Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cut Calories: Chew Gum

Wrigley gum - 1.50 RMBImage by Lboogiepeace via Flickr
New Year's Day is fast approaching, so it is time to make those New Year's Resolutions.  For a lot of us, one of the more popular resolutions is to try to lose weight.  If you are trying to lose weight, any helpful tips are worth looking at.

A nutrition professor at the University of Rhode Island has just completed a study that suggests that chewing sugar free gum can help you reduce your calorie intake and increase your energy expenditures.  A winning combination to be sure in the battle of the bulge.

Participants in the study who chewed gum for three 20-minute sessions in the morning consumed about 67 less calories at lunch, and did not "make up" those calories later in the day.  Those same participants also expended about 5% more energy when chewing gum than when not chewing.

From personal experience, I feel like chewing gum helps me to curb my appetite somewhat.  Though, I have to admit that I do look at the results of the study with a bit of healthy skepticism.  The study was supported by a grant from the Wrigley Science Institute, part of the Wm Wrigley Gum Company.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rosetto Steam & Eat Cheese Ravioli

In my never ending quest to find high quality, easy to prepare frozen meals, I came across another new item for my wife and I to try.  I took a rare day off from the day job to attend a meeting at my son's school.  After the meeting my wife and I decided to stop by the grocery store to pick up something for lunch when we found Rosetto Steam and Eat Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Basil Sauce.  We have been very happy with the steam and eat vegetables we have tried, so we decided to give the ravioli a try.

The concept is pretty simple.  You put the whole bag in the microwave, nuke it for about seven minutes, and serve.  Preparation just doesn't get much easier than that.  So the easy to prepare part of my quest was met, but what about the quality?

To be honest, it was a bit of a mixed bag, no pun intended.  The flavor of the sauce was good, but there just wasn't enough of it.  The ravioli itself tasted like most store bought frozen ravioli, so it was OK.  Some of the ravioli got stuck together, and some of them were very hard.  To be honest, I don't know if that is a case of microwaving it a bit too long, or just a characteristic of the product.

We have another variety in the freezer, so we will have to give it a try before passing our final judgement on the product.  If I were to find the item on sale, I would probably buy it again if I had a hankering for ravioli and wanted it quickly instead of boiling the pasta and heating up a jar of sauce.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wanchai Ferry-Sweet & Spicy Shrimp

Have you seen this commercial for Wanchai Ferry frozen Chinese dinners?

That panda is so cute. I love Chinese food, but I have not found too many Chinese entrees in my local frozen food department that actually taste good. So while I do rave about the breadth and quality of items available in the freezer these days, I was a bit skeptical. But, they were on sale and figured it was worth giving them a try.  My local grocer had four varieties available.  I opted for the sweet & spicy shrimp.

Similar to the Stouffer's Anytime Gourmet item that I reviewed earlier, the Wanchai Ferry product come with each component individually packaged in the bag.  The first step was to heat a little oil in a non-stick skillet and stir fry the shrimp for 3-6 minutes until brown.  You remove the shrimp from the pan and set it aside.  Next you add a little water, the sauce packet, and the vegetable packet and bring it to a boil for three minutes.  Next you add the shrimp back to the mix and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.  The rice comes in a small steam pack that you nuke in the microwave for 2 minutes. 

The shrimp are pretty good sized shrimp; not little baby shrimp.  Likewise, the vegetables (baby corn, sugar snap peas, red bell peppers, and carrots) are substantial.  The sauce is sweet with a little bit of spice, but not overpowering.  The rice cooks up perfectly.  Their tagline at the end of the commercial is "Restaurant quality Chinese in your grocer's freezer."  Not quite, but very close.  It is by far the best quality Chinese meal that I have found to date in the grocery store.

If you want to give Wanchai Ferry a try, you can go their website and print a coupon good for $1.50 off a package.  There are five varieties available, Orange Chicken, Shrimp Lo Mein, Spicy Garlic Chicken, Sweet & Sour Chicken, and the variety I tried, Sweet & Spicy Shrimp. 

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Chicken With Grapes

This was my dinner from Thursday night.  It is a recipe that my wife got off the Food Network website.  I believe it is from Rachael Ray.

The original recipe calls for it to be served with couscous and roasted asparagus.  She sometimes serves it with the roasted asparagus, but she always ends up serving it over rice.

Below are the ingredients and instructions.

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 pounds chicken tenders
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grainy, stone ground mustard
  • 1-1/2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy skillet over medium high heat.  Place flour in a shallow dish.  Season chicken with salt & pepper and dredge in flour and place in the pan.  Cook the chicken 7-8 minutes until browned.  Add wine and scrape of browned bits as wine cooks down and bubbles for 30 minutes.  Add stick to skillet.  Combine cream and mustard and add to the stock.  Add grapes to the pan and turn chicken with grapes to coat and combine with the sauce.  Simmer 5 minutes over low heat.  Serve over rice.

A glass or two of the wine used to cook this dish tops it off perfectly.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Red Meat & Prostate Cancer

red meat in our kitchen (for the first time?) ...Image by sean dreilinger via Flickr
A few weeks ago, I made the decision to try to eat better and lose some weight.  I am eating a lot more fruit and salads.  For breakfast, I usually have a few pieces of fruit.  Lunch consists of a salad and a can of tuna.  My snacks have gone from candy bars, chips, and cheez its to granola bars or nuts.  I have even cut way back on my alcohol consumption, because I found that if I had more than a couple glasses of wine I would find myself chowing down on junk food.  So far, it has been working as I have dropped about 10 pounds in three weeks.

Another thing that I have to be concerned about is prostate health.  I am currently taking Avodart for an enlarged prostate.  My father has also suffered from an enlarged prostate, elevated PSA levels, but thankfully no prostate cancer

So it was a little disconcerting to see the news the other day that the American Journal of Epidemiology has released a study linking consumption of red meat and processed meat products with an increased risk of prostate cancer in men. They also found an increased risk when the meat was prepared on a grill. Red meat has also been linked with an increased risk of colon cancer. 

Now, I like a good steak as much as the next guy, but in light of this study, I should really should cut back on the amount of red meat I eat.  Currently, I probably have red meat at least twice a week.  I don't think I could ever completely give it up, but I should cut back to no more than once a week.  Another new dietary goal to shoot for. 
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Friday, October 9, 2009

Eclipse Breeze Exotic Berry & Exotic Mint Chewing Gum

I have a pretty cool job.  Each of the last two years, I have been able to attend the All Candy Expo in Chicago.  There, I get to see all sorts of different types of candies and snacks.  In my dealings with different manufacturers, I get to try all sorts of new products.

One of the more recent items that I have gotten to try is a new chewing gum from the Wrigley Company.  They have introduced two new varieties of their Eclipse chewing gum; Eclipse Breeze Exotic Berry and Exotic Mint.  The thing that makes these gums different from other gums that I have tried is that they contain the spice Cardamom.

Cardamom is used as both an spice and flavoring in cooking and as an herbal medicine.  As an ingredient it is used primarily as a spice in Indian food.  In medicine, it is used to treat infections in the mouth and gums and as a breath freshener.

The cardamom gives these two gums a unique flavor that has a spicy and herbal taste.  The flavor lasts a long time and leaves you with a fresh taste in your mouth.  It is probably safe to say that the cardamom flavor isn't for everyone, but I enjoyed it.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Prosciutto Wrapped Breadsticks

My family watches the Food Network on a regular basis.  My 15 year old autistic son is particularly fond of the competition shows like Iron Chef America.  My wife is constantly looking for new recipes to try out on me to change up our daily meals.

One of the recipes that she had found was a Prosciutto-Wrapped Breadsticks from Giada de Laurentiis. The dish is really intended to be an appetizer.  My wife would occasionally make it whenever she would fix a spaghetti dinner for us.  Every time she did, I would comment that  I could have it as a meal with a salad.  Last week she made them with a ceasar salad for dinner. 

The breadsticks are fairly easy to make.  The only ingredients needed are a can of refrigerated breadstick dough, grated parmesan cheese, and sliced prosciutto.  You take each strip of dough and roll it in the parmesan cheese. Then you twist the dough into sticks.  Wrap each breadstick in a slice of prosciutto and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or golden brown.  They are simply delicious.
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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bertolli Garlic Shrimp, Penne & Cherry Tomatoes

Here is another dinner for two that I recently found in the frozen food section of the grocery store.  Like I said previously, the quality and variety of frozen food that is available these days continues to improve.  It is so quick and easy to get a high quality meal to the table.

Bertolli Mediteranean Style Garlic Shrimp, Penne & Cherry Tomatoes is one such meal.  The dish consists of penne pasta, shrimp, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes in a light and tasty garlic sauce.  All it takes is about 8 minutes in a skillet and dinner is ready to be served.  I have tried other garlic shrimp dishes, but this one is my new favorite.  I really enjoy the tang that the cherry tomatoes add to it.

Bertolli has developed several different frozen entrees.  Some are skillet meals like the garlic shrimp, and others are oven baked dinner kits.  You can go to their website to see the wide variety they have available.  While there, you can print a coupon good for $1 off any Bertolli frozen meal.
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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Starbucks Via

I usually don't care for instant coffee very much.  It just doesn't have the save flavor as freshly brewed coffee.  The only time I even use instant coffee if I am making a coffee based ice cream.

Today, Starbucks Coffee has released nationally their version of instant coffee, Starbucks Via.  Via comes in two varieties, Columbia and Italian Roast.  Via is different from other instant coffee in that instead of being freeze dried crystals, it is whole beans ground into a very fine grind that Starbucks calls "microgrind."  Starbucks is convinced that you won't be able to tell the difference between Via and their regular brewed coffee that they will be having a taste test this weekend at participating stores.

I was fortunate enough to be given a sample of the Columbia Via at work today.  I have to say, that compared to other instant coffees, Via is definitely a better brew.  The taste was very close to the taste of the their drip coffees that I have.  So, if you like Starbucks drip coffees, the Via is an acceptable brew in my humble opinion.  However, like all things Starbucks, it is a bit on the pricey side.  A three pack of Via is expected to retail for $2.95, and a box of 12 for $9.95.  I little more than I am willing to pay since I can buy a can of ground coffee that will last a little more than a week for the same price as three cups of Via. 

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stouffer's Anytime Gourmet-Chicken & Asparagus Carbonara

One of my previous positions was the category manager of frozen food for the local division of a national supermarket chain.  One of my responsibilities was to decide what products the stores in my area would carry.  Over the years I got to see a lot of cool products, no pun intended.  Even though I have not been involved in frozen food professionally for some time, I still like to see the wide variety of new items available.  Frozen foods have come a long way.

When both my wife and I worked full time jobs, we had an agreement that I would cook on the weekends.  For some reason that I can not understand, that tradition continues on Sundays in my house, even though I work two jobs and my wife doesn't work.  No matter.

Today was my day to cook.  At first I was going to do something fairly simple like soup and salad, but I had a coupon for $2.50 off of any variety of Stouffer's new Anytime Gourmet kits.  I decided on the Chicken & Asparagus Carbonara.  The box describes the dish as "Chicken breasts seasoned with Italian-style spices and served in a smoky bacon cream sauce with linguine, peas, and asparagus."  As you can see in the picture, it comes as a kit with each part of the meal in individual pouches.

When I opened the pouch containing the two boneless chicken breasts, I could really smell the seasoning.  The first step is to saute the chicken until it is done.  You then remove the chicken and set it aside under aluminum foil to keep it warm.  Next you heat up the sauce briefly and add the pasta and vegetable pouch.  Pretty simple really.  All in all, the total cooking time was about 15 minutes.

I have to say that the flavor was fantastic.  The pieces of asparagus were a pretty nice size and very tender.  The seasoning on the chicken and the flavor of the sauce were spot on, not too mild and not too overpowering.  That was the good.  Now for the not so good.  I did not feel that the kit came with enough sauce.  There was no additional sauce to pour on the chicken breasts or pasta.  The only other complaint that I might have is that there really wasn't enough food for a stand alone meal.  Next time, I will have to add a salad or something.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Quick & Easy Chili Recipe

I was hoping to talk my wife into starting a blog on cooking since she is a better cook than I am, but so far she is not willing to start one. After all, I am a guy, and I mostly know how to cook guy food. That usually means steaks and burgers on the grill. However, since it is winter, and there is nothing I like more than a good bowl of chili (definitely a guy food) while watching a football game, I thought I would share my fairly simple chili recipe.

First the ingredients:
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium size onion
  • a little vegetable oil (how is that for specific measurements)
  • 1.5-2 pounds of ground beef
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes with green chilis
  • chili powder
  • 1 can of kidney beans (optional)

Take a large pot (technically a Dutch Oven, but since this is a guy recipe we will go with large pot) and pour enough oil in to cover the bottom of the pot. Chop the onion and garlic, add them to the pot, and start to cook over medium/high heat, stirring frequently. Once the onions are tender, and the ground beef and cook until brown. Once the meat is brown, add the tomato paste and the two cans of tomatoes with chilis. Once all of this is mixed well together and hot, add chili powder to taste (I usually use around 2 tablespoons). Now as far as I am concerned, the chili is done, but my missus insists the chili needs beans (I keep telling her it is called chili con carne, not chili con frijoles), so if you are so inclined, add a can of red kidney beans.

Well, there you go. Dinner is served. Pour yourself a big bowl, open a beer (do NOT pour into a glass, guys don't do that) and enjoy.

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Welcome To My Blog

USDA Food PyramidImage via Wikipedia
Diet.  The very word conjures up negative images.  While most people associate the word diet with denying yourself of some food and drink for the purpose of losing weight, in reality, diet really is more about the food and drink you consume on a regular basis.

I am a man in my late 40's.  Currently, I am not the heaviest I have ever been, but I am perilously close.  For a few weeks I have been telling myself that I really do need to lose some weight.  About a week ago, two things took place that made me finally start my quest to shed some tonnage.  First and foremost, I got tired of feeling crappy all the time.  Second was when I split the seat out of a pair of pants.  I am pretty sure that I caught my pants on something and that caused the tear, but the thought that it just might be my big behind was a concern.

Earlier this week, I weighed in at 226 lbs, about four pounds shy of my previous high.  In the past, I have always felt pretty good at around 200 lbs.  According to the weight charts and body mass index, I should weigh between 155-175lbs.  I have two goals right now.  There are currently 15 weeks left in 2009.  If I could lose 1.5 lbs per week, I could be at 200 lbs by the end of the year.  If I can make that, then I want to shoot for around 180 lbs by summer and try to maintain that weight.

While I do intend to touch on my weight loss adventure on this blog, the title of the blog is Dickster's Food & Diet Blog so I intend more to focus on the food aspect.  I have spent most of my life in the retail food industry.  I intend to review food items that I find that I particularly have enjoyed, recipes that I like, and any food and nutrition news that I come across in my travels.  Feel free to join in the journey.
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