Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You Bar Review, a Great Deal and "Tag" Questions Answered!

I'm kind of on a health kick. Remember those adorable little pumpkin cupcakes? I only had one. I know, weird. Especially for me.

I know I've told you all before that I am fairly good about my eating, but I know you don't care what was in my sandwich at lunch (peanut butter and honey, turkey and avocado, mozzarella in spinach, if you must know). You also know I'm a trainer. I love helping people get le fit, and I believe that diet is the cake, exercise is just the icing. (Like how I made a foodie reference?)

A lot of people I work with ask me about nutrition this and supplement that. Protein poweder is like crack in my gym... they're all on it! I don't really use it. I tried Muscle Milk but I prefer to chew than sip my calories. No offence you muscle milk heads, you.

I, on the other hand, am a nutriton bar fiend. Love them. LOVE! But, with all the choices out there, it can be a bit hard to navigate. What better way than for me to try them for you? So health nuts, tune in as I go through some brands you may know, and some you may not!

Review #1: You Bar
Okay, so You Bar was one of those products that looked super inticing to me. The premise they have is "you choose the ingredients; you name the bar; you enjoy it." Sounds good to me.

If you go on their website, you will find that this company is all about you (no pun intended). Between the You Bar, You Shake, You Trail Mix and even You Cereal, there are tons of possibilities to try for any sort of snack you could imagine.

For the bars, you a base of nut butters and/or dates. Recommended is the date and almond butter combo, and I definintely loved the date-based ones I had. You then can choose a protein powder, nuts and seeds, dried fruits and berries, sweeteners, seasonings, chocolates, grains, and even infusions. Like I said, the possibilites = endless! Then, on the side of the screen you can see the nutrition label for your specific bar, down to every last addition. Awesome.

Then, then... you can also customize your own trail mix. I mean, c'mon! How great is that?! Talk about going nuts on nuts... you can add up to five from a big list of cashews to pistachios to walnuts. You can also pic for less nuts, more nuts or "normal" nuts. Talk about specific.

Then you scroll down and throw a mini party when you see that you can add sun drops candies, chocolate covered raisins, espresso beans and any dried fruit you can think of.

Once you pick your ingredients you name your bar, order as many as you'd like and before you know it, your completely customized box will arrive.
How cool is that? So, how did these products stack up?

Well, I tried four bars and two of the trail mixes.
This one is the Honey Cashew. It has the consistency of a short bread cookie, which I loved, but the flavor (almost) of peanut butter crackers. It was a bit crumbly, but definitely filling. It sort of has that stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth thing going on, which is exaclty what I love about nut butters (cashew butter, in this sense). There were only four ingredients in this... clean and simple: Cashew Butter, Whey Protein, Nutty Rice Cereal, Organic Honey
Here we have the Great Date With Chocolate (above and below). This one was awesome popped in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds. It tasted like a brownie but obviously was way healthier. The sweetness of the dates really complimented the chocolate nicely. It was chewy, a little sticky and satisfying with a glass of cold milk.
Brownies for snacks? OKAY! Definintely my favorite of the bars. Ingredient list? Short and sweet:  Organic Dates, Whey Protein Isolate, Organic Honey, Cocoa.
This little guy is the Goji Macadamia. I've never had this combination before... In fact, I've never had gogi in general. This bar was definitely not as sweet as the previous, which is great if you are more of a salty person. Me, I tend to like sugar sugar sugar! I mean, just a bit won't hurt me, right? I love that you can see all the different ingredients here!!
Lastly is the Breakfast Bar. This one is a lot like the Great Date With Chocolate, but less caloric. I wish I had thought to pop this one in the microwave but alas, I had it room temp. Still good. Again, the dates make for this chewy consistancy that is great. I love love love the subtle hint of coffee and cinnamon. It made for a really nice mix of flavors. Made with Dates, Egg white powder, Honey, Cocoa Powder, Instant Coffee Crystals (caffeinated), Cinnamon.
Next I tried the trail mix. This one, Chocolate Trails, was easily my favorite. I love the sweet and salt combinations and the fact that their nuts are raw. Sodium can really be cranked up by salted nuts. The mix consisted of Pecans, Dried Cherries, Peanuts, Milk Chocolate Raisins, Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, Mini Pretzels, and it kept me satisfied for about three hours-- yum!

Lastly I tried The Best Trail Mix, which I think would be a hit around the board. I loved everything except the walnuts, and that's just a personal preference. The sweetened berries and the crunchy nuts and the chocolate were a great mix. I had this while driving through the Virginia country side, and without a lunch, this was able to keep me full until dinner time. Can't beat that. Made with: Almonds, Organic Cashews, Walnuts, Organic Sunflower Seeds, Dried Sweetened Blueberries, Sweetened Cranberries, Sun Drops Original Chocolate Candies.

So, bottom line? I would recommend You Bars. Customization is key for this company, and if you make something you don't like, you can get a refund.  And guess what, because you're a reader of my blog, all you have to do is use the code "themessiekitchen" in your order and you get 10% off!

This would be a thoughtful gift for your health concoius colleague, or even your picky friend. Again, the possibilities are endless, so there's no doubt you will find something you love!!

On a side note, I was tagged by Jason from Ancient Fire Wine Blog to answer a few questions about myself and then to pass it on to fellow bloggers. Here are the nitty gritty details about yours truly...

1. Desert island dish. You are on a desert island, what dish will you take to survive?
Oh geez this is a tough one. There are so many foods that I would crave all the time but if I were limited to just ONE thing, I would probably have to bring a really great loaf of bread and hunk of cheese. And from there the options would be endless... panini over the fire, fondue seasoned with sea salt. A deserted island might not be that bad...!

2. What kitchen utensil explains your food personality the best?
Hmm... I'm having a hard time deciding between an ice cream scoop and a kitchen scale. I have a really serious and particular side of me (anal?), but that only really comes into play when I need it to. For the most part, I'm looking to scoop the fun out of life. Can I get any lamer? No.

3. When you were younger, you pick how long ago, how hard would you have laughed if someone told you this is what you would be doing right now?
Absolutely! I've always loved food. I mean, basically a month into my life I was a tubbo. Not just a chubby baby but a seriously-big. My little old grandmother was appalled one time when she saw how fat I was. Little known fact. I have, however, very much changed my palate. Just three short years ago, the only vegetables I ate were iceburg lettuce drowned in ranch, corn soaked in butter or potatos fried in oil. So, if you were to tell me I ate portobello mushrooms, polenta, plain yogurt and soy... I'd die.

4. What is the nastiest, grossest, most detestable food you have ever had?
Easy, olives. I hate olives. I hate them on my pizza. I hate them in my martini (well, I don't drink martinis, but I would imagine). No olives. Never.

5. What is your favorite food you don’t make and how far would you travel for it?
Hmm... I've really tried to recreate all the food that I love, but I think my answer would be pizza. I do make it, but I've yet to make one that can top Regina Pizza in the North End in Boston, and if I do, I'll sell you the recipe. I'd travel far far distances for good pizza. Cheese and bread and marinara sauce? Basically my favorite thing ever. (See desert island answer)

6. Who is the best person to have in the kitchen with you, and why?
I love to cook with my friend Amie because we really balance each other out in the kitchen. She loves rich creamy food and I love stuff not as heavy. We can meet in the middle and make something slammin'. Also, have you seen the desserts we've made? I mean, c'mon! There is something therapeutic about cooking with a friend. We can chat the whole time or not say a word, and either way it was a good time.

7. First alcoholic beverage you ever had.
Dry gin. God, I know. Awful choice. That's what happens when you sneak it from your next door neighbors grandparent's liqour cabinet.

8. What is your biggest food blog challenge and how are you working to overcome it?
There are two. The first is that there are not enough hours in a day to take good photos, eat good food, write about it, and do all those other things in life like school, work, social life... I struggle to keep up with my blog in the busy summer and fall. During the summer, The Messie Kitchen was booming! Something a little more mentally challenging is as a blogger, you always compare yourself to your peers. I've gotten a lot of inspiration from other bloggers and I've seen my own writing rub off on others--so strange! But all that mutual territory makes you wonder, why is someone getting more hits than you, why aren't your readers commenting, yadda yadda. And I think here it is important to remember, that as much as I love my blog, the people I've "met" on the journey, and the stories I read, there is always life outside of the internet, and it doesn't care if my pictures are a little blurry.

Well, I am at work and I definitely need to get back to fitness assisting--oops! So I will admit I'm not "tagging" anyone new, but hopefully you will see many of your favorite bloggers answering some of your favorite questions!

Take care, and enjoy the Virginia rain!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Stuffed Cupcakes with Butterscotch Buttercream Icing

Everywhere around me it seems like people I care about are suffering through something. Even in the blogosphere I’ve been reading about tough situations, sad days and bad news. It’s heartbreaking.
Though my thoughts and prayers go out to all of the people in my life, sometimes there is nothing better than a big plate of something to make it all better, if only for a few minutes.
 For me, comfort food doesn’t have one identity; rather, it represents anything that makes the blues go away. Today, I invite you to serve up one of these adorable cupcakes to your friends and family.
The smiles will begin and just one smile is representative that yes, the pain will be gone soon.
Be advised, this isn't a quick recipe, but it will truly brighten your day, promise!
What ya need:
1 batch of pie crust (2 pieces, can be your recipe, but I used store-bought)
1 15 oz. can pumpkin pie filling
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup whole milk
2 1/2 cups flour
For the buttercream you’ll need:
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butterscotch chips
splash of whole milk

What ya do:
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and prepare the mini pumpkin pies: Mix up the pumpkin pie mix according to the can’s directions. Roll out the pie crust and cut it into small circles that are large enough to cover the bottom and sides of mini cupcake tins (about 2-inch diameter)
2. Press the dough into the lightly greased mini cupcake tins, and then fill them with the pumpkin pie mix about 2/3 of the way to the top. Bake the pies for about 7 minutes at 425 degrees and then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake them for another 10 minutes or so, until the crust is brown and the filling is completely set.
3. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, then take them out of the pan and allow them to cool further while you mix up the batter.
4. For the cupcake batter, combine the butter and the cream cheese and whip until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Then mix in the milk and the flour, alternating between the two ingredients. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, to make sure everything is getting well-mixed—beat again on med-high speed for about a minute. It should be smooth and creamy.
5. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter into regular-sized, paper-lined cupcake tins. Gently put a mini pie on top of each bit of batter and top with another heaping tablespoon so mini pie is completely covered.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until the cake is set and the edges and tops of the cupcakes have turned golden brown.
7. Allow them to cool in the cupcake tray for at least 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack. Once they are cool frost them with the buttercream.

1. To make the buttercream, melt down the butterscotch chips with a tablespoon of whole milk in the microwave, and allow to cool a little bit while you cream the butter and cream cheese. When the butter and cream cheese are well mixed, add in powedered sugar about a ½ cup at a time until creamy.
2. Turn the mixer to low and slowly drizzle the cooled butterscotch into the frosting to your taste. I used about all of it.
3. Feel free to top with little cookies or extra pie crust!

Cheers! And if you're having one of those days, please make these!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Hiya guys and gals.

I've been busy. In fact, right now I should be putting the finishing touches on a take-home exam but instead I'm here, just to give you a recap via pictures to let you know I still care.
It was Susie's birthday so we celebrated with super heavy Italian food at La Cantina Italiana (yum). Shrimp Scampi

Their eggplant parm. (Never would I order this alone)

A free piece of tiramisu because the waiter loves my family
The belle of the ball, my chicken vanoijeidoshdsiohad (?)

Then I took a picture of the lovebirds

But then I wanted to do the skinny arm pose with my mom
And the natural kick back pose with my dad

And I've been experimenting with oatmeal. This is chocolate and butterscotch

This baby is apple cinnamon

I made the salad of my dreams at Whole Foods.

I even tried tofu! For the 30th time.
I took a picture of about 1/8 of what we got at the Old Town Farmer's Market

I finally tried Bruegger's Baked Apple Bagel (with pumpkin butter and Justin's chocolate hazelnut  butter)

I took a picture of food-inspired art!

I bugged Amie's dad for popover recipes

When I didn't get the recipe, I accepted the buttery sweet popover as a reconciliation

Amie and I went to a corn maze! Yee Haw

And we pretended to eat corn

And we made it out alive!

And we met this seemingly innocent camel

Who we try to pose with for approximately 7 minutes.

And we find that he is a biter.

And he is camera shy.

And after he bit Amie's head (not pictured) I was petrified of him

So Amie's parents bought us Sweetwater for lunch and I got a bangin' chicken salad

And I used the last of my chocolate hazelnut butter on this little guy

And I made an awesome lunch of grilled PBB sandwich!

And because I wanted plain peanut butter but we didn't have any, I made my own almond butter. Super easy

Whew! I feel better now. I hope you have a little insight to what's going on for me. If anything looks particularly appetizing, please tell me and I'll give you the recipe because I don't feel like posting them all tonight!

Happy (Over the) Hump Day!!

The Messie Chef Herself,

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sweetbites Desserts-- Cupcakes Galore!

Does this not make you smile? Look at this! Four cupcakes!
You're all aware of the cupcake craze going on these days, and I am certainly on that bandwagon. To me, there is nothing better than bite size cakes, and with all the varieties, I could be satisfied for days. 
I am proud to admit that my Amie-boo is one of three bakers of these cups! It's true. All these months of cake baking have come to good use, and now she is an important employee of Sweetbites, a mobile cafe based in Washington, DC.
Of course, major pub has been given to Georgetown Cupcake and surely Warren Brown's CakeLove is ever expanding, but now I've had all three, and I must say, Sweetbites is giving these bigger companies a run for their money.
In addition to the fact that every morning Sweetbites bakes muffins, cookies, cheesecakes and of course these adorable cupcakes with the best of ingredients and no preservatives, but this on-the-move-truck was rated Best Food Truck in the 2010 issue of DC Magazine. My little Amie-- the best food truck!
Oh and the menu just seems incredible. After my first sample of these cups, I can tell that quality matters and I can't wait to munch my way through the entire list.
Sweetbites offers all nine of their cupcake flavors everyday.Want to know what they are? Prepare to drool a little. Triple European Chocolate, Cookies n' Cream, Chocolate Coconut, Red Velvet, Double Madagascar Vanilla, Madagascar Vanilla with Chocolate Buttercream, Pina Colada, Chocolate Peanut Butter and finally, Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache.
Pictured here are four of the nine.

Madagascar Vanilla with Chocolate Buttercream
I didn't have the chance to try the Madagascar Vanilla with Chocolate Buttercream but I can imagine it's a delight. If the frosting is anything like the French Chocolate, then this cup is a ten. How cute is that?!
Peanut Butter Chocolate
  Who can resist that combination? Since I already had a chocolate cup, I only tried the frosting on this one. Like a light and airy peanut butter, the frosting was a wonderful complement to the dark chocolate cake. It's certainly a rich treat, and very sweet, but if you are a peanut butter fan, go here and order this immediately!
Red Velvet with Vanilla Buttercream
 So, I must be honest here. I'm a huge red velvet fan, but I'm so used to a cream cheese frosting. Sweetbites uses the vanilla buttercream frosting, and surprisingly, it was just fabulous. I'd love to see this cup with the cream cheese frosting, but it's a nice change up. You can easily go wrong with red velvet, and this little guy is oh so right.
Triple European Chocolate
Oh baby. You know I love me some chocolate, and this rich cake did not disappoint--not a bit. The cake was cocoa-y and light but the frosting... ohhh the French Chocolate frosting. It was rich. It was creamy. It had a smooth and silky texture and it complemented the cake beautifully. In my opinion, if you can make a perfect chocolate on chocolate, then you're in business. This classic is just totally over the top.
Wouldn't you like to have a cake walk like this?!
These cups were truly fabulous, and I'm sure I'm not the first to toot their horn. I'm so excited to have a friend working there, because she gets free samples up the wahzoo. If you're in the DC/metropolitan area, go ahead and try Sweetbites Desserts. You will not be disappointed, I promise.
There's my gal looking sweet! Follow Sweetbites on Twitter to see where they'll be next!