Sunday, August 30, 2009

salt and strong spice make everything nice

Maybe. They certainly make everything pungent and made my tongue numb by the end of dinner. The leftovers have become Mister's responsibility to finish.

First things first: today's bar was the Larabar Coconut Cream Pie. It smelled SO GOOD and fortunately enough, it tasted pretty good, too. In fact, if I ever truly went vegan, these bars would be a phenomenal replacement for Almond Joy bars (which I also love). The interesting thing about that is that there is no chocolate in this bar, but it really does taste like Almond Joy.

Again, my only grievance against this bar is the high calorie content and fat - 200 calories with 10g fat, of which a whopping 7g are saturated fat! In any case, I'm currently justifying future purchases of this bar with the knowledge that it still has a better nutritional profile than Almond Joy does, though just barely. The ingredients are much cleaner, of course, and as I thought more about the whole situation, I thought "Lara wouldn't put something that bad in her bars...there must be a reason for the saturated fat."

I knew already that the source of the saturated fat was the coconut and extra virgin coconut oil listed 2nd and 5th in the ingredients, and I have heard rumors that the saturated fat in coconut oil is not the unhealthy, cholesterol-raising, heart-attack-waiting-to-happen saturated fat in animal flesh. Never content with rumors, I did some research.

As it turns out, coconut oil, and the saturated fat it contains, may have a host of health benefits. A theme among many articles I read was that the reason Palm and Coconut oils have such a bad reputation is because American oil-producing farmers (ironically, soy farmers) were feeling threatened by these "tropical oils," so they got together and launched a massive PR mudslinging to dirty their names. It worked, coupled with the knowledge that the sat-fat in animal products has very negative health effects when eaten to excess (in America? NEVER!) There have even been some studies touting the medical possibilities of coconut oil to cure cancer and a host of immunodeficiency diseases, but I'm not willing to go there just yet.

Granted, the folks at are probably more than a little biased in their research, but after reading through several articles by several authors and finding a lot of similar thought, I feel like it's at least worth a read if you'd like to get some info and form your own opinion about coconut oil. I just think it's cool that it's solid when stored under 76 degrees.

Actually, I have a second grievance against my bar today: it did not keep me feeling full as long as the other bars did. I don't know if it was because I was much more active at work today than I sometimes am, running from one end of the building and back again several times, but I was definitely feeling hungry again within about 2 hours of eating it. Fortunately, I also had an apple. Maybe today is just a hungry day, though.

Back to our title, though - dinner narrowly averted complete disaster tonight, saved only by my nose and my (at times) very strange husband. I've been struggling to make the Five-Spice Vegetables and Tofu on Coffee Rice for a little more than a week now. Every time I start to make it, I get distracted by something on my list I'd rather make. Well, I knew from my last look in the crisper that if I didn't use the broccoli tonight, it might sprout legs and run away tomorrow, so I made up my mind that tonight was the night.

I put on my new apron (yay!) and set about chopping the vegetables, changed my mind about the Coffee Rice, opting instead to cook the rice in green tea (resulting in an amazing aroma!), and actually almost managed to accidentally make black-bottomed tofu. Everything was going well and when I started stirfrying the vegetables, I realized I had left out the Five Spice powder for which the recipe is named. Still stirfrying (is that a word?), I opened the cabinet above my head, grabbed a bag of spice and a measuring spoon and upon opening the bag decided the one tablespoon I had written into the recipe would be WAY too much. So I did a teaspoon instead, sprinkled it on and added the salt, stirred it up really good and smelled the weirdest thing ever... So I looked at the bag of Five Spice again and realized that in my hurry I had accidentally added a teaspoon of ground cloves to my vegetables. I turned off the heat and stood there pondering my wok, trying to discern if I had actually ruined dinner.

I figured Mister would let me know.

So I put everything out on the table like we were really going to eat it and then waited for my dear husband's reaction. In a nutshell: he liked it a lot (he likes weird food anyway) and because of the clove scent he kept expecting the tofus to be ham and kept being surprised that they weren't. When he went back for seconds (braver than I), he tried to add some spices to enhance the ham taste. I never cared much for ham myself, or any piglet product for that matter (except bacon, now and then), so though I managed to eat everything in my bowl, the idea of eating the leftovers is positively revolting.

Mister suggested renaming the recipe Chai Spice Veggies. Adorable. I think I'd rather leave the Chai spices to teas and baked goods (the Chai Luna Bar is one of my favorites and out of this world!) and try this again in a week or so with the Five Spice Powder already meted out in a prep bowl. I like the idea of Five Spice - it contains all 5 tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory (umami). I love the Chinese for their (apparent) serenity and sense of balance in life.

So, no recipe tonight - I have never been a fan of works-in-progress. I'll share the recipe when it's right, hopefully sometime next week, if I haven't tofu-ed Mister out by the end of this week...I kind of overdid the tofrequency of our tofu dinners this week. Pictures, though!

cloven veggies and tofus in the (massive) wok

Oh, there is a happy ending (if you ignore the nutritional information - sometimes I wish I was illiterate)! When we finished dinner, my tongue was numb from all the cloves (thus their medicinal uses), so Mister got me a dessert present! I knew if I read the package before I ate it that I simply wouldn't eat it so I ate it first, then looked at the ingredients and calories and fat content so I would understand why I was never going to eat it again. Like they say, it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission...

It was a Mint Brownie sandwich by Nestle Tollhouse. It was so good, even though I knew that shade of green doesn't exist in nature. So I ate it all up and I will worry about the 380 calories, 18g fat with 9g saturated fat (probably not the "good" kind in coconut oil) some other time...actually, I'll probably forget all about it when I go to sleep tonight. Sweet dreams are made of this!

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