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Tuesday
May252010

New Cheese on the Block

I'm not a fan of commercial diet programs that entail lots of money to eat their food, but many provide one-on-one support and tight structure, which some dieters need for success. So admittedly they do work, at least to get the weight off initially. Weight Watchers is the grand poobah of diets (been around for 45 years!) and although the program currently teaches a "points" system, I like that it encourages the use of real food including whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and dairy. They sell an extensive line of packaged foods, but their website and free e-newsletter also contain a treasure of free healthful and easy recipes.

I recently sampled Weight Watchers new cheese line. No breakthroughs here, they taste and look similar to other cheese products, available in wedges, cream cheese, string cheese, slices and shreds. What's nice is that the whole line is reduced in calories and fat without tasting "diet," many contain fiber, and some have less sodium than comparable brands (overly salty flavor is my main gripe with cheese). I prepared a cream cheese spread based on a Weight Watchers recipe using their whipped cream cheese. Sooo scrumptious! It's got the 3 C's in texture: crunchy, chewy, creamy. The orange zest adds a bright sunny flavor, sure to perk you up in the early morn. This recipe is not only ideal for breakfast but as a satisfying snack for kids and is elegant enough to serve at a brunch or afternoon tea. Spread it on toasted 100 calorie sandwich thins or whole grain crackers. Feel free to reduce the amount of honey if you're not a sweets person, as the raisins also add sweetness. Note that I halved the recipe, which still made enough spread for 2-3 "thins" sandwiches.

Sweet Almond Orange Cream Cheese

Ingredients

8 oz whipped or regular reduced-fat cream cheese

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup honey

1 tsp orange zest

1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds

1 Thins Bread (Thomas’, Pepperidge Farm, or Arnold makes these)

Directions

  1. Place cream cheese, raisins, honey and orange zest in a food processor; pulse until combined, scraping down sides if needed.
  2. Add almonds; pulse to combine.
  3. Refrigerate for an hour or more to allow flavors to combine.
  4. Toast the Thins Bread and spread with 1 tablespoon of cream cheese mixture on each side

*Want to try these new cheeses for free? Weight Watchers will send one FitMamaEats reader five free coupons for any of their cheese products. Just click on "Contact Me" and send me your name and email address. I'll randomly pick a winner on May 31!

Tuesday
May182010

Giveaway Time! Create Your Super Cereal

People who skip breakfast lose. It's the easiest way to down a big chunk of your daily nutrient needs: a fortified high fiber cereal with low fat milk provides otherwise hard-to-get nutrients (particularly for women) like iron, calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Add fresh fruit and a small cup of OJ and you're armed with disease-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients. Here's another motivator: studies have shown that breakfast eaters weigh less. They tend to be less hungry the rest of the day and make better food choices (perhaps because they avoid those hunger-driven impulsive high calorie choices).

Nutrition power aside, hot or cold cereals are one of the best breakfasts because they're tasty, economical, and require minimal prep. And so many choices. I'm a cereal blender as I like certain things about different cereals: crunchy clusters in one, extra iron in another, high fiber in yet another. So making my bowl of cereal is a ritual of pouring from two or three boxes to create one perfect blend. Then I saw this cool dispenser and fell in love. These useful gadgets are common in bed and breakfasts but I never thought to own one! It's perfect for cereal blenders like me but you can also store any small particle food: coffee beans, dry pasta, nuts. The jars stay air tight with a top lid and a lower lid that secures under the dispenser shoot. The handle releases about a 1/4 cup per crank.

Here's my gift to motivate you to eat breakfast every day: CSN Stores is offering a free dry food dispenser like the one shown above (or a gift certificate for a gadget of equal value) to one lucky FitMamaEats reader! Just click on "Contact Me" and send your name and email address. A random winner will be picked on May 24 and contacted by email.

Tuesday
May112010

Mama's Day Mangia

Super 88 Food CourtMy hubby offered to treat me for eats on Mother's Day. Admittedly Mother's Day meals stress me out! Boston restaurants are too crowded and special Mother's Day buffets are insanely overpriced ($40-$90 per person). So I chose the Super 88 Food Court: inexpensive and understated yet great tasting Asian food. If you haven't visited, Super 88 supermarkets offer otherwise overpriced (if bought at mainstream supermarkets) Asian food ingredients super-cheap. I stock up on seaweed wraps and rice vinegar for sushi, sometimes paying less than half the price. Their attached food court in Allston is grunge city but offers hundreds of food choices, many tasting as good as Chinatown without the traffic mayhem.

I was excited to try the trendy bánh mì, a Vietnamese-style sub that's won raves in NYC and Boston. Served on toasty bread and filled with flavorful grilled meats and crunchy vegetables, the only thing better is the price, ranging from $3-$5. Bánh mì traditionally consists of strips of crispy daikon radish, pickled carrots, cucumbers, chili peppers and cilantro. Cured pork or other rich meats and a slathering of pâté and mayonnaise add extra flavor and moisture. Yelpers raved about the bánh mì from Pho Viet's nestled in this food court, so off we went. 

Tofu Bánh Mì with Summer Rolls and Lemongrass Grilled Chicken Vermicelli in the backgroundPho Viet's sandwich choices include grilled beef, pork, or chicken; shredded pork; ham; or tofu. Ok, I'm a party pooper but I went with the tofu because it's challenging to make taste great, and to be consistent with my healthy eating quest. Besides, it cost less than an appetizer at $3.25 so I couldn't lose. At first glance it looked truly boring: strips of plain carrots, green bell pepper, two cucumber coins, cilantro, and a few logs of tofu. So I was surprised by the pleasant flavor and texture at first bite. The 8-inch baguette was satisfyingly crackly on the outside (Vietnamese sub bread is partly made with rice flour, which gives it this light crunch; gluten-free breads are also often made with rice flour). The light tangy mayo added sweetness and complemented the tofu, curiously of which some were fried (as revealed by the brown outer skin) and some were plain and uncooked. Overall it was filling without being heavy. I don't think it was an amazing bánh mì with authentic ingredients that would have popped the flavor but it was decent; if I lived closer I'd order it for lunch take-out.

Creamed Corn with Egg and Minced Pork and a side of Whole Grain DumplingsI must mention that my hubby was sorely disappointed with his meal of Lemongrass Chicken Vermicelli with desiccated rice noodles and even drier chicken that no peanut sauce could salvage. I've read great reviews on this dish from Yelpers so I'm guessing we just had a grumpy cook. To make up for his meal, I wandered around the corner to get take-out from a favorite, Kantin. Their menu is written in Chinese characters, and roasted whole chicken and ducks hang from a front display. The food reminds me of childhood Asian meals. I ordered minced pork with creamed corn and scrambled eggs over rice for $5.95 and a side of steamed whole grain chicken dumplings (how impressed was I with whole grain dough!) for $4.95. As my photo shows, the meal looks like slop but it was pure yummy comfort food. The dumplings were flavorful even without sauce and had a slightly nutty texture from the whole grains. I loved that it was completely nourishing and not the least bit greasy. My hubby and Jake adored both dishes.

For more appetizing info on bánh mì, check out:

Battle of the Bánh Mì

NYT: Building on Layers of Tradition