A Little Word on Whipped Peanut Butter

The New Bite

With 1/3 less sugar and no fructose corn syrup, Peter Pan peanut butter is already amazing. But with 40-50 calories less per serving than your average peanut butter, there's really nothing not to love.

It’s finals week, and I’m craving quick, sweet snacks that I don’t feel guilty about the evening after my thesis paper is due.

Recently, I discovered Peter Pan Whipped peanut butter, and it’s been more or less life-changing. Granted, peanut butter is never the thing you should eat by the spoonful (unless your my charming boyfriend) because even the best peanut butters are high in calories and full of hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Nonetheless, peanut butter is high in protein, at 6 grams a serving, and makes it a more satisfying snack option.

Peter Pan’s Whipped peanut butter has a light, airy texture which makes it super-spreadable and thus, you can cover more square footage per serving. My midnight study-snack of choice has been frozen bananas, with a dab of peanut butter. I love the texture and temperature contrast, but fresh bananas make a great base, too.

There are classic combinations that even a calorie-conscious diet cannot forgo. For this, we applaud the health-improved products that allow us to indulge without regret.

Either way, instead of 2 tablespoons, try making one last a little longer.  Using bananas or apple slices is a great way to keep this snack healthy. Above, I’ve shown a slice of banana with peanut butter, a drop of sugar-free maple syrup on a baked wheat cracker, for a little bit of crunch and that touch of salt that always serves as the perfect counterpoint to sweet, nutty peanut butter.

Peter Pan is just one example of a brand making huge strides in turning around products that were once health-taboo.

I’m always keeping my eyes peeled for these gems, and until then, I’m off for another midnight bite!

Melanie

Garlic Rutabaga Fries – CYOB

Create Your Own Bite

When that fast-food craving hits. it may seem like the only answer is an order of crispy waffle cheese fries from the 24-hour drive in. Fortunately, wonderful people have been coming up with healthy alternatives, like this one.

Create Your Own Bite #5

Garlic Rutabaga Fries

A borrowed bite from my lovely roommate, Heather Kology.

1 Small Rutabaga

4 Cloves Garlic, Finely Chopped

1 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

This recipe makes approximately one cup of fries, approximately 2 servings.

Estimated calories: 135

We’ve all had that feeling, the one that hits right around midnight. A crave for something fried in oil that we’ll definitely regret the next day.

Amazingly, there are lots of new recipes gaining popularity that satisfy that desire without packing on the “morning after” guilt. While still definitely a “snack,” rutabaga fries are definitely a low-calorie option when compared to an order of small McDonald’s fries, totaling 230 calories, and not even filling half a cup.

My roommate, Heather, has been whipping up some of these recipes, and has shared with me her secret for delicious, healthy rutabaga fries.

While you’re chopping the garlic and cutting the rutabaga, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Once all the components of the dish are prepared – the most important, of course, being the raw rutabaga cut into thick batonnets, the crowning cut for all french fries – simply toss the ingredients  together on a baking sheet.

From a distance, an unknowing passerby might just mistaken these root vegetable fries for the real, starchy deal.

When the fries have been lightly coated in oil, and the garlic is evenly dispersed throughout, crack on some fresh black pepper and sprinkle the fries with salt, to taste. Fresh rosemary is another wonderful addition to this recipe. Put the fries in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until golden brown. Toss the fries ever fifteen minutes for even cooking.

After they’re cool, let the snacking ensue!

The next time you’re craving a sinful snack, try cooking these up instead. Kale chips, a cauliflower mash, and zucchini fries are other great ways to reinvent those delicious potato classics that always used to bite us in the behind.

What healthy alternatives are you creating to beat the snack attack?

Off to find another little bite!

Melanie

A Little Word on a Mini Toast (The Legal Sip)

Create Your Own Bite, The New Bite

A celebratory mini sip from the team at Eastern Standard, so my friends and I could make a tiny toast to twenty-one years.

This is my first post as a legal adult, having hit the twenty-one mark on Friday. In the spirit of the occasion, I’m making this week about my new search for the perfect little sip – as always, navigating the thin line between healthy and delicious.

If there’s ever a weekend to kick the calorie-counter and enjoy your drink, it’s this one. But while imbibing in some of Boston’s best cocktails, starting with a Blueberry Thrill at Eastern Standard and concluding with a Riviera at Bistro du Midi, I couldn’t help but think about if, or how, could I integrate this new menu territory into my health-conscious lifestyle?

Some field research (naturally) and Internet research (necessary) have led me to a quick little list with some tips for keeping the drinks delicious and fun, without putting an otherwise healthy lifestyle on the rocks.

Limit the Mixers

o It seems there isn’t anything you can’t mix with alcohol, be it a whole egg or melted milk chocolate. If a creative concoction is what you’re craving, try to order a cocktail with only one or two mixes, and look for the light ones. Opt for a squeeze of fresh lemon, for example, rather than a sugary lemon syrup.

Make it Mini

o When it comes to liquor, it’s always the safer bet to make your own drink at home. With full control over the amount and kind of the ingredients involved, you can know exactly what you’re drinking and take direct action to make it healthy. Of course, everyone needs a night out, but try having friends over to your place the next time you’re craving a fun drink, and serve up a series of mini toasts – cocktail style!

One of my mini cocktails, a shot of coconut rum and muddled strawberries sweetened with Splenda.


This weekend, one of my favorite birthday activities was throwing together mini cocktails. Granted, size alone immediately cuts the guilt in half. But even full-sized drinks, while less-adorable, can be benefit equally from a health-conscious refrigerator. Use skim milk instead of cream in a low-calorie White Russian, or Tropicana Trop50 for a healthy, homemade mimosa

Go Clear

o If you’re torn between a Whiskey Sour or a Tom Collins, go with the gin cocktail. Lighter liquors, such as gin or vodka, are lower in calories than dark liquors, like whiskey or bourbon.

At the end of the night, what matters is that the drink you drank was worth it, because no one is making a a zero-calorie wine cooler yet, and sometimes we all need a special little sip.

Until next time, I’m off to find another little bite – and little drink to pair it with!

Melanie

Fresh Salsa Tapas (Or, A Little Word on Dining for Two) – CYOB

Create Your Own Bite
MiniPotatoBites

We used this salsa throughout the evening – on top of roasted mini red potatoes and in our bite-sized tofu tacos.

Create Your Own Bite #4

Fresh Chunky Salsa

Adapted from Lauren Hendrickson on yumsugar. 

4 Plum Tomatoes, Seeded and Diced

1/2 Jalapeno Pepper

1/2 Cup of Fresh Green Onions, Chopped

2 Cloves Garlic, Minced

1/2 Lime, Juiced

This recipe makes approximately one and a half cups of salsa, 2 tablespoon servings. Estimated calories: 10

On Friday, my boyfriend and I celebrated our five year anniversary by staying in and cooking up a storm. We always joke that our relationship is 33% talking about food, 33% watching The Food Network, and 33% eating together.

We decided to pick appetizer or tapas recipes to make a few little bites for a perfectly satisfying, perfectly proportionate meal. Cooking for two isn’t always easy. Too often, you’re forced to make a one-pot meal that leaves you with dozens of leftovers and a craving for something else. 

With mini bites, you have the option of making a number of different dishes. It’s almost like a multi-course meal, without the unmanageable amount of food.

Our night started with Mini Red Potatoes with Avocado and Tomato Salsa. This bite, pictured above, was an appetizer recipe that we halved, leaving us each with three mini potatoes, a delicious avocado spread, and enough salsa to carry over into the second half of our meal.

Tofu Tacos

Mini tacos stuffed with our Fresh Chunky Salsa, spice-marinated tofu and fresh chopped cabbage.

The “main course” was an interesting, delicious combination of Asian, Mexican, and even Indian flavors. The marinade consisted of soy sauce, chili powder, lime juice, garlic powder, cumin and cayenne marinade for the tofu gave the dish a good kick. We filled our tortillas (for the calorie-conscious, Trader Joe’s Reduced Carb Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas are a must) with shredded cabbage, the cubed tofu, and plenty of our salsa.

This recipe, adapted from Yummly, was halved, and gave us 3 totally stuffed tacos. (We split the last one right in half.) We also scratched the sour cream, and used cabbage instead of lettuce. With the mini potatoes, we also passed on the liquid cheese.

The cost of the whole meal? Only a few more calories than usual, by cutting the sour cream, taking out the oil from the salsa recipe. and only drizzling the potatoes with olive oil. By going to Trader Joe’s and Haymarket, the whole meal (including our “dessert course” of beets, blueberries, and crumbled fat-free feta on crostini) cost us just around twelve dollars. That, of course, is the other joy of cooking for two – splitting the bill in half.

Making a component of a recipe that can be used seamlessly throughout a number of dishes is a great tip when cooking for two. It also guarantees a cohesive meal, tying the different little bites together.

Having someone to cook with also makes the monotonous tasks, like mincing garlic, seem much less tedious. And when all is said is done, the food is gone and your stomachs are full, it’s wonderful to have someone to share the dirty dishes with.

Until next time, I’m off to find another little bite!

Melanie

Where To Bite Beets – Life Alive [The Mouthful Morsel]

The Mouthful Morsel, Where to Bite

In the words of Sonny and Cher, “the beet goes on,” and I’m taking you to one of my favorite local spots, with a beet dish you can’t miss.

This restaurant prides itself in an all-organic, whole foods menu. Every dish is vegetarian, and can be made gluten-free, nut-free, grain-free, vegan – you name it.

Life Alive is located in a number of cities across Massachusetts, including Salem, Lowell and Cambridge. Right off Central Square, the Cambridge spot at 765 Massachusetts Ave., is a vibrant, fun environment with a menu grounded in Eastern flavors.

Image

The casual menu consists primarily of warm, one-meal bowls, wraps and salads. No matter what you order, your dish will be full of nutritious enzymes and whole foods.

Recommended Dishes: I’m ranting about The Lover, because this dish is full of roasted beets, shiitake mushrooms, kale, broccoli, and carrots. What ties the dish together is a delicious Ginger Nama Shoyu Sauce – a raw, organic, unpasteurized soy sauce. The ginger adds a crisp, spicy warmth to the bowl. The Emperor, sans cheese, is another Life Alive go-to, and The Green Goddess is a patron favorite when avocado is organic and in season.

The Not-So-Good Bite: At Life Alive, you order at the register, grab a number, and try to outrun the enormous line backing up to the door for a table. The food comes out quick, and you may or may not have a seat to eat it at. The good news is that the table turnover is quick, and there is a decent amount of seating to accommodate the crowd.

The Good Bite: As was the case with The Elephant Walk, the menu at Life Alive requires a glossary of terms and definitions. Flax oil, nama shoyu, nutritional yeast, hijiki…each dish is likely to contain at least one unfamiliar item. The staff at Life Alive, however, can explain to you in detail these mystery items, including their nutritional benefits.  This makes a meal at Life Alive a wholesome, educational experience, and it takes the stress out of ordering.

The Best Bite: What always wins me over at Life Alive is the freedom patrons get with their food. For example, The Lover is served over brown rice – but I prefer to hold the brown rice and add a full portion of tofu. All the sides can be substitutions, and this makes the options really extensive. No matter what alterations you may choose, or not choose to make, you can be certain that you’ll leave Life Alive feeling good about the food you’ve consumed. It’s a whole new approach to guilt-free (although holding the rice, or cheese when applicable, is another way to do that, too!).

It’s so hard to know what you’re biting in today’s world – everything is processed and ambiguous. A meal at Life Alive is a refreshing retreat from all those additives and preservatives, and whether or not beets are involved, you’ll leave with that earthy goodness all the same.

I hope you’ll grab a beet, and get in touch with your crunchy roots this week. Until next time, I’m off to find another little bite (or a big mouthful!).

Melanie

Warm Beet and Feta Wrap – CYOB [The Mouthful Morsel]

Create Your Own Bite, The Mouthful Morsel

I enjoy pretty much anything wrapped up in a warm wheat tortilla; it’s one of my favorite vessels for this weekend’s little morsel.

Create Your Own Bite #3:

Warm Beet and Feta Wrap

1/2 Cup of Beets

3/4  Cup Greens

1/8 – 1/4 Cup of Athenos Fat Free Crumbled Feta

1 Trader Joe’s Reduced Carb Whole Wheat Flour Tortilla

1 Tablespoon of Maple Grove Farms Fat Free Balsamic Vinaigrette

This recipe makes one Warm Beet and Feta Wrap. Estimated Calories: 145

Welcome to day two of my exploration of the mouthful morsel, beets! One of my favorite ways to enjoy this beautiful root is with some creamy cheese, a touch of contrasting vinegar, and a bitter crunch.

You can enjoy this recipe grain and gluten-free by cutting out the wrap, and reinventing this dish as a warm beet and feta salad. 

Remember those beets we took time to oven-roast yesterday? Cut about a half-cup of beets into matchsticks, and toss them in a sauce pan with a crack of black pepper and a dash of salt. This is really just to reheat, but if your beets are a little al dente after roasting, it will soften them up, too.

For the ambiguous “greens” component of the recipe, I used cabbage (Remember my St. Patrick’s day feast? Yep – I still had leftover cabbage).  Arugula, kale, or any bitter green would be a fantastic substitution, however. I wilted down about 3/4 of a of chopped green cabbage, after first removing the beets from the pan. This was simply an aesthetic choice, as beets inevitably stain everything they touch.

Finally, put the tortilla in a separate pan on low heat, and after toasting both sides, sprinkle on as much feta as you like.  A serving is 1/4 cup, but I definitely used less.  The Trader Joe’s tortillas I use are fairly small, only 6 1/2 – 7 inches in diameter, but if you love your wraps extra-cheesy, this one will be completely guilt free. Athenos fat free crumbled feta is only 40 calories for an entire quarter cup.

After the feta has started to melt, fill your wrap with the beets, top with your wilted greens, and drizzle on the balsamic vinaigrette.

This makes a great low-cal snack, but double the recipe and enjoy two for lunch! Full of nutrients and antioxidants, this handheld bite is a personal favorite.

For a final foray into this weekend beet-down, I’m taking a trip to one of the best places to dine-out with friends in Cambridge, if you’re of the restricted-diet crowd. What’s more, they have a beet dish that I get midnight cravings for.

Hope to see you then, to share another beet-bite!

Melanie