With dozens of different store-bought dips and spreads, I decided to give myself plenty of time to taste test for Super Bowl Sunday. I’ve tried five kinds of hummus, including zesty lemon and chipotle, black bean dip, babaganoush (eggplant dip), and guacamole. The Whole Foods Guac is definitely your best choice. The recipe– a creamy blend of avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeño, and a bit of salt– looks like it could be served tableside in their produce section. No garlic– so this version is safe for lots of cheering and yelling, game day! The rating goes 1 to 10 (10 being the best).
Whole Foods Brand Guacamole
Appearance: This guac maintains its iconic green color because it’s packaged in an air-tight plastic container. Make sure it stays that way. You don’t want to serve brackish brown guac to your guests!
Texture: Buttery and thick texture, with nice chunks of fresh tomato
Flavor: Rich, fresh flavor. Packs some heat, so be prepared with extra dippers and water.
Cost: $ 5.59 for a pound, at Whole Foods Market stores
Health: Great source of potassium and vitamins E, A and C. Guacamole is a tasty, healthy snack. It’s really the fried chips and sour cream that pack on the pounds. For a more healthful Super Bowl party, serve the dip alongside red bell pepper slices and whole-wheat pita chips.
Recommendation: For a snack or appetizer, try a guacamole tostada. Spread the guac over mini toasts with fresh salsa, sliced tomato and a sharp cheese. Also, an ideal match for the classic chips and salsa. Definitely buy the guacamole the day of the game, because even with the acidity of the lime juice, the dip will eventually turn.
Resolution Stats: 23 new food stuffs tried, 82 more to go
Final Verdict: Everybody loves guacamole, so just make sure you have enough in the dip bowl!
Jarlsberg is nothing new, but right now, I can’t get enough of this Norwegian skim-milk cheese. It tastes like a mild form of Swiss. Apparently, I’m not the only one. Jarlsberg has it’s own facebook fan page! Most low-fat, no-fat and reduced-fat cheeses lack flavor and have a plastic texture, but Jarlsberg, even the lite variety, melts beautifully in grilled cheese. Is the reduced-fat version flavorful enough for your palate? The rating goes 1 to 10 (10 being the best).
Appearance: Sold in a plastic wrapped block at Whole Foods Market. This cheese has large holes similar to Swiss, but thankfully, it doesn’t have the same stinky cheese smell
Texture: Semi-firm and smooth. Melts smoothly without being greasy.
Flavor: The overall taste is mild. Since Jarlsberg is a skim-milk cheese, it lacks the same intensity as Swiss but has the same nutty, slightly sweet flavor. Great paired with other ingredients.
Cost: $ 3.59/lb
Health: Jarlsberg Lite is the low-fat version of Jarlsberg. High in calcium, and only has 70 calories and 3.5 grams of fat, while regular Swiss has about 100 calories and 8 grams of fat per serving.
Recommendation: You can use Jarlsberg (regular or lite) in any recipe that calls for Swiss. Store in the fridge. If eating in a cheese course, best served at room temperature. Delicious in a grilled cheese sandwich with a pumpernickel raisin roll and a drizzle of honey, melted over a veggie burger with sliced tomato and spicy mustard (pictured below), or shaved over scrambled eggs.
Resolution Stats: 22 new food stuffs tried, 83 more to go
Final Verdict: Doesn’t taste as flavorful as full-fat cheese, but if you are seeking a healthy alternative, Jarlsberg is great option for your everyday cheese fix.
In the winter time, there is nothing like piping hot, flaky naan fresh from a tandoor oven. David and I are fortunate enough that we will be able to learn how to make naan and lots of other classic Indian vegetarian dishes– from an expert. My siblings bought us a two-hour private cooking class that we are taking January 30 (so stay tuned for our homemade naan). Until then, I’m trying out various store-bought brands to see which flavors and textures I like best. See the verdict. The rating goes 1 to 10 (10 being the best).
365 Everyday Value Whole Wheat Naan
Appearance: The bread is flat and shaped like an oval. The fluffy, well-browned bubbles give the bread a handmade appearance.
Texture: Light but not as flaky as freshly baked restaurant naan. The flatbread is thicker and more dense than it appears.
Flavor: A bit bland. There is just a faint sweetness. Also comes in original (plain) and garlic.
Health: 260 calories and 7 grams of fat per flatbread. The whole wheat flavor is definitely your best bet in terms of nutrition. It’s tempting to eat more than one since the bread is so light. The challenge is eating just one serving.
Cost: $ 3.49 for the package of 4 flatbreads.
Recommendation: You can eat naan with any food, Indian or not. In fact, most of the time I like to use the naan to make pizzas on the grill.
Resolution Stats: 21 new food stuffs tried, 84 more to go.
Final Verdict: If you are looking for authentic, flaky naan, try making your own or buying it from your favorite Indian restaurant. Sometimes you can buy pizza dough from a pizzeria, so see if you can also get naan dough. If you buy the store-bought stuff, I suggest getting the plain or whole wheat flavors, grilling it first, and then adding your own garlic or onion topping.
Cheez-It crackers have been a favorite of mine since childhood. Unfortunately, these cheese crackers are not made with real cheddar. Turns out the big wheel of cheese on the front of the box is a sham. Their delicious toasted cheese flavor comes from a cheese imposter. I was looking forward to trying the Whole Foods Brand alternative called Quack’ n Bites, but they are not nearly as good when it comes to taste. See the final verdict. The rating goes 1 to 10 (10 being the best).
Quack n’ Bites organic Cheese Crackers
Appearance: These crackers are shaped like teeny tiny ducks. The shape is cute, but the size is disappointing.
Texture: Crisp, baked crackers. Nice crunch.
Flavor: I felt like I had them before. They taste like Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers, but not as salty or cheesy. Again, disappointing.
Cost: $2.99 for a 5.5 ounce box.
Health: Just because these crackers are organic, doesn’t mean they’re actually healthful. You are much better off snacking on fresh fruit and veggies or making your own crackers. 68 of these ducklings have 140 calories and 4.5 grams of fat. Of course, I made sure to check the nutrition label, and they do have cheddar cheese!
Recommendation: Enjoy these crackers straight out of the box, in tomato soup, or crumbled over a salad.
Resolution Stats: 20 new food stuffs tried, 85 more to go
Final Verdict: Reasonably healthy as far as crackers go. If you are looking for a packaged snack with lots of flavor, not your best choice.
Would love to find a cereal bar that has its nutrition, taste and cookie-like texture down. I browsed the shelves at WFM to see if they could raise up the cereal bar to breakfast status? The rating goes 1 to 10 (10 being the best).
365 Brand Mixed Berry Cereal Bars
Appearance: From the wrapper, looks just like a generic Nutri-Grain bar. The top of the bar has a dusting of whole grains and you can see the oats running throughout the bar.
Texture: When you bite into the bar you can feel the texture of the oats and the moist fruit filling. Loved the soft crust, similar texture to a soft-baked cookie.
Flavor: True to the mixed berry flavor, the filling tastes like a puree of different berries. The bars also come in apple and blueberry.
Cost: $ 2.49 for a box of 8 bars
Health: Good in the organic department, made with organic fruit and oats. Comes with some of the vitamins that dry cereals have, such as b12, b2, and folic acid. Minus a few points for the sugar (18g per bar) and for being short on fiber and protein, which are essential to a healthy breakfast. The calories are reasonable (140 calories), as is the amount of fat (2 grams).
Resolution Stats: 20 new food stuffs tried, 85 more to go
Final Recommendation: If you are looking for a quick afternoon snack at your desk, these bars are perfect. But if you are looking for a filling breakfast or are in need of an energy boost, you are better off going for a bowl of Wheaties with milk and fruit.
With so many different kinds of freshly made raviolis in the market, why spend hours making the dough and the filling from scratch? I’d rather spend my time eating the pasta. And there are so many varieties– everything from pumpkin to three cheese raviolis. One of the things I like about ravioli with butternut squash filling is that it’s simple, sweet, nutritious, and flavorful enough that it doesn’t need sauce. See the verdict for this variety of stuffed pasta from WFM. The rating goes 1 to 10 (10 being the best).
365 Everyday Value Organic Butternut Squash Ravioli
Appearance: simple square pockets stuffed with a light yellow butternut squash filling
Texture: soft, creamy filling, actually quite similar to ricotta cheese
Flavor: Delicious, with its hint of sweetness from the butternut squash filling, and flavorful enough that it doesn’t need sauce. Available in other varieties, such as three cheese.
Cost: $3.39 for an 8-ounce package (about 20 raviolis)
Health: Uses all organic ingredients. Better source of fiber and nutrients than most pastas since it uses whole wheat flour and a vegetable filling. Virtually fat-free with only .5 grams of fat for 1/2 of the 8- ounce package.
Recommendation: Top simply with grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan and extra virgin olive oil. The sweetness of the squash plays off the savory, nutty cheese nicely. You really don’t want a heavy sauce to interfere with the delicate filling.
Resolution Stats: 19 new food stuffs tried, 86 more to go
Final Verdict: Easy to prepare and makes you feel like you’re cooking. Delicious way to to enjoy the health benefits and sweet taste of butternut squash. Finally, an excellent choice if you don’t like cheese, but you love pasta.
Think muffins are a healthy way to start your morning? Think again. Muffins are just dense pieces of cake with cute tops. So I decided to cook up a better muffin recipe using some very creative ingredients, including baby food and soda. I know it sounds strange, but trust me these muffins are so tasty and healthy they’re worth digging out your muffin tin.
I came up with the idea when I found out that celebrity chef Tyler Florence will be speaking at a free event on Tuesday, December 22nd, at the UWS Whole Foods Market about his new line of organic baby food called Sprout.
Unlike a lot of store-bought baby foods that are highly processed, Tyler’s recipe is simply mashed up organic fruits and vegetables.
So, I thought if it’s so healthy, why not use it in baking.
And I didn’t stop there. A friend told me that you can actually replace all of the wet ingredients in cake/muffin mix with soda. So, I decided to use all-natural, organic Steaz soda as a replacement for the oil and eggs. I noticed that the soda makes the muffins incredibly moist!
Believe me, once you taste these muffins, baby food and soda won’t even cross your mind. See the recipe below and let me know what you think after you whip up a batch….
Butternut Squash Oatmeal Muffins Recipe
(Note: If you don’t want to cheat with the baby food, feel free to pick up a butternut squash, roast it in the oven, and process in a food processor until smooth)
1 Package Carrot Cake Mix (note: I used Simply Organic Carrot Cake Mix, but any mix will do)
2 packages of Sprout Organic Baby Food Roasted Butternut Squash ($1.39 at WFM)
1/2 cup zero calorie Steaz Orange Soda
1 cup dried oats
2 teaspoons cinnamon, optional
1 teaspoon powdered sugar, optional
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Put paper liners in the muffin tin cups.
3. Empty the carrot cake mix into a mixing bowl.
4. Add the oats, baby food and soda and stir just until the mixture is evenly moist.
5. Spoon the batter into lined muffin cups.
6. Bake for 25 – 35 minutes (may take longer). Use the toothpick test: bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
7. Cool, loosen edges, and sprinkle with cinnamon and powdered sugar (optional).