27 March 2010

chocolate banana milkshake

Milkshakes aren't generally regarded as health food (don't even think about SlimFast or anything related). But as a weekend treat for myself, I've figured out a pretty good combination of bananas, unsweetened cocoa powder, and nonfat milk. How do you get a thick creamy milkshake out of nonfat milk? Freeze the bananas!

Frozen bananas are my latest food obsession. Several times a week I send my housekeeper out to buy bunches of the baby bananas we have here. They are very sweet and taste better than any banana I've ever had in the United States. And they are a perfect size for adding to smoothies and shakes without having to cut them up. Not that it's not difficult to cut up bananas, but every bit of time saved seems to help these days. When I get my bunch of baby bananas I peel them all and put them in a bag in the freezer (which also keeps the ants away from them!). Then each morning I pull some out to add to my daily blender beverage. I only use two in fruit smoothies, because there's plenty of other fruit. But four or five added to the milk makes for a cold, smooth, creamy treat that is exactly as if you've added ice cream.

I don't really measure and sometimes I end up with enough for two (or three, depending on if you're counting both Mike and the baby). I use 1 1/2 to 2 cups of nonfat milk (I use Bob's Red Mill Nonfat Milk Powder to make my nonfat milk), four or five frozen baby bananas, and a heaping spoonful of cocoa powder. Blend it up and pour it into tall glasses. It's super-fantastic, if you like bananas.

If you are in the United States, you may be able to find these baby bananas at an international grocery store. I'd get them at an Asian grocery store in Falls Church, Virginia, and I'm pretty sure I saw them at some of the Mexican/South American stores in the area also. They really are tastier than the oversized, over-produced, under-flavored Chiquita or Dole bananas you'll find at Stop & Shop.

26 March 2010

taqueria monte cristo, berkeley, ca

This is the last of my restaurant reviews from my California vacation. It wasn't part of the Pizza Safari. Tacqueria Monte Cristo is one of our favorite restaurants in the Bay Area. They serve some of the best Mexican food we've ever had. We saved it especially for lunch one day after I had to fast for some blood tests.

It was worth the wait and the restaurant was every bit as great as we remembered it. I ordered my usual cheese enchilada platter, with green sauce, rice, and pinto beans. Mike ordered his usual carnitas platter. The salsa bar still had it's assortment of fresh salsas. Mike got an agua fresca and I splurged on a Mexican hot chocolate (I was freezing!) and we sat down to a fantastic lunch. We both agreed that my cheese enchilada was the best we'd ever had. And I'm not just saying that. I truly believe it was more than nostalgia talking, because honestly I've had some mediocre cheese enchiladas from there, as well. Generally, the are very good to the best, though. Mike is always completely satisfied with his meals there.

This isn't healthy Mexican food. It's fresh, and you can taste the freshness especially in the salsas. But it's greasy and cheesy. They are not shy with the sour cream and queso fresco. But do you really have to be healthy all the time? No. That's what special treats are for.

They have a full menu of Mexican cuisine, plus beer, wine, sangria, agua fresca, horchata, and a variety of other beverages. They have counter service with sit-in tables and they do take-away orders.

Taqueria Monte Cristo is on University Avenue next to the Andronico's, a few blocks from North Berkeley BART. There's a small parking lot and some street parking, but we usually hike over from the BART.

20 March 2010

uno chicago grill, san diego, ca

The final stop on my California Pizza Safari was Uno Chicago Grill in San Diego, California, at the Fashion Valley mall. (I remember growing up calling this restaurant Pizzeria Uno. Did they change the name or did I always just call it the wrong thing?) I admit that pre-celiacs, despite it being a chain restaurant I really liked Uno's deep-dish pizzas, so I had high hopes for the new gluten-free pizza.

I was a little disappointed. The crust was thin and crispy, but not chewy enough and not very flavorful. It was like eating pizza on a giant cracker. The cheese and pepperoni were tasty; the sauce could have been a bit more seasoned.

Overall, though, I appreciated the restaurant's attention to detail. They have a separate menu that lists all the gluten-free items, such as a variety of chicken and fish dishes and ice cream desserts. You don't have to search through the regular menu for gluten-free possibilities if you want something other than pizza. They also know to omit the croutons in the salad if you're ordering off the gluten-free menu and they list which salad dressings are safe. It was one of the more positive gluten-free eating experiences I've had.

I liked the pizza, but didn't love it. When I'm in an emergency food situation and there's an Uno's nearby, I'll go back. When you're on the road a lot, chain restaurants are usually your best bet for a reliable meal, if it's not the greatest meal.

Image from Unos.com. I was not compensated in any way for this post. Food was purchased by me for personal consumption.

05 March 2010

day 1 without sugar -- not very successful

I've decided to make a concentrated effort to give up refined sugar for the rest of the pregnancy. (Notice I haven't gone all the way and said "entirely eliminate" yet. Baby steps. Attainable goals.) Just to avert any worrying, it has nothing to do with diabetes or any other pregnancy-related issues. It's something else that I'm trying to manage holistically. (It's a personal thing that I'd rather not spell out specifically.) I've already given up wheat, because of the celiacs. I refuse to give up fruit and dairy to solve this problem, because without them I have few other food groups to choose from. The only thing I can realistically eliminate at this point is refined sugar. And if the problem isn't better after a few months, I'll look into further options.

So this morning my smoothie was nothing but fruit and yogurt, sans juice. I refrained from all chocolate throughout the day. I did not eat the leftover crepes sucre for an afternoon snack. I did fine except for lunch.

I neglected to tell my housekeeper about the new no-sugar rule. And when he served strawberry ice cream for dessert at lunch time, I couldn't help but have some. I ate about half of what I usually would -- my usual amount is about half of what he actually serves. But eat some I did.

I don't feel guilty exactly, but I feel like I really need to reign in on these occasional treats, or else they'll turn out to be not-so occasional.

One thing that should help me manage is the sugar shortage going on in the country right now. If it's not for sale at the markets, it can't be bought and turned into delicious baked goods.



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