My hands smell like pomegranate puree

6 05 2011

I’m baaaack!

It’s finals weekend, too. Did you get that? I’m blogging on finals weekend. You should feel incredibly honored that I’m procrastinating taking time off from my ever-so-valuable studying to do this.

What is “this,” you ask? Well, just a few minutes ago, I consumed a lovely, gooey, chunky, slightly slimy bar of pomegranate pulp.

Let’s back up.

Yesterday, I was getting some shopping done at Target when I noticed they had a food section. Don’t ask me why I never noticed this before. It was a revelation. I thought there was no way I’d find anything out of the ordinary at Target (foodwise, anyway). But then I spotted the health-food aisle. And within the health-food aisle, I discovered Archer Farms fruit bars. (Archer Farms is apparently a Target brand, by the way. So Target really does make food.  Who knew?)

Now, before you call me out and tell me I’m incredibly picky, let me just say that I love fruit. I’m kind of a fruit nut … wait, that’s confusing. I don’t really like nuts. But I do like fruit. A lot.

However, as with all food I enjoy, I like fruit to a point. The picture on the front of the fruit-bar box showed flattened, shiny, sticky-looking slabs of … pomegranate, I guess. Stuck in a food processor and mixed with some unidentifiable chunks. I’m sorry, but that passes the point of appetizing.

Nasty-looking enough to try? Check. I bought them.

Before I ate one this morning, I spent some time getting acquainted with the box. On the front, under the picture of two gooey bars sitting on what looks like a piece of waxed paper on a table, it says, “Serving suggestion.” I assume this is another way of saying, “Don’t put these babies directly on your table, because they’re like gorilla glue and will never come off.” Maybe that was just my interpretation.

The other thing I noticed about the box was a little round seal toward the top that says, “Simply nutritious. Simply delicious.” How cute. I love rhymes. I’m just not sure I believed this one.

Time to find out.

Turns out these fruit bars are individually wrapped, which supported my gorilla-glue theory but is also a nice perk if you’re wanting to take them places, like the park with your children so you can punish them for squabbling by feeding them pomegranate goo.

The packages are incredibly hard to unwrap. Have you ever noticed that about healthy food? Maybe it’s just me, but I swear, every time I try to open something healthy, it’s much more difficult than opening, say, a package of Oreos. I think it’s a marketing ploy. I think they’re trying to make me feel like I need to get in better shape, and the way to do that is by eating their product. I’m on to you, health-food companies.

When I got the package open, I expected some sort of rotting stench to flood my nostrils. (Call me pessimistic, but the bars reminded me uncannily of dried fruit, and specifically raisins. I like dried fruit; I hate raisins. Raisins are grape corpses.) I was pleasantly surprised (even though I shouldn’t have been) when the scent of pomegranate wafted through the air. Yum. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a terrible experience after all.

I tore off a chunk of the bar and put it in my mouth. The experience was a very detailed, intricate one. In order to best relate it to you, I’m going to break it down in terms of the number of times I chewed it:

Chew. Hmm, not bad, not bad. I taste pomegranate. Chew. Actually, it kind of tastes like gummy bears. Chew. Actually, it kind of tastes like those gummy vitamins my mom used to make me eat when I was too chicken to swallow pills. Chew. You know, it’s kind of losing its flavor. Chew. Hey … it’s chunky. Chew. Oh gross, what are these chunks?  Chew. OK, now it doesn’t taste like anything … but it’s really gooey. Gooey cardboard. Ugh, get it out of my mouth. Swallow. All gone. Thank you, God. Where’s the milk?

In case you couldn’t gather it from reading my innermost thoughts, these things are good at first — they taste much better than they look. But the best way to eat them is probably to chew each bite about twice and then swallow it, because otherwise, it loses its flavor fast, and the only sensation left is the gummyness of the … stuff, whatever it is. Pureed fruit, I guess. Suffice it to say, it’s really not good.

The perks are that they’re (mostly) natural, they’re good for you and they taste good at first. The downside — the whole gooey, melting cardboard thing — kind of outweighs the perks, at least for me.

Oh yeah, and as I’m sure you surmised from the title, my hands still smell like pomegranate. They’re down by my keyboard and I can smell them from … up here. You know, by my face.

Can’t say the fruit bar didn’t leave an impression.

———

Ingredients: Apples, fruit juice concentrate (apple, pomegranate, blueberry, lemon), oligofructose, oat fiber, natural flavor, vegetable juice (black carrot, red cabbage) for color and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
Price: $2.49 at Target.
Pros: The first few chews taste like pomegranate.
Cons: All subsequent chews negate the deliciousness of the first few. You have been warned.

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“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.





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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