Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ben & Jerry's Phish Food (An Ice Cream Review)

I feel like I spend so much time raving about Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food Froyo, without giving proper attention to its predecessor. Oh, I constantly tell people that “Phish Food is the best flavor ever,” but I’m really referring to my experiences with the Froyo, having only had the full-fat version once at a scoop shop in Virginia Beach.

And, since I’ve decided to gain weight (no matter how I feel about that prospect), I might as well enjoy the process. So here we are kicking it off with...

Awesome! No neon green pints here, this one’s the real-deal black rim! At first glance, it looks the same.

What I can’t show you is the first obvious difference: texture. This is MUCH harder to scoop than the froyo. That’s partly due to the ice cream itself, and partly because of the copious amounts of fudge fish that litter the container. For some reason they seem much more frequent than they are in the lighter version. The ice cream is much denser and thicker as well.

Even letting this ice cream sit out for quite a while (I ate it very slowly while doing practice problems for my final exam), it still had substantial resistance when I went to take a spoonful. The top got that creamy, melty coating, but underneath it remained almost as solid as it was in the pint. Which is great, because I can prolong the euphoric experience without worrying about licking up a puddle of melted ice cream at the end. :)

In terms of taste...well, it certainly is richer. It’s the usual B&J’s chocolate base, but in this case it’s sweeter rather than the deep flavor I usually get (and love). The marshmallow swirl seems to have permeated the entire pint, even when you can’t see it. And the fudge fish add more dark contrast, bringing a much deeper chocolate flavor than the base. And they were EVERYWHERE. No kidding, I had one spoonful with FIVE FISH. Catch of the day! The best part is, they’re not frozen rock hard (or maybe I let them thaw so long). In fact, they had the texture of room-temperature chocolate while feeling slightly cool from sitting in the ice cream. Pretty awesome.

And if you
’re wondering about the caramel, check out the very last bite:

Bottom line...I still love the froyo, and probably always will, simply because I’m a health-conscious nutso with a sweet tooth. But I’m glad I tried the real thing. Maybe it’s a symbol for something...or maybe it’s just delicious ice cream. Either way, I can now say with complete confidence that Phish Food--the real thing--is one of my all-time favorite ice cream flavors!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: Luna Bar Blueberry Bliss

It’s the end of the semester, and that means using up excess meal points!! Except this time I don’t have any; instead, I get to spend my sister’s money. So we hit one of the little stores by her dorm (the same one I went to all the time last year) and came away with plenty of candy, Oreos, and--you guessed--nutrition bars.

I was tempted to just swipe everything I hadn’t tried yet off the shelf, but then I thought guiltily of everything that was already at home waiting to be eaten, and I limited myself to three. The Blueberry Bliss Luna bar was one of them, mostly because the only other blueberry bar I’ve reviewed for this blog is Luna

This one consists of a crispy rice base with blueberries mixed in, topped by a blueberry jelly-like substance and pieces of oats. It also smells overwhelmingly like, well, blueberries. I guess that’s a good start.

This bar certainly lives up to its name, because it’s really fruity! It’s definitely blueberry, but not in a fresh-from-the-orchard blueberry way; it’s more like blueberry jelly or artificial flavoring. It’s not as tart as the real fruit--so, sugary blueberries. That jelly layer is thin, but it’s very potent! I don’t mind the sweetness; in fact I’d be surprised if it was tart, since sweet seems to be the nature of nutrition bars.

This bar has a very fresh, light, crispy texture. It’s a lot like a Rice Krispies Treat, maybe even a little less dense and very easy to eat. I found that large chunks just kept feeding themselves into my mouth, and this thing was gone in no time. :) The oats don’t really make an appearance; I think they’re more for decoration than anything else.

As I finished up this bar, it struck me again just how sweet it was. It reminded me a little of when I used to spread my blueberry preserves on a toasted bagel back in middle school, only it’s more sugary than that. I’d almost recommend this if you’re having a sweet tooth craving! Blueberry pie lovers, give this bar a shot!

Taste: 9--think of blueberry jelly with added sugar--this bar is really fruity!
Texture: 9--fresh and crispy, and very easy to chew.
Health: 9--it’s mostly organic and contains plenty of calcium, vitamins and minerals for your health. GoodGuide gives it an 8.9 with just one warning about the sugar content. No wonder it’s so sweet!
Eat Again? Yes.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Recipes in Recovery

Well, I’m on day three of limited exercise: only an hour on the stationary bike, which is a HUGE deal for me. I’ve also tried to break away from my obsessive routine of crunches and other ab exercises, and have instead been doing the 15-minute Insanity cardio + abs video. I’m not really sure how I feel about all this. I’ve been trying to stay active in other ways--going to the barn, helping my dad put mulch around the flowerbeds, walking the dog. Yesterday was really tough, as far as not being hungry and feeling bloated pretty much all day. But today I found my stomach growling a little as I got off the bike! I’m just trying to stay positive.

But in my last post, I mentioned that my dad stayed home with me and kept me occupied, and that we tried some new recipes for dinner...so of course I want to share them with you!

This journey is going to be all about change. Changing my lifestyle, changing my thought patterns. Ultimately, it is a transformation as I try to separate myself from ED and find out who I really am. So it’s only fitting that our dinner on the day I finally decided to recover was a series of transformations as well.

First, we transformed a simple head of cauliflower
into this:

They were supposed to be cauliflower buffalo wings, but since I can’t tolerate hot sauce, my dad just hot-sauced five or six of them and left the rest plain battered. They were super easy:

Cauliflower Buffalo Wings

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 cup milk (we used skim)
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce
All you have to do is cut the cauliflower; mix up the flour, milk, and garlic powder; dip the cauliflower; and bake for 18 minutes. If you want them hot, heat up the butter and mix it with the hot sauce, coat the cauliflower, and bake at 450 degrees for 5-7 more minutes (do this even if you don’t add the hot sauce).

For the second recipe, we turned these:

into this:

These required a bit more effort than the cauliflower, but are still fairly easy.

Garlic Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

  • Potatoes, cut into smaller wedges or strips
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese (we just used the stuff you sprinkle from the can)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Again, set the oven to 450. Cook the potato wedges in boiling water for 3 to 6 minutes. In the meantime, heat a cast iron skillet (we used a stovetop skillet instead), coated with the olive oil, in the oven.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and put them back on the burner. Shake them to dry and roughen the outsides. Then put them on the skillet, toss, and roast. Turn to cook both sides. When they’re almost tender, add the cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper and then put them back until they’re tender.

If you remember, I don’t really like potatoes. But these were pretty good. Granted, we cooked them a good long time so they were nice and crunchy (so not much mushy potato-ness). But combined with the “Buffalo wings,” they made an excellent dinner! In fact, there were NO LEFTOVERS! I take full responsibility for demolishing the potatoes, on top of going out for frozen yogurt later. :)

The road ahead will be rough. I know that. But I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to do that to myself, and most of all I don’t want to do it to the people who care about me. It’s time for a change. Starting now.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Apologies, Confessions, Regrets, and Thanks

I have been living a life of lies, and now it’s time to face the truth. And I feel like I owe it to you all, everyone who has been following my blog and offering supportive comments, to finally be honest. It’s not fair to post all these silly reviews and other food I eat, and be all cheerful and pretend like everything’s fine. Because it’s not.

This time last year, I was starting to run again after suffering stress fractures in both heels, seeing a nutritionist, and finally trying to treat my body right after years of a disordered relationship with food. I had gained a few pounds, cut back a bit on my exercise, and started eating breakfast and lunch again. Everyone told me what great changes I had made and congratulated me on turning myself around. I was proud of myself.

That was more than 15 pounds ago.

The truth is, I was never really comfortable in my body when I stopped seeing the nutritionist a year ago. I just sort of lived with it, resigned to the fact that I would always feel like my stomach jiggled when my bike hit a bump or like I had a muffin top when I sat down. I didn’t enjoy those feelings; but I felt them, and there was nothing I could do about it, so I just went about my daily routine and did my best to ignore them.

But then I broke my pelvis, and I couldn’t ride. So I replaced riding with swimming, and nothing else changed. The problem was, an hour at the barn doesn’t equal an hour spent aqua-jogging. The latter burns more calories. And so, naturally, when my diet didn’t change, my weight gradually dropped. It wasn’t really noticeable at first, and although I did notice on the scale, I didn’t do anything. We were about to go on vacation; why not have a little wiggle room, since I’d be away from my stationary bike and probably eating a lot of calorie-laden food. I’d gain it back--who doesn’t gain weight on vacation? And then, when I started riding again, I never stopped swimming, because it had become part of my routine. That was my next mistake.

Me. It turns out that I could ride a real bike almost as effectively as the stationary one, and I logged everything that I ate and made sure there was a calorie deficit just in case all my estimates were off. (It was a habit I’d never quite given up, and I was maintaining my weight, so it obviously wasn’t too bad, right?) So I never gained it back.

When I started running again, I did stop swimming on the days I ran. But gradually my distance increased, and I was still riding the stationary bike the same amount. I eventually hit a cap of six miles running, but the result was the same: I was still losing weight and doing nothing about it because, honestly, I didn’t mind; it felt good to never feel fat, because I never was fat, I was always guaranteed to be skinnier or, at the worst, the same weight as I was the previous day. No more dreading the scale going up. No more feeling like I was going to bust out of my pants. It felt good.

Bottom line, I am now hovering around 90 pounds, which puts my BMI near 15. I have become obsessed with food and exercise. My veins pop out of my arms and it hurts to sit for any length of time. My face doesn’t even really look like me anymore.

But finally, yesterday morning, I had a mental breakdown. I just decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted help, and I wanted it right NOW, but I didn’t know where to start. Thank goodness for supportive parents who are willing to take the day off of work to babysit their grown children.... My dad spent the day driving me to the doctor’s office and entertaining me because I knew that, if left alone, my disease would compel me to continue my exhaustive exercise routine, no matter how much my real self wanted to stop. So he took me hiking with our dog, we went furniture shopping, and then we tried some new recipes for dinner. And we talked. And...it felt so good.

There are so many thoughts boiling in my brain right now, I haven’t even scraped the surface. I’d like to address those subjects in later posts, because trying to sort through them right now in the face of finals and graduation and everything else is so daunting. And I really don’t want to overwhelm you with an enormous post. Hopefully by analyzing bite-sized chunks, I can help both people who suffer and those who have never had an eating disorder to better understand this illness. So, I hope you’ll bear with me.

I have no idea what direction this blog will take in the future. Maybe I’ll still write those reviews; they are fun, and I’ve still got a few drafts left over. But I’d also like to focus on battling this ED, and blogging will help keep me honest. So I’m devoting a tab at the top of this blog entirely to this current struggle. Those posts will still appear on the home page, of course. But if you just want the full ED story, without all the other stuff, that’s where you can find it.

Finally, a huge thank you to my friends and family. I know I’ve been hard to live with lately, but I really want to change. I know I could never have taken this step without you all and I really, really appreciate you sticking by me. Especially my mom, dad, and sister for already putting up with my constant complaining of being fat, even though it’s only been one day!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ben & Jerry's Vanilla Caramel Fudge (An Ice Cream Review)

I was recently alerted by a concerned reader that my ice cream reviews are “lackluster,” as I don’t know very much about this delicious indulgence. So be forewarned: a simple flavor and a lackluster reviewer are about to collide.

I know, the title says Ben & Jerry’s, so how can it be boring, right? Well, when you look at some of their more unique offerings, like What A Cluster, Chocolate Nougat Crunch, Phish Food, Milk and Cookies...(the list goes on)...well, a flavor like Vanilla Caramel Fudge just doesn’t stand out except in its plainness.

It’s simply “Vanilla Ice Cream with Swirls of Caramel and Fudge.” How many other companies have something similar, if not exactly the same? I mean, they couldn’t even come up with a witty name for this one!

And yet...that fudge busting through the top glistens with mouthwatering intensity. I haven’t even scooped, and already it looks thick, dense, and gooey.

Gooey? Check! In fact, this ice cream is as easy to scoop straight from the freezer as Talenti’s gelatos usually are. Which is rare because B&J’s usually gives me a pretty good workout! But there is so much caramel and fudge, and both are so liquid-y, that the ice cream has a much softer, creamier texture. It’s almost like eating a pint of swirls. This is the gooiest Ben & Jerry’s flavor ever!

So, sorry to get lackluster again, but there’s only so much you can say about vanilla ice cream with caramel and chocolate swirls. I can’t say the vanilla really stands out; it’s pretty much just there to mix the swirls into. The fudge is everywhere, so basically it’s like eating chocolate. The caramel isn’t nearly as prominent in frequency or flavor, which is disappointing for me since I prefer the caramel...but I suppose chocolate fans will be satisfied. I prefer the stronger caramel in Karamel Sutra or Dulce Delish.

Overall, though, B&J’s hasn’t come up with anything special here. I could achieve the same effect by dousing plain vanilla ice cream in chocolate and caramel syrup, and for a lot less money and calories. Not that it’s a bad flavor in itself; just not worth the $3.79/pint that I paid.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: Muscle Milk Protein Crunch Bar Vanilla Almond Yogurt

This is only my second experience with Muscle Milk protein bars, and I found it at Walmart. For some reason my Walmart keeps its store-brand (Life Choice) protein bars separate from the other individual nutrition/protein bars, which are near the band-aids. Go figure. Anyway, that’s why I’ve never bought anything besides Life Choice from Walmart.

But when I saw “Vanilla Almond Yogurt” staring at me, along with a label claiming 30 grams of protein, I knew I had to try this bar.

Now, I know I wasn’t impressed the first time around, but I love yogurt coating so much that I knew I’d at least be able to tolerate it.

The first thing I noticed was that the bar seems a little smooshed and lopsided; one side was a lot thicker than the other. The second thing I noticed was how hard it was to break in half. Eventually it did bend a little and then snap. But it didn’t bode well for the texture.

It turns out I was right about the coating--it’s delicious! Very, very sweet and yogurty, everything I could have asked for. There are actually two different kinds: the sides and bottom are coated in your standard yogurt coating type, while the top is frosted, with a softer, almost fluffy consistency. By itself, this frosting is almost exactly like Pillsbury icing, although nutty from the chopped almonds on top. I ended up peeling it off, it was so good! It sort of reminded me of those vanilla/almond nougat candies, only better.

The initial taste is super sweet from all the vanilla and yogurt, but the base is a bit proteiny. It, too, tries to be generically sweet in that vanilla way, but there’s still something a little off about the whole thing that reminds you you’re eating a protein bar. Still, I can overlook that because the rest is so good! The almonds do take a backseat, which is fine with me, but not what the name implies.

The texture is a bit difficult; you will get a workout with this bar. Taking small bites, it’s fine, but if you’re in a hurry I could see this getting painful and/or frustrating to chew. It’s a combination of crispy and chewy, but I wouldn’t label it a “crunch” bar. From the name, I was expecting something like a Rice Krispies Treat, but this is more like your typical gummy protein bar with crisps mixed into the base.

Taste: 9--the coating/frosting is unbelievable, but the base it still slightly proteiny.
Texture: 7.5--a bit of a workout, and not chewy, not crunchy, but also satisfying.
Health: 7--while it has 30 grams of protein, the fat and sugar content may be too high for some.
Eat Again? Yes.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: Clif Builder's Bar Chocolate Mint

Here I go again, eating my dad’s food. But when he buys protein bars that I’ve never tried before, how can I resist? Plus, I don’t have much longer before I’m living by myself 8 hours away and can’t steal other people’s food anymore. ;)

Anyway, he went from consuming copious quantities of Blueberry Crisp Clif bars to buying boxes of Chocolate Mint Builder’s Bars. So that’s what I pulled out of the cupboard the other night, noting how big it was for a 20-gram protein bar.

It’s very attractive looking. Call me a snob, but there’s something about a perfectly smooth, creamy-looking chocolate coating that makes me want to sink my teeth into a bar, more so than when I get a melted, mangled one. It smells minty, sort of like a Thin Mint, just like any other mint chocolate protein bar I’ve reviewed.

It’s surprisingly mild, though. The peppermint flavor is very light when compared to Balance Bar’s or Nogii’s variations. It’s more milk chocolate than Thin Mint. The inside is a combination of a dense, crispy base and a creamy top layer, which seems to carry most of the mint flavoring. These two textures really play well off each other: the crisp is denser than a Rice Krispies Treat and reminds me of Oreos or even the inside of a Thin Mint, while the top layer adds a smooth and creamy touch that just feels good on your tongue. The coating tastes just as good as it looks--quality milk chocolate with a smooth and rich texture. It is a good complement to the light mint.

I could have done with a bit more mint flavor in this bar, but overall it’s very tasty. There is no protein taste, and all the components work well together for a smooth and satisfying experience. If they could pare down the excess calories (a Quest bar is 100 fewer, for the same amount of protein), I’d be even happier, but in all honesty 100 calories is not going to make or break me. :) If you’re missing those long-ago-eaten Thin Mints, give this bar a try.

Taste: 8--it has the chocolate and the mint, but not enough mint to compete with the Girl Scouts.
Texture: 10--the coating is very smooth, the crisps are dense and Oreo-like, and the creamy layer makes for a great texture.
Health: 8--it has just as much sugar as protein, along with 25% of your daily saturated fat. Then again, if you’re a “Builder,” those might be assets, along with the 20 grams of protein. GoodGuide gives it a 6.7.
Eat Again? Yeah. I mean, there’s a never-ending supply in the cupboard, right?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: Metragenix 2:1 Bar Oatmeal

I’ve  been on a Metragenix kick lately. I went back and revisited the Cookies & Cream and White Crispy Crunch bars, and I’ve found that I really do enjoy the White Crispy Crunch ones. They take me a while to eat because I pick off all the “soy crisps” and eat those first to get it over with, and then the actual bar is very sweet and does, as the website suggests, remind me a bit of cake flavor. In fact, I ordered a whole box of them because I really like their nutrition stats.

Anyway, another favorite (and the first one I tried) was the Granola Oatmeal bar. So it only seemed right that I try the 2:1 Oatmeal bar, which is slightly different.

It’s still big, at least that hasn’t changed.

Major difference (and for me, the deciding factor): the coating is chocolate, not yogurt. I love yogurt coating.

It smells primarily like chocolate, but once broken there is a bit of an oaty scent as well. The first bite tastes slightly oatmealy, with a bit of a sour turn at the end. But as I continue eating, I’m getting this spice vibe. The oatmeal taste really isn’t that prominent, but I almost feel like I’m eating chocolate spiced with nutmeg. I definitely expected more oatmeal.

Occasionally it does come through, and it reminds me of the Quaker oatmeal squares I used to eat all the time. But the chocolate is still the main component here--not that that’s bad!

The oatmeal does come through a bit more in the texture. Overall, it’s chewy, but you can also feel the oats, and sometimes they hide around in your teeth after you finish chewing. It’s not exhausting, but not for rushing through either. I liked it because it kept me busy without giving me a total jaw workout. It’s also a little dry, but in an oatmeal way, so it works.

While this bar is respectable and has great nutritional information, it’s definitely not my favorite. It certainly ranks below its Granola-infused sibling, if only because of the chocolate coating. It won’t be a repeat buy, but this is still a well-done bar.

Taste: 7--the oatmeal isn’t overly strong, but the chocolate is a nice smooth taste.
Texture: 9--slightly oaty at times, but mostly chewy.
Health: 9--I love the protein-to calorie ratio of this bar. It’s one of the healthier 30-gram bars out there.
Eat Again? Probably not.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review: Fiber One Caramel Nut Protein Bar

After eating 20- and 30-gram protein bars for so long, I tend to laugh at those that come with similar calorie counts, 7-10 grams of protein, and the proud label “protein bar.” Really? That’s more of a nutritious snack that you’d reach for if you find Snickers too nutritionally devoid.

But, nonetheless, Fiber One claims that this Protein Caramel Nut Chewy Bar is a protein bar, with its whopping 7 grams. I know I’m biased, and for a normal person this might totally qualify as a protein bar. And, since they sent it to me for free, I really can’t complain.

Well, maybe a little bit, because it’s so small. No way is that going to fill me up. It’s like only eating one Snickers Mini when you haven’t eaten anything else all day. I don’t care what the commercials say, grabbing that Snickers won’t help much!

Speaking of Snickers, this bar actually looks like it might resemble the candy. It smells like peanuts and caramel, although it’s crispy on the inside rather than nougaty. There are some sticky strings, but nothing gooey. Actually, it reminds me a bit of the Detour Lower Sugar Caramel Peanut bar, only that one had nougat-like base inside.

The first impression is a sweet and salty blend--that caramel really comes through! The peanuts are more in the background, but I’m guessing that’s where the salt comes from. The chocolate, at first, isn’t obvious. But as I  continued eating, it became more and more prominent as the salty peanuts faded out. It actually reminds me of a very sweet peanut butter, coated in chocolate.

The texture is basically that of a chocolate-covered Rice Krispies Treat. The peanuts must be good at hiding, because I only rarely felt them despite their visual presence. It’s a light crisp, very easy to eat, and for me a disadvantage, because I pretty much inhaled this little thing. And no, it didn’t fill me up. So I could easily imagine a scenario in which you went through half a box in one afternoon.

I think of this bar more as a little candy bar, although it’s much more nutritious. It’s easy to forget that, though, as the taste is so sweet and candy-like, with that crisp texture. Good job in the taste department...but I’m still not sure I’d label it a “protein bar.”

Taste: 9--very sweet and also salty; a bit like a Snickers bar.
Texture: 9--light and crispy, but very easy to speed through.
Health: 7--it has 7 grams of protein and 20% of your RDV of fiber, but for such a little bar there’s quite a bit of sugar and fat.
Eat Again? Yeah...but I probably wouldn’t buy them.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Haagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche (An Ice Cream Review)

I’ve recently started incorporating Haagen-Dazs into my regular ice cream exploits, having been through a ton of Ben & Jerry’s already (I’ve started repeat-buying my favorites). When I stopped on campus to see how I could spend the unused LionCash on my student id, their B&J’s offerings were a bit dull. But they had Haagen-Dazs! With the discontinuation of B&J’s Dulce Delish (which I was lucky enough to snag before it disappeared forever), I was curious whether Haagen-Dazs’ Dulce de Leche could replace it.

Haagen-Dazs described this ice cream as “inspired by Latin America’s treasured dessert, our dulce de leche ice cream is a delicious combination of caramel and sweet cream, swirled with ribbons of golden caramel.”

It’s not much to look at at first glance. As with Dulce Delish, I was worried that it would be too boring, since I am a total chunk/mix-in person. But I also love caramel, so I dug in.

Despite its surface appearance, there are multiple caramel swirls hiding throughout the pint. These swirls are gooey even when frozen, though not very thick. There also aren’t a whole lot of them, which means that most of the ice cream’s merit comes from...well, the ice cream.

I appreciate that, since sometimes too many mix-ins can minimize a  good base and you just can’t appreciate its quality. In terms of taste, this is a lot like Dulce Delish: a very sweet, rich caramel throughout, even when there isn’t any swirl. It’s definitely an ice cream for when you’re craving caramel. Otherwise, it gets a little boring.

That said, it’s lacking. The texture seems less creamy than B&J’s, even a little gritty. This does improve as it melts, but it never quite measures up. It’s not as smooth as Talenti’s Sea Salt Caramel or, despite Talenti’s lack of swirl, as caramelly. The Haagen-Dazs just isn’t as rich and dense.

The swirl is also disappointingly infrequent, not very gooey (I love my goo!), and thin. That said, the overall caramel flavor is well done, lingering in the back of your mouth with a milky vibe. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly quality ice cream, but it’s not going to find its way back to my freezer. Sorry, H-D. Ben & Jerry’s wins this round.