Soy Vay’s the Way to Go

March 19, 2009

soyvayteriyakiIn honor of National Poultry Day, I am reviewing a way to use one of my easiest, tastiest, fastest ways to cook America’s staple meat: chicken.  Some time ago I impulsively found Soy Vay’s Marinades and Sauces at the grocery store.  Initially I just like the design of the bottles: little boats and fun looking writing on a larger-than-usual bottle.  I was further intrigued when I discovered that not only are all the sauces completely organic and preservative-free, but they’re also completely kosher because, in their cute little story, “Jewish Boy Meets Chinese Girl and SOY VAY!  A Sauce is Born!”.  Nutritionally, they’re relatively low-calorie, although the sodium content is very high (although expected in soy-based sauces).  My personal favorite in the line is Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki. In fact, this stuff is so good it’s not only the only teriyaki marinade I use now, it’s also the only teriyaki sauce that Trader Joe’s even sells.

Initially I used this alone just to figure out how it would taste cooked when chicken was marinated in it.  It’s a little thicker than regular teriyaki sauces, and you have to shake the bottle pretty well to ensure that all the sesame seeds that aggregate at the bottom are mixed in.  I had some chicken thighs, so I dumped them in a plastic bag with a generous amount of the sauce.  About 2 hours later, I removed them from the bag, put them on a baking dish with some of the sauce and cooked them at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  What I ended up with were honestly some of the best chicken thighs I’ve had.  Read the rest of this entry »


Gastronomized: Heinz One Carb Ketchup

March 18, 2009

heinz-reduced-sugar2So sue me, I love ketchup.  When someone asks “do you want fries with that?”, they’re not really referring to a burger or a hot dog, they’re referring to the massive amounts of ketchup I dip the potato-y wonders in.  Not to say that there’s much of anything in ketchup, but when I saw Heinz One Carb Reduced Sugar Ketchup, I thought I’d give it a try.  Nutritionally, the only difference between this ketchup and Heinz’s regular ketchup is that this is 5 calories per tablespoon and 1g carbs, and regular is 15 calories and 4g carbs.  It also contains sucralose instead of high fructose corn syrup.   If you’re only eating a tablespoon or so, there’s really no difference.  If you’re like me and eat your meal with your ketchup, this is a potential carb and calorie saver.

So in true oxymoronic fashion, I brought a bottle to McDick’s with me, ordered some fries and sat down to do a taste test between the original Heinz and the One Carb Heinz.  Let me tell you, there’s nothing like sitting down to eat McDonald’s fries with a bottle of reduced-carb ketchup.  The verdict?  Not much of a difference!  One Carb Heinz is still nice and thick, and despite being slightly less sweet and a little more salty it essentially tastes just like the original stuff.  If you want to add the sweetness back in it’s an easy fix: just add a packet of Splenda or something similar and you’re set (which I tried.  It worked pretty well!).

The next test: I sat down with a massive plate of Hungry Girl’s Butternut Squash Fries and dug in.  In one sentence: Best Gastronomized Swap Ever.  Completely guilt-free in every aspect and I felt like I was eating fries with real ketchup!

Stars: 5/5

Nutrition Facts:  Serving Size: 1 tbsp.  5 Calories.  0g Fat.  0g Cholesterol.  190mg Sodium.  1g Carbohydrates.  0g Protein. 0 WW Points.

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St. Pat’s = Irish Soda Bread!

March 17, 2009

brbuttsodabread21As a second generation Irish girl, nothing makes me happier than a dinner of beef, potatoes and a fresh toasty loaf of Irish Soda Bread.  On St. Patrick’s Day, this dinner is absolutely essential.  I’ve made many different forms of soda bread over the years, some containing caraway seeds and flax, others containing generous amounts of roasted garlic.  But as my grandmother taught me, traditional soda bread should be simple; in fact, real soda bread contains nothing more than flour, butter, baking soda and salt.   Why no yeast?  Because of the Irish climate, hard wheat could not be grown (which rises nicely when yeast is added).  To make up for this, the Irish used baking soda as a leavening agent, which is why the delicious result is called Soda Bread.

I’ve never been a fan of the versions containing bits like caraway seeds, raisins or currants (Martha Stewart’s, sadly, is one such recipe), so the two I’m including and had success with contain none of those extras.  The key to soda bread is to never overwork the dough.  Only mix until the ingredients are moistened and the dough ball is formed.  Overworking it will destroy the bread.  The first recipe is more savory, slightly more impressive and great for dinner.  The second is more traditional and simple and I love it for breakfast with jam (although it works for any meal, really).

Read the rest of this entry »


Edy’s Loaded Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream

March 17, 2009

edys-loaded4I am now officially on a hunt to find the best tasting chocolate ice cream out there that won’t make me gain 20 pounds in a single sitting.  So logically, I go into the grocery store and pick up a carton of what seems to be the most extreme and delicious flavor I can below 200 calories per serving: Edy’s Loaded Chocolate Fudge Brownie (for those of you in a different part of the country, Edy’s is also known as Dreyer’s).  The carton design is so crazy I could barely even wait to go home and give it a taste (I mean seriously, it makes you think that brownies will actually be exploding out of the ice cream).

Needless to say, the best part about this ice cream was the carton.  I was surprised, considering the fact that I had heard some rather exuberant reviews of it from friends.  However, the ice cream failed to live up to expectations.  Despite the low calorie content (120 per 1/2 cup), I would’ve felt better about splurging and digging into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.  While there was both a decent chocolate taste and an abundance of brownie pieces in the Loaded ice cream, I had a serious issue with the texture in every component.  To best describe it, the ice cream simply seemed “off” to me.  An inspection of the carton revealed why: this isn’t actually ice cream!  Edy’s has labelled it a “frozen dairy dessert”, which may explain why it lacks the rich, dense creaminess that I expect when eating ice cream.  The only creaminess it does have seems artificial and airy, not to mention that the stuff didn’t even seem frozen.  It had been sitting in my freezer for quite some time, and the travel time between the grocery store and my house is about 5 minutes, yet the ice cream was way too easy to scoop to be real.  I even dug way down in the carton thinking maybe the layer on top had melted a bit.  It made no difference; essentially it was more like a glorified mousse.  Likewise, the brownie pieces were less than stellar, not to mention too small.  It was as if the brownies were overcooked before being mixed in, making them way to hard and chewy (but not in a good way).  In the end, this is not an ice cream I will be buying again.  When I want ice cream, I want real ice cream.  I don’t want some sad imitation glop that in no way satisfies my need to sit down with the carton armed only with a spoon.  Bad form, Edy’s.  Next time get it right.

Stars: 2/5

Nutrition Facts: Serving Size: 1/2 Cup.  120 Calories.  35 Calories from Fat.  4g Fat.  1.5g Saturated Fat.  0g Trans Fat.  10mg Cholesterol.  55mg Sodium.  19g Carbohydrates.  1g Dietary Fiber.  13g Sugar.  3g Protein.  2% Vitamin A.  4% Calcium.  4% Iron.  3 WW Points.


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Boca Bruchetta Tomato Basil Parmesan Veggie Patties

March 16, 2009

boca_bruschettaSo once again I succumbed to the ever-excitable “new!” flag and picked up the Boca Bruchetta Tomato Basil Parmesan Veggie Patties.  At first I laughed, thinking maybe the length of the name was a sort of Napoleonic complex to make up for the lack of meat.  To be completely honest, I’ve never understood vegetarians.  Nothing excites me more than the prospect of going out for a steak dinner, and my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving for all the obvious reasons.  In fact, the entire idea of a veggie patty kind of freaks me out.  Why not just eat a burger?  But since I’m on this little health(ier)-food kick though (and more importantly, I have nothing to grill a burger on), the juicy deliciousness of a double bacon cheeseburger was not on the books for lunch today.  So when I saw the Bruchetta Tomato Basil Parmesan Boca Burgers out of the corner of my eye, I inspected the box with interest.  Boca described them quite appetizingly as containing “oven-roasted tomatoes, basil and Parmesan cheese—it’s all the best flavors of Italy packed into a wholesome veggie patty”  I like tomato.  I like basil.  I like Parmesan.  I love bruchetta.  So these meatless wonders must be a hit, right?

Needless to say, my foray into the world of vegetarianism was not bad!  I nuked the patty, toasted myself a bun and topped the whole thing with cheese, diced onions and tomato (a la bruchetta).  The whole ensemble actually made a very good-tasting lunch, and it seemed drastically more substantial than my usual turkey sandwich (yet somehow calorically equivalent).  Unlike the mouthful of a name, the patty is unfortunately on the thin side and kind of an unusual dark orange color.  This may be true for all veggie burgers; I really wouldn’t know.  All together the sandwich was delicious!  I detected a pleasant little bit of heat in the burger, and an inspection of the ingredients revealed paprika.  I was surprised to see oats on the list as well, since I didn’t really taste any.  The balance of tomato and onion was perfect, and the texture was closer to that of a beef burger than I thought it would be.  The only part that I really missed was the juiciness.  These were disappointingly dry and didn’t give me the experience that biting into a real burger affords.  All in all, though, these are a welcome addition to my lunch rotation.  I don’t think they’re quite savory or large enough to be a dinner, but they were a filling and satisfying lunch.  Nutrition-wise, I was pleasantly surprised.  While it was a little high in sodium, it was also high in protein and fiber and contained both calcium and iron.  To top it off, it was only 70 calories!

Next time I think I will top one off with a little marinara or pizza sauce, some mozzarella cheese and some diced tomatoes and onions.  I think the sauce will make up for the dryness of the patty.  Even better, some toasted Tuscan bread and some homemade bruchetta topping would take this Boca burger from good to absolutely delish.

So for all you vegetarians out there, the good folks at Boca have now made a believer out of me.  I won’t be giving up my love of eating meat (ever.), but since I can’t reasonably eat a burger every day, I will no longer scoff at the notion of a veggie burger.  I actually think I’m going to have to try other kinds now!

Stars: 4/5

Nutrition FactsServing Size: 1 Patty.  70 Calories.  1.5g Fat.  0.5g Saturated Fat.  0g Trans Fat.  5mg Cholesterol.  290mg Sodium.  9g Carbohydrates.  3.5g Dietary Fiber.  0g Sugar.  10g Protein.  15% Calcium.  15% Iron.  1 WW Point

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Healthy Choice Tomato Basil Penne

March 16, 2009

tomato-basil-penneSince I’m always on the lookout for new things to try, I tend to notice boxes with bright red “new!” flags on them more than those without.  In the case of Healthy Choice Tomato Basil Penne, it was also the modernized packaging.  I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when I saw that the streamlined green and white box was not, in fact, an entirely new brand of frozen dinners (but Healthy is now spelled Hea!thy, which I guess will entice us to buy it).  At any rate, I couldn’t pass this one up.  For a long time I’ve been skeptical about Healthy Choice’s ability to deliver a decent-tasting meal, but ever since trying their Cafe Steamers Chicken Marghertia (delicious by the way, review to come) my opinion of the brand has improved substantially.  Not to mention the fact that this frozen meal claims to be “all-natural”.

So what is this new line by Healthy Choice?  They describe the all-natural meals as high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins A and C, low in saturated fat and cholesterol and free of preservatives and artificial flavors.  Ever since reading the article in Women’s Health about the truth behind the ingredient list in frozen dinners, I’m always on the lookout for items that are preservative-free.  The other items in the line are Portabella Marsala Pasta, Portabella Spinach Parmesan, Pumpkin Squash Ravioli, Sweet Asian Potstickers and Mediterannean Pasta.  I figured if they could get the Tomato Basil Penne right, the other ones would be worth a try.

In their words: “Wholesome nine-grain penne pasta topped with tomatoes, onions, sweet basil, and mozzarella cheese is prepared with 100% extra virgin olive oil for a great-tasting meal with just 280 calories and 7 grams of fiber”.

I must admit, reality came pretty close!  I nuked the dinner according to their directions and in under 7 minutes it was nice and steamy and ready to eat.  The first thing I noticed was the portion size.  Despite being only 280 calories, this seemed like a well-sized meal.  Unlike Lean Cuisine’s rabbit-sized Cheese Ravioli, this pasta looked like it might fill me up.  Tasting revealed to be a pleasure.  While the penne is clearly whole-wheat (and I always prefer regular pasta), the flavor actually added to the dish instead of detracting from it.  While I couldn’t really taste much cheese, the basil added a nice note and the sauce was plentiful and tomato-y.  I even detected a hint of a brown sugar giving the meal a hint of sweetness.  Even though there was 600 mg of salt in the dinner (a large amount, although less than a lot of frozen meals), I still needed to add a little more.  Mrs. Dash’s salt-free tomato basil seasoning would’ve done the trick, too.  While it wasn’t the absolute best frozen pasta dish I’ve ever had, it’s still one that will be going on my weekly shopping list!

Stars: 4/5


Nutrition Facts: Serving size: 1 Meal.  280 Calories.  60 Calories from fat.  6g Fat.  2.5g Saturated Fat.  0g Trans Fat.  15mg Cholesterol.  600mg Sodium.  39g Carbohydrates.  7g Dietary Fiber.  6g Sugar.  13g Protein.  2% Vitamin C.  10% Vitamin A.  10% Iron.  20% Calcium. 5 WW Points.

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Pepperidge Farm Light Style 7 Grain Bread

March 15, 2009

light-style-7-grain While I am someone who definitely enjoys bread, when I fix my own sandwiches I can never bring myself to eat 400 calories worth of it every single time.  Also, I can no longer justify spending at least 5 dollars on a sandwich everyday for my lunch break.  Since it’s time to start being frugal and creative, I was naturally led to one of the big staple sections of the grocery store: the bread aisle.  Let me tell you, as someone who always likes to try new brands and products, variety can be just as overwhelming as it is exciting, and the bread aisle is one of the most overwhelming sections of all.

I’m usually a huge fan of Arnold Bakery Light 7 Grain, but when I saw Pepperidge Farm Light Style 7 Grain, I decided to give it a try. Needless to say, Arnold beat Pepperidge out of the water. The Arnold bakery has a delicious, almost buttery taste and a nice soft crust that is never dried out; it has never seemed like a “light” bread to me. Even though I often toast my sandwiches, I would argue that the Arnold bread is at its best completely unheated. Alternately, the Pepperidge Farm bread had a strangely dry crust that tasted like cardboard and wasn’t the easiest to bite, so I decided to make another sandwich toasted to see if the taste or texture improved. They didn’t. The grains, while they clearly existed in the bread, were tasteless. Altogether it did not make for the moist, delicious light style bread I was hoping Pepperidge Farm would be able to put together. They should stick to items like Milanos, where the two main ingredients are butter and chocolate. They have those down to an absolute art form.

Stars: 3/5

Nutrition Facts: Serving Size: 1 Slice.  45 Calories.  0 Calories from Fat.  0g Fat.  0g Cholesterol.  90mg Sodium.  9g Carbohydrates.  1g Dietary Fiber.  1g Sugar.  2g Protein.  2% Calcium.  2% Iron.  1 WW Point for 2 Slices.

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