Chocolate-Covered Fresh, Raw Cranberries

January 5th, 2012

I’m always looking for healthy, vegetarian snacks. Okay, this one is not so healthy, but I needed a dessert to take to Christmas. One of my professors brought these chocolate-covered fresh, raw cranberries to school the day we discussed the gastrointestinal tract and exercise. I loved them and thought these chocolate-covered cranberries would be a “healthy” dessert option for my family for Christmas. Cranberries are a big industry in Wisconsin so I thought it would be patriotic to my home state as well.

Here’s what I did:

1) Rinse and completely dry 1 pint of fresh, raw cranberries.
2) Melt 1 bag of milk chocolate chips in the microwave. (You’ll need about 1 bag of chocolate chips per pint of cranberries.)
3) Coat each cranberry with chocolate and set on wax paper. (I had trouble with my chocolate seizing so I melted chocolate, spread the chocolate on wax paper, and coated each cranberry in chocolate that way. I then separated the cranberries and set them individually on wax paper.)
4) Refrigerate to set the chocolate.

I love these chocolate-covered cranberries. Some of the cranberries are solid and firm, but some of the cranberries break as you bite so you get a surprise burst of tart cranberry juice with chocolate… I think it’s delicious!

How well did it go over at Christmas? Not well. I made 4 pints of cranberries and I estimate less than 1 pint of them got eaten over two days. This was one of those lucky situations where I made something I loved to eat so at least when I got stuck with leftovers, they were leftovers I loved to eat. I did learn an important lesson: Making food that no one eats, no matter how much I love it, is a waste of money.

The fresh cranberries cost $3.99 a pint. Hershey Toll House Milk Chocolate chocolate chips were on sale for $2.50. Here is what you get nutritionally from one batch (1 pint of raw cranberries + one bag of Hershey Milk Chocolate chocolate chips) for about $7:

1632 calories
222 g Carbohydrates
99 g Fat
22 g Protein

Enjoy! Let me know if you have any suggestions!

chocolate covered cranberries

Roasted Seasoned Chickpeas

January 5th, 2012

I am always looking for new healthy, vegetarian snacks. Today, I tried this Baked Garbanzo Bean (Chick Peas) with Moroccan Spices recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen via Eddie on Everything.

I modified the recipe quite a bit. I don’t cook often, and I am of Scandinavian and Irish heritage, so I had NO spices in my kitchen – sea salt, black pepper, and paprika – that’s it. (My mom doesn’t eat marinara sauce because it’s “too spicy” if that tells you anything…)

I’m cheap and lazy so I didn’t want to pick up all nine spices that the original recipe calls for, so I bought “Less Sodium” Lawry’s Seasoned Salt for $1.66. One can of garbanzo beans was $.66. I had olive oil on hand.

Here’s what I did:

1) Preheat oven to 350°.
2) Drain, rinse, and dry one can of chickpeas (also ceci bean, garbanzo bean, chana, sanagalu Indian pea, Bengal gram).
3) Toss chickpeas, 1 Tbsp of olive oil, and 1 Tbsp of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt.
4) Spread chickpeas in a single layer on a baking sheet.
5) Roast at 350° for 50 minutes or until brown.

They are pretty tasty! They remind me of a cross between soy nuts and roasted pumpkin seeds. Eddie suggested roasting for closer to an hour and I agree because I like the crunchy chickpeas the best. My version is pretty salty – if you’re using Lawry’s, you might want to use less than 1 Tbsp.

These seasoned roasted chickpeas are tasty, but be careful not to eat the whole batch: There are more calories here than you might think. Nutritionally, here’s what you get per batch, all for about $1.00:

497 Calories
70 g Carbohydrates
7 g Fat
21 g Protein

Enjoy, let me know if you have any suggestions!

DIY Crunch Pak Apple Snackers – Apple Slices, Cheese Cubes, and Pretzels

December 8th, 2011

As a vegetarian, I find it very hard to find a convenient healthy snack I can grab in a pinch. That’s why I think the Crunch Pak Apple Snackers are genius: Apple slices, cheese cubes, and pretzels to go! There is also a pack available with raisins instead of cheese or grapes instead of pretzels.

apple pretzel cheese snackapple pretzel cheese snack nutritionMy local grocery store sells a Crunch Pak Apple Snacker for $2.99 (4.75 oz. package), which is not a terrible price, but I wondered how much it would cost if I assembled a similar snack myself at home. I substituted Wheat Thins Honey Wheat Stix because I like them better than pretzels.

Pack a Pak  Mixed Apple Slices
14 oz. bag/about 3 servings per bag
$2.99/3 servings = $1 per serving
(You could make this even less if you slice an apple yourself and don’t mind if your apple slices turn brown. Or if you could just eat an apple whole.

Sharp Cheddar Cheese (1 lb)
16-1 oz. servings per pound
$3.99/16 1 oz. servings = $0.25 per 1 oz. serving

Wheat Thins Honey Wheat Stix
8 oz. box/8 servings per box
$3.50/8 servings = $0.44 per 14 stix serving

Total = $1.79 (6 oz.)

So what does my $1.79 version of the snack get you nutritionally?
My snack (vs. Crunch Pak snack)
6 oz. (4.75 oz.)
Calories 320 (240)
Carbs 44g (29g)
Fat 13g (10g)
Protein 9g (8g)

I think I’ll stick to making my own apple, cheese, Wheat Thins Stix snack, unless I’m in a pinch. I’m always looking for easy, inexpensive, healthy vegetarian snacks. If you have one, please share!

Limited Edition Almond Joy Coffee Creamer is Disappearing From Stores!

October 19th, 2011

About a month ago, I disovered International Delight Limited Edition Almond Joy Coffee Creamer. And as I mentioned on Rencsi.com, Almond Joy International Delight Coffee Creamer is Yummy!

Last night, I went to my closest grocery store to pick up more Almond Joy International Delight Coffee Creamer and it was gone! In its place, the Seasonal flavors like Pumpkin Pie Spice.

Today, I went to another grocery store and I was able to find and purchase some Almond Joy International Delight Coffee Creamer. Thank goodness! If you love this stuff as much as I do, find a grocery store that is still carrying it, and buy more soon! The Almond Joy creamer is beginning to disappear from stores!

Almond Joy International Delight Coffee Creamer is Yummy!

September 14th, 2011

I recently discovered Almond Joy-flavored coffee creamer from International Delight and it is delicious! If you like chocolate, coconut, and almond flavors, I highly recommend it!

I am a poor graduate student so I need to cut costs and save money. I recently had to give up buying flavored mocha drinks at coffee shop chains – I just can’t afford to pay over $5 USD for a coffee drink, no matter how tasty it is. Even a large cup of black coffee from the campus coffee shop is $1.50. Buying coffee at school once a day, every day, for a week would cost $7.50 per week, $30 per month, or $360 per year. Ouch!

I also had to stop buying expensive coffee to keep at home. I can’t afford to pay over $8 for Caribou Coffee brand or over $9 for Starbucks brand coffee to brew at home. I recently switched to Eight O’Clock Coffee, which costs under $6 and tastes fine. There is also a $2 coupon for Eight O’Clock coffee available at the Eight O’Clock Coffee website at the time this post was written.

Now that I found the Almond Joy coffee creamer, my coffee routine is complete and cheap. The Almond Joy taste is good and masks the taste of the Eight O’Clock coffee, and that helps me forget that I’m drinking cheap coffee. The sweetness satisfies my sweet tooth with less calories and fat than an expensive mocha – 15 calories and 1.5 grams of fat per tablespoon of creamer (coffee has basically no nutritional value) compared to 479 calories and 22 grams of fat in a Mint Condition from Caribou Coffee (large, skim milk, milk chocolate, no whip)! The price is very affordable and there is even a 55¢ coupon available from International Delight for one pint of coffee creamer.

My only concern is that the Almond Joy flavor is a “Limited Edition” so enjoy it while it lasts. Thank you International Delights for a yummy product! I highly recommend it.

almond joy coffee creamer

I Hate Clif Bars

August 6th, 2010

My mom used to say, “I hate the word ‘hate.’” I don’t use it very often, but when I use it, I mean it. I can only think of a few things I hate – like February. I also hate Clif Bars.

I mean it when I say, “I hate Clif Bars.” I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Everyone I know loves Clif Bars, but the thought of eating one makes me gag. Even after long, grueling runs, I can’t choke down more than a few bites of a Clif Bar simply for nourishment.

I admit, Clif Bars are hard to beat nutritionally and unfortunately, they’re everywhere: race goodie bags, grocery store checkouts, gas stations, sports supply stores… What’s a good alternative to Clif Bars? Here are some suggestions:

Snickers Marathon Bars
I got one of these in a race goodie bag and I now buy them on the regular. They are so good, I feel like I’m eating a candy bar! I get them at Wal-mart in the pharmacy section near the Boost and Ensure meal replacement drinks. It seems unnatural to eat anything with the Snickers name on it for nutrition before or after exercising, but I’ve had success with them. I will continue to buy them and eat them until further notice.

Kashi Go Lean Protein & Fiber Bars
Eh. These bars are OK. I like the Chocolate Caramel Crunchy Protein & Fiber Bar, but it’s the only one I’ve found that I’ve liked.

Luna “The Whole Nutrition Bar for Women” – Lemon Zest
Yes, I know Luna bars are made by the Clif company. I never said, “I hate the company that makes Clif Bars.” I said, “I hate Clif Bars.” I can’t eat Clif Bars, but I can eat Luna Bars. I don’t know why. I’m a woman – maybe that’s why. Lemon Zest is my favorite so far.

As I noted, Luna Bars are The Whole Nutrition Bar for Women. So can my boyfriend eat a Luna Bar?

From the post Will Eating Luna Bars Make a Guy Grow Breasts? on Chow.com:

Clif Bar, manufacturer of the Luna nutrition bar – marketed “for women” – is asked this question all the time. The concern is baseless, however. Luna bars, which come in flavors including Lemon Zest, S’mores, and Dulce de Leche, contain no estrogen or other hormones that might cause men to grow mammary glands. They’re for women because they’re fortified with nutrients females typically need more of or sometimes have a hard time getting in their diets. These include folic acid, calcium, iron, B vitamins, and fiber.

Kashi Go Lean Protein & Fiber Bars – Chewy PB & Chocolate Versus Crunchy Chocolate Caramel

August 6th, 2010

Some days, meal replacement bars are a group fitness instructor’s best friend. On my latest trip to the grocery store, Kashi GOLEAN Protein & Fiber Bars were on sale 10 for $10 so I decided to give them a try. I bought four Peanut Butter & Chocolate Kashi Go Lean Chewy Protein & Fiber Bars (13 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, 290 calories) and six Chocolate Caramel Kashi Go Lean Crunchy Protein & Fiber Bars (8 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, 150 calories). These two varieties were my only options at the time.

I started with the Chewy Peanut Butter & Chocolate Go Lean Bar on day one. I eat in the car between classes. I opened the package and it looked like a giant chocolate bar, and in my opinion, that is a good thing. The first bite was sadly disappointing. Inside the chocolate was a grainy, flavorless mass that did not resemble any peanut butter I’ve ever tasted. I forced myself to eat half the bar for nourishment, and I left the rest in my car to melt in the summer heat while I taught Zumba.

After my bad experience with the Chewy bar, I hesitated a couple of days before trying the Crunchy Chocolate Caramel Go Lean Bar. Actually, my boyfriend tried it first. He described it as a Rice Krispies bar. I tried it and agreed. It was something like a soggy Rice Krispies bar or Special K bar with chunks of marshmallow on a bed of chocolate. Between me and my boyfriend, all six are now gone. I will buy these again.

The Kashi Chocolate Caramel Crunchy Go Lean Protein & Fiber bar is low in calories and protein, but it was the clear winner of the Rencsi.com Crunchy versus Chewy taste test.

Why Buy Vegetarian Cage-free Brown Eggs?

May 27th, 2009

I buy Vegetarian Cage-free Brown Eggs at the grocery store. What does that mean?

Vegetarian Eggs
Chickens need protein. Chickens in a pasture eat bugs, like wood ticks. Commercial chicken feed may contain animal protein sources like meat or bone meal, dried whey, and fish meal. Vegetarian eggs are eggs fed feed with only vegetarian ingredients, like soybean.

Cage-free Eggs
In a perfect world, all God’s creatures could co-exist and share the land. Unfortunately, even “cage-free” chickens may not have a pleasant existence, but they are free to roam in an open area like a barn and have unlimited access to food and water.

I will spare you the details of the caged-life of a commercial layer hen. Please, if you can, buy cage-free eggs.

Brown Eggs
There is no difference between brown eggs and white eggs other than the fact that brown eggs come from “brown” or “red” hens and white eggs come from white hens.

While white to brown is common in commercial eggs, eggs can come in a wide variety of colors. There is even a non-commercial chicken breed called the Araucana, an ornery, white chicken that lays blueish-green eggs.

According to the American Egg Board at IncredibleEgg.org:

Egg shell and yolk color may vary. Color has no relationship to egg quality, flavor, nutritive value, cooking characteristics or shell thickness.

Shell
Shell color comes from pigments in the outer layer of the shell and, in eggs from various commercial breeds, may range from white to deep brown. The breed of hen determines the color of the shell. Among commercial breeds, hens with white feathers and ear lobes lay white-shelled eggs; hens with red feathers and ear lobes lay brown eggs.

White eggs are most in demand among American buyers. In some parts of the country, however, particularly in New England, brown shells are preferred. Commercial brown-egg layers are hens derived from the Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire and Plymouth Rock breeds. Since brown-egg layers are slightly larger birds and require more food, brown eggs are usually more expensive than white.

Awesome Daily Needs Nutritional Calculator and Health Tools

May 5th, 2009

I recently met with Beth, a personal trainer and wellness coach at my new gym to set goals for 2009. My original motivation was to simply get my trial membership host the free month he was promised for referring a new member.

I mentioned to Beth that there are days I have to cut my routine short because I’ve run out of energy. She recommended two sites I could use to make sure I get the nutrition I need to keep me going strong each day.

www.NutritionData.com

NutritionData.com has a great Daily Needs Calculator. You enter your height, weight, age, and lifestyle. AND you can list exactly what activities you plan to do and how long you plan to do them.

The Daily Needs calculator returns your BMI, calories burned, recommended daily nutrient (carbs, protein, vitamins, minerals) quantities.

I really like being able to customize minutes per day of exercise. My workout and level of activity each day is very different for me and I think this will help me get through my varying workouts more easily.

www.PreventDisease.com
While preventing disease is not something I keep in mind while I work out at this time, PreventDisease.com features a long list of Health Tools including several Body Composition calculators, a link to the USDA Calorie & Nutrient Information Database, and even Sleep Tools.

How Many Calories are in a Cup of Coffee?

April 25th, 2009

Have you ever noticed there is no nutritional information on coffee packaging? How many calories are in a cup of coffee? Here’s a list of the nutritional information of the brands of coffee I keep at home:

Dunkin Donuts (20 oz.)
10 Calories
0 Fat Calories
15mg Sodium
0g Fat
2g Carbohydrates
1g Protein
0g Dietary Fiber

Caribou Coffee (Large)
5 Calories
0 Fat Calories
10mg Sodium
0g Fat
0g Carbohydrates
1g Protein
0g Dietary Fiber

Foldgers
I could not find nutritional info for Foldgers coffee, but according to the Foldgers website:

Our coffees are 100% pure coffee. Since coffee has no nutritional value, there’s no significant amount of calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat, sodium, or potassium. In fact, one serving of brewed coffee contains less than 5 calories.

I take coffee black so the information above does not include milk or sugar. Roast (light, medium, dark) and preparation method does not seem to affect nutrition. What does affect coffee nutritional information is what you add to your coffee – like milk, cream, sugar, sweeteners, syrups, whip cream, etc.

If you are looking for a way to cut calories and fat, quit adding unnecessary calories and fat to your coffee!

Easy as pie… Right? Not for me. My FAVORITE coffee drink is Caribou Coffee’s Mint Condition.

Caribou Coffee Mint Condition (Medium w/2% Milk & Whip Cream)
460 Calories
160 Fat Calories
145mg Sodium
17g Fat
68g Carbohydrates
13g Protein
0g Dietary Fiber

Wow. That is an eye opener compared to regular black coffee, which I also enjoy. It will be hard, but I will save money, calories, and fat if I drink black coffee more often and drink a Mint Condition less often as a treat or reward. *sigh*