Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Om nom nom nom nom nom nom, banana chip

I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a sweeping generalization. I think everyone has one or two foods that, once they cross the oral threshhold and enter their mouths, become very difficult to stop eating. For me, banana chips are one of these foods. Their texture is perfect, smooth yet crunchy, deliciously melting between your teeth as you bite down, going from jagged to soft in but a moment.

There's a Mexican grocery store near me called Cermak Produce. It is not on Cermak Avenue, at least this location, but it is full of produce. I went there in search of apples for a friend, then happened upon a veritable wall of dried fruits. There, a half a pound of banana chips is less than $1.50, and a mix of fruits you've never heard of is less than $4 a pound. The variety is fantastic and somewhat odd -- I'm glad I knew that dried kiwis aren't that great, since I would've tried them there -- and each is handily packaged in a reusable box-like container. It is a heaven for a fruit lover, especially in the middle of winter. I picked out a box of banana chips and a carton of craisins.

The problem with banana chips is that they're not particularly good for you. Livestrong seems to have a billion different calorie counts for various amounts, but generally speaking it looks like ~20 banana chips is ~150 calories, with a boatload of fat in there. From... somewhere. Of course I didn't know this before I ate at least a serving's worth, but so it goes. I decided to try the dried fruits in the oatmeal, putting them in while it was still quite hot to let the sugar melt off and sweeten the rest of the 'meal.

The result was fantastically delicious. The banana chips melted a little and almost rehydrated into normal bananas, but they kept just enough of their jaggedness to remind you that they're chips. The craisins melted into the oatmeal and moved with it, adding chewy bits to an otherwise reasonably consistent consistency. I also added a drop of vanilla, but all that served to do was make it taste kind of odd for the first bite or two.

Yes, I understand "oatmeal with dried fruit" is hardly a recipe, and is about as groundbreaking as sliced bread, but it's new to me, and the cranberry banana hybrid worked particularly well.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Getting Nutty

Tonight, in furtherance of the "try to make savory oatmeal good" goal, I infused my steel-cut oats with 2 tbsp of semi-chunky peanut butter. It was... not good. Not terrible, mind you, but not "holy crap, I need to eat that again!" good. The effect was not unlike the CoW "fondue," wherein the melted substance is augmented with healthier filler. Only this time, it was like eating a bowl of peanut butter. Delicious? Not so. The flavor got really same-ey really quickly. Thing is, I think it has potential. Next time, I'm going to try some combination of the following:

-less PB: 2 tbsp was actually a little much, considering one serving of steel-cut oats is only 1/4 cup dry.
-more seasonings: curry powder or cumin may have made it less bland. Perhaps even some Vulcan's Fire Salt would be in order. Spicy peanut butter rules.
-not using steel-cut oats: the steel-cut oats were extremely similar in texture to the chunks of peanut in the peanut butter. Since the textures were so same-ey, the two didn't really complement each other very well. With normal oats, this problem may be avoided.
-veggies: peanut butter goes well with certain veggies, like onions and k-rots. Maybe slicing up some of those and adding it to this would provide the needed kick in the pants.

So, yes. More on this as it develops (and as soon as I go to a grocery store where onions and k-rots are less than $2 each).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A backslide for the ages

'All you can eat sushi' is not part of a healthy diet, no matter how many vegetables you put in a roll. This fact has always depressed me, especially today. Goma ae doesn't count as "slop", either.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Recipe basics

Thus far, I've used a lot of basic recipes. Oatmeal with maple syrup and brown sugar, grits with milk and honey, etc. The package directions can get you pretty far, but after a short period of time they get really same-ey. The biggest challenge is creating something that's both delicious and doesn't add a whole heck of a lot of calories.

One night, I decided that since cream of wheat is great with 1/2 tbsp of butter and salt, it'd be even better with swiss cheese. Guess what: it is! This recipe, my first to post, is much like a lower-calorie version of fondue. It's delicious, flavorful, and works well if you slice up an apple and dip it in. Here's the scoop (always assume the pun is intended):

Cream of Wheat Fondue

3 tablespoons cream of wheat
1.5 oz shredded cheese -- Swiss or Emmentaler work best, but anything that melts works great
1 tsp garlic powder
fresh-ground black pepper and salt to taste
1 apple of your favorite type

Prepare cream of wheat (CoW) according to package directions. After it has stopped bubbling, put it in a bowl that's got a bit of room. Mix in cheese and garlic powder; the cheese should melt quickly, considering the temperature of the CoW. Add black pepper to taste, starting with just a pinch. Slice up apple -- personally, I prefer Granny Smiths for this, since their sourness is offset by the richness of the cheese -- and use to dip in the "fondue."

Other fruits, especially grapes, also work well. It's easy to adjust this recipe for richness by adding more cheese. Problem is, the more cheese you add, the more fat and calories come in, too. For a stronger fondue-ey flavor, replace half the water you use to prepare the CoW with inexpensive white wine. Again, it adds calories, but hot dang is it tasty.