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
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.

When vegetables get creative

28 08 2010

Veggie chips aren’t weird.

Everyone eats veggie chips.  I mean, honestly, potatoes are vegetables.  Those Ruffles in my pantry?  Perfectly normal.

The chip aisle was the last place I expected to find anything out of the ordinary, but as my eyes skimmed over the variations of barbecue, onion, vinegar, and sour cream (not necessarily combined), something pink caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks.

That’s a chip?

“Exotic vegetable chips,” the package read.  I snatched up the bag and stared at the picture on the front.  Vibrant pink circles of crispiness, and…was that a mangled onion?  They had the “exotic” part right; the “vegetable” part I wasn’t so sure about.  This, I had to try.

The back of the bag gave a helpful breakdown of each chip:

Taro (also known as malanga and dasheen) is apparently a tuber indigenous to India and Asia.  (Essentially, it’s a culturally aware potato.)  This was the white chip which gave me the first impression of being a mutilated onion.  Its flavor wasn’t bad at all — actually, it reminded me of a less-salty, slightly sweet potato chip.  I could probably eat a whole bag of these.  In fact, I actually could, because Terra (the chips’ brand) apparently liked this particular chip so much that they devoted an entire product to it.

Yuca, also known as cassava, is described as a “woody shrub” and also a “starchy tuber,” neither of which sounded particularly appealing to me.  Ironically, my thought process upon eating one of these chips went something like this: “Salt!  Salty…bark.  And now it’s just bark.  Crunchy.”  Yuca definitely has a strange texture in chip form.  I’d take taro chips over yuca chips any day.

Sweet potato sounded like the most normal chip out of the bunch.  After all, who doesn’t love sweet potato pie?  It’s also a name I can pronounce correctly, which is a nice bonus.  This orangey root (because yes, sweet potatoes are roots) makes a pretty good chip, I have to say.  It definitely had a strong sweet flavor, and its aftertaste was even sweeter.  This particular brand might have benefitted from more salt, but overall, it was a solid chip (figuratively speaking — and I suppose literally, too).

Ruby root vegetables are described on the back of the package as “perhaps the most dramatic.”  The bag didn’t specify what root vegetables were used in these, but it did inform me that they were “kissed with beet juice,” which accounts for that eye-catching red (hot pink on the package) and also has me wondering how exactly a beet kisses a chip.  But I digress.  Flavor-wise, these were sweet at first and nutty (and slightly bitter) after crunching them for a few seconds.  They had a strange tendency to disintegrate into a sort of juice form, which was when they turned nutty and more bitter.  Strange and interesting, but definitely not my favorite.

Batata is just another word for potato, but these have been “savored in the Carribean for centuries,” according to the package.  (Here we go again, putting the “exotic” in exotic veggie chips.)  These looked like potato chips, and tasted the most like them out of all the chips in the bag, but they were definitely sweeter and less salty.  (Harder and crunchier, too.)  I felt like they were a little tainted by some of the stronger flavors in the same bag, but overall they tasted fairly “normal.”

Parsnip does not sound edible.  In fact, it sounds like something I do when I’m cutting my hair.  But apparently, it’s just a stronger-tasting version of the carrot — Carrot 2.0, I guess.  Carrot chips sound weird, but parsnip chips are pretty tasty.  The flavor doesn’t kick in at first, but when it does, it’s an explosion of nuttiness.  Eating these made me want to try an actual parsnip, just out of curiosity.

So there you have it: vegetable medley, gourmet chip style.  While I’m more of a regular-potato-chip junkie kind of person, these chips are a good alternative if you’re looking for something a little less salty and greasy.  They have a lot to offer in the flavor department, from bitter to nutty to sweet.  As an added bonus, Terra has an extensive list of related recipes on their website, which would probably make these chips even tastier.  The shrimp salsa and the blissful bruschetta sound especially good (though maybe I just have an abundant affection for alliterations), and seeing as I have half a bag of chips left, I just might try this whole cooking thing.


Ingredients: A seasonal mix of root vegetables (sweet potato, parsnip, batata, taro, yuca), canola oil and/or safflower oil and/or sunflower oil, beet juice concentrate (for color), salt.
$5.19 at Fry’s Marketplace
Pros: Interesting variety of flavors, healthier alternative to “normal” potato chips.
Cons: The chips come in an assortment, so the flavors are less distinct.  The bag I got also came with a largely disproportionate amount of red root vegetable chips (which happened to be my least favorite), but that could just be my luck.

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