Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Finn Crisp Thin Crisps

I have been enjoying Finn Crisps for a long time but recently it occurred to me that people are probably largely unaware of these crackers, which are unavailable at some large grocery chains. Those that do carry them have just one or two varieties - I have yet to see a store that carries the entire Finn Crisp line - so looking for a row of red boxes won't be much help. Those of you interested in these might have to do a little extra looking around in the cracker isle, or ask a clerk.

Finn Crisp Thin Crisps are sort of a thinner version of Scandinavian (and presumably Finnish) crispbreads. They're similarly textured with a kind of rough coating and discernible chunks of grain. The Original are made with whole grain rye flour, ideal for those avoiding white flour, and have a faintly "rye-ish" taste not unlike a rye bread. I really enjoy the depth of flavour but it may not be for everyone, and I highly recommend the Multigrain variety to those looking for a milder taste.

The Thin Crisps are harder than the average cracker which makes them particularly crunchy and a good match for any gloppy dip or spread. At 20 calories each you can coat them in your favourite toppings, or just mow through a whole box in a carbohydrate-starved frenzy, without too much eater's remorse.

I like these so much I've taken to packing some in my lunch nearly every day to have along with a salad or with cheese. If you are looking for a more complicated way to eat crackers there are a number of "recipes" on the Finn Crisp website.

Image from www.finncrisp.com

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Second Cup Brewed Iced Tea

It was never my intention to talk so much about tea, but I recently tried a beverage that might be a cost-and-calorie-friendly alternative to the Passion Tea Lemonade from Starbucks.

Second Cup's iced tea is brewed Earl Grey tea served over cubed ice, and if ordered on its own I believe it may be served unsweetened. However, a Second Cup employee let me know that they have a lemon sweetener in the form of a syrup that can be added, which tasted really lemony and lent some much needed sweetness to the tea. One squirt of syrup, enough for a small but perhaps a little skimpy for a medium, is only 70 calories and 17g of sugar compared to the Passion Tea Lemonade's 100 calories and 25 grams of sugar in a small beverage. The Brewed Iced Tea also cost around two bucks, if I am not mistaken, whereas the Passion Tea Lemonade is just over three.

I can't find any real faults in the Brewed Iced Tea, but because it's made from actual tea some drinkers may be surprised by the deep, faintly bitter flavour in place of the syrupy Nestea flavour they may have come to expect. Similarly, some may find one squirt of syrup isn't sweet enough and may want to opt for two, or perhaps try a different flavour altogether (I'd imagine raspberry would be good.) I have also heard that many of the Torani syrups used to make these kinds of drinks come in sugar-free varieties, though I can't confirm that your local Second Cup will have these, nor do I know what they use in place of sugar. I should also point out that the drink is not caffeine-free but I haven't noticed any changes in my energy level after drinking it. In a vaguely related matter, I do tend to prefer the more sterile ambiance of Starbuckses to the sometimes cluttered and almost totally brown interiors of Second Cup locations, and I have found myself wishing on at least one occasion that I could get this beverage at a Starbucks.

For those who, like me, are watching their sugar intake and their budgets I think the Brewed Iced Tea is a wonderful alternative. If any of you have tried the sugar-free Torani syrups, or if you have conducted your own comparison of the Brewed Iced Tea and the Passion Tea Lemonade, please do let me know in the comments!

Image from www.secondcup.com

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Feeling Calm Camomile Citrus Herbal Tea

I drink a lot of herbal tea and while I appreciate the soothing effects of a chamomile I've never really cared for the flavour. I've tried other varieties of calming teas but those often have a medicinal or licorice-y taste that I find even more unappealing. President's Choice has recently come out with Feeling Calm Camomile Citrus Herbal Tea - a chamomile based tea with citrus added for flavour.

I tend not to sweeten my tea and I noticed right away that Feeling Calm is subtly sweet on its own. It has an orangey flavour as well as some flowery tasting undertones, and overall the taste is a welcome improvement on the basic chamomile tea. The ingredient list includes spearmint which I have come to associate with more unpleasant or strong tasting varieties of tea, but in this case I found any spearmint flavour was totally imperceptible.

I'm uncertain to what degree these soothing teas work at all - when I do feel any effects they seem to be rather short-lived. Though I would be hard-pressed to prove it, the President's Choice tea doesn't seem to make me quite as sleepy as my usual Twinings chamomile, presumably due to a smaller amount of the key ingredient. Despite its failure to induce notable drowsiness I have continued to drink Feeling Calm for its pleasant flavour. I have also noticed some psychological benefits associated with the belief that a beverage can magically induce relaxation, namely that I am somewhat less concerned with how to magically relax.

In a slightly related matter, the product refers to itself as "camomile", but I have always spelled it "chamomile" and my spellcheck agrees. Is "camomile" the accepted Canadian spelling? Is "chamomile" perhaps an American variant? That might explain why it passes muster with my spellcheck, which puts a red zigzag under every "colour", "flavour" and "neighbour."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Starbucks Passion Tea Lemonade

I'm not much of a coffee drinker. I stopped drinking caffeinated coffee a few years ago when I found the rapid cycle of giddiness and irritability I was experiencing was hindering my performance at school and work instead of helping it. Last year when I discovered I was lactose intolerant I stopped drinking commercial coffees altogether due to the imperfect (and strangely gritty) nature of the soy-latte. Somewhere along the way I discovered the Tazo Shaken Iced Passion Tea Lemonade, a cold, caffeine free beverage available at starbucks.

The passion tea lemonade - which is what I call it when I order it, I had no idea it was "shaken" at all until I consulted the Starbucks literature - is possibly the closest thing I have ever had to a perfect beverage. It's sweet but also tart due to the lemonade, it has ice cubes instead of crushed ice which is my preferred mode of drink delivery, it is refreshing despite its strong flavour and it has a bright pink colour that says "Hey, I am enjoying a very special drink!"

What keeps the passion tea lemonade out of perfect drink territory is its sugar content. Though a small (or Mezzo in Starbucks terminology) is only 100 calories, it contains a whopping 25 grams of sugar. That is the recommended dose of sugar for your entire day, ladies and gentlemen! Needless to say, this is neither a diet beverage nor one that is free of hyper-making side effects. The 3$ price tag is also a source of minor discomfort but I suppose that is a bargain by Starbucks standards, whereby anything containing milk seems to automatically jump over the 4$ mark. Nonetheless, I would still highly recommend the passion tea lemonade to thirsty people looking for something different.

Image from http://www.myc.com.my/supplies/starbucks/starbucks.html

Monday, July 19, 2010

American Apparel Summer T

I really like a white t-shirt but I have a hard time finding a good one. Many are too big in the shoulders or the neck, and those that pass the fitting-room test often twist in the wash or ride up my hips during wear. American Apparel's "Summer T" is 100% cotton and comes in a fairly classic, unisex shape. This shirt has stood up to multiple washings and long, sweaty wearings and always snaps back to its original shape in the laundry. More importantly, the absence of any stretchy materials in the fabric means it won't creep up my sides or leave me at risk for accidental muffin-top display.

A drawback is the large, ribbed band at the neck which is a little less feminine than I would like. The sleeve is also a bit longer than most t-shirts styled for women, but could easily be rolled if that's your thing. In fact, the whole shirt is a bit bigger than I expected as there was almost no shrinkage whatsoever after the first wash! If I were to buy it again I would seriously consider an extra small, which might have a sleeve more in proportion with my tiny upper body.  Sadly at 23$ a pop they are a bit pricy to buy in multiples, but worth every penny for their general resiliency and failure to warp.

Image from American Apparel

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Brown Sugar Softener

Oatmeal enthusiasts have likely noticed that brown sugar wants to stick to itself and over time forms increasingly large, hard clumps. I suppose if left unchecked an entire container of brown sugar could become a giant-rocklike mass that one would have to chip away at with a spoon prior to each use.

A brown sugar softener is a terra-cotta puck (or bear, or other shape) designed to be soaked in water before beginning its new life right in your brown sugar container. I got one of these for my mom for Mother's day and it has really worked! I suppose I shouldn't find that as surprising as I do, these have been around for years and I'm sure many people were hip to this before me, but I was skeptical. I think the cutesy embossed designs made the brown sugar softener seem like a kitchen gadget for someone interested in inspirational magnets or cookie jars shaped like a chicken, not serious oatmeal consumers like myself.

I got mine for 2.99$ at Canadian Tire and soaked it for 10 minutes for 3 or 4 months of easy-scoopin' goodness. You'll know when you need to re-soak, as your brown sugar will start getting clumpy. A strange side effect is that some of the brown sugar has begun losing its colour and turning into regular white sugar around the edges, but it tastes the same as usual.

Image from Kitchen Stuff Plus

Make Up Forever HD Microfinish Blush

I have very oily skin and for years I have shied away from cream blush, but I wanted a product that would stand up to some sweating for the summertime. Make Up Forever HD Microfinish Blush is a cream product that comes in a little tiny pump (cute!) and a variety of pretty normal looking shades. It is intended for wear on cheeks, lips, and even eyes.

I am really delighted with this product! It seems to have more staying power than my powder, though I wouldn't say that it can last an entire day of profuse sweating or rubbing one's face in frustration (I tend to do a lot of both.) It could theoretically be applied with your fingers, but I use a brush and I find it helps the product not settle into any little lines or scars. It's super easy to blend and very pigmented, so a little goes a long way. In fact, the pump seems to dispense more than I need with one squirt and I wish I could get a little less at a time.

The idea of taking only one product with me when I am out for a long day was really appealing, and I had wanted to be able to use the product on my lips as well. Sadly the colour is super-opaque and when applied to the lips it takes on a foundation-like appearance, very matte and several shades lighter than my lip-colour. I went to the store to see if another colour would be more suitable, but this seems to be a problem with all of the colours I tried and in the end I stuck with the one I had. For those of you who are curious I am using #7, which I believe has an embarrassing name akin to "I am ever so slightly drunk, and blushing." You can see a list of all the colours here on the Sephora website.

As an aside, Sephora has an outstanding returns policy whereby you can return any product within 60 days. Buying cosmetics can be pretty hit-and-miss, whether it's buying the wrong colour or experiencing a major breakout as a result of a new product. Being able to return something you've tried for either exchange or a full refund (yes!) is hugely advantageous. The only drawback is that their store reeks so strongly of all their hundreds of perfumes that I can smell the aroma from outside the doors and, once inside, my eyeballs are immediately on fire. For those of you who, like me, have a chemical sensitivity to fragrance, I urge you to make Sephora the last stop on your shopping tour as you will want to go home and sneeze repeatedly after your visit. Alternately, you can shop on their wonderfully organized website which features hundreds of user reviews for nearly all their products.

Image from Sephora.com

Tropicana Lemonade

I'm a huge fan of Tropicana's lemonade, available in single-serving bottles in some depanneurs and other refrigerated drink displays. It comes in a rather distinctive bottle which is mysteriously absent from google images, but those of you familiar with Tropicana single-serving products can picture their orange juice bottle but with yellow product information and a lemon on it.

I don't recall what possessed me to try the Tropicana lemonade as I rarely buy bottled drinks and I find most commercially available lemonades sort of chemical and watery. Tropicana's lemonade is full of pulp and has a pleasant homemade kind of taste, complete with real sugar flavour rather than freaky sweetener aftertaste. I frankly can't get enough of it, but after a read of the nutritional info I've been limiting my intake to one a week. One little bottle is a sugar bomb and clocks in at 200 calories if I recall correctly. I also discovered the prominent pulp is in fact grapefruit pulp that has been added in after the fact, so those on medications that caution against grapefruit intake may want to abstain.

Still, this is by far the best readymade lemonade I've come across. For those of you interested, Minute Maid single-serving lemonade is by far the worst, with its neon-pink counterpart ranking a close second. (I suspect these may in fact taste the same but I do get a certain pleasure from drinking something pink.)