Thursday, January 31, 2013

Product Review - Clean Candy #4

My boys & I took advantage of a beautiful day and went for a walk to our nearby CVS. Guess what they had...Unreal candy!!! So excited because now I can taste the other two that Staples did not carry.

First of all, CVS was more expensive.  Staples charges $.90 per candy bar, and CVs charges $1.19.  They were on sale 2 for $2.00, so that made the choice to buy the two types I had not tried yet all the easier.  But at $1 each they are still a bit more expensive.  On the positive side, I probably spent the difference in gas. So I can reason it out that I can pay a bit more when taking a walk.

So which one to try today...

we're going with Unreal 54.  Product information here: Unreal 54 aka peanut M&Ms.

If you remember, I liked the plain M&Ms but the coatings kindof left an aftertaste.  Let's see how these do!

Colors are the same as the Unreal 41.

These are tasty, nice ratio of peanut to chocolate, coating has a crunch to it.  I still get a bit of the natural flavoring aftertaste but no where near as strong, the taste of the peanut offsets it nicely.

Only problem...there needs to be more in the package.  Cause I want more!  Will definitely be buying these again. :)

Happy snacking!  Kathy

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review

After making my chocolate pudding, well really while EATING my chocolate pudding, I decided since I had the window open from Amazon still open I'd read the reviews that were posted.  138 from a book first published in the late 1970s!  121 5 star, 11 4 star, 3 3 star, 1 2 star, and 2 1 star.

It's interesting to read what people said about the book.  Some commented on "how could they only use white products (flour, sugar)" and others were all over how great it is. It's funny; cause when you think about how different we (some of us at least) eat now versus then.  I was born in the 1960s, so I grew up in the age of prepared foods - the easier the better, right?  Sigh.

I am curious to try some of the recipes commented on, like the hot chocolate mix, chocolate syrup mix, brownie mix and muffin mix.  The snack cake mixes seem to be a hit too.  I am half way through the 121 5 star reviews...LOL

Oh, the lemon pudding mix uses powdered lemonade mix, so won't be trying that one.  I have made a lemon meringue pie from scratch a couple years back...lots of work but it tasted fabulous.

According to some of the 5 star reviews, the original 1978 edition has been updated to remove a lot of the shortening and replaced it with melted butter...mine is from 2006 so I must have the updated version.

Do you think anyone will notice if they don't get a pudding for dessert tonite? Two servings are not enough right now...Kathy

Book Review - Chocolate Pudding Mix

Checked this book out of the library this week: Make-A-Mix by Karine Eliason & Nevada Haward & Madeline Westover.

It is partially "mix" recipes and partially recipes to make with your mixes.  Since I am still looking for acceptable replacements for some of my family's favorite foods, like tacos and pudding, this book seemed to give me some choices worth trying.

Over the next few weeks I am going to try to make some of the "mixes" and see what happens!

Since I am still missing desserts, I decided to start with their chocolate pudding "mix."  The copyright notice in the front of the book say I am allowed to post their recipe; even though I am linking back to their book & I got it for free from the library, I will just post my opinions.  Don't want to do anything I am not supposed to!!

So I measured out the dry ingredients of my cleanest unsweetened cocoa powder, granulated sugar, cornstarch and salt and mixed it all up:

And then proceeded to actually make the chocolate pudding.  You add milk to a cup of the mix & cook in a pot, stirring just like you would a package mix.  You are supposed to stir in butter & vanilla at the end; since I need to eat low fat, and I couldn't see why I would need butter anyway, I left it out.  I let it sit on the stove while I took pictures, and that film that I love formed on top, just like the box mix.  Take a look:

It's cooling as I type...but sure smells like chocolate pudding.  One thing I can say is that it makes more than the 6 cups of mix. I have a 6c storage bowl that it would not fit in.   But once I used 1c of the mix, it fits nicely.  If you do the math on the dry ingredients, it's a bit over 6 cups.  But once you whisk them together and add in the extra air, it will not fit.  Go for a bigger bowl if not using any right away.

So extra mix is stored, the family's portions in bowls, covered & put in fridge for dessert tonite...and mine is just about cool enough to try. :)

Here goes: it's good!! The taste is slightly different...maybe not as sweet?  Would the butter have made a difference? Hmmmmm...I use fat free dairy milk but it is still thick,'s good. Will definitely make again AND will be looking through the book to see what other pudding recipes these ladies have included.

Yummy!! Happy eating! Kathy

Monday, January 28, 2013

Product Review - Clean Candy #3

Here we go...I have been waiting all weekend for this!!

Unreal 8. Product info: Unreal 8 Comparable to a Snickers bar.

Here we go...opening the wrapper....smells chocolatey...almost like a Snickers.

First bite...BETTER than a Snickers. More peanuty...the proportion of peanuts to chocolate to nougat...I like this better.  AND it's filling enough that I am not craving another when I am done, like I was with the peanut butter cups.  Well, maybe the peanut butter cups were just that good...doesn't matter. :)

My next find the other ones my Staples did not carry.

The website says I can find them at Staples, CVS, Target &  my area.

If you go to the Unreal website, and click on "GET UNREAL" you can put in your zip code and find the closest stores to you.  GET UNREAL

Happy snacking!!  Kathy

Friday, January 25, 2013

Product Review - Clean Candy #2

Ready for the second test? I am!!

Today I am trying the Unreal41...similar to an M&M.

Product info here:  Unreal41

When I open the package, I can't help but feel the excitement of M&Ms...the colors are not as bright, but that's okay, cause they are made with natural colors, not artificial.  The ingredients say they are colored with: beetroot juice, turmeric root extract, purple cabbage juice.  There are 6 different colors in the bag.  The yellow and the orange are light enough colors that I can see the chocolate through them.

My first bite, it tastes like something I have had before, but I can't tell you what it is.  Reminds me of an Easter candy from long ago...but not sure which one.  Going to bug me until I figure it out!!

Slight after taste to these...whether I mix the colors or not, but it is more pronounced when I mix the colors.

They are yummy, and I wouldn't say no if offered them.  I do want to try the peanut version of them though.

Off to enjoy the rest...and one more to try tomorrow!!! I may have to wait until Monday, though.  My kids will be around and want me to share. :)

Happy snacking!!! Kathy

Breakfast in a mug today

This is going to be a two post day, I think.  Want to get both this yummy breakfast and my product review in.

So this morning I opened the fridge and took out my steel cut oats that were waiting for me.  I make 4 servings at once, then when it's gone, make more.  I took one look at it, covered it back up and put it away. Not in the mood.  Three hours later all I had eaten was my coffee (ha) so I figured since it was now snack time I better get some food in me.  Plus, my acid reflux does not like it when I have coffee on an empty stomach, so I will be paying for this decision soon!!

Having a muffin craving after seeing a donut commercial on tv is not a good thing normally.  But it IS a good thing when you follow someone like Nana Clare, cause she has come up with some of the most yummy alternatives.  So off to her site I went, and am now enjoying a super yummy cinnamon muffin.

Her recipe is here: Cinnamon Muffin in a Mug

I had to make a few adjustments, cause well ya know, it's Friday and there is not much left in the house.

In place of the walnuts (which I shouldn't eat anyway cause of the fat) I used 1T coconut (yes, fat) & 1T craisins. Cause I LOVE cinnamon & craisins together.

In place of the flax, I used a T of white whole wheat flour.

I don't use quick oats but keep old-fashioned on hand for cookies, so used that.

And 2 egg whites (plus a TINY bit of yolk to help blend) instead of the whole egg.


One of the things I like about these mug muffins (or muggins as Nana Clare calls them) is that I can pre-mix the dry ingredients, put them in a small container.  I can pre-mix the liquid ingredients, and put them in a small container.  Then I can throw them in my lunch box for a healthy, freshly basked afternoon snack at work. !!!!!

Enjoy...I would have taken a picture but it's gone already.  Kathy

And go check out the chocolate cake in a mug I made the other day...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Product Review - Clean Candy #1

Yeah, I know, CLEAN candy?

I recently read in a magazine about a new line of candy called "Unreal."  Since it is flu season I am not spending much time out and about; but while in Staples yesterday (buying black printer ink so my son could finish printing out his homework,) I noticed that they had a display with three different Unreal products.  I was in a snacking mood, so said why not? And bought one of each. At $.90 each, I thought that was pretty fair, based on the candy bar prices at the local pharmacy.

I am a big fan of chocolate, candy, &...well sweets in general.  While I enjoy the occasional peanut butter cup I prefer NOT to make my own.  Dipping a bar of dark chocolate in my organic natural peanut butter sometimes does the trick, but when I am sitting in the movie theater, smelling the popcorn, listening to the crunch around me, yes I do want something.  I am conditioned, I know that. But I also want something.  These products may be the answer!

First, a little background on Unreal.

According to their website, the idea came from a 13 yr old and his dad and an argument over Halloween candy.  Unreal products contain no:
  * artificials
  * hydrogenaters
  * corn syrups
  * preservatives
  * GMOs

They are by no means a health food, but if you need that peanut butter cup fix, which would you choose?  The ones with or without the above?  I can't wait to see how each one tastes.  The cashier at Staples gave me her opinion.  I can't wait to formulate my own.

The website lists five different products, but my Staples only had three in their display, so we are going to start there.  Over the next three days (I'd love to eat them all at once but I am trying to be good) I will review what I think of these "clean" candy bars.

Today, we start with:  

Unreal77 - Peanut Butter Cups Unjunked

Here is the product information:  Peanut Butter Cups

There are 2 cups in the package, and they do not have a paper wrapper like the popular brand does.  The first thing I notice is that they are thinner than the "other kind."  So, not as much peanut butter filling.  The ratio of peanut butter to chocolate is important, so let's see.

The chocolate is firm, the top of the peanut butter cup does not push in when you touch it without some force.  More than necessary for the other kind. First bite is tasty, and quickly the first cup is gone.  No funny after taste or anything.  I like the consistency of the peanut butter filling better than the other brand, and can say I like it over all.  I do wish there was a third one in the pack. The serving size is smaller than the other brand, so maybe that is why I am left wanting for more.  Or maybe I just like them that much. :)

I rate this "unjunked" candy very much.  As a once in awhile treat - I will MOST CERTAINLY buy this one again.  Will it be a daily treat? Alas, no, my gallbladder would not appreciate the fat. But I will be buying this again as a cleaner alternative to those luscious peanut buttery treats!

I can't wait for tomorrow to try the next one!  Happy snacking, Kathy

P.S. The cashier at Staples liked them too. She thought they tasted better than the other brand.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I am craving something chocolate today. Like need it bad.  But I don't want a lot, just enough to settle the craving without over indulging.

I remembered seeing some pins for "cake in a cup" - single serve cake portions, made in a coffee mug in the microwave.

So off to search Pinterest I go!

Well...I found this yummy place called "Nana Clare's Kitchen."  How can you not stop at a site with "Nana" in the name.  It's got to be good, right???  Nana Clare has a series of posts about single servings.  And this masterpiece is one of them.

Chocolate Cake in a Cup. OMG. Sooo good!!! Made with your own choice of clean ingredients, I substituted 2 egg whites for the whole egg, as egg yolk is really bothering my gallbladder right now, but otherwise made as directed.

So good!! Nana Clare's Chocolate Cake

Thank you Nana Clare, and I can't wait to try the next one.  Kathy

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Disappointments stink, don't they? Especially when you THINK you are doing the right thing.

We have an apple orchard not too far from us. They have lots of seasonal fruits & vegetables they grow on their farm, and each year they are offering more and more organic produce.  Their prices are reasonable.  Last year they opened a winery made from a lot of their fruits.  They offer various raw honeys, home made apple cider, pies, and assorted baked goods. 

Like apple cider donuts.  When you walk up to the store barn, the smell from the bakery barn is incredible.  You can see the steam rising from the bags when they walk out with a tray-full on a cool Fall day.  When you bite into a freshly baked donut, you feel like you are in heaven.  You know they are making them on site, throughout the day, and they are all gone by closing.  Guaranteed.  So you kind of expect a certain level of "cleanness" in the donut, right?  If there is someone in the bakery barn mixing and baking, most likely they are not adding spoonfuls of preservatives, chemicals, etc.  That's what the big bakeries do. 

On my way home yesterday, I looked at the bag the donuts came in.  Honestly, they don't usually make it the full car ride home.  They are lined up in small quantities at the registers, so it's the last thing you grab when you go to pay. So we get to the car, all grab a donut and start eating.  Then a second gets consumed on the ride home, with the bag going in the garbage can before even getting into the house.  This time I decided to read the bag. 

BIG MISTAKE.  I will not be eating these donuts anymore. Here are the ingredients:

Enriched, malted wheat flour (malted with malt barley; flour enriched with niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid,) apple cider, sugar, soybean oil, soy flour, non-fat milk, gelatinized wheat starch, sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, dried egg yolks, salt, dried sweet dairy whey, lecithin, dextrose, vegetable emulsifiers (mono & diglycerides with BHT and citric acid to protect flavor,) toasted ground wheat, natural and artificial flavor, xanthan gum.  Cooked in: partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (soybean, cottonseed,) TBHQ and citric acid added to protect flavor, di-methyl polysiloxone.

What the heck?  What happened to flour, eggs, baking soda and apple cider??  

So disappointed.  Kathy

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Recipe Search

As I plan forward the "veggie" portion of my meals, I find myself to be very uninspired.  I am tired of eating the same old steamed veggies over and over.  Since I cannot eat high fat foods, adding butter or nuts to my portion is taboo.  My kids love garlicky butter on their veggies, especially on broccoli, but I usually end up pulling out a portion for me first, then if I want more I am out of luck. 

So yesterday I went to the library to look through some cooking magazines.  I am very excited, I brought home 11 different issues.  Three of them are vegetarian, and the other eight are from "natural" magazines, so I am hoping to find some inspiration.  So today, while the hubby is glued to the NFL playoff games, I will be reading. Can't wait!!

Happy searching, Kathy

Friday, January 4, 2013

Meals Week of December 30th

Dinners for the week:

(before you judge, this was the week when I created our new advance planning "plan" plus we were coming down from the holiday high and massive leftovers. I did not go near a store.)

Sunday: grilled ham steak with side of brown rice

Monday: breaded chicken cutlets with canned corn & canned string beans
          (I use bread crumbs from my local bakery)

Tuesday: corned beef (made in crock pot, OMG the best way) with potatoes & carrots

Wednesday: pasta alfredo (clean recipe here: Elise's alfredo sauce) and salad

Thursday: empty the fridge & freezer soup
         (home made chicken broth, ground turkey, spinach, pasta, string beans)

Friday: pizza (my kids are going thru withdrawals)

Saturday: shredded honey chicken sandwiches with lettuce & tomato (recipe: Slow Cooker Shredded Honey Chicken) 1st time trying this recipe, will let you know how it came out

Happy eating!! Kathy

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Planning meals in advance

How many people out there actually plan their meals in advance?  I find that it is so much easier to eat healthy when my meals are planned ahead of time, instead of throwing things together at the last minute.  Notice I said healthy, not clean.  Since I don't keep any prepared foods in the house (with my few exceptions, of course) I can't make a box of Stove Top Stuffing if it's not there. But I do find myself offering up veggie-free meals more often that I would like, since I never got to the farmers market.  I shamefully admit to serving protein only plates every now and then.

I got to thinking about how I could do better, and was reminded of when I first went back to work full-time.  My kids were young, they were in before and after school care, and my hubby was working far away. By the time we got home, I cooked, we dealt with any home work not done, we were all exhausted.  I ended up home sick a couple days and got this wonderful idea to plan out my meals a month ahead of time.  I printed out a free calendar I found online, inventoried my pantry & freezer, chose the sides that went with each meat, and even stuck little round stickers on each item as it got chosen for a meal with the date on it!  Yeah, I went a bit overboard but it guaranteed that something I was planning on using did not get used by the hubby for a snack or something. 

I listed out our favorite meals, scoured my cookbooks for others, and ended up with 30 days of pre-planned meals that I repeated every month.  Some favorites were served twice in a month, but otherwise there were no complaints of eating the same thing again, as there was a month between servings.  I was able to put together a shopping list for each week of the month, which made my life so easy!! It sounds like a LOT of work, and yes it was, but I had an entire day to myself and once I put my mind to it, it was worth all the trouble setting it up.

The biggest plus to this: I hung the meal calendar on the wall in the kitchen and never had to answer the "what's for dinner?" question!!!  I was able to keep this up for a whole year, then my hours changed, I stopped bringing as much work home with me, and I had more time to plan on the weekends as my son stopped playing football, so I stopped planning that far and just took it one week at a time.  We also found that with my extra income we were going out a bit more...maybe the fact my kids were older and better behaved in restaurants a factor too.

So now I need to use that concept and translate it into our current lifestyle.  I found a set of the calendars and could not believe how much processed stuff was on them, YUCK!!  We also have our new set of health issues to deal with too.  This is what I came up with:

5 week rotation (will skip week 5 if not needed but necessary for January)
each meal contains a protein, carb & veggie

Sun: pasta meal with salad & either meatballs or sausage for the pre-diabetic hubby
Mon: poultry meal with side of carb & veggie
Tues: beef meal with side of carb & veggie
Wed: pork meal with side of carb & veggie
Thurs: combo meal (ex: soups, stews, casseroles, ravioli, tacos - meals that put all 3 groups together)
Fri: pizza (had to give into the kids plus I need a day off)
Sat: protein repeat with side of carb & veggie (repeat pattern: chicken, beef, pork, chicken, beef)
   or leftover night. 

I am planning out my meals mid-way thru the week before.  I buy a lot of my meats from Costco, so I will take my calendar with me when I make my monthly trip there as well.  I find that if I just buy meats, then deal with what to do with them later, I am uninspired later on.  Soooooo...if this works out as planned, I can plan at least the protein portion of the month very easily!!!

To start myself out, I am using up what is in the freezer.  I made an inventory, and plotted in what I have.  Which was not a lot, just enough for another 9 meals, so next week I will head to Costco, take my time & my lists, and be creative!  I am reading about more and more "clean" products being found in their aisles.  I am hoping to offer as much variety as I can with what I do with each protein.  I am using chicken the most, since it is lowest in fat, easiest to buy natural, pretty decently priced, AND is the most versatile!!  I'll keep you updated as we go along.

I am guessing, my family will not even notice every Monday they are having chicken. :)

Happy planning!! Kathy

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Potato Chips

I love making my own potato chips. I love that I can choose the best potato (we've grown some in our yard too) and I can choose the oil I feel the most comfortable using.  I even control the salt.  But what I don't love is the smell in my house afterwards.

I use a REALLY old deep fryer.  REALLY old.  Like older than me.  When my mom passed 13 years ago, I kept the stuff I didn't already have one of, like a deep fryer and a stand mixer.  As they break, I buy a new one.  The deep fryer is going strong, many many years later. 

Not sure if it is my deep fryer or all of them, since I have never had a new one, but when I use it my whole house smells like oil.  It hangs around for a day or so too.  I usually close all the doors so the smell stays confined to my lower level of the house (sigh) but some how I still manage to get the smell every where.

When I can company coming, that is the last thing I want my house to smell like.  Oil. So when entertaining for the college football bowls, you gotta have potato chips.  I did not want my house to smell before my guests arrived, so I went in search of the cleanest potato chips I could find.  What do you think??

Not bad in a pinch, when you need to serve a lot of people?? I'd love to hear if anyone has found other choices.

Happy snacking!! Kathy