Friday, February 7, 2014

Baked Better: Au Bon Pain's Congo Bar

Welcome back to Baked Better, a recurring segment that I use as an excuse to eat cookies.  I taste test baked goods marketed as special--because theyre organic or all natural or gluten free or what-have-you--and then report back on my findings.  I pride myself on my commitment to baked goods, and Ill tell you whether Ive found a brownie worth your time and money, or whether to stick with Oreos.

The target: Au Bon Pain's Congo Bar.

I didn't take this picture; it came from here.  
Au Bon Pain does not provide their Congo Bar fans with any online visual aids.

The draw: It's gluten free.  I don't have a gluten sensitivity, but that doesn't mean I'm above a good gluten free cookie bar.  I'm still happy to taste test, in the name of science.

The rundown: If I could describe this Congo Bar in one word I would say: coconut.  The coconut flavor is super strong, and although coconut is often a nice natural sweetener, this tastes kind of fake.  That's because the ingredients list reads like a tongue twister, very long and with plenty of chemicals.  The result is a somewhat overly sweet bar that left me with a sour-ish aftertaste.  There are walnuts and toffee and even chocolate chips mixed in here, but they get lost in the coconut.  This bar is moist but super, super crumby... like unbelievably crumby.  Like still-finding-crumbs-in-my-purse-3-days-later crumby.

The score: 3 stars (out of 5).

Via here.  

The moral: Coconut is good and chocolate chips are better.  But this Congo Bar is not quite tasty enough to warrant so much mess.  I'll probably stick to gluten.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Chocolate Spread and Biceps Dips

I've been tricked.

I was minding my own business, clicking through Twitter, when Prevention Magazine dropped a bombshell.

World Nutella Day!  This was my kind of holiday.  I am nothing if not worldly, and I have a fondness for chocolate hazelnut that borders on maniacal.  Clicking through rewarded me with a recipe for Nutella crepes with banana and strawberries, and I was absorbed in the finer points of crepe-making when my reverie was interrupted.

By a pop-up.

That woman has the look of a person who has just learned about World Nutella Day.

DO I WANT MY BEST BODY EVER?  This is, of course, a rhetorical question on the part of Prevention Magazine.  Prevention Magazine knows I want my best body ever (in theory) just like it knows I want a recipe for Nutella crepes (in practice).  It also knows how guilty I feel about bypassing the first desire to head straight for the second.  I hovered my cursor over the little black X in the corner of the ad. That X was daring me to close out and dive back into the sins of chocolate hazelnut, but I couldn't make myself do it.

So I caved.  I gave them my email.

Here's a link to their 28-day challenge.  It's significantly less enticing than their crepe recipe, but given the extent to which I've already celebrated World Nutella Day (and the probability of my celebrating again tomorrow) I figured it was worth a shot.  The challenge is a series of toning exercises that one does for ten minutes per day and then switches up after each week.  Here is the agenda for Week 1:

My initial reaction was that ten minutes of toning exercises would be a breeze.  My initial reaction was wrong.  Fifteen seconds into my first round of triceps dips, I was shaking.  My attempt at their knee push-ups with punches became a study in my own wobbly plank pose (punches were out of the question).  I don't own dumbbells and I can't do split jumps in my third floor apartment, so the final five minutes was just a draining series of lunges.  The whole venture brought me to the verge of collapse, and I marveled again at my own lack of strength (I seriously operate under the assumption that I'm in shape, an assumption that can be disproved in as little as ten minutes).  Plus, doing toning exercises in my living room particularly challenging, as my apartment stays perpetually heated to subtropical temperatures.

My landlord.

But will I retreat?  I will not.  I've got ten minutes and I've got 28 days.  I've got stamina and I've got heat stroke.  I'm in, Prevention Magazine.  I'm in and I'm going the distance.  I'll check in here with my progress and I'll note when we switch up the routine.  I'll massage my triceps and practice my lunges.

And I will try really, really hard to stop eating this Nutella.