Monthly Archives: May 2010

Product Review: Attune Bar

After entering to win an Attune giveaway on another blog, I was approached by the company to review their chocolate pro-biotic bars.  I have to admit, I was a bit excited, because this is my first real review ever!  Now granted, I review things all the time, but on my own dime.  I promise to be completely truthful about any products I review, whether I purchase them myself or are asked to review by a company.  I have never tried Attune products before so I was excited to try something new, as always. 🙂

Attune products are vegan and gluten-free.  Their pro-biotic products include chocolate bars, granola bars, and granola munch.

Some stats on their chocolate bars:

  • Most clinically tested probiotic strains
  • 3-8 grams of sugar
  • Excellent source of calcium
  • Only 80-90 calories
  • 3 grams of fiber
  • Take it on the go

The bars arrived wrapped in a material to keep them cold with a refrigerant pack.  The bars are supposed to be refrigerated for reasons I’m not sure of, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the pro-biotic cultures.

I received three different flavors to try: Chocolate Crisp, Almond Milk Chocolate, and Raspberry Dark Chocolate.

Yes,  I sampled chocolate at 7 a.m. in my p.js. 🙂  I woke up at 5 a.m. and couldn’t sleep (even though it was a non-work day) and waited a little too long to eat breakfast.  Low blood sugar always puts me in the mood for chocolate.

I went for the Chocolate Crisp, which the Attune describes as “Real, rich chocolate with rice crisps for a familiar, tasty crunch that’s just right!”

They are so right about the “familiar taste”.  This bar tastes A LOT like a Nestle Crunch Bar.

Ironically, my nails were color coordinated with my chocolate sampling efforts.

I  liked the Chocolate Crisp, but honestly prefer dark chocolate.  I will definitely be sampling the Raspberry Dark Chocolate flavor next.  I LOVE raspberries and dark chocolate – it’s my favorite fruit and chocolate combination.

But what about the nutritional value?

Ingredient Statement: Milk Chocolate Coating (evaporated cane juice, chocolate, cocoa butter, inulin, non fat milk, calcium carbonate, Anhydrous Milk Fat, soy lecithin [an emulsifier], vanilla), Organic Brown Rice Crisps (organic brown rice flour, organic molasses, calcium carbonate), Probiotic Cultures (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium lactis).

I try to limit the amount of things I eat with unrecognizable ingredients.  But let’s be honest here – I’m no food scientist, so it’s quite possible that some of the ingredients I don’t recognize are perfectly harmless.  If you are curious about Inulin and calcium carbinate, click on the links to do a bit of research.  I’m personally okay with things like this being in some of my food, but definitely not all of my food.

I also thought it would be interesting to compare ingredients with the actual Nestle Crunch bar.  Okay, maybe just interesting for me.

Nestle Crunch Ingredients: milk chocolate (sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, milk, lactose, milkfat, soy lecithin, vanillin-an artificial flavor), crisped rice (rice flour, corn flour, barley malt extract, sugar, slat, traces of wheat gluten).

So when you compare the two, the Attune bar obviously is a better choice, even if the pro-biotics were not present.

What I like about the Attune Bars so far:

– portion control (80-90 calories in a little package)

– taste (not as rich as a real chocolate bar, but still very good – there has to be a bit of a trade-off when there are only 6 grams of fat in a chocolate bar)

– ingredient list is much better than your typical candy bar

– it’s gluten free

I didn’t list pro-biotic cultures as something I like, because I do not really have any digestive issues.  Although I’m sure there is room for improvement, I’ve never sought-out pro-biotic products.  If I did have issues and benefited from these types of products, I would love being able to consume them in chocolate bar form.  So, if you have “digestive challenges” or are just a fan of pro-biotic products, you should definitely try these, especially if you’re sick of eating yogurt.

I’ll definitely keep you in the loop about the other flavors.  If you’re interested in trying them yourself, you can purchase them online at their website.  You can also purchase them from a lot of healthy grocery stores and even some more basic grocery stores.  There is a store locater on their website.

Don’t worry, chocolate was not my most important meal of the day.  I had my most very favorite breakfast to gear me up for a long day of sitting on the couch and looking for a J-O-B.

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Full Fat Flavor

I was recently at the grocery story and realized it was closing time, so I swung by the dairy section and grabbed the first Greek yogurt I saw that was on sale.

I later realized that I had bought the full fat version.  The last time I did this I actually returned the yogurt for the fat-free version.  However, this time I decided to go with it.  Can I just say that full fat Greek yogurt is life changing?  Yes, it is that good.

This got me thinking about whole milk versus skim milk, which one is really better for you, or  really which is better for me, because that’s what really matters.

After doing a little digging in research studies, I finally decided that the research is really unclear.  Studies show that whole milk will raise your cholesterol (because of the higher cholesterol content).  But more recent studies suggest that whole milk can aid in less weight gain.  Perhaps its the fat that makes you feel full and helps you to eat less. (?)

Here are the stats from my yogurt.

The difference in calories, fat, and cholesterol is significant, but boy is it yummy.

So what are we to do with all of this unclear research?  I know what I’m going to do.  I’m going to not be so all or nothing until I know all of the facts.  I might buy full fat every now and then because i really like it, but overall, I’m going to mix it up and when I do use full-fat, I will use less.  Typically I bring fruit and granola with my yogurt; this time I did not.

In other news, I have managed to dress decently for two days in a row.  Usually my clothes choices have more to do with my inability to iron than what I really want to wear.  How do people take decent pictures of themselves this way?  This sub-par picture was one of four failed attempts.

What do you think?  Some people are die-hard full-fat dairy product consumers, while others won’t go near anything but skim products.  Where do your loyalties lie?


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Eggcelent

This weekend, I stopped by a local farmer’s market to purchase some farm fresh eggs.  I recently read on Elina’s blog about different egg farming practices and how buying organic eggs isn’t necessarily the best choice.  Besides Elina’s experience, here is another article on questionable organic and free range farming practices.  From what I have read, the best way to ensure that the hens laying your eggs are treated humanely, you need to purchase them from a small farm, one you can get to know and find out about their farming practices.

After somehow getting my eggs home without breaking them in their makeshift crate, I found another dozen eggs waiting for me.  My friends Sandy and Matt were visiting from the Raleigh area and had brought us eggs from their very own chickens.  Talk about humane treatment of chickens!  These chickens not only have free reign of the yard, but are cuddled like kittens by Sandy on a daily basis.  These chickens have it good and their eggs are really unique.

See?

There are two missing because they were needed for some pancakes. 🙂

It is easier to see in person, but the egg on the bottom almost has a bluish hue when compared to the white egg at the top.

The blue one was turned into a delicious breakfast.

One egg + a laughing cow + smoked salmon on a sandwich thin with watermelon on the side.  Delicious.

Before heading out the door, I had Brad snap my photo because I really liked my outfit that day.

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Organic vs. Local Foods – two heavyweight contenders in the food scene

I have been thinking the past few months about the lack of creative outlets in my life and how much I enjoy writing.  This is one of the main reasons I started my blog.  But, I have also been thinking about what it might like to do this in a more public arena.  So this week I applied to be a writer for the Examiner.com.  Below is my writing sample that I submitted. The submission actually removed the quotes due to a 200-300 word limit, but I think they compliment the theme of divergent viewpoints on this topic, so I included them for the blog.

Organic vs. Local – Two heavyweight contenders on the food scene

“Organic foods are the only things that will ever pass these lips.  My body is a temple.”

“We have to save the planet and the best way to do this is by harnessing our purchasing power to reduce our carbon footprint by buying only local foods.

These are the new food consumer stereotypes.  Chances are you do not exclusively fit into only one of these categories.  You most likely dabble in one or both.  You may be an expert on the philosophies driving the organic food and the local food movements.  However, you have probably heard of them.

So which are better – organic foods or local foods?

The answer: it depends and you get to decide.

Michael Pollan, who advocates for real food in his latest book In Defense of Food, sheds some light on the subject with Organic Gardening magazine. When asked if he supports organic over local foods, he responded that if [he] were a supermarket shopper he would [support organic over local], because you can’t meet farmers face to face and you don’t really know what they’re doing.

Christopher Wanjek, author of Bad Medicine and Food at Work has another take on the controversy, stating in 2006 on the online publication LiveScience.com that [he doesn’t] worry so much, as long as it is local.  [He] can trust the food because [he’s] buying it from the person who produced it.

Food philosophies are typically not black and white.  There are not true right and wrong choices.  Food is a reflection of your ideals and what you think is important.  If being “green” (i.e. conserving energy) and supporting the local economy is of primary importance, keep your food origins close to home.  If fueling your body with the most natural foods is your mantra, please continue to nourish your body with organic foods.

But take heart that there is a happy medium.  Many local foods are organic and if you are not sure, get to know your farmer.  Talk to the worker at the farm stand. Many farms that offer CSA’s in the Charlotte area host farm tours on the weekends where you can learn all about their farming practices.  Also, more and more grocery stores, like Harris Teeter, are labeling their produce as “NC grown”.  Look in the organic produce section for these labels.  In other words, buy both organic and local when possible.

And finally, don’t sweat it.  Food is supposed to be nourishing, creative, and fun.  Your reflection on your role in the food economy illustrates that you are a part of the American population who is a responsible consumer, in every sense of the word.

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Wasabi Tuna Tacos

There is this really great tapas restaurant in Charlotte called Soul Gastrolounge.  It’s a really tiny place and fairly new so it’s always packed.  Brad and I had the good fortune to try it for the first time on a rainy week night, so it was significantly less busy.  We loved it immediately!

Our favorite thing there is their sashimi tuna tacos, described as “Bragg’s marinated diced tuna in fried wonton tacos, with sriracha mayo”.  We had some ahi tuna sitting in our freezer for several weeks and it was time to use it.  My version was slightly different (same concept of flavors but different ingredients), but I loved it just the same.

I rubbed some sesame seeds on both sides of the tuna and salted it, put about two teaspoons of sesame oil in the pan, and cooked on medium high heat.  About half way through, I turned the heat down to medium.  Because the tuna had been frozen, I cooked it through leaving no pink, although I love some slightly seared tuna.

Meanwhile, I roasted some frozen edamame (straight from the freezer) on 500 degrees until they just started to brown.

I also mixed up a homemade Sesame lime vinaigrette for the salad I planned to make.  Mix one tablespoon of TJ’s seasoned rice vinegar with 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil, and the juice of 1/2 a lime.

See my tiny little whisk?  They’re so cute and perfect for this kind of stuff.  I would never be able to fit a full size whisk in such a small rammekin.  In case you’re wondering, I bought this and one slightly larger (pictured below) at Kitchens on the Square in Savannah, Georgia.

Next I mixed up my wasabi mayo sauce by adding about 1/2 a tablespoon of wasabi paste to a ramekin.

Next, I added one tablespoon of canola oil mayo and just a tiny bit of water to thin the sauce out.  I added just a tad more wasabi after tasting it and deciding the sauce was spicy enough.

I then made the salad tossing together a mixture of chopped green leaf lettuce and spinach, cucumbers I had sliced into small sticks, carrot ribbons cut with a peeler, and about 1 cup of the roasted edamame.  I also added the vinaigrette and tossed the whole thing together.  Mind you, that’s the first time I’ve ever spelled vinaigrette correctly on the first try.  Go me.  

Those bear claw salad tongs are also from Kitchens on the Square.

I loved this meal and thought it was very fresh and summery (even though it’s not quite summer yet).  Brad didn’t love it but I think I’m going to let that go for now.  He sick and has a sore throat so I don’t think his taste buds are 100%, especially since he could never figure out why he didn’t like it.

Usually we both dislike something, but this was a first.  I would like to try it again when he’s feeling better to get a better idea of whether this is something to make again for him.  I’m sticking to my original gut feeling of loving it.  I loved the combination of spicy wasabi, savory tuna, nutty edamame, and the slightly sweet vinaigrette.  All the flavors married very well together.

This meal came none too soon.  After a five mile run and three mile walk, I was starving!  A friend of a friend recently told me about the Booty Loop, which is a 2.8 loop located in the Myer’s Park neighborhood of Charlotte.  I decided to give it a try yesterday afternoon, despite the humidity.  The run out to the head of the loop is almost three miles, so after almost completing the loop, I had ran over five miles and was definitely starting to feel a tightness in my legs from the 6 1/2 miler from yesterday.  I figured walking home was my best option since I was starting to approach exhaustion and had to get home some way.

I was starving after this and besides enjoying my dinner, I had a simple desert of two pieces of dark chocolate and a few animal crackers.  I may or may not have also drank the last glass of wine in the house.  🙂

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Peaches n’ Cream Oats

Yesterday morning, I had big plans for a long run, which currently is six miles for me.  I remember when I used to run six miles almost daily and other times when six miles was just maintaining for my longer runs during half-marathon training.  I’m not really displeased with myself because I’m stronger now.  I do a lot more weight training and feel pretty fit.

I made a pact with myself last weekend to exercise every day this past week.  I haven’t really been slacking off, but working out four days a week just isn’t typical for me.  I haven’t been very pleased with my eating habits lately and not exercising as much as usual is just adding to my displeasure with myself.  Somewhere around Thursday I realized that it’s really not necessary to exercise every single day of the week and that six out of seven days is really a more balanced approach.  So I did take one day off and for that I am pretty happy with the level of exercise I’ve engaged in this week.  My eating habits are another story….

For my six mile run, I got up in plenty of time to have a good breakfast and digest before my run.  I couldn’t figure out what I wanted but knew it needed to have a certain level of carbs to fuel my run.  Closer inspection of my fruit bowl led me to notice that my tiny little organic peaches were getting pretty soft and needed to be used ASAP.

Peaches in cream oats were born.

Doesn’t my oats look pretty on this quilt?  Brad’s grandmother made it for him and I think it may be the prettiest quilt I’ve ever seen.  It’s just so simple, when most quilts are so busy.  We’re very lucky to have such an heirloom.  And no, I didn’t use it as a place mat, only for photo-taking purposes.  I wouldn’t know how to begin to wash it if I spilled something on it.

1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 tiny organic peaches sliced

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (full fat kind)

1 heaping Tbsp. Crofters Organic Superfruit Asia Spread

If you’re not an oats-making pro….

Add oats, almond milk, and water to a small pot and let it come to a boil.  Watch it or it will boil over and you’ll be scraping oats off your stove top after it cools (this happens to me at least every other time I make oats due to my inability to multi-task).  Once it comes to a boil, I turn it down to low and move the top of the pot so that it isn’t completely covering the top of the pot and some of the steam can escape.  I stir occasionally.  It takes a good 10-15 minutes for the oats to cook completely.  After about 7-8 minutes I added the sliced peaches so they would cook too and the peach juice would ooze into the oats.  Once oats are at the desired consistency, remove from heat.  Put oats in to a bowl and add 1/2 cup of Greek Yogurt.  Don’t mix it or it will lose its creaminess when it is heated through by the oats.  Add a generous tablespoon of jam (I used the Crofter’s mentioned above).  Let cool for a few minutes before eating.

For the record, I haven’t gone gluten-free, I just really like to try new things.  I really like these oats, which are a tiny bit more calorie dense, but not so much it really makes a difference.  These oats don’t absorb the liquid quite like regular oats (rolled or steal cut), but I don’t really mind that.  It absorbs just enough to not be glue-like and keep the consistency I love, even when you have to leave it on the stove top for a bit longer than usual.

The purchase of full fat Greek yogurt was a complete accident.  I picked up a brand I had never tried but was on sale at Earthfare.  It was a great mistake.  The full fat version is just so delicious.  I am willing to give up eating as much to truly enjoy it and all of its yuminess.

The Crofters spread is new for me as well.  After reading about Kath’s experience enjoying it, I knew I had to try it when I spotted it at Earthfare last week.  I looked at all the continental varieties and recognized the least fruit in the Asia version, so I decided to give it a try.  Who could say no to yumberries?

This turned out to be a perfect balance of protein and carbs.  My run was fabulous totaling 6.57 miles in one hour and 59 seconds.

I always feel so great after exercising, but often have unrealistic goals based on what is really healthy or my actual fitness level.  Sometimes I say to myself, “What if I try to run 10 miles tomorrow even though I haven’t really ran over 6 miles in several months” or like I also said before, “I’m unhappy with how often I’m exercising so I’m going to exercise every single day next week.”

I’m going to jump on the “asking your readers questions” bandwagon….

Do you ever set goals that are “all or nothing” type goals like I do?  Do you feel the need to overcompensate for lack of exercise  by having unrealistic exercising goals?

Happy weekend!

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Drink this now

Last Saturday night my friends Brittney and Josie went with me to a new wine bar in Charlotte.  The wine bar was Dolcetto Wine Room, which is in the South Park area.  I really like the atmosphere.  It was small, with a large bar.  One of the best parts was that they had live music; just one guy and an acoustic guitar.  I don’t even really remember how good he was, I just like live music.

Brittney got a Riesling, while Josie and I decided to split a half bottle of a Pinot Noir.  Our waiter informed us that they had recently ran out of whatever I had ordered, but he had another bottle he thought was even better.  It was also cheaper.  I’ll take it!

He brought out the 2008 Siduri Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir from Oregon.

This wine was really excellent.

Tasting Notes:

The wine shows red cherry and clove flavors, with a smooth, velvet-like texture. On the mid-palate the wine closes down slightly, due undoubtedly to its youth, but the finish opens up again and is lingering, long, and fine-grained with lively acidity carrying the fruit flavors on and on. This wine certainly drinks well now, especially with food, but will be even better with 6 months in the cellar.

I will definitely order this wine again.  My taste buds don’t have the sensitivity to properly describe this wine.  But I loved how bold and fruit forward it was.  You can read more about it here, if you’re interested in knowing more.  This was definitely one of the best wines I have blindly ordered in a very long time.  Keep your eye out for it and try it, if you’re a red wine person, and maybe even if you’re not.  It’s really that good.

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