Thursday, March 31, 2011

Single Bite: Bag Monster

Don't Feed the Bag Monster, Santa Fe, New Mexico

When I was at the Santa Fe Farmers' Market last summer, I was instantly drawn to this Bag Monster (Andy Keller, the inventor of the ChicoBag™). He was in town on a nationwide tour as a spokesmonster for the anti-plastic bag movement. The Bag Monster® costume is decked out with 500 plastic bags—the average amount an American uses in one year. I don’t know how he goes to the bathroom in that monstrosity, but hey, it’s plastic.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chocolate-Covered Mint Leaves (My Thin Mints)

Dipped chocolate

If you read My Healthy Girl Scout Cookie Makeover, then you know that these chocolate-covered mint leaves are my all-natural Thin Mints. With just two ingredients, they're easy to make, but your chances of impressing the Queen depend on a) the freshness of the mint, and b) your chocolate-dipping prowess. The leaves shown above were dipped, but there's an even more ornate way to chocolateer them if you've got too much time and Xanax on your hands.

OCD-applied chocolate

Got the Martha gene and some meds? Then you can make this decorative, cry-for-help variety that shows the leaf pattern through the chocolate. Instead of dipping the leaf into the chocolate like a normal person, you take the back of a spoon or a brush and smooth the chocolate out thinly on one side. If you need to thin it out more, you can add a little melted butter to the chocolate. As you can see by my leaf, the only thing I have in common with Martha is an ankle bracelet.

Why leave your Thin Mint destiny up to someone with pigtails? With these chocolate-covered mint leaves, it's "cookie" season any time mint is in bloom. I think you'll like them better than the original. But I won't tell little Ashley or Madison. Scouts honor.

The Method

24 fresh mint leaves, in mint condition

1/3 cup fair-trade dark chocolate chips

Melt the chips in a double boiler or in a small mug in the microwave on medium power in 30-second intervals until melted.

Dipped Leaves

Gently hold the leaf by its tip as you dip the leaf, starting with the stem, into the chocolate. Be sure to leave the green tip exposed (as much green as you want). Then lay the leaf on a sheet of wax paper to dry (it's cheaper than parchment).

Brushed Leaves*

Gently rub a thin layer of chocolate on the mint leaf with the back of a spoon or a brush so you can see the leaf pattern through the chocolate. Then lay the leaf on a sheet of wax paper to dry.

*Try one leaf first, and if the chocolate needs thinning, add about 1/4 teaspoon of heated butter.

Chocolate-covered mint leaves will last a couple of days in the fridge, but it’s best to serve them the day you make them.

The Madness

They won't all turn out Martha-approved. Even if you're Martha.

Related Links:

My Healthy Girl Scout Cookie Makeover

Notes from a Girl Scout Cookie Curmudgeon

Spring Peas with MInt

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Healthy Girl Scout Cookie Makeover

If you read my Notes from a Girl Scout Cookie Curmudgeon, then you know I have some issues with the cookies' unscout-like ingredients. If these cookies really embodied Courage, Confidence, Character, they'd have the Cahones to put health before profits. How is little Ashley or Madison going to get to the White House if she's all hopped up on high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oil and artificial color? I think our future Hillaries deserve better. So I have given the five top-selling Girl Scout cookies an all-natural makeover. These upgraded ingredients are guaranteed to have a Scout sitting in the oval office by her 12th birthday—or puberty—whichever comes first.

Buh bye, sweet nuth-thin. Hello, minty fresh choco breath!

If you ask me, Thin Mints should a) keep you thin, and b) be mint. With their hydrogenated oil and high-fructose corn syrup, the original fails on both fronts. What could be more svelte and refreshing than a chocolate-covered mint leaf? (See recipe) This zero-calorie leaf dipped in organic, child slavery-free dark chocolate is chock-full of flavonoids, antioxidants and polyphenols. Brilliant in its simplicity, (it's hard to be humble when you're a visionary), it is both nutritionally and aesthetically pleasing. Never mind that you have to eat a whole plant to be satisfied. A chocolate plant-based diet is good for you.

Now I want Samoa

If you're going to name Samoas® after the Samoan islands, shouldn’t they taste more like Polynesia than Polysorbate? Sure, it has chocolate and coconut to reflect two of their biggest crops, but the South Pacific Islands are also big pineapple producers. So I replaced the hydrogenated oil, corn syrup and caramel-filled cookie with an organic dried pineapple ring, sprinkled it with toasted organic shredded coconut and laced it with organic, fair-trade dark chocolate stripes. You won't even notice I left out the caramel (since you couldn't taste it anyway). Trust me. You’ll be wanting moa in noa time.

Do-si-don't and Do-si-d'oh!

No wonder the name Do-si-dos® refers to a square dance move. Eat too many, and the only dance hall you’ll fit into is a barn. And don't be surprised when your new square dance dress is a moo-moo. Since the original tastes more like cardboard than peanut butter, I've replaced the outer cookies with two mini rice cakes, so you won't even know the difference. I also eliminated the usual oil and corn syrup suspects inside and simply filled it with organic peanut butter. It may not be the most bingeworthy snack, but they're still satisfying in a it's-better-than-a-sharp-poke-in-the-eye kinda way.

Get lost, ol' Tagalong. Hello, new BFF!

Eat too many Tagalongs® and you’ll have to tag along because no one will want to be seen with you. So I replaced the caloric, hydrogenated oil-filled cookie with an organic banana chip, topped it with organic peanut butter and encased it in organic, child slavery-free dark chocolate. True, I’ve deviated from the original peanut butter and chocolate combo by adding banana, but get over it. You purists should just eat a spoonful of organic peanut butter and a fair-trade chocolate chunk if you're so devout. I’m trying to be creative here. When's the last time you solved a problem of this magnitude?

No more trefooling. This is the real thing.

Calling Trefoils shortbread is like calling Gwyneth Paltrow a country singer. Shortbread requires butter, and this is made with soybean and/or palm oil, corn syrup and artificial flavor. The embossed Girl Scout logo is merely a Trefoil so you won't notice how short this shortbread falls. What makes real shortbread so delicious is real butter, so why not skip the pretense and simply have a delicious pat of organic, rBGH hormone- and antibiotic-free butter. That'll give a girl Courage, Confidence, Character, and Cholesterol.

Do you have any Girl Scout cookie makeover ideas?

Related Links:

Chocolate-Covered Mint Leaves (My Thin Mints)

Notes from a Girl Scout Cookie Curmudgeon

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Notes from a Girl Scout Cookie Curmudgeon

The box says Courage, Confidence, Character, but I see Hydrogenated Oil, High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Artificial Flavor. I know...I know. Why do I have to go all Lentil on Girl Scout cookies? They're as American as childhood obesity. Is nothing sacred? What did the Girl Scouts ever do to me besides sell me subpar snacks? Don't get me wrong. I'm not judging the girls themselves. They look adorable in their little uniforms as they seductively solicit their wares to strangers—not unlike the big pharma sales reps in those short skirts who roll suitcases of pill samples around to doctors' offices. There's just something really attractive about an enterprising entrepreneur pushing a fresh stash of Lexapros or Do-si-dos®.

You think I like being a cookie curmudgeon? I want to support these young girls on their path to propriety before the tats and nipple rings lead them astray as much as the next guy. I just don't want to be a party to this kind of “food” that our society so eagerly embraces. This week, however, I was obligated to buy a box, and when I offered my friend a cash donation instead, well, that was too complicated. He just wanted to sell me a box of cookies. So I caved. And surprisingly—sweets binger that I am—after my first Samoa, I didn't want any moa. I said no moa. Something seemed off. It had a cardboardesque quality to it as if it had been engineered in a lab. It still had that new beaker taste. I envisioned some mad food scientist in a lab coat and goggles hovering over his boiling glass ensconced in Samoa steam. As I was compartmentalizing each cookie component in my mouth, I wondered where the caramel was that used to be so prominent? Was my box just a result of a bad day at the lab or had the recipe changed? Isn’t that the point of processed food—to achieve a reliable level of sameness?

Since two different beakers bakers make the cookies, I did a little research on the Samoas® and found that each baker has different cookie names with slightly different ingredients and nutritional information for the very same cookie. For instance, ABC Bakers calls them Caramel deLites® and the ingredient list says: Artificial color (red #40 lake, yellow #5 lake, blue #1 lake, blue #2 lake), yet the Samoas from Little Brownie Bakers makes no mention of artificial color at all. So to the unsleuthed ingredient eye, one would assume the colors are as natural as the blue sky of Samoa.

On the Girl Scouts FAQs, I was surprised to find that they address some of my concerns about hydrogenated oil, high-fructose corn syrup, free-trade chocolate, etc., but mostly they make excuses for the ingredients. Apparently, you can claim zero trans fat when there is actually 0.5%, according to FDA labeling rules (Gotta love those processed-food lobbyists). And you know the cookies couldn’t be too healthy when their crack legal team is advising you to eat them in moderation. That’s a little like telling Charlie Sheen to only have one porn star a night. And zero trans fat when there's really some in there? That’s like saying Sheen only had a tween, so she doesn't count. In the meantime, I’m working on some fresh ideas for a Girl Scout cookie makeover. I bet you can hardly wait.

Related Links:

My Healthy Girl Scout Cookie Makeover

Chocolate-Covered Mint Leaves (My Thin Mints)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Single Bite: Mendocino Mushrooms

Wild Mushroom Man, Mendocino, California

As I was looking out over the bay in the gorgeous town of Mendocino in Northern California, this man tried to sell me these giant mushrooms in the back of his pickup truck. He looked like he was dressed for a mushroom cloud, but he seemed like a fungi.