Saturday, March 6, 2010

nooch noob

The past couple of days have inadvertently presented plenty of opportunities to try new things, or at the very least, [accidentally] develop alternative versions of tastes I associate elsewhere. For example, last night I made Pomegranate Saute on Cinnamon Bulghur. Unfortunately, in so doing, I found the bottom of my previously bottomless bottle of pomegranate molasses, and I found it after adding only half the amount I had written into the recipe. I also discovered that I had no more red wine vinegar and it didn't occur to me exactly how different white wine vinegar would taste, especially with the not-100% apple juice I used. While I wouldn't call the results disastrous, I don't want to repeat the version I made last night. I prefer the original.

I used Mott's for Tots, which is only 54% juice - the other 46% is water, in an attempt to cut calories. They come in perfectly portioned 6 oz servings, which was exactly how much I needed for the recipe, and since they're almost half water they have only 50 calories. I don't actually care about that, but I got to thinking about two things: how sick it is that we have calorie-reduced drinks for toddlers, but more importantly (since I work in the weight loss industry and have parents calling frequently about their obese offspring) how sick it is that we actually do need to worry about this.

So, the half-juice, the half-pomegranate molasses, and the not-red wine vinegar combined in a way that might actually be beneficial in a chili, but not in my saute. It tasted like beer. I don't like beer, but at least now I know how to emulate the flavor in case a recipe calls for it.

Thursday was kind of lost to me because I finally got my taxes done, but it was so windy and cold I didn't feel like going grocery shopping if I didn't have to. And I didn't have to, because I still had the ingredients for the Saute and could easily pick up a couple of things on my way home from work last night if I needed to. I finally made it to the store today and when I was studying the Wall of Bars at WF, in order to drop one off for Mister on my way home (he works around the corner from WF - lucky dog!), I found something new! I was hoping that if I stared hard enough I might be able to will the Luna cookies to transform into Nectar bars. No dice, but I found this instead:
The brand new Clif C bars, meant to replace my truly defunct Nectar treats. These babies pack about 130 calories each, making them a reasonable snack, and they also provide 1 serving of fruit per bar. That's a little disappointing, since Nectar bars provided 2, but I actually like eating fruit, so I guess it's not necessary. Clif C bars are available in four flavors: Apple, Blueberry, Cherry Pomegranate, and Raspberry. I picked Apple because it seemed the least likely to be a bad first experience. It was pretty good, but the nuts on top were not crunchy and I felt they should be. I will not be excited about these until they find a way to replace my loved-and-lost Lemon Cashew bar. Sniff.
I have one left, which I am hording in my drawer at work, waiting until the perfect moment to enjoy it for the last time. I should probably check the expiration date soon.

Tonight, with all the ingredients assembled for a week of dinners, I faced my usual conundrum of where to start. Today was actually a really nice day in Philadelphia and since I came home from teaching to find my husband had actually opened one of the windows (which he does on every first day of 50-degree weather after weeks of mid-30s highs), so I didn't think his hot Greek blood would tolerate a soup dinner. Fortunately, that eliminated two choices. Ultimately, even though there was almost nothing perishable in this dinner, I made Pasta Florentine from The 30 Minute Vegan.

This was my first time ever cooking with the magical ingredient known across vegetarian and vegan circles worldwide as "nooch." I have seen multiple recipes calling for nutritional yeast, but I have shied away for two main reasons. First, I couldn't find it for the longest time, until another Philadelphia food blogger told me she gets it at Whole Foods. I looked in the bulk aisle, where she said it would be, and to my great surprise - it was there! Second, it just sounded so bizarre, I couldn't believe I would actually want to eat it. Like many things, though, the power of persuasion lies mostly in presence: the more I read about it in cookbooks and blogs, the more I thought, "Surely, all these people couldn't be wrong."

My first encounter with the Clif C bar was slightly better than mediocre. My first encounter with nooch was sufficiently impressive to balance that out. I'm not sure I would say it tastes like cheese, but perhaps if I hadn't eaten cheese for years I could draw that correlation. It is certainly savory and has a good flavor. I only got a small bit from the bulk bin because I didn't know how things would go, but I think it's fair to say these funny little flakes will find a permanent home in my "pantry."

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