Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Peanut Butter vs. PB2 vs. Better'n Peanut Butter

I definitely have a love affair with peanut butter.  When we went on vacation this summer, I gave myself permission to eat what I wanted to for one week.  I was craving peanut butter, avocados and granola.  I know that doesn't seem unhealthy but portion control gets me into trouble.  That's why I do Weight Watchers.  Even before I started Weight Watchers last summer, I felt like I ate relatively healthy.  But portion control has to be a part of your healthy lifestyle too.  So on vacation, I ate as much peanut butter (the good, full fat kind), granola and avocados that I wanted.   I also ate some other things that were less healthy (I don't really need to mention those!)  :)  When I got back, I had gained 6 pounds!  That was with hiking every day in the national parks!  But I got it off in about 2 weeks and started losing again. 

Last week, I ordered some PB2 and got it in the mail yesterday.  I ordered both the regular and chocolate kind.  I was like a kid on Christmas morning, I couldn't wait to open it up and try it!  Nothing compares to the "real deal" (meaning delicious, full fat peanut butter) but I am up for trying the alternatives.  I thought it might be useful to kind of do a pros and cons list of the different types of peanut butter products out there.  I haven't tried all of them (especially since some of the products aren't vegan) but this is what I have tried. 

Regular Peanut Butter
Regular peanut butter is delicious and full of protein.  I also love that you can buy it organic.  I try to buy as many organic products as possible and most of the peanut butter alternatives are not organic.  I don't really think there's an alternative product on the market that gets the taste of true peanut butter just right.  However, real peanut butter is not too Weight Watchers friendly.  You can have 2 TBSP for 4 pts.  That's pretty pointy.  But you can have 2 teaspoons for 1 pt.  If you use peanut butter like a condiment, this can satisfy your craving for peanut butter without costing you a lot of calories, fat or points.  Sometimes I will toast an english muffin (Nature's Own 100 Calorie Multigrain is just 1 pt.) and then put 2 teaspoons of peanut butter on it with a little Organic Zero sweetener or Truvia.  It's a good snack that keeps me full for awhile.  Even though peanut butter is considered a very healthy food, I have to really watch myself with it.  I tend to eat way too much so I have to keep the alternative products on hand for that reason. 

I ordered (from both the regular and chocolate of PB2.  The regular has 45 calories, 1.5 grams of fat and 2 fibers for 2 TBSP.  That means if you do 4 TBSP, it's still going to be just 1 pt!  And the bonus is that when they take out the fat, it doesn't affect the protein.  2 TBSP of PB2 still has 5 grams of protein.  So when I had 4 TBSP of it with my english muffin yesterday, that was a 15 grams of protein snack for 2 pts.  (I also sprinkle a little sugar alternative on this too b/c I like my peanut butter to be a little sweet.)  Another perk is that since it's powder, you can take it on an airplane in your carry on bag!  

Later on last night, I decided to try a smoothie using the PB2.  I took a frozen banana, 1 cup of the Silk Pure Almond milk Original and 4 TBSP of the PB2 (mixed with 2 TBSP water) and put it in the blender.  The smoothie was okay but not spectacular.  I probably won't make it again.  It did have a peanut butter taste though.  I think if I play around with the smoothies a little bit I will be able to get one that I like.  I plan on trying the chocolate kind soon, but the nutritional information is just slightly different for it so I won't be able to have 4 TBSP for 1 pt-just 2 TBSP. 

Better'n Peanut Butter is very sweet.  That can be a good thing or a bad thing.  It's almost like a dessert food for me.  In fact, it's kind of a trigger food.  I have noticed that when I put it on my english muffin, I tend to put way more than the 2 TBSP I set out to use.   I think it's the sugar in it that causes me to do that.  With that aside, I do like the Better'n Peanut Butter.  It doesn't have the same consistency as real peanut butter but I still like the taste.  It also doesn't have quite as much protein.  I have noticed that when I use it for my breakfast, I don't feel full for very long.  I find myself wanting to eat something again right away.  I think that might actually be more of the sugar than the protein that causes that.  

So, my conclusion is that real peanut butter is ALWAYS best.  If you can eat it without worry in your diet, then you should go for it!  However, if you are like me and you need some alternatives, I would definitely recommend the PB2.  I ordered it from and they have a flat rate shipping fee of $4.95.  (That is a better deal than ordering it from Bell Plantation.)  I can't say that I would really recommend the Better'n Peanut Butter.   I think there's a whole lot of ingredients in it and overall it just seems like empty calories to me.  But that's totally my opinion.  :)  I hope this helps you on your quest for delicious, healthy peanut butter!  

Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Review: Get Healthy, Go Vegan

I have to be honest, I have never read one of Dr. Neal Barnard's books.  He has written countless introductions in the many vegan cookbooks I own, but I have yet to read an actual book he has written.  (It is definitely on my to do list!)  When I found out about his cookbook though, I knew I needed to get it.  And now that I own it, I couldn't be happier about it.  I have made 5 recipes and they have all been delicious and relatively easy.  I will go through the recipes I have made so you can have an idea about them.  Another added perk to this cookbook is that it includes all of the nutritional information at the bottom of the recipe.  This helps out a lot if you are counting calories or tracking Weight Watchers points

Vanilla French Toast:  I just used the non-dairy milk I had on hand for these which was Silk Pure Almond Original milk.  I may have added a little extra milk to the recipe too.  I cooked the french toast on the griddle using a small amount of oil.  The good thing about using silken tofu in this recipe is that it provides protein to keep you full longer.  I also made some Gimme Lean Sausage style patties to go along with the french toast.  The recipe turned out great and I only used 1 TBSP of maple syrup to go with the french toast.  It was enough syrup to cover the french toast without adding a lot of sugar.  This recipe was easy and a hit! 

Fire Roasted Tomato Black Bean Chili:  I am really not that fond of chili-it's just never been one of my favorite meals.  However, my spouse loves it.  So I try to make it every so often for that reason.  I did like this chili recipe as far as chili recipes go, however, I would make one change.  The recipe calls for 2 TBSP of chipotle seasoning and I would use far less than this.  I used the 2 TBSP and the chili was VERY spicy!  I would probably use 1/2 TBSP or maybe even less.  Other than that, the recipe turned out great and was a very easy dinner to make. 

Mixed Veggie Curry with Whole Wheat Couscous:  I LOVED the flavors of this recipe!  Once again, this was another easy to make.  It wouldn't be out of the question for a busy work night.  The thing I love about couscous is that it cooks up so fast and the whole wheat variety has quite a bit of protein per serving.  If you wanted to add extra protein, I would throw in some chickpeas to the recipe or serve them on the side.

Three Layer Tortilla Casserole:  Instead of using a pie plate for this recipe, I used an 8x8 casserole dish.  This recipe was very filling and was also super healthy.  I loved how the recipe basically has you make your own refried beans out of black beans.  You put the cooked black beans in the food processor along with some other spices and ingredients to create more of a bean paste than actual beans.  I think this is a good move for a layered casserole.  I use the Carb Watch tortillas from Trader Joes which are very Weight Watchers friendly.  This recipe was very low in points and it's on my list of recipes to make again! 

Raspberry Cake:  This cake makes 2 servings.  So if you are entertaining you will probably, at least, want to double the recipe.  With that said, I have made this cake at least 4 times now!  The first time, I made it exactly like the recipe said.  Very delicious!  The second time, I decided to make it a chocolate cake.  I think I would have to do a little more tweaking to that to make it just how I want it.  The only drawback to this recipe is that it calls for Grand Marnier to be poured over the cake.  I didn't realize this until I got into the liquor store, but Grand Marnier is expensive!  At my local liquor store, it was $25 for the smallest bottle they had.  But luckily the recipe just calls for 2 TBSP to be poured over it.  I even use less now.  I just use one TBSP over the cake and that's plenty.  It was actually a little strong the first time I made it.  The cake is super easy to whip up, but you have to allow at least one hour for the Grand Marnier to sit on the cake before serving.  So you have to be willing to wait a little while for dessert.  :)  Another thing I slightly changed is that I don't sift out the seeds from the raspberry sauce.  The seeds don't bother me or my spouse so I just cook the raspberrys until they are a sauce and pour it directly over the cake.  That saves a little extra time and energy. 

These are the recipes I have made so far.  When I first got the cookbook, I went through and wrote down every recipe I wanted to make.  I still have 25 recipes to make!  :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Butternut Squash Mushroom Lasagna

I LOVE butternut squash.  We planted a whole row of it this year in our garden and it's now starting to produce butternut squash that's ready to be picked.  I couldn't be happier!  Last fall, I got obsessed with cooking butternut squash, but we had to buy them and sometimes they can be a little pricey.  But one of my favorite dishes that I started making last fall was a butternut squash stuffed shells with Hurry Up Alfredo Sauce from Vegan Yum Yum.  However, when I use pasta, I like for it to be whole wheat and I can't seem to find large whole wheat shells.  Plus, it's already a fairly time consuming recipe, so stuffing shells just added to the recipe time.  So when we picked our first butternut squash the other day, I decided to reinvent the recipe to make it more Weight Watchers friendly and a little quicker to make.  It's not the prettiest lasagna, but I love the taste.  Here's the recipe:

Butternut Squash Mushroom Lasagna
(Makes 6 servings)

-1 small to medium butternut squash
-whole wheat lasagna noodles
-1 batch tofu ricotta (recipe to follow)
-1 batch Hurry Up Alfredo (I will note my modifications to this recipe)
-2 packages mushrooms 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut and prep the butternut squash-it should be cut in small cubes.  (Here's a link to a video for cutting a peeling a butternut squash.) Spray a pan with nonstick spray.  Sprinkle some salt on butternut squash before baking.  Bake for 10 minutes and, with a spatula, move the squash around and cook for another 10 minutes or until tender.  Once it is done, take out of oven and set aside.  

Make a batch of tofu ricotta:
-1 tub firm tofu
-1/8-1/4 cup soy or other nondairy unsweetened milk
-1 tsp sugar
-1 tsp salt
-1 TBSP dried basil
-1 TBSP lemon juice
-1-2 cloves garlic (minced)

Make sure tofu is drained or excess water.  Tear into pieces and put into food processor.  Process for a few seconds. Add all other ingredients until it has the consistency of ricotta cheese.  Make sure all big clumps of tofu are processed down.  Once "ricotta" is made, put in bowl and set aside.  

Boil the whole wheat lasagna noodles and drain when they are tender.  I run cold water over them to keep them from sticking together.  

Next you want to prepare the Hurry Up Alfredo Sauce.  These are some of the modifications I have made to make it more WW point friendly.  I use 1 ounce of cashews instead of 1/3 of a cup.  I use Smart Balance Light instead of Earth Balance.  I use 1 tsp of tahini instead of 1 TBSP.  Once you prepare the sauce, set aside.  

Then you want to saute the mushrooms.  I just saute them in some water and maybe just a pinch of salt.  Once they are ready, put them in a bowl and set aside.  

Now you are ready to assemble the lasagna.  Using an 8 x 8 pan, put some of the alfredo sauce on the bottom and on the sides.  Then place enough lasagna noodles on the bottom to cover the bottom of the pan.  Then place a layer of the "ricotta cheese" over the lasagna noodles.  Then some of the mushrooms and butternut squash.  Then some more sauce.  Cover with lasagna noodles and repeat the process.  My lasagna has 3 layers of noodles (on the bottom, middle and top).  I also try to save some of my butternut squash, mushrooms and sauce for the top.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until warm all the way through.  

For best results, let the lasagna sit for about 10-15 minutes before serving.