Having your cake and eating it too

Evening, Dear Readers:

After the last post about carbs, carbs, and more carbs, I thought I’d offer some balance in reporting tonight. You can, to a certain extent, have your “cake” and eat it too. No, I’m not talkin’ about the Easy-Bake ovens again. Keep reading.

My pub buddy is ill tonight, so I’m camping in. I’ll think good thoughts for him and hope he gets better soon–pub night or no pub night. They’ll have steak night again next Monday, no problem.

Left on my own, I had a few errands to run, including the return of some sesame oil that actually contains slimy, disgusting soybean oil. Yuck. I didn’t realize it when I bought it, darnit. No matter, they refunded my $2.78 and that was that.

Earlier this morning I was looking for something or other and came across the web page for the Reily Food Company, a 100-year-old New Orleans-based company that has a myriad of regional and national brands like French Market Coffee, Blue Plate Mayo, and others that you may use regularly. But I got curious about the “No Pudge Brownie Mix,” which I’d seen but not paid attention to previously. After returning the sesame flavored soybean oil, I stopped in Kroger to check it out.

They make Chocolate Raspberry, folks. That’s my favorite flavor of just about anything. Seriously. Not only does the combination of chocolate and raspberry taste magnificent, it really grosses out my parents. THAT’S even better–and better than a tattoo. (Maybe for my 80th birthday, if I’m lucky.)

Alas, Kroger only had the original, no other flavors. But that’s OK–I figured that. And what was the -*first* ingredient in this magical fat-free mix that calls for fat-free yogurt?  Pure cane sugar. Yeah, that’ll take the weight right off! Said no weight loss doctor ever.

I’m listening to Michael Jackson’s classic song Bad. It sounds off, because I’m used to hearing Weird Al Yankovic’s Fat. All these years later, it still cracks me up when the guy jumps on Weird Al’s back and they both fall over–forward. Thank heavens for fat suits.

So I already had a plan if No Pudge turned out to be a dud. Kroger has my favorite flavor of something called Larabars. If you’ve never heard of these babies, it’s because they don’t advertise on TV. At least, not that I’ve ever heard of.

I first discovered these in 2008 while at my local Buddhist house of worship, where someone had left a huge bag of promotional minis in the kitchen for folks to try. Turns out the lady (who I have yet to meet) works for the distributor and that’s how she got them. I saw people eating them but had to wait to find out what it was. It was intended for the Youth Division, but kids don’t like that kind of thing, they prefer Fruit Rollups. (Yuck.) I tried every one of them and loved the Cherry Pie the best. I took a bunch home and enjoyed them all week.

While evacuated to New Orleans for Hurricane Ike in September 2008, I was at the Winn Dixie on Jefferson Highway with a friend and picked up a couple of the Larabars. All of a sudden, I was hooked–I couldn’t stop eating the Cherry Pie and Apple Pie Larabars. (This was a stressful period, trust me.) They sold for about $1.98 in both Winn Dixie and Whole Foods at the time. Later, the price went down to about $1.25 a bar, but go on sale occasionally for less. Once in a while, you can find “out of date” bars on sale for half price, too.

Larbars are simply bars made of unsweetened dried fruits and nuts with some spices added for extra flavor. They’re about the size of a standard candy bar, maybe a bit smaller. Having tried many “diet” bars and protein bars, these are definitely better.

They are also infinitely healthier than candy bars, as well as other stuff that masquerades as “health food.” Like that Kashi stuff, which are simply soy-laden candy bars. I’ve never eaten one, but I’ve seen the ingredient list. Seriously, the little meal replacement bars are candy, nothing more. How do you think they get carob to taste like chocolate? Chemicals and soy. I was hoping they’d have Larabars at the bookstore at work, and even asked about it, but no such luck–they got those Kashi bars instead. Might as well eat a Three Musketeers! (Oh, well, I don’t work there anymore anyway.)

Larabars are no more than 9 ingredients, and most are soy-free, wheat-free and GMO free.  Jocalats are organic, and always chocolate. They are not as sweet as Larabars, but are equally good (albeit harder to find sometimes.)  The newest additions to the Larabar family are uberBars, which are a sweet/salty combo (and contain corn syrup) and something else called ALT bars, which vegan, kosher, have natural ingredients and flavorings and come in four dessert flavors. I only found ALT bars when I went to the website; I’ve never even seen them.

Created by Lara Merriken in 2003, they have quietly become a very popular and healthy treat. They aren’t raw, by any means, but they are natural and somewhat processed so that they can be formed into the bars. The company has since been acquired by General Mills, (which may explain the price drop) and are available just about nationwide. No kidding. I’ve bought Larabars in Target in Mesa, Arizona, as well as Cocoa Beach and Delray Beach, Florida, both at Publix. Not to mention Metairie, Louisiana and nearly-everywhere-in-Houston, Texas.

There is something for just about everyone, and you can see the Larabar flavor list here. Jocalat can be seen here, uberBars are here, and the new ALT bars are here.

I have introduced a number of people to these bars of natural sweet goodness, including two neighbors, one manager I used to work for, and several coworkers. One of them, a lady in Florida, ordered a BOX of chocolate coconut chews from–and she didn’t like them. Oops! She gave them to someone else, and never tried another one again. Really, she could have bought them at Publix, because I did–the one right there in Cocoa Beach! Maybe she’s tried them again, I haven’t asked. However, she’s the only one, so far, who has not liked them.

Last year, after “liking” Larabar on Facebook, I was informed that I was their fan of the week. Woo hoo! I don’t know if they still do it, but they send one fan a Larabar package consisting of some Larabars (naturally) and a neat toy. In my case, it was a foam sumo wrestler! I still have it, and the nice note from Annie. But the Larabars have long since disappeared–I couldn’t resist. Here’s a hint: if you buy them directly from the company online, they are soft like room-temperature butter. When you eat a PB&J bar that soft and close your eyes, you think you’re eating a sandwich–and there’s no bread. No kidding. (Now I squeeze them when I buy them.)

I had been sending an elderly friend some at Christmas, but couldn’t do it this last year. (I think I managed a card, darnit.) I was going all over town to get one or two bars of each flavor, and finally, someone got the brilliant idea to start up an assortment box for first time buyers!  And about time, too. I was so happy to see that, the next year I sent my friend two of them.

So now if you’re wondering what my favorites are, well, there are several. For Chocolate Chip Brownie, Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte, Tropical Fruit Tart, Blueberry Muffin, Carrot Cake and Ginger Snap, I’ll physically move you out of my way (I don’t care how big you are, either.) Especially CC Brownie–that’s the one I grab first, sometimes along with CC Cherry Torte. FABULOUS.

I also enjoy the aforementioned PB&J when they are soft, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, and Cashew Cookie are also good. I have, unfortunately, not yet tried the Cappuccino for some reason, but the rest are also pretty good, I just have my favorites. What I like may *not* be what you like, so use your own discretion. If you just love lemon stuff, go for that first and see how you like it, you know?

I will say that I don’t care for the other peanut butter bars, but that’s just me. For some reason, the other PB flavors don’t translate over for me. You may go bonkers over CC Peanut Butter Cookie. Go for it.

A word of warning: do NOT eat more than two at a time in a 24 hour period. A couple of years ago I got some on sale and had four CC Brownie bars. I was on the computer one Friday night and wasn’t paying attention to how many I ate. Oops. . .four. Sunday morning I was in pain, and we’ll leave it at that. Let’s just say you aren’t going anywhere for a while. Never did that again. Remember that there can be too much of a good thing. This is only the fault of me, not of the Larabars.

Warning aside, if you are interested in some healthy snacking, may I respectfully suggest seeking out Larabars (one or two at a time, please.) They are either with the “health” or “natural” foods, or in the pharmacy area (that’s where Target and Wal-Mart have them, anyway.) Vitamin Shoppe doesn’t sell them anymore, but lots of grocery and health food stores sell them. If you’re in Texas, I’ve found the Jocalats in both Central Market and the HEB in the Market Place in The Woodlands–but no other HEB, yet.

And if your local store doesn’t carry them, ask! Or just order them online from their online Larabar store, where you can find additional information on ingredients and nutrition.

Happy Dining!

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