavors seem hard to obtain, and bloggers are constantly raving about them. When I finally saw a Larabar at a localy grocery store (first, surprisingly, in the organic section of Safeway, and later at The Good Food Store), I took a peek -- and quickly put the product back on the shelf. With these items averaging 200 or more calories with a whopping 100 fat calories, I couldn't believe that Larabars could taste good enough to be worth all that extraneous nutrition.

But still . . . the rave blog reviews stuck in my brain, and I eventually bough a Banana Bread Larabar and a mint chocolate Jocalat. Both were . . . amazing! Perfection! Bliss in bar form! The calories were worth it. The Jocalat bar was just okay and took a little getting used to, but the Banana Bread tasted just like fresh-from-the-oven banana bread! Plus, as with the Nectar bars, Larabars contain only fruit and nuts, nothing else! The Cashew Cookie Larabar that I've been incidentally nibbling while I type this post, for example, containts only cashews and dates. Case closed. Astounding! Stupendous! Unfortunately, they're a little low on the protein spectrum, but quite wondrous nonetheless. Even though I wouldn't eat a Larabar everyday, they definitely make a special treat. I'm eager to try some of their other flavors, especially Peanut Butter Cookie, Coconut Cream Pie, and Ginger Snap.

Whew! That's a lot of chatter about healthy snack bars, isn't it? Nutrition bars are fun, these days, since they are yummy as well as healthful, instead of tasting like a hunk of solid protein (erm, Balance Bars, anyone?). The best I've encountered in terms of taste is definitely the Larabar, but the Clif Bar my product of choice when factoring in calories, good and not so good fats, and, most important of all to me, protein. What's your favorite granola bar?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sneak a Peek . . .

. . . inside my stomach! For this week's [mostly] wordless Wednesday, I present the contents of my stomach for today (so far -- dinner is yet to come!).

Breakfast: 1 cup fat-free organic maple yogurt; 1 cup pumpkin flax granola; 1 banana; and a cup of jasmine green tea (which is so good -- it tastes like honeysuckle!).

Mid-morning snack: 1 banana nut bread Clif Bar (I'm new to Clif Bars -- I've tried a couple of different peanut flavor varieties, but this one is my favorite so far! On tap for future snacks are maple, blueberry crisp, and carrot cake. Mmm proteiny, snacky goodness awaits!).

Lunch: salad with romaine, tomatoes, mini bell pepper, carrot, peaches, and fat-free "homestyle" dressing (whatever that means -- it tastes pretty unremarkable); 1/2 cup combined refried & black beans with fat-free quark, mango-peach salsa, and 1 T guacamole; 2 sourdough Wasa crackers with 1 light Laughing Cow swiss wedge (garlic and herb flavor -- delicious!); 1/2 cup peanut butter Bumpers (which are not as good as Puffins); and 1/2 cup Greek yogurt with peaches, honey, cinnamon, and ginger.

Afternoon snack: 1/2 cup non-fat Fage yogurt with 1 T creamy peanut butter. This is my most challenging nutrition experiment right now, due to peanut butter's high fat content and my peanut butter binges of days gone by. However, combined with the creaminess of true Greek yogurt, it tastes amazing. Truly! And I'm not too afraid of future binges because right now I'm supposed to have one of these snacks every day. Lucky me, right?

Okay, so this post turned out to be not so wordless. Still, I find it fun to share the food of my day (or most of it, anyway) with you, faithful blog fan! And I enjoy reading what others are eating as well. So . . . what did you have to eat today?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Eating Out[side]

The Best Husband Ever and I recently moved to a new apartment. While we are sloooowly continuing to unpack, we are also settling in and feeling more at home. And the new apartment is fantastic! In addition to having a much larger kitchen, we have a more open living room, half of a garage, a fenced run for our dog, Cody, and -- my favorite -- a huge front porch. So huge that it can fit a set of table and chairs. Which we, incidentally, acquired at discount through a fortuitous visit to Loews.

We bought our brandy-new outdoor furniture two weekends ago, but didn't actually use it until this past Saturday. After a trip to the farmer's market, an apperance at the University's homecoming parade, and a quick-ish Costco run, we headed home for some lunch. The hubby really enjoys Costco's rotisserie chicken, so we bought one. He nibbled on that, a peach, and milk, while I had turkey wraps with some chicken on the side and a salad (with a delicious dressing of Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of rosemary, as described by Kath -- thanks!). It was lovely weather for eating outside. After we were finished, Cody joined us. Post-lunch silliness ensued!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Purplicious Salad

Farmer's markets are great. It is a delightful place to wander, ogle gorgeous locally grown produce, eat delicious treats, and visit with loved ones and strangers alike. Plus it's free, if you don't buy anything, and pretty thrifty if you do. One of the things I enjoy most about farmer's markets, though, is the culinary creativity it inspires in me. For example, if not for the market, I would never have tried roasting beets, and now balsamic roasted beets is one of my favorite dishes!

The most recent adventure that the farmer's market has pushed me toward is in the potato department. I had been seeing a number of tasty-sounding potato salad recipes around the web. So when I saw the most perfect purple potatoes at a market stand, I claimed them for my own. Glorious and gorgeous, I could not resist their color!

The first few potatoes became microwave potato chips by way of a recipe at FatFree Vegan. I thought it fitting that the next round of my potato venture also be inspired by Susan's amazing collection of nutritious recipes. As a die-hard garlic lover, her recipe for a roasted garlic potato salad would not get out of my head, so I tried it.

I must say, there are not many smells in this world that are better than roasting garlic on anything. The same proved true for my purple 'taters. And not only did they smell lovely, but they tasted quite good packed into my Mr. Bento lunch box. I used about four or five smallish potatoes, and it made enough for two servings of approximately one cup each.

(Here's a fun side note: the melon in my cottage cheese in the top photo of this post is the Sinful Dixon melon, a hybrid of cantaloupe and honeydew. It tastes amazing!)

Purple Potato Eater Salad

2 lbs potatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fat-free quark
2 T lemon juice
1 T Dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste
cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the quark (sour cream or plain yogurt would also work well), lemon juice, mustard, and salt and pepper in a separate dish. Set aside.

Scrub the potatoes, then chop them into chunks. Spray the pieces with cooking spray and place them in a shallow baking dish or pan. Roast for about 25 minutes. Add the garlic and roast for five additional minutes. When done, remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Toss the potatoes with the dressing and serve or refrigerate.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Peanut Butter is my Friend

It's true. I heart peanut butter. But our relationship has not always been so rosy. I wish I didn't enjoy peanut butter so much, actually, because of our rocky history. I'm nervous that one spoonful of the glorious stuff will lead to a full-out craze of tongue-to-roof-sticking indulgence. That has not happened recently, thank goodness, which is encouraging and a relief. For a long time I completely swore off peanut butter because it would lead to that sort of eating, which would never make me feel well physically, mentally, or emotionally.

The story doesn't end tragically, though. I'm glad I decided to start eating peanut butter (and peanut butter products) again, even with the potential pitfalls inherent in such a choice. And if I had not started to eat it responsibly once again, I would never have enjoyed wonderful foods like peanut butter stir-fry sauce, various peanut butter flavored granola bars like the chocolate chip peanut crunch Clif Bar, and -- my most recent adventure -- peanut butter mixed into authentic Greek yogurt (you must try this, it's amazing!).

Two peanut butter products that I've been enjoying with particular regularity hail from the cereal department. Nature's Path offers an organic Peanut Butter Granola that is fantastic. I first fell in love with their Pumpkin FlaxPlus, and of course had to try the peanut butter variety when I discovered it. With seven grams of protein, I enjoy stirring one cup of the granola into a cup of fat-free vanilla or maple yogurt with a sliced banana. Yum! Not only is it crunchy and delicious, but you can really taste actual peanut butter, bite into whole peanuts, and even feel the peanut butter's texture on some of the pieces. It makes for a great breakfast, and I have also packed it into Mr. Bento for lunch. This granola is rather dense in terms of calories, though, so you should probably not be too free with it -- three-fourths of a cup contians 260 calories (100 from fat), 11 grams of fat, and 8% of your daily saturated fats. However, it is so tasty and energizing that it's worth it!

Another peanut butter cereal that is a little less calorie-heavy is Barbara's Bakery's peanut butter Puffins. Barabara's Bakery is a sponsor of the Audubon Society's efforts to restore depletied puffin habitats and populations, and I suppose that the Puffins line of cereal is part of that sponsorship. The original Puffins cereal is described as "lightly sweetened corn pillows," and that is very accurate. Just add a light peanut butter taste and you've got the start of a glorious breakfast. I like Puffins by themselves, or stirred into vanilla yogurt with a sliced banana. (Can you tell that I adore bananas and peanut butter together? Add some honey and you've really hit the jackpot!) Just like with the peanut butter granola, the Puffins have found themselves included in my lunch box. I would imagine tha tthey would also make for great snack material, although I haven't put this theory to the test quite yet. The time is coming, though! I'm thinking that an upcoming afternoon, post-work snack will have to be couched in Puffin-y goodness.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nutella + White Chocolate + Oven = Yum

As I have already blogged about, this week the Best Husband Ever and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I wanted to get him a special present, but could not think of what the perfect gift might be. Then it dawned on me -- he doesn't like how I tweak baking recipes to make them healthier, and wishes I would could more with real butter, plain sugar, and the like. So I decided to make him cookies, untweaked and "unhealthy."

But what to make? I thought about some sort of peanut butter chocolate chip cookie, but I wanted to try something a little more adventurous. Besides, he could buy peanut butter cookies if he really wanted them. No, I wanted a special recipe. I got to thinking about the open jar of Nutella that has been languishing rather forlornly in our kitchen for quite some time. Now, don't you think Nutella cookies with white chocolate chips would be fun and fancy? I did, so I got to Googling recipes for ideas.

I found a good-sounding recipe for Nutella Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies. However, that recipe definitely makes a healthier brand of cookie than my husband enjoys. It calls for wheat flour, which he can taste, as well as a sugar substitute. I used regular flour and sugar instead. I did use Smart Balance for butter and an egg replacer instead of a regular egg, though, since that's what I had on hand, and because I'm lazy about egg-beating. Also, I used white chocolate chips instead of the semi-sweet chips that this recipe calls for.

The cookies turned out quite well! I had two trays of cookies baking at the same time, and I think that the bottom rack was too close to the oven's coils so that tray of cookies turned out some cookies with crispy undersides. They still tasted great to me, though, and I think that the Best Husband Ever enjoyed them, too. He took them all to work and I haven't seen them since Tuesday, so I'll take that as a thumbs up!

It was an interesting trying to baking secretly, though. I had to tell my husband to come home extra late, and I was afraid that he would think that I just didn't want him around. But I think I managed to keep the cookies a secret without hurting his feelings. I did confuse him a bit, though! It was also challenging to find a good spot to cool the cookies in after baking them, but I don't think he spied them hiding up on top of the fridge Monday night. And if he did, he was wonderful enough not to mention it, so I can feel secure in the execution of my sweet surprise!

Secret Anniversary Cookies

1.25 cup AP flour

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup butter
2 T Nutella
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vanilla chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the butter (I used Smart Balance) sugars, cocoa, baking soda, salt, egg (I used an egg replacer), and vanilla. Stir until fluffy, then add the Nutella. Stir again. Slowly mix in the flour, 1/4 cup at a time. Add the chips and stir until well-distribued.

Spoon the batter onto an ungreased cookie sheets, with each cookie "plop" averaging the size of a heaping tablespoon. Place on a centered rack in the oven and bake for twelve minutes. Allow to cool for at least three minutes before removing to a cookie rack to cool completely (if you can resist munching them all down while warm, that is!).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wordless Celebration

Here's a [mostly] wordless account for Wordless Wednesday of how the Best Husband Ever and I celebrated our first anniversary yesterday. Be sure to check out our wedding photos, too!

Nutella and white chocolate chip cookies that I made for the Best Husband Ever (recipe coming soon!).

The cookies, wrapped.

A surprise bouquet waiting for me when I got home from work!

My dinner at Sean Kelley's: a warm brie salad with apples, walnuts, and soda bread on the side.

And dessert from Big Dipper: one scoop of maple walnut (okay tasting) and one of espresso heath (very yummy!) in a waffle cone.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Delayed Droolfest

Last week, my wonderful friend, Ed, and I went out for a belated birthday celebration. (She had been in Russia for my actual birthday!) After careful consideration, we went to Biga Pizza, a local artisan pizza joint that serves not only amazing pizzas but also salads, sandwiches, calzones, and -- the deciding factor for me this time around -- desserts. I had been craving pavlova, a meringue-like dessert that I first had when I spent a semester of my junior year of college in New Zealand, and Biga Pizza just happens to make pavlova. Add to that the fact that they also have a roasted portabella mushroom salad on their menu, and I was sold.

So that's where Ed and I headed. I ordered the portabella mushroom salad, which came with a rich and delicious helping of herbed goat cheese as well as balsamic-glazed walnuts. Ed had a mixed greens salad complete with pears, candied pecans, and gorgonzola. Her salad looked good, and mine tasted amazing. The salads both came with crunchy slices of crostini, which really added something special.

But really, I was in it for the dessert. We both ordered a hazelnut pavlova, to our waitress's amazement. I don't think she really believed that we would be able to polish the desserts off, but she grossly underestimated the combined powers of our sweet teeth. The pavlova came with strawberries, drizzles of chocolate sauce, fruit compote, whipped cream, and a scoop Big Dipper vanilla bean ice cream. It was quite the finale to our meal, but delicious and well worth the splurge. My only criticism was that I wish the pavlova could have been a little less crispy on the outside. However, as Ed pointed out, our molars would not have appreciated a whole chewy meringue. We probably would have unstuck some fillings if it had been of my preferred consistency throughout!

All in all, Biga Pizza served us well. The salads were just the right size, nutritious, and tasty to boot! The entire meal, in fact, was not overly heavy or large. I hate leaving a restaurant feeling like my stomach is filled with leading, and this time around, I didn't! The best part of our evening, however, was the opportunity to share a special meal with a special lady.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dairy-Free Birthday Brownies

Remember my adventures with applesauce earlier this week? The purpose behind my baking endeavor was my youngest sister-in-law's birthday. Earlier this year a careful review of her reactions to foods revealed that she is the owner of a spiffy new dairy allergy. As a result, all things milk-based are off-limits. That means no chocolate chip cookies (if the chips are milk chocolate), no cheesy dishes like nachos or enchiladas, and no ice cream. She also has to be careful about certain types of flours, if I'm not mistaken.

Thankfully, we live during a time when a) we can learn about our food allergies, and b) enjoy versions of foods that we can't have with the help of a variety of good replacements. I had already had my eye on testing out a black bean recipe I had seen on the web, so when my sister-in-law mentioned wanting to try just such a treat, I knew what to do for her birthday.

This recipe is based on someone else's fine ground work. However, I can't find the link anywhere! I tweaked it, though, so enjoy my rendition of dairy-free black bean brownies. They are very moist and chocolaty, and refrigerating the batch helped firm up the brownies at the center of the dish after baking. The banana taste was a little stronger than I'd like, so next time I might try some canned pumpkin instead. Also, I used almond extract only because I'd run out of vanilla, but it was a shopping mishap that turned out nicely since the almond tasted great. Try your own medley of extracts -- I've got maple and mint (in separate batches, mind you!) on my list of tastes to test. Maple brownies? Yes, please!

Birthday Beanies

1 15 oz. can black beans
3 T vegetable oil
4 T cocoa
1/4 cup quick oats
1/3 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 tsp almond extract
1 ripe banana
1/4 cup applesauce
cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350 degress Fahrenheit. While the oven warms, drain and rinse the beans. Then combine all of the ingredients in a blender, processing until smooth. Spray an 8 x 8 inch pan with cooking spray, then pour the batter into the dish. Bake for thirty minutes, or until the brownies are set. Remove and allow to cool completely before serving. For a firmer texture, refrigerate the entire batch right in the baking pan, or remove the brownies from the pan before storing.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Γειά σου, Yogurt!

I've read quite a bit of buzz on other blogs, such as Eat, Live, Run, over Greek yogurt. Mediterranean-originated yogurts like Fage (pronounced "fa-yeh"), Trader Joe's brand, and Chobani are characterized by a creamier texture, high protein and low fat contents, a big calcium boost, fewer sugars, and less nutrtionless fillers than typical American yogurts. More and more fellow food bloggers are raving rapturously over their Greek yogurts. When I finally saw some small cups of Voskos Greek style yogurt on sale at Safeway this week, I naturally had to try it!

I purchased three 8 ounce cups of plain nonfat Voskos yogurt. Excited about my new-found strained yogurt, complete with a short and simple ingredient list that includes this like cream and milk instead of aspartame and sucralose, I couldn't wait to try it for breakfast. At 140 calories that takes care of nearly 25% of my daily protein needs, not to mention the calcium benefits, I felt sure that the yogurt would be a hit. I couldn't go wrong. Right?

Well, maybe not. For my first try, I didn't top my Voskos with very much, not wanting to miss experiencing what it tastes due to a heavy layer of additives. I sprinkled a little Kashi GoLean Crunch! almond cereal over the top in addition to some farmer's market melon from Dixon, MT -- it's a hybrid of honeydew and cantaloupe melons called "sinful," and it's amazing! -- and ate it alongside a toasted onion bagel with fat-free cream cheese. It tasted . . . plain. The texture was quite enjoyable, just as smooth and thick as I had read in blogland, but rather bland. Not to be defeated without a fight, I finished up the melon and Kashi and threw in some frozen berries. I thought perhaps I just wasn't using the most complementary topping. The berries didn't lend much either, however, so I finished up my bagel feeling rather disappointed.

I still had two more containers of Voskos waiting in the fridge, however, so this morning I tried again. This time around, I made the yogurt my main course. After reading up on toppings suggestions from Greek yogurt fans, I layered the contents of the container of Voskos with banana, honey, cinnamon, and a cup of the Kashi cereal. This tasted more satisfactory than my first attempt. I continued to enjoy the thick texture, but again I felt like the taste was lacking something -- it needed either more of a bitter bite, or more sweetness. Right now it just tastes like nothing, which is rather depressing. I want it to come alive on my tongue, but it doesn't do much for me right now.

Still, my third Voskos awaits! I refuse to give up hope. I've read that stirring in a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter is quite amazing. Other tips include topping Greek yogurt with honey or agave nectar, fruit like figs, kiwi, berries, and peaches, or nuts including hazelnuts and almonds. I have a jar of Nutella hiding in one of my cupboards. I wonder what chocolate hazelnut Voskos would taste like?

What about you -- do you eat yogurt, Greek style or otherwise? If so, what's your favorite brand? How do you eat it? And if you do prefer Greek style yogurt, do you have any advice regarding my dilemma? My favorite way to eat yogurt is stirred up with an extra-crunchy cereal or granola and some fruit, such as banana, frozen berries (which add even more crunch!), or peaches. Yogurt also makes an appearance as a complement to waffles, in savory salads like cinnamon curry tuna salad, baked into muffins and other goodies, or in smoothies. Greek style or not, you can't lose for nutritional health benefits if you eat a quality yogurt. Smooth and versatile and fabulous at any meal, I can't say it enough -- yogurt rules!

*Fun fact -- Γειά σου means "hello" in Greek!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

Warning: Applesauce Under Pressure

This evening I was making a batch of brownies that called for some applesauce. Already having an opened jar on hand in the fridge, I got it out, not thinking anything of the fact that it had been in there for quite some time (although it has almost a year until its expiration date). Twisting the cap, you can imagine my shock and surprise when a loud popping sound resounded through the kitchen and I found my glasses splattered with something cold and sticky -- applesauce!

Apparently, the applesauce froze from its place at the back of my refrigerator. When I shock its contents up a little, it seems that some pressure built up, so when I cracked the lid, some sort of little chemical explosion occurred. Not only did the applesauce blow up -- complete with a little puff of smoke! -- but the applesauce itself tasted bitter, almost as if it had been spiked with seltzer. Has anyone ever heard of this happening before? Or have any of you had a similar "strange but true" kitchen encounter?

As for the brownies, they are currently cooling on the counter. They were unaffected by the applesauce adventure, as I simply opened a fresh jar. But what kind of brownies? you ask, and how do they taste? That, my friends, is a post for another day!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Return of the Bento

I haven't posted much about my bento lunches in quite some time. Since I bought my two nifty new lunch boxes, I've been able to pack more nutritious meals. My most recent lunches have looked something like this lunch, packed in my Mr. Bent. The foundation items include salad (romaine, farmer's market summer squash, tomatoes, and guacamole with balsamic vinegar) and baked beans. I saw that the three or four cans of Bush's vegetarian barbecue baked beans that have been languishing in my cupboards for . . . well, let's just say for far too long, were due to expire in August. It being early August at the time of this discovery, I determined to use up the beans before they went bad.

These bento lunch marks the last of the beans! Mixed with ginger and cinnamon, they make a great warm lunch item. I also included a half cup of pureed pumpkin topped with cinnamon and raisins, which also is fantastic after a quick run through the microwave. To round off the meal with some healthy carbohydrates and calcium, I packed a quesadilla, made with a wheat tortilla, fat-free cheddar, mango peach salsa, and garnished with guacamole and fat-free quark. This meal is warm (but still tasty at room temperature), hearty, and nutritious. Huzzah for baked beans . . . and for their absence in my cupboard!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tasty Treat Tester

I've been doing my part in the quest to discover the perfect healthy treat. We're talking serious research here. The jury's still out, though, so I will stand by my firm belief that extensive additional testing is required. This is a burden that I will sacrifice my shoulders to solemnly bear. Or something.

The Best Husband Ever and I have been systematically hitting up our hometown's various ice cream and frozen yogurt hot spots. If you're looking for a true treat, Big Dipper's ice cream is the way to go. My favorite flavor is vanilla & Reese's (vanilla with chunks of peanut butter chocolate), and runners up include yellow cake and white mint Oreo. Amazing!

If you'd like some creamy sweetness without the unhealthier aspects of ice cream, though, frozen yogurt is a great alternative. My Montana hometown offers quite a few options for yogurt fans. Moxiberry, a fat-free frozen yogurt boutique in the vein of Pinkberry, is delicious, with regular and green tea flavors. You can top your yogurt with fresh fruit -- I love mango, kiwi, and strawberries -- or other goodies like shredded coconut, Captain Crunch cereal, and graham crackers. It is on the pricey side, though, so expect to pay upwards of $4.00 for a medium yogurt with toppings.

Costco's food court serves up a 12 ounce soft-serve frozen yogurt with a couple of different options -- vanilla, chocolate, a swirled combination of the two, or vanilla topped with strawberries. The vanilla, my favorite, clocks in at 270 calories and costs just under $1.40, while the strawberries cost another $0.15. It's fat free and darn tasty, and very smooth. If they only had the option of rainbox sprinkles, this would be my perfect frosty treat. I do love my sprinkles! I'm tempted to bring my own along next time we visit Costco.

Baskin Robbins also has a fat-free vanilla yogurt flavor, although it is the texture of hard ice cream as opposed to soft-serve. I love to get mine in a waffle bowl with rainbow sprinkles and hot caramel. Delicious, a bit high on the sugar, but mostly harmless; one plain scoop of the yogurt in a waffle cone totals 310 calories with 4 grams of fat (1 gram of saturated fat). Plus, Tuesday night's $1/scoop special makes this treat easy on the wallet.

I have gotten the same treat from Cold Stone Creamery, except that Cold Stone's version is more expensive both economically and nutritionally. One scoop of Sinless Sans Fat Sweet Cream is 140 calories, while a waffle bowl is 160 calories (again, 4 grams of fat and 1 of saturaged fat), with 80 calories for butterscotch and 25 calories for sprinkles. However, Cold Stone does offer better options in terms of fruit toppings than Baskin Robbins.

My verdict? Costco's soft-serve yogurt seems to be the best in terms of value and nutrition. It makes a great low-calorie snack, has plenty of calcium, and you get a lot of yogurt for not a lot of money! Besides, it tastes great. Who would have thought? I certainly regarded my husband with skepticism the first time he brought up the bulk store as a purveyor of treats. But it's true! Don't believe me? Try it for yourself!