24 April 2008

Product Review: Bella's Cookies

Don't they look just like homemade cookies? A far cry from your typical store-bought cookie, that's for sure. Better yet, Bella's Cookies are made with agave nectar instead of cane sugar. And they're fresh, fresh, fresh. They're so fresh in fact, that John needed to keep these Oatmeal Raisin cookies in the fridge for me while I was out of town for a few days.

When I opened the box, I pulled out the little bag containing three Oatmeal Raisin cookies. The directions said to let the cookies come to room temperature before eating, so I did (later, I found that I preferred them cold) before digging in.

While I waited, I read the ingredients and nutritional facts included in the box. While Bella's don't contain hydrogenated fats or trans fats, they still contain a LOT of saturated fat per cookie (4 g of sat fat for 7 g of total fat in the Oatmeal Raisin variety). On the other hand, it comes directly from the butter and eggs used to make the cookies -- just like homemade. It's just something to keep in mind if you're watching your fat intake or cholesterol (unfortunately, I now fall into that group -- yes, my vegan friends are now laughing at me for using all that butter).

The cookies made me think longingly of of some I made nearly a year ago. While I give great kudos to Bella's for using agave nectar in their products and for using simple, pure ingredients, these weren't my favorite cookies. I had high hopes for them since they looked just like homemade and smelled like Oatmeal Raisin cookies.

However, in comparison to my cookies, Bella's were just too sweet for me (and I like sweets!) and bland -- as if the ones they sent me had been part of the mix that missed out on the spices. Also, my homemade cookies taste buttery rather than fatty. I'm not sure how to explain it except that in Bella's, I could feel the butter in the texture rather than tasting it in a pleasing way.

The cookies might be good for kids, who seem to be a bit sensitive to spices and not as finicky about flavor or texture. And, please, just as I don't take the word of reviewers as gospel, go try these for yourself before making up your mind. Bella's offers plenty of other flavors of their cookies that might just be wonderful.

If you've tried Bella's and think I'm way off base, please let me know. Or, if you agree, please leave a comment. Otherwise, have you ever been disappointed by a cookie you thought would be great?

20 April 2008

Happy First Birthday to Altered Plates!

Happy Birthday to Altered Plates! One year ago today, I posted my first entry on this blog -- the one I created as an alternative to my Here and There blog so I could have a place to focus on baking and cooking with agave nectar instead of sugar.

It's hard to believe that just one year ago, I embarked on a journey to chronicle the alterations required to change some of my favorite recipes into glycemic-friendly versions. Time flies when you're in the kitchen!

This year, I plan a few more product reviews, more heart-healthy recipes, and generally a lot more fun. And, yes, I promise, more cooking videos because you love them so. I'm working on losing a bit more weight (and bringing my cholesterol down a bit as well) so you might just see me on camera this year for a change.

Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. More than anything else, thanks to the regular readers who are more than just readers and commentators. You're friends. Thanks especially to the vegans who continue to inspire me to improve my health and the way I live each day. You DO make a difference!

Happy Passover!

Yes, once again, it's time to remake Martha's macaroons. Since it's such a simple recipe, I started off with a plain version (well, not so plain, as I'll explain below) for 1/3 of the recipe, then I added chopped, unsweetened carob chips after I'd scooped out a pan and one half, and finally, I added 1/4 cup of carob powder to the remaining mixture. The resulting macaroons were moist, with a very special flavor, thanks to Fiore di Sicilia.

I tripled the recipe, but my substitutions below apply directly to the original measurements for your ease of use:

1. 2/3 cup of agave for the 3/4 cup of sugar
2. Organic lite unsweetened shredded coconut for the regular kind (it's much more finely shredded, too!)
3. Chopped, unsweetened carob chips for the chocolate
4. 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia for the vanilla
5. I used a teaspoon-sized cookie scoop instead of 1 1/2 teaspoons of the mixture to make my macaroons. This way, they're truly bite sized.

The Fiori di Sicilia did magic things to the macaroons. It made the carob ones taste just like dark chocolate! It also gave the non-carob chip/powder variety a lovely orange flavor that you just can't get from orange zest.

These moist little clumps of coconut went over well at Passover last night. And, I'm bringing more to a party this afternoon. Tripling the recipe allows you about three days' worth of desserts to bring with you to seders. Best of all, this recipe is really a no-brainer and takes only the time to mix, bake, and cool. It's definitely one of my go-to Altered Plates.

Special tip: What the recipe doesn't tell you is that you should let the macaroons cool a bit on the baking sheet parchment paper prior to moving them to cooling racks. This way, you'll have less of a chance of crumpling the little guys.

For those celebrating, I wish you a meaningful and happy Passover!

08 April 2008

My Pottery Is Being Shown On Shelterrific

Well, not mine in the sense that I threw it, but mine in the sense that I collect it. Polish pottery, that is.

This isn't the first time one of my blogs (or both in this case) has been spotlighted on Shelterrific. They really liked my pies.

If you haven't visited Shelterrific before, you should definitely give it a look. The site features all kinds of neat home design stuff as well as a few good recipes. My specific mention is here.