Saturday, June 30, 2012

Peanut Butter S'mores Cereal Bars

I've been craving Rice Krispies treats treats lately. Well, not Rice Krispies treats exactly, but some kind of cereal/marshmallow combination. I could have gone out to the store and bought some variation...or, I could use up some of the cereal crowding up the basement and invent my own!

I couldn't find one recipe that sounded just right, so I ended up with a conglomeration of several plus a few of my own substitutions. I present to you Peanut Butter S'mores Cereal Bars. First, the ingredients:
  • 16 large marshmallows
  • 2 cups Golden Grahams or similar (I used the generic version, "Honey Graham Crunch")
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 5 tbsp Chocolate PB2
Really, you could use whatever cereal you want. But then they wouldn't be s'mores anymore :)

All right, let's get started! First, spray a 9x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray (or grease it with shortening). Then, heat the marshmallows and milk in a saucepan over medium heat until they're well on the way to melted, and then stir in the PB2:

Measure out the cereal and stir it in with the marshmallow mixture. I added it a little bit at a time, at first a cup and then two half-cups, because I had no idea how much would be too much for the marshmallow to hold together.

Press it into the pan...somewhat evenly. Mine has some really thin spots, but on the plus side that means there are extra-thick pieces! A rubber spatula works well for this, or you can use wax paper.

Put it in the fridge for a little while, until it's firm enough to eat. I'm not sure about the storage, but since there's milk in there I'd probably keep it refrigerated.

I licked off the spatula when I was done and ohhh, that marshmallow stuff was heaven! I could eat it all my itself...if it didn't congeal into a hard glob after a few minutes and become impossible to get off the cooking utensils.

Now, finally...cut and serve! We cut them into nine pieces:

They're a little thinner than your average Rice Krispies treat, but they're delicious. The best part is, they're not even that bad for you. They won't be in the fridge for very long!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Peanut Butter Lover's Dream: Chocolate Edition

Forget PB&J. It should be PB&C. Nothing goes with peanut butter like chocolate. Except maybe Peeps, but PB&P just sounds weird and it doesn’t go with the subject of this post, so...

You might remember my post about PB2, the miracle almost-peanut butter with 85% less fat than the real thing. Well, yesterday I went back to Appalachian Outdoors, where I bought my first jar of PB2, because I blew through it alarmingly fast. And sitting next to the PB2 on the shelf was this beauty:

For the record, I think it should be "fewer"?

That’s right, chocolate PB2! I saw this last time, but I didn’t get it because I didn’t know if the whole powdered peanut butter thing would work for me. Obviously it did, and since I loooove Reese’s and Butterfingers, this went in my bag along with another jar of the regular PB2.

The nutrition information is almost identical, minus one gram of protein.

And so I bet you can guess what my bedtime snack was. Well, part of it anyway:

Might as well admit it...I had PB2 for dinner, too.

I’ve given up following the directions and measuring an exact tablespoon of water per two tbsp PB2, because I always end up adding more water and it’s still fairly thick. In the past week I’ve gotten pretty good at eyeballing it so I just turn on the faucet in fill up my little mixing glass till it looks like enough.

Well, the chocolate PB2 is different. Or maybe my last jar of PB2 was special. Either way, my chocolate PB2 was very runny. Like, thinner than pudding. But I didn’t care. I dipped a few giant marshmallows in it, but I ended up eating most of it off the spoon.

Even in its liquid state, it was good. I can’t say it had a strong chocolate flavor. It’s only a little darker than the PB2, so maybe I should have taken that as a hint. In all, I thought it tasted pretty much the same as the regular stuff. Not as much chocolate as I was expecting.

Granted, the fact that I drowned it and turned it into a drinkable consistency probably affected all of that. Maybe if it weren’t so diluted with water...hmm, I’ll have to try some again tonight!

UPDATE: I did try this again with less water, and the mixture turned out a lot darker, see:

MUCH better! It does taste a little less like the regular PB2 this way, too, although I'm not sure how chocolatey I would call it...maybe the mixture of tastes just makes it hard to separate the chocolate from the PB2! Either way, it hit the spot with some celery sticks!

Taste: 10--pretty much the same as the regular PB2, although less water may change my opinion.
Texture: 9--you can change the texture to your liking by using more/less water (some experimentation required!).
Health: 9--the same as PB2, minus 1g protein
Eat Again? Unless my second attempt really blows my mind, I’ll take the regular PB2. I might swap this in once in a while just to change things up.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wake-Up Call

*** OK, this one is a bit of a length (sorry about that) but also for me to write. I couldn’t decide if I really wanted to share some of this information or not, and most of it is really embarrassing. In fact I seriously debated even hitting the "publish" button, but in the end it's all part of who I am and I want to be honest. So I hope you don’t get grossed out...and I also hope that if you know me, you still feel like you know me by the time you get done.

I really don’t want to be triggering or anything, so if that’s a worry please please PLEASE don’t continue. That said, if you decide to read on, I am not responsible for any insane food cravings that follow :) ***

Everybody needs a wake-up call once in a while. Mine came when I finally decided to see a nutritionist. My sports doctor had recommended it after my heel fractures, which she blamed on my low body weight contributing to osteopenia (low bone density, but not low enough to qualify as osteoporosis). I think my poor family was probably relieved beyond belief that I finally agreed (several months later) to go.

I finally made the appointment because I was so tired of my routine, my food, life in general. I consumed very little during the week, which usually ended up with me consuming nothing but cookies--lots of them--every weekend. I was sick of eating so much sugar and chocolate, and yet I craved it every. Single. Night. My body was not happy with me, I constantly felt fat, and I just couldn’t bear to think about going another day like this.

I wanted somebody to tell me exactly what to eat, how much, and when to eat it. I wanted total loss of control over my diet, to eat this or that because someone else said so. I felt like it was the only way to break out of my daily food rituals.

I didn’t exactly get what I wanted--more like a rough outlines of what kinds of foods (fats, starches, fruits, veggies, etc.) along with a list of some common foods and what they “counted” as. But the nutritionist did boost me a fair way out of my warped mindset.

She weighed me. I was 99.8 pounds.

I’ve said before that my scale was high. I have never (knowingly) been under 100 lbs. (except once when I had a terrible upset stomach, caused of course by what I ate the night before), and had I ever seen that number on my scale I would have immediately started shoveling food into my mouth, starting with Ben & Jerry’s (or some other calorie-bomb, like peanut butter).

This, along with the nutritionist’s recommendation of around 115-120 as a healthy weight, was my wake-up call. I know there are people out there struggling with gaining 30, 40, and more pounds, but to me even 15 was a LOT. Certainly enough to make me realize that I needed to eat. And along with that, I could afford to eat.

I was so free. So happy. Yay! I can eat lunch now! An entire world of possibilities was opening up before my eyes. I envisioned heaping plates of things I’d denied myself for so long. Suddenly everything I’d convinced myself I didn’t like sounded delicious. Waffles and maple syrup; bagels toasted and smeared with butter; cereal (dry, I hate milk); my mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese; slices of pizza with the cheese stretching when you bit off a chunk; and oh, peanut butter! On apples, sandwiches, marshmallows, whatever. There is nothing as vivid as the mind of an eating-disordered individual dreaming about food. It's telling that my mind conjured up no images whatsoever of sweets or candy.

When we left I asked my mom if she needed to go to Walmart, and to my utter delight she said yes. It was like going to Disney World. I spent forever in there, gawking at the bread and lingering in the cereal aisle. I probably looked like an idiot, craning my neck around trying to look at everything at once and veering off on detours when I saw something interesting. But I loved every second of it.

I went home and actually felt guilty about skipping breakfast that morning, so I had half of an apple (it was almost lunchtime anyway). Then I toasted and buttered two English muffins for lunch. And I ate pizza with my family that night--two slices, with ice cream afterwards! It was such a huge leap from even yesterday that I almost felt normal...and yet being normal felt so satisfyingly weird.

There’s so much evidence that eating disorders are all about control. You can’t control other situations in life, so you control your food. I was certainly obsessively controlling about what I ate and what time, and I didn’t know what to do if something messed that up. I was wound so tight that I couldn’t live with myself anymore. So I welcomed the complete lack of control over my food.

It’s kind of ironic, how sometimes we want someone else to take total control of the one thing we have total control over. But look at it this way: You do not have control over your food, it has control over you. Eating my veggies and cookies and chocolate was not a choice, I genuinely felt like I “had” to do it that way. My wake-up call opened my eyes to other options. I have a choice.

Are there certain things/rituals that you feel like you “have” to do? Are they really necessary?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: Kashi Peanutty Dark Chocolate Layered Granola Bar

When I eat, I like volume. It needs to be big. Unfortunately, when you’re in Walmart looking at a box of granola bars you can’t tell what size they are until you open it up. Based on my previous experiences with Kashi granola bars, I figured these Peanutty Dark Chocolate Layered bars had to be a pretty good size...

I was pretty disappointed with how small it was as soon as I pulled it out of the box this morning, but I didn’t have time to grab something else because I was running out the door on my way to work. It’s really light, and even shorter (although slightly wider) than the little 90-calorie Special K cereal bars, which never fill me up. I’d estimate the size to be about half of the Crunchy! bars. It kind of made me wonder what they crammed in there to give it only 20 fewer calories.

Well anyway, I got to work and unwrapped it and...WOW. It smelled amazing! Like rich, dark chocolate. There was no nutty smell at all, although the peanuts are right there on top. There aren’t too many, but that’s OK with me because I not a huge fan of nuts in my chocolate (it’s much better by itself). I give them points on appearance because it looks exactly like the picture on the box.

So before I started drooling, I took a bite and--WOW, it’s hard to chew! I was overwhelmed by the granola part, which definitely keeps you busy for a while. It got stuck in my teeth forever and my tongue got sore from trying to get it all out. The dark chocolate was pretty underwhelming, which was a disappointment after the smell. I mean, I could taste it, but I could taste the granola more. It sort of works better if you flip it upside down before you put it in your mouth, that way you’re mostly tasting the chocolate.

About that granola. I got suspicious of (and annoyed with) it, so I peeled off the layer of chocolate (I also picked the peanuts off...) and tried the granola plain. Sure enough, it had NO taste! It was something I wouldn’t even consider eating all by itself. The upside was that I got to eat the chocolate all by itself next, and it was delicious! Very, very fudgy and decadent.

Just for the sake of comparison, here’s how the website describes this bar:

"Who doesn’t love savory peanuts and rich chocolate together in one? Our Peanutty Dark Chocolate Layered Bars are made with chewy granola, roasted peanuts and peanut butter, then layered with real fruit spread mixed with dark chocolate. A sprinkle of roasted peanuts and bits of chocolate tops them off. Each bar has 7 grams of fiber* and 4 grams of protein. (*4.5 total fat per serving)"
The only thing I agree with here (well, apart from the nutrition information) is the “sprinkle of roasted peanuts and bits of chocolate” part. I definitely did not taste peanut butter and I’ll be darned if there was fruit in that dark chocolate. I also don’t know if I could call the granola “chewy”; it actually kind of reminded me of cardboard, but that may have been the taste.

So obviously I’m not the biggest fan, but this bar isn’t a total loss. As always, it doesn’t contain any artificial flavors or preservatives and it does have some redeeming nutritional stats like the 4g each of fiber and protein. I could definitely see where it would be useful for getting your chocolate fix without the sugar and other junk in a candy bar.

There are two other flavors: Dark Chocolate Coconut and Pumpkin Pecan. Unfortunately neither appeals to me in the first place, and after eating this one I don’t think I’ll try them.

Taste: 4--Mostly bland, with a hint of dark chocolate that isn’t proportionate to the thickness of the topping. The topping alone, however, is heaven :)
Texture: 3(granola)/10(chocolate)--The granola is just exhausting to chew, but the chocolate has a very rich, fudgy consistency.
Health: 7--Contains fiber and a bit of protein, good for a chocolate fix without lots of sugar.
Eat Again? Only because there’s still a whole box left in my basement. After that, I’ll stick with the goLean Crunchy! bars and Life Choice.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Back in the Saddle

All right, this isn't going to be one of those deep, thought-provoking posts but it's still one of my favorites.

The bad boy bit--taking no risks today! (He actually really likes this bit, believe it or not.)

Maybe a little sore but that view was worth it!
I rode my horsey today.
'Nuff said. :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Doctor Knows Best

I went into my doctor's appointment today knowing that I would not come out running again. Even though it's been about 5.5 weeks since I stopped, I can tell that I'm not 100% yet. It's little nagging things--getting up after leaning sideways against something while I'm sitting, walking while bending over, pulling open heavy doors. I don't want to say it hurts, because nothing can compare to that first week or so after you break something (pelvis, heels, whatever). The best I can say is that it's there. So had I been given the green light on running, I would have said NO.

In our society, the doctor always knows best. After all, they've spent at least four extra years in school learning their trade. And they have to know it well, because people's health--and sometimes lives--depend on it. I have a lot of respect for them because I would never be comfortable giving advice on what to do, knowing that if you're wrong somebody's quality of life is going down the tubes. I would always be second-guessing myself and wondering what could have been different.

I really like my sports doctor. She understands how much I want to get back to running, how boring the stationary bike and pool are in comparison. But unfortunately she doesn't know squat about horseback riding. In fact when I got cleared to bike again after my heel fractures, she was all ready to let me ride until I informed her that my lazy horse needed lots of spur and that my fractures were almost exactly where the spurs rests on my boots are. Just the thought of how painful it would be almost reduced me to tears.

So when I asked today I was hoping for, but not expecting, something more concrete. Because this time I don't know, either. I might be able to do it, I might not. It's not as clear cut, and I want to be careful so that I can heal as soon as possible, but...I also want to go hop on Sydney. Right. Now.

So I'm allowed to try. In fact, I'm going to, tomorrow. But I have to keep it short, mostly walking and trotting and MAYBE a little canter. And I have to try not to fall off!! To be honest I'm not sure Sydney is in good enough shape to run off. Zoe has been riding him once a week and he gave my cousin and his girlfriend pony rides last weekend, but other than that all his energy has gone toward eating, which could be a plus in this situation.

Even if I can only walk around a little bit, I'm still excited for tomorrow. I need to reconnect with Sydney, to feel like he's mine again. He is the anchor that keeps me sane between work and other stresses.

I am, however, banned from riding Peter until further notice--doctor's orders. And you know, maybe they do know best!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: thinkThin Brownie Crunch High Protein Bar

Sometimes life gives you daisies, sometimes it gives you lemons. Likewise, sometimes it gives you protein bars that are worth your money, and sometimes it leaves you wishing you saved your money.

I had pretty high expectations when I unwrapped the thinkThin Brownie Crunch protein bar, mostly because I liked the Chunky Peanut Butter version.
Since I didn't have pictures with the last thinkThin review...from the outside it looks exactly the same as the peanut butter. These protein bars are bigger than the Life Choice ones, although they are probably close in actual weight--these aren't as dense but they're very good at making me believe I ate more.
When I broke this in half, it kind of bent up to a point and then just snapped in half. Which I found was pretty indicative of the texture of the bar. It was sort of chewy yet a little hard, definitely nothing to do with brownie "chunks." And very, very dry.

This definitely tasted like a protein bar. I wouldn't even call the filling chocolate-flavored. It has a sort of bitter taste, especially the aftertaste. It certainly didn't remind me of brownies, and although it was more edible than my first experiences with protein bars, it was sort of like eating wet sand. This may have been an old bar or something, because the peanut butter one was definitely not as chalky. But either way, the only redeeming quality was the chocolate coating. I ended up saving the ends for last, so the last bite had the highest coating-to-protein ratio. It wasn't bad that way, but I'm sure that's not what they intended....

On the plus side, the nutrition facts look great again. No sugar (but sugar alcohols), and lots of protein! There are a fair amount of carbs, but for 20g of protein, I'll take it.

Taste: 4--it tasted like a protein bar, no chocolate flavor beyond the coating.
Texture: 2--too flaky and crumbly, like dry sand.
Health: 10--No sugar and lots of protein.
Eat Again? No. Unless it's free.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review: Life Choice Cookies & Cream Energy Bar

When I think of cookies and cream I always think of ice cream. A lot of people swear by it, but I often overlook it among all the designer flavors out there today--cake batter, cookie dough, peanut butter cup, Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon’s hard for me to get excited about because it just seems too simple. But without fail, whenever actually I work myself up to eating it, I always want another scoop.

There’s something about cookies and cream that just works. Which is probably why almost every product comes in a cookies and cream flavor, including these energy bars from Life Choice:

“If you need a little pick-me-up, pick up our cookies & cream energy bar. Get a balanced combination of protein and vitamins with the comforting, yummy flavors of cookies and milk.”

I’m not sure if the white coating is yogurt, the “cream” part of cookies and cream, or maybe white chocolate. Whatever it is, it tastes good!


The inside looks pretty much like the picture on the website. It’s got a cookie-dough color, which is promising. The dark spots are cookie pieces, although honestly I can’t tell the difference between these and mini chocolate chips. The little white things are probably some of the oats in the filling.

I mentioned cookie dough earlier...and that is exactly what these remind me of! It doesn’t taste exactly like the stuff you lick out of the mixing bowl, but it’s pretty darn close. It’s very soft and you can definitely tell when you hit a cookie piece because it crunches and you get that chocolate chip cookie taste. The (yogurt?) coating just helps seal the deal.

Unfortunately, these don’t have the best nutrition stats. It’s basically a candy bar with some extra nutrients. The first two ingredient on the list is dried cane syrup, and the sugar is correspondingly high (24g). There are also a lot of carbs, but you sort of expect that with energy bars. Nutritionally these don’t compare to Life Choice’s protein bars, but you do get a fair amount of protein (8g) and they taste a lot better.

These are more something I would eat for dessert because they really are sweet! Even if they’re a jacked-up candy bar, they still taste like cookie dough which is what I would probably be eating otherwise. So I can replace less nutritious dessert choices with this bar and be a little healthier.

Taste: 10--who DOESN’T like cookie dough? I’m still giving it a 10 even though it’s more cookie dough than cookies and cream, just because I love cookie dough.
Texture: 10--completes the cookie dough fantasy.
Health: 5--lots of sugar, and on top of that most of the fat is saturated. Still, better than real cookie dough.
Eat Again? Most definitely! Especially when I have a sweet tooth but don’t want to get into ice cream or cookies.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Review: Life Choice Peanut Butter Extreme High Protein Bar

OK. You know I love peanut butter. It tastes good on everything! I could eat it plain out of the jar. I gross people out sometimes with what I put it on...the usual (celery, apples, bananas, crackers, bread); also Peeps (makes a great sandwich), carrots, lettuce, rice cakes, pretzels, cheese, Oreos. Jeez, I would even dip a Nutter Butter in peanut butter!

So, since I was pleasantly surprised by the Life Choice Double Chocolate protein bars, I decided to try the peanut butter ones too.

The stats are almost the same as the Double Chocolate: 21g of protein, 8g of fat, 7g of sugar, and 210 calories. I suppose the fat increase has to do with the peanut butter, I’ve noticed it’s an unfortunate side effect BUT it can be mitigated by the amazing PB2. But that's another story so back to our current one....

“When you take your workouts to the extreme, you need extreme protein to rebuild muscle. Our creamy, chewy, tasty peanut butter protein bars are filled with the nutrition you need—and 21 grams of protein—to take your body to the next level.”

OK, this one definitely looks like peanut butter! These things actually kind of remind me of king-sized candy bars until you bite into them...
(Ha! Can you tell we like candy in my house? And yes, that's the scoop out of my protein powder in the background.)

Again, like the chocolate, there are little rice crispies mixed into the filling. I probably should have cut it rather than biting, but I was hungry!

While the chocolate bar was really, really soft and gooey, this one was harder to bite. It’s soft up to a point, then you get to the middle of the bar and you meet some unexpected resistance. It adds some substance...I kind of like it! The crispies aren’t as obvious here as in the chocolate version, I think it’s because of the harder texture. It definitely slowed me down--I didn’t plow through this one nearly as fast!

So...peanut butter taste? This (or perhaps just taste in general?) seems to be an area that protein bar manufacturers need to work on. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely tasted peanut butter, just not a whole lot of it. There were other flavors mixed in there too (yes, that “protein-y” flavor that is inherent in all protein bars). It definitely tasted more like peanut butter than the thinkThin Chunky bar I tried a while ago
. For taste, I’d say it’s a draw between this one and the Double Chocolate.

Once again, a nice one from Life Choice!

Taste: 7.5--sort of peanut buttery but for a protein bar, it's practically candy.
Texture: 9--a little harder than the Double Chocolate, but not a struggle.
Health: 9--comparable to the Double Chocolate, with more fat but less sugar.
Eat Again? Yes. I can't eat the chocolate ones every day, can I?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Consent and Blame

In life there are things we can control: What time we get up, what we eat, how we spend our free time. Then there are those things we can’t control, like the weather or traffic jams or the neighbor’s dog barking at 3 a.m. when your window is open.

What about eating disorders? Someone on this discussion in the Chronicle of the Horse forums seems to think we can control whether or not we get one (see post #70).

The opening line threw me off completely: “Nobody can give you an eating disorder without your consent.” Really? REALLY? Do you think people go signing up for them? I sure didn’t. Given a choice, I think anyone with an eating disorder (past or present) would trade anything to never have had it in the first place.

I do agree that no one person can be the sole cause of an eating disorder. It’s usually the case that you can’t even pinpoint an exact trigger. In my case the whole thing just sort of happened without my even knowing it. So who’s to blame?

Yes, maybe myself, for not realizing what was happening sooner. Maybe a sports trainer making comments about your weight. Maybe friends influencing you in high school. Maybe the super-skinny fashion models in teen magazines. I honestly don’t know because each case is so unique. What I do know is that at no point did I say, “YEAH! Bring on the ED!” I did not consent.

I don’t think it’s fair to blame the victim, as this person does. They make it sound like we’re so weak if we can’t just wish away an ED and be “responsible for our own happiness.” But there’s a difference between deciding to be happy and actually being happy (Yes, they actually said that “happiness is...a decision.”). You can "decide" it all you want, but you’re just deluding yourself if you don’t feel it. Like an eating disorder, happiness is an emotional state of mind, and as we all know those are really hard (if not impossible) to control. There are those people who don't show their emotions...but that doesn't mean they don't have them. If we could all just decide to be happy like some magic genie, there would also be no depression, schizophrenia, or other mental illnesses. But I don’t see those people getting blamed for their conditions.

Bottom line: ED messes with your head. It sneaks up behind you and grabs you before you know it, and then it burrows its poisonous roots deep until you don’t know which parts of your mind are yours anymore. You can’t blame it on just one thing, which makes prevention so difficult. And you can’t just decide to get better; it is a long, slow process--which is why inpatient treatments have such a poor success rate. You can restore the weight, but as long as you leave the mental poison it’s not true “recovery.”

So where does that leave us? We can’t avoid all these influences, nor can we skirt around the issue of weight when we live in a world with such extremes. No matter how hard we try we can’t have absolute control over our internalizations of what we hear, see, and perceive. And that’s coming from someone who (now) knows what to look for. How can we expect kids to be alert for a sneaky monster that they don’t even know exists?

I think it’s important for parents, teachers, mentors...anyone who knows, to observe closely. Watch your friends and your kids and yeah, maybe even your parents, because the earlier you catch something like this, the better.

And realize, you can't blame yourself. Or your mom or your coach or your favorite TV show. That is what makes ED so sneaky.

We can’t just wish happiness upon ourselves. But by working together we can mitigate the triggering circumstances and, maybe, take a step closer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Peanut Butter Lover's Dream

I stopped by Appalachian Outdoors yesterday after work on a mission...
Mission accomplished! In case you haven't heard of it, PB2 is basically powdered peanut butter, with only a fraction of the fat and calories of regular peanut butter (unfortunately those are healthy fats, but I suppose there's a trade-off). If you've read this blog before, you probably know how much I love peanut butter, and I could easily eat half a jar at once. But that's a lot of fat--even if it's good fat--so I try not to. But with this you don't have to worry.

A peanut butter lover's dream! All the goodness of peanut butter without the guilt! You can also put it in things, like shakes, and use it for cooking. It's natural, too--all they do is press out the oils. Three ingredients: peanuts, sugar, and salt (in that order).

Something like this has to be too good to be true, right? You're probably wondering if it really tastes like peanut butter.

The answer it yes!! OK, not exactly like the Jif I'm used to, maybe a little bit of a sharper taste. But I would say the difference between this and the Jif is the same as the difference between another regular brand (like Skippy) and Jif. Only I like this stuff so much more than Skippy.

The instructions say to mix 2 tablespoons of powder with 1 tablespoon of water, but since I was only tasting I halved it. I have to say at first I was skeptical because the mixing didn't go so well at first, but I added a little more water and the end result looked just like peanut butter, smelled just like peanut butter...if I didn't know it was PB2 I'd assume it was the "normal" peanut butter.

I ate this right out of the bowl, all by itself--it's that good. How many times have I wished I could just do that with a jar of peanut butter? And now I can! I've always said that whoever invented peanut butter was a genius...but whoever invented PB2 is even genius-er. (Yes that is a

There is also a Chocolate PB2, which sounds so delicious I'm tempted to stop again tomorrow and pick it up too!

The only downside other than the missing nutrients is the price. This cost me $5.00 for a 15-serving jar (about the same size as your average jar of peanut butter). But if you buy it from Netrition, you can get the small jar for $3.99 plus shipping OR buy them in cases of 12 or economy-sized bags, which is a cheaper option if you think (or know) you'll like it.

Regular peanut butter is still really beneficial, and I'll keep using it. After all, you can't beat the real stuff. But for making cookies or eating large quantities of peanut butter-flavored anything, I can see this being really useful...

Taste: 10--almost exactly like "real" peanut butter.
Texture: 9--you can change the texture to your liking by using more/less water.
Health: 9--not as high-calorie or high-fat as regular peanut butter, but it's also missing some of the nutrients that make peanut butter beneficial.
Eat Again? Every day, if it wasn't so expensive!

Review: Kashi GoLean Crunchy! Chocolate Peanut

I already reviewed the Chocolate Caramel Crunchy! bar from Kashi, which is what I eat almost every day for breakfast at work. Today’s experiment is another one I picked up at Wegmans last weekend, and after trying it I think I may have to add it to my official list of granola bars that I need to keep in the cupboard.

This one was a winner right from the start. Anything that smells that peanut buttery has to be good! Literally, as soon as I unwrapped it I could smell it from a good distance away. It reminded me of a peanut butter-chocolate Rice Krispies Treat (sadly discontinued).

Look familiar? It’s a little bit thicker than the caramel bar (not sure if this one is an anomaly) and there are little pieces of chocolate actually spread out in the bar, but other than that they’re pretty much the same. The chocolate coating on the bottom is pretty darn perfect.

OK, there’s a peanut! There are enough of these little guys in there to contribute to the taste but not too many to overwhelm. In fact I would say I’m getting a peanut butter vibe, even though the packaging clearly says “Chocolate Peanut,” sans butter. And as you Reese’s lovers know, there’s no better combination than chocolate and peanut butter. The chocolate just makes this one superb!

I looked at the website and, contrary to the packaging, they describe it as:
A blissful combination of decadent chocolate and roasted peanut butter.
So there are some mixed messages coming across in the advertising here. I have to say, it's a combination of both descriptions. After I got about halfway through the bar, the peanut butter flavor settled down. I would say it’s a very mild undercurrent but it’s definitely there. I don’t really notice the chocolate flakes in comparison to the chocolate coating, but they’re certainly not hurting anything.

As for the texture, it’s sort of crunchy and chewy at the same time, if that makes any sense. The caramel bar had more of a crackly crunch to it and this one is a bit softer, gummier, and harder to chew. You can tell when you hit a peanut because it doesn’t crunch like the rest of the bar; it’s softer and it’s kind of a nice break. If you remember I complained about the popcorn in the caramel bar, but that’s not an issue here--as far as I could tell there wasn’t any. So the texture is a win for this one!

I was a little hesitant to break out of my morning “routine” to try this bar, but it was definitely worth it and I now have another flavor to add to my stockpile at home! The only downside is that this made me REALLY thirsty, but we’re supposed to drink at least 8 cups of water per day anyway...just make sure you have some handy when you eat this bar.

There are still three other flavors I haven’t tried yet. I’ve got a Chocolate Almond in the cupboard, but I’m still looking for the Chocolate Pretzel and Cinnamon Coffee Cake....

Taste: 10--subtle peanut butter + chocolate = win!
Texture: 9--More consistent than the caramel, but harder to chew.
Health: 7--As with the caramel flavor, the sugar and fat content may turn you off (GoodGuide once again gives it a 6). But it does have slightly more protein, plus the fiber and other nutrients. More fat than the caramel flavor.
Eat Again? Yep! Going to stock up on this one too for breakfast out the door!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Review: Life Choice Double Chocolate High Protein Bar

For a while before I started really caring about proper nutrition, my dad kept trying to push protein bars on me. In theory, it was a good idea: they looked appetizing enough on the packaging, and the flavors sounded good. Dulce de Leche, Cookies & Cream...yum!

Um, NOT. He tried to feed me the PowerBar ProteinPlus and he honestly thought they tasted good. No matter how hard I tried I could not stomach them. (I have since learned to approach any granola bars he eats with caution.) I thought that maybe now that I want my protein I would be able to forge through them, but I was wrong again. I took one bite off a vanilla yogurt flavored one and sealed it up in a Ziploc bag for him to eat later. Sorry for the gram of protein that was missing from that bar, Dad! :)

So I was kind of wary when my mom brought these Life Choice protein bars home from Walmart the first time. They were next to the Kashi GoLean Crunchy! bars, so she picked them up. At a glance: 21g of protein, 4.5g of fat, 8g of sugar, and 190 calories. Being a Walmart exclusive brand, these are also a reasonable price ($3.68 for a pack of 5 at

And I quote:

“Double the chocolate, double the flavor. After pushing your body, you deserve a snack that tastes great, but also has the protein and nutrients to rebuild muscle. With 21 grams of protein, our double chocolate protein bar really delivers.”
I was surprised at the size of this bar even before I unwrapped it. Granted, it was also heavier than I expected given the size, but I was used to the monster PowerBar can you cram 21 grams of protein into something that small? It’s shorter than your average pen and has a circumference of about two of my fingers. (I have small fingers.)

You can see there are some little rice crunchies mixed in with the chocolate filling. It looks good enough...

The chocolate coating seemed genuine, very smooth and even. So I closed my eyes and bit into it...and weirdly enough, these remind me of a giant Tootsie Roll. NOT in texture, in taste only. They sort of taste like chocolate, but it’s sort of fake too. It’s not bad--especially if you like Tootsie Rolls. You can still taste the coating, which I think is actual chocolate. The texture of this one is really soft, it could easily be broken with your hands if you like to pick at your granola bars instead of bite them, like I do. There’s a bit of crunch to the filling, but at the same time it’s kind of gooey. You know how the caramel in Milky Ways “stretches”? There’s a little bit of that going on here.

Given my expectations, I was impressed. As with all protein bars, if you go into it expecting real chocolate taste it won’t deliver. This is a protein bar, after all. But it does go down really easily, and by the time I got done I was definitely satisfied but also, in a strange way, disappointed that the bar was so small. It went by too fast!

Taste: 7.5--like a Tootsie Roll!
Texture: 9--soft and gooey inside with a little bit of crunch throughout.
Health: 9--great protein-to-sugar ratio, and less fat than a lot of other protein bars. I believe it has no sugar alcohols, either.
Eat Again? Yes. These are the ones I usually pick up at the end of the day if I haven’t met my protein requirement. Unless I’m trying something new for you. :-)

Nutrition Facts

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Win Some, Lose Some

 OK, just a quick update...
Ohhh, fresh strawberries! Today we went picking with friends at Way's Fruit Farm, less than a mile down the road from our house. Even though it was the last day of the season, there were still enough berries left that we brought home about 9 pounds! I couldn't figure out how to avoid all the prickly bushes, so now I have a rash on my arms, but it was SO worth it. These are local, insecticide-free, and delicious!

I also got out to the barn today and spent some quality time with Sydney. Our opinion of "quality" differs, however, in that he did not find it amusing to have half of his hair removed:
I never thought mane pulling was that strenuous, but I have blisters on my fingers and my back is starting to complain a little bit again...but only a little bit. Again these trade-offs are totally worth it because I now have a handsome horse whose mane doesn't resemble a crazy bush.

So are you ready for the bad news? I finally found something that doesn't go with peanut butter: Greek yogurt.
The contents of said yogurt were: 1 tbsp peanut butter, 1 tbsp graham cracker crumbs, and lots of maple syrup. It was only after I added the maple syrup that I could make myself finish the container. Maybe I didn't use enough peanut butter. Either way, this experiment didn't pay off. I think I'll stick with brown sugar next time!

Happy Father's Day weekend everybody!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Weighing the Consequences

At the YMCA where I do my aqua-jogging, there is a scale in the women's locker room.

I was in there the other day when a little girl hopped on it, her mother standing over her. Then the mother said, "Wow, 46 pounds! Good job!"

Seeing something like this led to something of an internal struggle for me, because in retrospect one of the best parts of my childhood was that I had no idea what I weighed. I would run around outside playing, go to dance class or soccer practice or horseback riding lessons, eat whenever I wanted and not care about the consequences. At that age, I didn't even know there were consequences.

I wasn't even aware of my weight until middle school. And then only because of the yearly school checkups and routine doctor visits. Somewhere along the line, though, in high school I picked up a habit of weighing myself every night after dessert. If I was below my "maximum," I could go eat more. Then I would "eat and repeat." I realize now how perverted it was, but I honestly thought at the time that a bagel would add .5 pounds, or a bowl of cereal 1 pound…and exercise got rid of those gains. (I realize now that it's the food weight, which goes away in the morning when I...uhh, take a dump.)

My goal was never to lose weight. Ever. I was always very strict about maintaining the weight I was at, never going above a maximum. The problem was that the weight I was at sometimes accidentally went down.

When life circumstances change, our diet changes too. I actually did gain a bit of (needed) weight the summer after my first year of college because I ate loads of ice cream every day (ughh). When I went back to college in the fall my weekdays were devoid of ice cream. I didn't modify my activities much, with the result that I lost a lot of weight. I got into, "well last week I was only xx pounds, so I can't go above that this week." I weighed myself every day trying to keep below a max that was slowly creeping downward.

I still weigh myself every day, and I'm really not sure why I feel that need. I have an odd relationship with my scale. For instance, I know it's off by about 2 pounds (on the heavy side), but that's the number I use anyway. I simply do not know how to process numbers on other scales because…well, they're not mine. So if my scale is wrong, why do I even care about what it says?

I now take the information it gives me and…do nothing with it. My mood used to vary with the numbers (which means I must have been pretty unstable, because during a week I could fluctuate as much as four pounds and always end up back where I started). If it's low, I need to rethink how I'm eating. If it's higher, oh well. Now I register the number, reflect, and go to bed. But I still need to see it, and I really wish that I didn't have this weird compulsion.

So I think that given a situation similar to the one (way) above, I would steer my child away from the scale. Or better yet, not even acknowledge its existence. I realize I'm biased, but let's think about it another way. When you're a kid you want to grow. So seeing the numbers go up is encouraging because it means you're getting taller and stronger. I went through a phase where I purposely ate everything in sight because I wanted to be "big." But at some point the picture warps and self-consciousness sets in and you start to think, how much is too much? And then you want the number to stay the same. And then…shouldn't it go down just a little bit?

But the problem is, if that transformation takes place too early, you're trying to maintain a weight that isn't realistic for a grown person (especially women). What if you get into the maintenance mindset while you're still growing? Sometimes I wonder if I would be taller had I never "maintained." I have always had long legs and every indication that I should be fairly tall. Yet despite the fact that her hips are several inches below mine, my sister is almost two inches taller than me. I didn't give my body the best chance to grow up.

So…what do you think? Scale or no scale? How about letting kids "mess around" on the scale when it's all fun?