Monday, March 31, 2008

Oh, the things I do for good food...

I think it's safe to say that my devotion to Whole Foods has reached a new level. Today is Monday, so of course I had planned a trip to that beloved mecca of all things natural and organic. Then, this morning it decides to pour down rain. Bear in mind that Durham, NC has been in a severe drought for months; I was grateful for this relief from the dry spell. However, I was a tad irked that it had to be on my shopping day. Anyway, I decided to brave the rain, despite the icky factor. It's days like these that I wish I had a car at school. Nevertheless, I stocked up on some goodies, which you'll be seeing throughout the week, no doubt :)

Saturday morning I woke up later than usual (read: 9AM--gasp!), so by the time I got back from my workout I was famished. I decided to keep in simple and have some Weetabix biscuits with almond milk and banana with PB. Well, I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture before I started scarfing it down--oops! There will be other Weetabix mornings, rest assured. Side note: yes, I do measure my PB--otherwise I might eat the whole jar in one sitting!

For lunch yesterday, I decided to try a free sample that was sent to me awhile back. As I have mentioned before, I write occasional food reviews for VegFamily vegan website, so some companies send me tasty vegan eats to try. This one is a heat 'n eat Indian meal; it appears to be a competitor to Tasty Bite. Same packaging, similar recipes, and they both have that same ridiculously precise nutritional information (e.g., "107 kcalories per 100 grams"). Anyway, I digress. What's important is that I truly enjoyed this meal! It's nice to find the occasional packaged gem that is both natural and satisfying. This particular variety is vegan, featuring lentils and chopped spinach, although there was hardly a speck of green in sight--I made up for it with my salad. I ate half the package with whole wheat pita bread (pseudo-naan), a mixed greens salad, and an orange.

Last night for a snack, I dug out another free sample that has been lurking in the depths of my dorm pantry. These are cookies from a Brazilian company called Jasmine. From my oh-so-sophisticated knowledge of Spanish and Portuguese, the appearance of "organico" and "integral" on the package indicate that they are both organic and whole grain. This variety is--what else--the Brazil nut flavor. The cookies were tiny little snack cookies packed with distinct flavor; they actually tasted like Brazil nuts! These would have been perfect with a glass of almond milk or perhaps hemp milk (which I have yet to try!). I included a picture of them next to a quarter so you could get a sense of how big (or little) they are.


This morning was another Kath-inspired breakfast--I just love the texture of the cooked banana in oatmeal! Instead of using flax like I did last time, I decided to switch it up a bit with some whole almonds.

In looking over this post, I realize it probably looks like I eat a lot of packaged foods. I try to eat as fresh as possible, but sometimes I choose convenient and relatively healthful foods instead. I promise I do cook when I get the chance!

While at Whole Foods today, I contemplated buying some vegan ice cream, but decided against it because I was getting too cold in the freezer section (rainy day+freezer case=one chilly Caroline). Sooo...for the next time I make a trip and can afford for a splurge, what is your favorite ice cream flavor? Brand names, dairy-full and dairy-free, are all welcome suggestions!

I am off to warm up with some green tea:)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Exciting News

Happy Friday, everyone! It's the weekend, finally! I had a busy week that included a few important decisions. First, my roommate and I figured out our living arrangements for next year. We will be living in an apartment--with a kitchen! I am so excited to have access to a full size refrigerator, a stove, and a toaster. Trust me, you won't realize how much you miss your toaster until you don't have it. I am so jealous of all you bloggers out there making those delicious looking waffle sandwiches for breakfast!

The second bit of important news is that I have been considering my future in the past few days, and I have decided to pursue a career as a registered dietitian. I have been interested in nutrition since high school (I did an independent study on it during my senior year). However, I was scared off by the science aspect, and my university does not offer any nutrition-related classes. My interest in the subject has obviously persisted, so I decided to take the plunge into nutrition. I still plan to graduate from my current university with degrees in English and psychology, but afterward I plan to return to Birmingham and get a bachelor's degree in nutrition. Ideally, I would like to incorporate writing--it is most certainly one of my passions. Perhaps someday I'll be the next resident nutritionist on staff at Self Magazine?

OK, now that I have babbled on enough about my future, I'll share some photos. On Wednesday evening, I was really not in the mood for campus food. So I pulled out a box of Annie's microwaveable macaroni and cheese, something I had never tried before. I loved it! I think I will have to eat these more often when I don't feel like enduring the tedium of tweaking campus fare. This was the white cheddar flavor; I added frozen chopped spinach for nutrition and color. I also had a huge salad from the salad bar with mushrooms, tomatoes, and artichokes, but the picture turned out blurry:( You can use your imagination though!

For breakfast one day, I started off fairly old school--a bowl of Cheerios. True to form, I added some less conventional toppings: unsweetened almond milk, sliced banana, and wheat germ. Not the typical way to enjoy Cheerios, but it was tasty, nonetheless.

For a snack last night I dug out a box of Kashi Mighty Bites that had been hiding in my "dorm pantry" (aka the top shelf of my closet). I consider this cereal more of a "snack" cereal than a breakfast cereal; it is sweeter and less fibrous than some of my normal breakfast selections. I think it is technically geared toward young children, but clearly that never stops me from sampling a food! I mixed it with some plain Stonyfield yogurt, Stevia, and cinnamon for a bedtime snack.


Today's high temperature is 82*, so for my breakfast this morning I chose to whip up a smoothie with my Magic Bullet blender (yes, I have two--one at home and one here!). I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk and frozen mixed berries. I thoroughly enjoyed it--except for those pesky seeds! Along with the smoothie I had a Cinnamon Raisin Gnu Bar and some raw cashews. I definitely recommend Gnu Bars if you have never tried them--very high fiber (12 grams!)--and whole grain. This variety tastes like a healthy version of a cinnamon raisin bagel--I bet it would be tasty with cream cheese on it!

Inspired by Jennifer over at Veg*n Cooking, I decided to make a Mexican-themed lunch. I guess you would call these tostadas. I had intended for them to be tacos, but I piled too much yumminess on them, so I ate them flat with a knife and fork--they lasted much longer that way! I used organic corn tortillas, chopped spinach, light string cheese, and salsa. It was good, but I wish I had some more spices on hand--some chili powder and cumin would really have hit the spot! I had some of the ubiquitous melon and water in my lovely Sigg water bottle.

I have been looking for good (vegan/vegetarian) cookbooks lately. Even though I have quite a collection at home, I have none at school. I decided I need a little motivation to get through these last few weeks before summer, so I was perusing Amazon's offerings last night (er, this morning--I think it was 1:30 AM...). Has anyone tried The Student's Go Vegan Cookbook? To go along with it, I was looking for some good dorm room cooking gadgets, but I couldn't decide among so many options. So, what are your favorite cookbooks and kitchen gadgets? Any and all recommendations are much appreciated!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

You Know It's Springtime When...

You know spring has sprung when you can't escape the distinctive sound of flip-flops. While I was walking to class today, I noticed that I was engaging in a symphony of sandals. What can you expect when it's sunny, with a high of 72*?

Along with a few breakfast photos, today I will share with you a typical inventory from a trip to Whole Foods. It might give you an idea of what I purchase from week-to-week--and how much I have to supplement my dining plan. Not that I mind trekking to the grocery store every week; Whole Foods is basically my "happiest place on Earth." Anyway, here is a glimpse of Caroline's ever-growing pantry stash:

From left to right: frozen chopped spinach (I haven't figured out what to do with this yet), organix corn tortillas, wheat germ, GoLean cereal, Almond Breeze almond milk, ricotta cheese (less expensive than cottage cheese), 3 Cascade Fresh yogurts, 3 Stonyfield plain yogurts, oranges, apples, roasted soy nuts, raw cashews, and a few bananas.

Can you believe that all of that fit into one bag?! Just think of how many plastic bags it would have taken to tote all these groceries across campus. Not only is bringing my own grocery bag an eco-friendly habit, but it's more convenient--I walk and take the bus to Whole Foods every week. Plus, you get 10 cents off your total purchase--sweet.

After unloading my groceries, I found that I had a package waiting for me at the post office...

The Easter Bunny came! Since I was unable to come home for the holiday, my mom sent me my Easter basket through the mail. Here you see a variety of candy (vegan jelly beans, sweet tarts, dark chocolate M&Ms, York Peppermint Patties, a "Coconut Nest," and a dark chocolate bunny) along with a DVD (Roman Holiday) and some random pencils. Not pictured are some new (Nike+) running shoes that I picked out over spring break--I left them at home since I shouldn't be adding to my ginormous stockpile of shoes at school. Thanks, Mom!

Now for breakfast photos! I have been stealing ideas from my fellow bloggers this week. On Monday I tried cooking mashed banana into my oatmeal like Kath does--it really does taste marshmallow-ey. Banana oatmeal will definitely be added into the regular rotation. Monday's bowl also feature lots of ground flax.

Tuesday I had a bowl of Weetabix heated with vanilla almond milk; I added sliced banana and cashews after cooking. Unlike most people, I love soggy cereal. When I was little, my dad and I used to crumble up a couple of graham crackers and let them soak up some skim milk--we called it Mush. Well Weetabix reminds me a lot of that, except way better for me!

And finally, today I took a simpler route and just tossed some trail mix onto my bowl of oats. The trail mix is a blend of raisins, sunflower seeds, soy nuts, almonds, and cashews. I also had a some Stonyfield yogurt with cinnamon stirred in. I buy at least 3 containers of Stonyfield's plain nonfat yogurt each week. What's your favorite kind of yogurt? Recommendations for regular or soy yogurt are welcome.

I will leave you with a picture of a strange strawberry that I encountered the other day...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Weekend Recap

Sorry my post arrives so late today...I had quite a few things on my to do list, and I don't even have classes on Mondays! Sheesh. Aside from my normal trip to WF and laundry duty, I had a test to study for, an information session to attend, a dining committee meeting, and a gathering with friends to figure out housing for next year. All went well, but I thrive on organization, so today was a tad hectic for me. Let's hope for a calmer Tuesday!

Anyway, onto my favorite topic: FOOD. I had a quiet, albeit disappointing weekend (Duke didn't make it to the Sweet Sixteen...bummer!). In the midst of Saturday's tragic game, I dashed to a campus eatery to grab a bite to eat. As per usual, I had to tweak their offerings to suit my taste. I ordered the black bean burger (minus the icky ranch dressing) with a side of fruit. When I got it back to my room, I switched out the mammoth white bun for two slices of whole grain bread, and I added a spinach salad. I perform this little switcheroo pretty frequently, and I must say that it is so much more enjoyable this way than it is as ordered.

Sunday's lunch was not exactly your typical Easter fare. Since I was away from home for the holiday, and my roommate and friends were visiting family, I had a quiet afternoon to myself. In between study sessions (I have two psychology tests this week), I heated up a Boca burger (of the vegan and organic variety) and put it in a whole wheat pita with some spinach. I dipped the burger in some organic agave ketchup. Yep, you guessed it--another free sample. It tasted almost identical to the Heinz version, perhaps a tad less sweet. The texture was markedly different though. It wasn't quite chunky but reminded me of tomato paste rather than the typical smooth ketchup (or is it catsup?). I would buy it, because I like that it uses agave and natural ingredients while achieving the same taste as Heinz.

For dinner last night, I picked up another one of my favorite salads available on campus (I bet I have sampled every salad on campus at least twice). This one consists of a mountain of romaine topped with dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, shredded carrots, and the optional addition of blue cheese. I added the cheese last night because I was a little deficient in calcium and kcalories for the day, but sometimes I choose to skip it. Anyway, this salad is so good, it doesn't even need dressing. (PS Check out the cool design that the red onion makes).

Well I have some more pictures to share from today (hint: grocery inventory and banana flax oatmeal!), but I will save them for my next post on Wednesday.

Kristin from Kristin's Nibbles tagged me to describe my life in 6 words. That's a difficult task for someone as verbose as I am. However I will attempt it nonetheless: Health, faith, and organization keep Caroline content. OK, that's 7, but close enough, right? Thanks for tagging me, Kristin!

As an allusion to my next post, I will leave your with the question of the day: What's your favorite oatmeal mix-in?

Friday, March 21, 2008

One Down, Five to Go

I successfully made it through my first week after spring break...only a few more weeks until summer! I am ready for the warm weather and more importantly the fresh fruit and vegetables! In my opinion, there is almost nothing better than spending a morning at the local farmer's market. Until then, I will make do with campus fare...

Here is another glimpse of the offerings at some of the eateries at my university:

This is the Bean Taco Salad, ordered sans cheese and ranch dressing. I always request black beans instead of refried a) because the black beans are vegetarian and b) because black beans are probably more healthful than the refried. This restaurant has a great salsa bar with several different homemade varieties. You can bet I get my money's worth out of that! For this salad I chose pineapple salsa, pico de gallo, and classic red salsa. All spicy, the way I like it! Underneath the beans are some lame iceberg lettuce and tortilla chips that are always too soggy by the time I get to them. To round out the meal, I had an orange and a few pistachios.


As I mentioned in my last post, I had another meeting last night from 6 to 11...well, let's just say I didn't get back to my dorm room until approximately 12:30. Despite the late night, I was well-fed due to a little planning. I packed my dinner for the second night in a row. Thanks for all your suggestions--I will keep them in mind for next time:)

I packed a pretty simple spread: two whole wheat mini-pitas with natural PB and jam, a tiny can of low-sodium V8, a baggie of roasted soy nuts, and an apple. Tasty treats! A note on the jam: I just discovered this brand at Whole Foods called Bio Naturae--no added sugar or chemicals, and each tablespoon (of the raspberry variety) provides 48% of your daily needs for vitamin C!

I visited another campus eatery today for lunch. This cafe specializes in Asian cuisine, although it offers a random assortment of American dishes as well, such as omelets, smoothies, and burgers. Typically, I order off the Asian menu, however, and I always take advantage of their fresh fruit offerings. Today I ordered some steamed vegetables with garlic-shiitake tofu. I added some Bragg's Liquid Aminos when I got back because I wasn't really feelin' the duck sauce or insanely salty soy sauce.

Well, now I am off to enjoy my Easter weekend. Unfortunately, my university does not give us a break from classes for the holiday, so I will be away from family again this year. I am sure I will find a way to celebrate...What are your favorite dishes to prepare for Easter or for spring in general?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Busy Day

I have busy day ahead of me, but not as busy as it could have been. I got an e-mail this morning from one of my psychology Teaching Assisstants, saying that discussion section is cancelled for today...score! As a result, I have a little time to compose a blog post...

My breakfasts have been pretty boring this week...just haphazard bowl meals that aren't very pretty to look at but tasty nonetheless. I had a good-looking meal yesterday though for dinner. I picked up a Greek salad from an eatery on campus and then supplemented with a few things in my dorm room.

The Greek salad is a mix of field greens, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, red onion, and sprinkling of feta cheese..oh my! This is one of my favorite things to get on campus. Speaking of feta, has anyone tried soy feta? I see it in the store all the time, but I have never tried it. Anyway, along with it I had an Ezekiel pita and a generous glob of tomato-basil hummus.


This evening I have a commitment from 5:00 until 10:00, but I have to be ready to go at the bus stop by 4:30! Sheesh. So...looks like I must pack my dinner--you know how much I HATE that ;) I have a strange love of lunchboxes, so I am excited that I get to use my Fit & Fresh Tupperware today!

What you see here is a pita sandwich with a banana, salted cashews, and banana-carrot juice (more on that later). Inside the Ezekiel pita are Italian Herb tofu, spinach, and salsa. Kind of a strange assortment of flavors, but I didn't have any fresh tomatoes, so we'll call this Italian-Mexican fusion cuisine. I hope it doesn't get too soggy by the time I eat it!

As you may have noticed on the sidebar that I added recently, I am a food product reviewer. I frequently receive free samples of foods from companies that want me to feature their products on VegFamily. Yesterday First Juice sent me a few bottles of their lower-sugar fruit-vegetable beverages (yay for no artificial sweeteners!). It's really meant for young children, but I am sure I will enjoy it just as much. Plus, look at the cool bottle it comes in! I will definitely be saving the container for future use.

Well, I must go to my Cognitive Psychology class now. I will leave you with a few questions: do you pack your lunch/dinner? What are your favorite things to pack? I am always looking for fresh ideas!