Clear, liquid Thin Mints

25 02 2011

When I think chocolate mint, I think Girl Scout cookies.

And when I think Girl Scout cookies, I think of the little triplets who live down the street and always come to our door asking us to buy a box of cookies … or two … or ten. I always end up with a million Tagalongs. I love Tagalongs.

Thin Mints are pretty great, too. Even though I’ve never been a big fan of mint, I do like it with chocolate — and  Thin Mints are the epitome of chocolate-mint cookies.

I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten Thin Mints and drank water with them. I’m also pretty darn sure I’ve never had that Thin Mint flavor in my water.

But in the natural foods section at Fry’s, that’s essentially what I found.

The brand is called Metromint, and it sells mint-flavored water in a rainbow of varieties: cherrymint, lemonmint, orangemint … and the most intriguing, chocolatemint.

Flavored water is pretty normal. But chocolate-flavored water? I had to try it.

I’m actually almost positive I’ve seen this stuff before. Last year in one of my classes, a girl brought in a bottle of “chocolatemint water,” and everyone was intrigued. As I recall, she also sat with the girls who everyone suspected brought vodka to class in their water bottles … so maybe it wasn’t chocolatemint water after all. But I digress.

I put this stuff in the freezer for an hour or so before I drank it so it would be nice and frosty. When I opened up the bottle and poured some in a glass (just in case anyone else wanted some and was terrified of my cooties), I gave it a cautious sniff.

Wow. Definitely mint. In fact, I could barely smell chocolate — but it had a strong spearmint scent.

Mint water? I thought. I guess that’s not so weird.

I took a generous sip, and I was shocked.

It tasted like … well, water.

(That was “well, water,” people. Not “well water.” That’s an entirely different story.)

I poured myself some more and took several more sips, trying to discern a flavor. I could make out a very, very faint hint of mint (and maybe chocolate), but I suspect that had more to do with the strong smell of the water than its actual taste. There was a slight aftertaste of mint, which reminded me of the toothpaste they use at the dentist’s office — only way more subtle.

I don’t get it. How can something have such a pungent odor and be next to tasteless? Maybe I just have insensitive taste buds (death by green pepper jelly?). The ingredients say it contains mint and cocoa essence … does “essence” involve briefly setting the bottle next to an unwrapped Hershey’s bar and hoping it soaks in the ambience? Because that’s about what it tasted (or didn’t taste) like, chocolate-wise.

On the plus side, the water has no sugar (or Sucralose, or anything) added. It’s just naturally flavored (or supposedly flavored) water. So zero calories, zero carbs, zero fat … and zero guilt.

Except maybe the price tag, that is. $1.50 for a small bottle of water is a little pricey, seeing as technically it’s just water. But hey, if you’re willing to pay a little extra for a very, very faint hint of flavor (and the chic factor of carrying around a bottle of mint water), then hey, more power to you.

———

Ingredients: Purified water, mint and cocoa essence.
Price: $1.49 at Fry’s.
Pros:
It’s refreshing. But then again, it’s water.
Cons: Tastes like water — er, more accurately, doesn’t really taste like anything, except a faint aftertaste of dentist’s-office toothpaste.





“You got white chocolate on my peanut butter!”

19 02 2011

Some days, I feel like a curmudgeonly old man in a 19-year-old woman’s body.

Is that weird? That’s weird, huh?

Well, fine. Not quite, then. But when I look back over some of my more sarcastic blog posts, I feel like I’m two steps away from yelling at the neighbor’s snot-nosed kids to get off my lawn. Maybe that’s what happens after you eat enough green pepper jelly and beet cookies.

So today, I’m getting in touch with my inner eight-year-old for a change.

When I was a kid, my absolute favorite food in the whole wide world was peanut butter sandwiches. Not peanut butter and jelly … just good ol’ peanut butter on wheat bread, spread nice and thick. (I only ate jelly in the form of Goober, and that was only because the stripes were too cool not to eat.)

Peanut butter sandwiches (no jelly, please and thank you) are still a favorite snack, especially now that my life consists of going to school, coming home and having 10 minutes to eat, and then dashing off to work or whatever else I happen to have going on. Peanut butter sandwiches are a classic.

I never thought I’d find anything terribly out-of-the-ordinary in the peanut butter aisle. Until I actually looked, that is.

I dragged my boyfriend with me on my food-searching adventure this time, mostly because he’s the kind of person who thinks things like clam juice are perfectly normal. He’s that balancing factor when I’m deciding what to blog about. As open-minded as he is about food, I know of at least one thing he really can’t stand: white chocolate.

So when I spotted a jar of white chocolate peanut butter and picked it up and showed it to him, his facial expression can only be described as priceless. Well, that and utter disgust.

Personally, I’m a big white chocolate fan. In fact, I love those white chocolate Reese’s — they’re one of my favorite kinds of candy. But seeing white-chocolate-flavored peanut butter took me back to my high school days.

See, there was this kid at lunch who, almost without fail, would always bring chocolate peanut butter sandwiches. He literally spread peanut butter on once slice of white bread, then took the other slice and drizzled a heaping amount of Hershey’s syrup onto it. By the time lunch rolled around, the syrup had soaked into the bread. I could never decide if this was absolutely revolting or absolutely wonderful, until the day he offered me a bite and I tried it for myself.

I will never forget that horrendous moment. I don’t think I ate anything involving Hershey’s syrup for a very long time after that.

So when I saw the white chocolate peanut butter, my mind wrestled with my instincts. My mind told me it would be good, like those Reese’s cups. My instincts told me that this was nasty lunch sandwich, Take 2, and I should stay far away.

My mind won out. Kind of. It was really more that sick curiosity  — the one that compels me to watch horror movies and regret it later.

The outside of the jar (can I even call it a jar, since it’s plastic?) says, “Try me with pears.” I hated to disobey, but I don’t have any pears and didn’t think to actually read the jar — er, jar-ish thing — before leaving the store. So instead, I tried it the good, old-fashioned way: on a piece of wheat bread.

The peanut butter had an oily, kind of grainy consistency, which is pretty consistent — no pun intended — with natural peanut butters. (Since this was, after all, “no-stir natural” peanut butter. It’d better be, with the arm, leg and firstborn child I paid in exchange for the measly 16-ounce container.)

It smelled just like regular peanut butter, with no hint of white chocolate. But smells can be deceiving. I spread a generous amount on a slice of bread, lifted it to my mouth, and took a bite.

I was immediately transported back to that fateful lunch period in junior high, and I almost wanted to cry.

But once I pushed past the memory that the disturbingly sickly sweet taste brought to mind, I started to realize that this stuff actually tastes really, really good.

It doesn’t quite taste like white chocolate Reese’s, I’m sorry to say. But the sweetness of the white chocolate balanced out the nuttiness of the natural peanut butter quite nicely.

I wouldn’t recommend eating it in a sandwich, especially not with jelly. (And that’s not just because I don’t like jelly.) It’s a little (er, a lot) too sweet for that. But I can imagine it tasting good on pears, like the … jar thing … recommends, and it would probably be pretty yummy on graham crackers as a quasi-healthy snack.

Oh, and the best part? Speaking of quasi-healthy, the peanut butter is made with evaporated cane juice. There’s no Sucralose in this one — not this time.

———

Ingredients: Peanuts, evaporated cane juice, vanilla, cocoa butter, palm fruit oil, lecithin (from sunflowers) and salt.
Price: $4.49 at Fry’s Marketplace.
Pros:
Kinda like a Reese’s. Kinda. Plus it’s all-natural and has a refreshingly short ingredients list.
Cons: Junior-high lunches involving chocolate syrup and peanut butter sandwiches.





The Fountain of Youth in a can

11 02 2011

For whatever reason, people always think I’m younger than I am. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I hear, “So are you 15 or 16?” or “What year of high school are you in?” I’ll be 20 this year, thank you very much, and technically I’m a junior. In college.

People tell me I’ll appreciate it when I’m 50. I guess so.

And as it turns out, in the event that my eternal youth proves to be not-so-eternal, there’s apparently a canned drink that will restore it.

It’s called “Self,” which seems narcissistic at best and redundant at worst, but I’ll roll with it. I found it at Sprouts among the “healthy energy drinks” and all that other stuff that may or may not work (but probably doesn’t).

It’s produced by Hansen’s, which makes those amazing all-natural sodas that I love so much … so that in itself made the drink sound promising.

They market it as a “beauty elixir,” which reminded me of wizards and alchemy and didn’t help quite as much with the promising factor.

There were three flavors on the shelf — tropical bliss, pink lemonade and blushing berry — and I went with blushing berry because it sounded the most cryptic. I mean, what kind of berries are we talking about … and why are they blushing, exactly?

The side of the can reads, “Revitalize your inner beauty with a sexy blend of exotic berries, botanical extracts, nutrients and antioxidants!” I’m not sure how berries can be sexy, but I was intrigued nonetheless.

I opened it up and poured it into a glass (after giving the pretty blue tab to my little sister to put in her shoelace … I’m honestly not sure why). “Blushing” was a good adjective after all — the juice had a pale pink color like … I don’t know, embarrassed water or something. It actually looked a little gross.

But when I took a sip, I was pleasantly surprised.

It reminded me of raspberry lemonade somehow, which doesn’t make much sense because there’s no lemon in it, but it had the same sweet-and-sour taste.  The aftertaste wasn’t so great, though: a couple of seconds after taking a sip, I could tell for certain that the juice was made with Sucralose. A quick glance at the ingredients confirmed it.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t buy into the whole chemical-sugar-substitute thing. Give me pure cane juice any day, but keep Splenda away from me. I can taste a difference, and it’s not a good thing. Sucralose, to me, tastes nothing like sugar — and I’m not a fan of chemical substitutes to begin with.

On the plus side, the drink does contain natural flavors, lots of juice concentrates, green tea extract and other extracts that are apparently chock-full of antioxidants. (It also has only 35 calories in the whole can — thanks to the Sucralose, I’m sure.)

I suppose all this could technically make you look younger … or at least more revitalized and rejuvenated (it’s Big Word Day), but I’m not sure I’m buying into it. It tastes OK, it contains some good stuff … but I’d rather drink water and eat a banana every day, or whatever it is you’re supposed to do to keep the wrinkles away. This juice might be a better alternative to lemonade or soda, but I don’t think it’s exactly what Juan Ponce de León was looking for.

———

Ingredients: An infusion of reverse-osmosis water; apple juice concentrate; natural flavors; citric acid; vitamin E; ascorbic acid (vitamin C); blackberry, blueberry, red raspberry, strawberry and cranberry juice concentrates; fruit and vegetable extract (for color); Sucralose; acerola extract; chamomile flower extract; vitamin A; zinc sulfate monohydrate; niacinamide (vitamin B3); green tea extract; D-calcium pantothenate (vitamin B5); cocoa powder extract; vitamin B6; açai concentrate; mangosteen extract; pomegranate concentrate; biotin; selenium; vitamin B12.
Price: $1.49 at Sprouts.
Pros:
Only 35 calories per can; lots of antioxidants; tastes … decent.
Cons: Sucralose. Yuck.





Muffin tops — the healthy way

4 02 2011

The other day, I was wandering through Fry’s searching for unconventional food, when I came upon a treasure trove: the organic section. Whether it’s new or I’ve just been completely oblivious to it until now, I’m not sure, but I’d definitely hit the jackpot. Now, I’m not saying that natural food in general is weird — I love most organic food — but there’s definitely some not-so-normal stuff out there.

Take VitaTops, for instance: muffins that have two-thirds of their muffiny goodness missing, leaving only … a muffin top.

I could make so many jokes. But for your sake, I’ll refrain.

VitaTops are apparently the amputee cousins of VitaMuffins, which are low-calorie (whole) muffins. VitaMuffins have 100 calories. VitaTops have 100 calories. Yet VitaTops are missing the crucial bottom part of the muffin, hence the name.

I’m confused. Did Vitalicious (the company that makes these — I see a “vitamin” theme here) decide to saw off more than half of the muffin and stuff all the calories into the top? What’s the point? Why not give people the whole muffin — or at least cut down the number of calories in the muffin tops?

According to the website, VitaTops are “more convenient to carry and eat on-the-run.” I don’t know … I felt kind of gypped when I paid nearly 6 dollars for a box of muffin tops when I could’ve had whole muffins. Still don’t see the point.

Ah, life’s little mysteries. Despite my indignation at the price, I went ahead and bought the muffin tops — “deep chocolate” flavored ones, since I figured if I was paying that much for pieces of muffins, I might as well get something that sounded tasty.

They’re supposed to be kept frozen, which I guess is less worrisome than them being non-perishable, because it probably means they have fewer preservatives. This morning, I opened the box and took out a muffin top: a nice little individually wrapped frozen puck. Yum.

The package said to heat it up for 18 seconds, so I did. After that, it was a nice little individually wrapped warm puck.

Coincidentally, my boyfriend bought me a chocolate chip muffin last night that I still hadn’t eaten by breakfast, so I put the two side-by-side for comparison’s sake. The real muffin made the puck look really pathetic. If I, in all my 5-foot-3 glory, stood next to Kobe Bryant, it might have the same effect.

Despite its (lack of) size, the muffin top did look good. I bit into it, expecting it to be warm and gooey … and part of it was. But the center was still frozen solid.

18 seconds in the microwave, my foot.

I put it in for another 10, and the results were much better. I took a bite, and then another bite, and then another … and within a minute, it was gone.

Yes, folks, that’s a good sign.

In spite of the slightly ridiculous fact that a VitaTop is only part of a muffin with the same number of calories as a whole muffin, these are still really good. (At least the “deep chocolate” ones are — other flavors include golden corn, banana nut and raisin bran.) Six dollars is slightly pricey for a box of 12, since they’re small, but they make a nutritious morning snack, and they taste like the real thing.

And, since the muffin tops only have 100 calories, if you eat them, you might be able to get rid of that muffin top.

There. I said it.

———

Ingredients: Water, whole wheat flour, organic evaporated cane juice, egg whites, chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla), cocoa (processed with alkali), soy fiber, erythritol, inulin, dried honey, wheat gluten, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, potassium bicarbonate), fruitrim (grape juice, brown rice syrup), tricalcium phosphate, natural flavor, sea salt, xanthan gum, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, folic acid, iron, biotin and zinc.
Price: $5.69 at Fry’s
Pros:
100 calories; lots of vitamins; tastes good; convenient snack (what with the individual wrapping and all).
Cons: Muffin tops. Just the tops. I’d rather have a whole muffin.








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