Oh, baby, baby

2 04 2011

When I was little, I loved food so much that I wore it on my face.

Baby food, that is. Mind you, I was really little.

Actually, that part’s not entirely true. When my little sisters were born and my mom fed them baby food, I always begged for a taste. I was … well, two years old, and then five years old. Don’t judge. That plum stuff is amazing, by the way. Oh, and the carrots.

Anyway, when I was meandering through Sprouts the other day, I was certain I’d find something blogworthy. It is Sprouts, after all. But after a good 20 minutes of searching, I nearly gave up … until I spotted the organic baby-food section.

I had brought my boyfriend along (I’m a codependent shopper), and he protested that blogging on baby food is most definitely cheating. It’s not really food, he said. My argument was that if it’s not really food, what on earth are we feeding to all the babies in the world? Soylent Green?

There was a ton of baby food in those little jars, but what caught my eye were the tubes full of mush. I don’t think I’d ever seen baby food in tubes before. I guess if you’re marketing organic food these days, you have to be a little more creative than just stamping “organic” on your packaging.

There were several to chose from, most of which were fairly normal (bananas, strawberries, carrots…), but I grabbed the most interesting one: sweet potatoes, pumpkin, apples and blueberries.

Is that even a combination? What are we feeding our children?

Checking out was interesting, as it usually is when I’m standing in line with a single strange food item. The looks I get are usually priceless. And uncomfortable. This time, I also bought a bag of organic cheese puffs for good measure, but I really doubt that helped my case any.

What really didn’t help my case was that I’d brought my poor boyfriend along. The cashier and the bag lady (I probably can’t call her that, can I?) were chatting it up about how my choice of baby food was an interesting one, and the bag lady — or whatever you want to call her — said she feeds it to her nephew all the time. I’m guessing the assumption was that I was buying it for my boyfriend’s and my nonexistent child. I couldn’t decide whether telling them I was going to eat it myself would make the situation any more awkward. Probably.

I stuck it in the refrigerator when I got it home, since the package said it tastes good warm or cold. There was no “lukewarm” option, even though that’s how I always ate my baby food. Maybe this means my parents didn’t really love me. Maybe I had a dysfunctional childhood without even knowing it.

The whole tubelike-package thing proved to be kind of cool. The cap twists off and you can squirt the baby food out, and it’s resealable. I’m guessing the idea is to squirt it into a bowl and then feed it to your baby, but if it were me, I’d go spoonless and just do it bottle-style. It would save on dishes.

Of course, for the purpose of the blog, I wanted to see what it looked like, so I had to put it in a bowl. That may have been a mistake. I’m not sure how to put this delicately, so I’ll just say it: It looked exactly like baby diarrhea.

Maybe the idea was to have it look the same going in as it does coming out so babies don’t have to bother with that pesky little thing called digestion.

Plus, I guess babies don’t care what their food looks like. That’s probably a good thing.

It’s probably also a good thing that they’re generally not picky about smell, because this stuff stank of putrid bananas. Why bananas, you ask? That’s what I was wondering. I was more than a little worried as I brought the spoon up to my mouth.

The first bite was a little shocking. It definitely didn’t taste good. But by the same token, it was more interesting than bad — or maybe it was interesting because it was so terrible, like those B-list horror movies with misspellings on the cover and blood that looks like ketchup. At any rate, one bite wasn’t enough to decide what I thought. So I took another … and another…

Would you believe me if I told you I could taste every fruit mentioned in there? Pumpkins and sweet potatoes … kind of indiscernible, but check. Apples, check. Blueberries, check. This was crazy stuff.

I’m still not sure about that combination of flavors. In fact, if I didn’t focus on trying to pick out a specific flavor, the stuff kind of tasted like rotting bananas. (Again, I have no idea why.) I certainly wouldn’t sit there chowing down on it for lunch. But then again, I’m not a baby.

Maybe babies have underdeveloped taste buds, or maybe they just don’t care, kind of like dogs. Whatever the case, this stuff is definitely all-natural, and it’s really good for you. Er, for babies. And if you can muscle past the initial gag reflex and focus on how good it is for you, it’s not actually half bad.

I’m not saying I’m going to finish the stuff, because I’m not. I maintain that sweet potatoes, pumpkin, apples and blueberries should not go together in any context, kind of like blue and orange. But if I ever have a baby (someday far, far down the road) and I need to buy baby food, this stuff’s chock-full of healthiness. I just won’t be partaking in the meal. Not this time.


———-

Ingredients: Organic fruit and vegetable puree (apples, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, blueberries) and organic lemon juice.
Price: $1.49 at Sprouts
Pros: Healthy. Like, really healthy. It’s like putting a bunch of random healthy food in the blender and feeding it to your baby. It’s also much better for babies than Clamato juice.
Cons: It’s for babies. You and your more-sensitive taste buds probably don’t want to eat it.

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Chocolate and cherries and yogurt, oh my!

28 01 2011

When I’m scouting grocery stores looking for out-of-the-ordinary items, I rarely think to look in the dairy section. I mean, what is there to find? Skim milk? Cheddar cheese? I’ve always assumed the strangest thing there is goat’s milk, and that’s not strange enough at all.

But this time, just for kicks and giggles, I made a stop in the dairy section. I’d never realized before just how many flavors of Yoplait yogurt exist — but man, I could probably live on yogurt for a week and not get tired of it, since I’d be eating a different kind for every meal.

Speaking of yogurt flavors, some of them were a little abnormal. Strawberry cheesecake? Chocolate mousse? Weird, but not weird enough to blog on.

But two of them caught my eye: Boston creme pie and black forest cake.

My sister was with me as my shopping buddy (because I’m socially awkward and can’t shop alone, remember?), and she adamantly claimed the Boston creme pie yogurt. Apparently she’s had it before, and she says it’s incredible. I decided to take her word for it.

But we both had the same reaction to the black forest cake yogurt: What on earth? Why?

Obviously I bought it.

Not only was the yogurt cake-flavored, it was also light. Now, “light” things might be good for you, but in my experience (Diet Coke, low-fat cheesecake, Spam…), anything that’s either had most of the fat or most of the sugar taken out of it doesn’t taste half as good. (Clearly I’m not the most health-conscious eater. I like to enjoy my life sometimes.)

Now, about this crazy yogurt. Black forest cake is a chocolate cake made with Kirschwasser (cherry brandy) and filled with cherries. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten it — at least not that I can recall — but it sounds delicious.

But honestly, who makes yogurt that tastes like chocolate-cherry cake? I wasn’t sure how I felt about this.

Time to try it.

I peeled back the classic Yoplait foil lid and looked inside. The color — a gloomy grayish-pink — was definitely not appetizing. It reminded me of brains somehow.

And oh no, was that a chunk?

I can’t stand chunks in yogurt. I don’t know why, but I’ve always had texture issues with food. It’s not that I’m picky … just that I’m weird. Whenever I eat yogurt with fruit in it — even yogurt I love, like strawberry or raspberry — I have to either take the chunks out or eat around them. It’s kind of embarrassing.

But this time — just for you, dear reader — I scooped out a heaping spoonful of yogurt, with chunks. You should feel really special.

The yogurt was much more liquid than most other Yoplait yogurts I’ve eaten, but that might be because it was light … or because I normally get Whips, since they’re deliciously non-chunky.

At any rate, I lifted the quivering gray-pink (and chunky) mass to my mouth and ate it slowly, trying to savor it.

Conclusion? … I couldn’t decide what to think.

For one thing, the chunks weren’t really chunky, which was a nice relief for me (and my gag reflex). I’m pretty sure they were actually little pieces of cake … or low-fat imitation cake, or something.

But the yogurt didn’t taste like cake. In fact, it barely tasted like cherry.

If I hadn’t seen the label, I would’ve thought it was raspberry yogurt, with maybe a bit of cherry flavor mixed in. No chocolate, just fruit. And a not-so-pleasant sour aftertaste.

I made my mom try it, and her reaction was that it reminded her of cheesecake. I definitely didn’t get that impression, which makes me wonder if there’s something wrong with my mother’s taste buds (or mine). But the fact of the matter is, she liked it. She even volunteered to eat the rest.

But I wasn’t terribly impressed by it. There are better yogurt flavors out there, for sure. I was also disappointed because it didn’t taste as disgusting as I thought it would, so I don’t have much complaining to do today, which is a little sad for me.

Bottom line: If you like sour fruity yogurt with strange non-chunky chunks in it, pick this up. If you’re looking for yogurt that really tastes like chocolate-cherry cake, however, you’re better off baking a black forest cake and throwing it in a blender with some milk.

———

Ingredients: Cultured, pasteurized Grade-A nonfat milk; high fructose corn syrup; modified corn starch; cherries; nonfat milk; kosher gelatin; citric acid; malic acid; Aspartame; tricalcium phosphate; potassium sorbate added to maintain freshness; natural and artificial flavor; Red #40, vitamin A acetate; Blue #1, vitamin D.
Price: $0.50 at Wal-Mart
Pros:
Tastes like fruit. Always a good sign in yogurt that’s at least sort of meant to be fruit-flavored. Oh, and it’s pretty cheap.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like cake. Sad day.





Banana Roadkill

3 10 2010

It was puke-yellow and kind of squishy, and it looked like someone had scraped it off the road with a spatula after some horrible accident.

But the package said “bananas”…in fact, bananas were the only ingredient listed. Bananas aren’t gross at all. Granted, I like apples and grapes a little better, but bananas are still a yummy fruit. The “dried fruit” part didn’t make me turn away, either — after all, banana chips make delicious snacks.

“Flattened,” though? That’s a little strange. What’s the point of flattening bananas?

I was intrigued.

In fact, I was so intrigued that before I even opened the package, I decided to try a little experiment. I cut a banana in three pieces and plopped it into a plastic bag. Originally I wanted to run it over with my car to get the full effect, but since I saw a future full of cleaning banana purée off the driveway if I went with that option, I opted for a rolling pin instead.

Then I put the bag out in the sun for a few hours.

Observe:

No, I didn’t eat that.  Are you kidding me?  Even I have my limits.

I did, however, eat the store-bought equivalent.  While the results of my experiment had me a little iffy about my purchase (not to mention a little queasy), I figured the process the dried, flattened bananas went through was slightly different from my smash-and-leave-in-the-sun method.

(In fact, it turns out that dehydration is the process generally used to dry bananas — which makes sense, because from my experience, leaving them in the sun just rots them.)

When I opened the package, a very pungent banana smell assaulted my nostrils — kind of like when I’m baking banana bread and open the oven, only without all the added sweetness.

I expected the bananas to be a lot more dry than they were.  I went to pull one out, and I ended up with the entire chunk of sticky, gooey bananas in my hand.  (They’re a lot stickier and gooier than they look.  I think “dried” is a bit of an exaggeration.)

Using more than a little force, I ripped off a chunk.  I closed my eyes and put it in my mouth.

(I don’t know why I close my eyes when I’m about to eat something weird.  It’s not like it changes the flavor.)

Speaking of flavor…the taste of just that small piece of banana essentially exploded in my mouth.  All I could taste was banana. Ordinarily, this would be fine — but it wasn’t a very fruity banana.  It tasted old. Overripe.  And very, very strong.

I’m ashamed to say I never even swallowed it.  I tried, and my gag reflex wouldn’t let that gooey, sticky chunk past my throat.  So I spit it out.

Let me set one thing straight here.  Dried fruit is a great thing.  It makes a wonderful snack, and it lasts forever (or a year — close enough).

But these dried, flattened bananas were just not that appetizing.  Plain and simple.

Maybe it was the texture — and if it was, I can blame the whole experience on my texture issues and safely say that most people will probably like this.  But I don’t think it was just that.

The taste was overpowering.  The difference between this and banana chips is that banana chips have a much more subtle flavor in comparison.

(Then again, even wasabi has a subtle flavor in comparison to this. It was intense.)

The bottom line is, if you’re a huge banana fan who likes chewy food that tastes very strongly of overripe bananas, you’ll love this.  If you’re like me and prefer something a little more crunchy and lighter flavored, stick with banana chips.  Either way, you’ll have a healthful snack that will last forever …about a year.

———-

Ingredients: Bananas.
Price:
$1.29 at Trader Joe’s
Pros: Decent price; healthful snack; great if you really love bananas.
Cons: Sticky and kind of messy; tough, chewy texture; strong flavor.





Cherries gone wild

19 09 2010

When I was in kindergarten, I learned that cherries are red. The sky is blue, grass is green, lemons are yellow and cherries are red.

Seeing these on the shelf at AJ’s defied everything I had ever understood about color. My kindergarten self would have had a complex.

A blue cherry makes no sense. Everyone knows cherries can’t be blue. But lo and behold, here these were, in all their neon glory. And actually, this jar was only part of a whole rainbow of cherries on the shelf. Surrounding it were yellow cherries, green cherries, orange cherries, brown cherries… My head started hurting a little.

Now, odd-colored fruit is one thing. But these weren’t just colored differently — they were flavored differently. Lemon flavored cherries, lime flavored cherries, wild berry flavored cherries, chocolate flavored cherries… Now, hold up. Is it just me, or aren’t cherries supposed to taste like cherries? Doesn’t re-flavoring them defeat the purpose? Were these cherries freaks of nature?

The only normal jar in the bunch was the one filled with maraschino cherries. Those were red, like cherries should be, and I knew they were normal because I eat them on top of my ice cream. The rest of the jars had me curious, especially the blue one: wild berry flavored cherries. Isn’t a cherry a berry? Don’t they grow in the wild? What made these so special (aside from their rather…glowing appearance)? I had to know, so I snatched the jar off the shelf and bought it.

When I opened the jar and looked inside, the sight of blue cherries (such an oxymoron, still) floating around in bright blue juice didn’t really seem all that appetizing to me. Hesitatingly, I reached in and fished out a piece of the supposed fruit, the vibrant juice dripping from my fingers.

My first impression upon eating the cherry was that it was sweet. Really sweet. Not sweet like a strawberry or an apple or a (normal) cherry; more along the lines of let’s-see-if-a-spoonful-of-sugar-really-works-like-Mary-Poppins-says-it-does kind of sweet.  (Don’t tell me you never tried that as a kid.)  I think the strangest thing was that it didn’t taste like a cherry. Not one bit.

It had the texture of a maraschino cherry. It looked like one, it crunched like one…but it tasted like the love child of berry blue Kool-Aid and cotton candy.

(Yes, I know they could never have a baby cherry. Just roll with it.)

While it was certainly an interesting (and very sweet) flavor, I’m not sure what purpose it serves in cherry form. I think cherries taste fine just the way they are, without needing to be flavored like berries or limes or lemons…or whatever.  (The chocolate flavored ones made some sense, though personally I think I’d prefer regular chocolate-covered cherries.) Maybe you could put a wild berry cherry on top of your ice cream sundae, if you felt like those maraschinos were getting boring. But honestly, it’s sweet enough as it is that I feel like adding it to ice cream might put someone in a sugar coma.

The bottom line is, wild berry flavored cherries aren’t terrible, but I don’t see any practical purpose for them.  (Other than maybe a brighter substitute for blueberries on my mom’s yearly Fourth of July cake…or maybe I can take them along to the next black-light party I go to and wear them in my hair.)  If you can think of a better use for these, send your ideas my way. I’d love to hear them…especially seeing as I still have a nearly full jar of these sitting in my refrigerator.

———-

Ingredients: Cherries, sugar/high fructose corn syrup, water, citric acid, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate, added as preservatives, calcium chloride, natural and artificial flavor, PD&C Blue #1, and sulfur dioxide (as a preservative).
Price:
$5.99 at AJ’s Fine Foods
Pros: Vibrant blue color if you’re trying to decorate something with oddly colored fruit. Perfect if you’re looking for blue raspberry cotton candy in cherry form.
Cons: Overpoweringly sweet; seemingly pointless; kind of pricey.








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