Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Volume 6, Number 17: New Food Discoveries

Here are a few food-related discoveries I made earlier this month (the first two of which, I admit, I should have realized sooner except that some stupid and/or lazy thinking got in the way):

Pre-sweetened cereals aren't such a good deal.  Three weeks ago, Kroger had selected varieties of Kellogg's cereals on sale for $1.99, and two of those varities were the 17-oz. box of Frosted Flakes and the 12-oz. box of Corn Flakes. A few years ago, I would have snatched up the Frosted Flakes, based off of the belief that I would be getting 5 more ounces for the same price. But it dawned on me, part of that 17 ounces of Frosted Flakes has got to be sugar. And I need to cut pre-sweetened cereals out of my diet. So I went about figuring out how much cereal I would really be getting, by reading the Nutrition Facts box (seen here.) The math goes like this:
  • A 30-gram serving of Frosted Flakes contains 11 grams of sugar--so it stands to reason that a little over a third of a box of Frosted Flakes is sugar.
  • Considering the entire 17-ounce box, that box has 6.23 ounces of sugar and just 10.77 ounces of actual cereal.
Now I understood why my parents always thought pre-sweetened cereals were expensive (as well as unhealthy): They did the math. At long last, I picked the 12-ounce box of Corn Flakes over the 17-ounce 10.77-ounce box of Frosted Flakes.

Just because something comes in a mix doesn't mean it's hard to make!  Evidently, when it comes to cooking, I have been depending way too much on mixes. Brownies are a prime example--for the last ten years, the only way I ever made them was out of a mix (with Duncan Hines being my personal favorite). How ignorant I was. Earlier this month, I found out that brownies are easy to make--I already had all the ingredients for this simple recipe in the house, including a few I had hardly been using:
  • Cocoa: Last year, I bought a canister of unsweetened cocoa with the idea that I could use it to make hot cocoa in the wintertime, only to find that I'm not in the mood for cocoa nearly as much as I was in my childhood. So it had been sitting in my cupboard for a while (thank goodness it doesn't expire until 2014). Then I saw the recipe linked above on the back of the canister.
  • Flour (I bought it for making bread in my breadmaker, but it's something I don't do very often--not when I can get a loaf of bread for a buck most of the time)
  • Sugar (I bought it for making Kool-Aid, but I had given up Kool-Aid when I switched to diet drinks, so I wasn't using that as much)
  • Vanilla extract (I bought it eight years ago to use in a granola bar mix my mother gave me, but between then and a few weeks ago, I had not used it)
Imagine brownies suddenly appearing out of nowhere.  That's what this "discovery" felt like to me.  Making them without a mix could be cheaper than those boxed mixes, too (it's not often that the Duncan Hines mix goes on sale).  I've already made the above recipe a few times.

Steak sauce gives a kick to one flavor of Hamburger Helper: I used to consider the Beef Pasta version of Hamburger Helper to be one of the more boring varieties, one I'd have "once in a while". That is, until I had the idea of stirring in a little A-1 Steak Sauce. That makes all the difference in the world to be because I bleeping LOVE the taste of A-1.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Volume 6, Number 16: Diet Soda Reviews, Part VII (and a Coke Freestyle Update)

Diet Barq's Root Beer: Thumbs up. It's a different root beer flavor than Diet A&W--my guess is, Barq's is sharper (hence the slogan "Barq's got bite"), while A&W is creamier and not quite as strong. Bottom line, Diet Barq's is chug-worthy.  There's only one reason why it took so long for me to try this soda: My local grocery stores only make certain sodas available in cans but not in bottles, which sucks because the per-ounce price for soda in cans tends to be much more expensive than soda in bottles***.  Diet Barq's Root Beer is one of those sodas.

Diet Sierra Mist Ruby Splash: Thumbs WAY up. I like this a lot, partly because I like grapefruit-flavored sodas like Squirt and Fresca, and adding some grapefruit to Diet Sierra Mist is a home run for PepsiCo. The lemon-lime Diet Sierra Mist is available in both 2-liter bottles and cans, but for some reason, like Diet Barq's Root Beer, I have only ever found the Ruby Splash version in cans.

Kroger Diet Big K Citrus Drop Xtreme: On the fence (but only because, as I mentioned back in Volume 6, Number 9, I was never a big fan of Mountain Dew in the days when I drank "regular" sodas). I would drink it if there was nothing else in my fridge, but I can name 20 diet sodas I like better. That said, I suspect that if you like Diet Mountain Dew, you'd like Diet Big K Citrus Drop or Diet Big K Citrus Drop Xtreme.

Walmart Diet Dr. Thunder - On the fence. At least it didn't insult Dr Pepper the way Walmart's diet root beer offering insulted Diet A&W and Diet Barq's. But for what it's worth, it's not often that I go to Walmart for anything, so there isn't much point in buying a soda when the only place where you can return the bottle is a store you don't often go to.

Dr Pepper Ten - Thumbs up. This tastes even more like regular Dr Pepper than Diet Dr Pepper does. Maybe a tiny little bit of high fructose corn syrup (10 calories per 12 oz. serving) makes a big difference. I wonder what Cherry Vanilla, Cherry Chocolate or Raspberry Creme versions of Dr Pepper Ten would taste like if they existed (these are all varieties of Diet Dr Pepper than used to exist but no longer do).

Diet Coke with Cherry - On the fence. Not to be confused with Coke Cherry Zero (which I like). I liked it, but not quite as much as Coke Cherry Zero.

Coming soon: Diet Mountain Dew Code Red.  I bought a 12-pack of this at the same time that I bought the 12-pack of the Diet Sierra Mist Ruby Splash (it's yet another soda that I can only find in cans but not 2-liter bottles).

One more thing: I mentioned the Coca-Cola Freestyle Machine over a year ago.  Now it's available in many more locations, including several in Michigan, the closest of which is a burger restaurant in Auburn Hills (about 20 miles north of me).  And earlier today, Coca-Cola announced that it would install the machines at over 800 Burger King restaurants (note: that's only restaurants owned by BK, not those franchised by BK). The dream of tasting Coke Orange Zero, Coke Raspberry Zero, Coke Lemon Zero, Diet Barq's Vanilla, the various flavors of Sprite Zero, and a 50/50 mix of Fanta Cherry Zero and Fanta Lime Zero may come true in 2012!

*** For example, you might be able to find a 2-liter bottle of your favorite soda on sale for $1, which is 1.48 cents per ounce; you're lucky if you can get a 12-pack of cans of that same soda for $3, in which case it would run you 2.08 cents per ounce, which is over 40% more expensive.