Friday, October 30, 2020

Snackshots: Cheese & Crackers

My snacking game has always been elite or, at the very least, consistent.  NTB.  No one can accuse me of not putting the time in.  But, like the rest of the world, I've been able to take my nibbling to the next level during these Covid times.

The snack I'm sharing today is simple and somewhat healthy.  It's served me well from quarantine all the way through to whatever's happening now. 

You'll need three ingredients:  wafer crackers (I like 34 Degrees Crisps and Olina's Bakehouse Wafers); a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese (I use the Lite variety or the Asiago one); and a spoon full of jam or jelly (fruit jam, pepper jam, bacon jam -- whatever you fancy).

As a WW gal, I portion out my crackers at the start of my snacking session.  7 Oleo Wafers or 9 34 Degree crisps = 1 WW point.  


I just make my way methodically through my crackers, spreading some of the cheese wedge on each and then a little smear of jam.  Salty, sweet, and simple as that.

One bonus of this snack is that it reminds me of one of my best right-before-quarantine memories.  My sons both had roles in their school production of Shrek the Musical, which was staged the weekend of March 6-8 ... a few days before the world turned upside down.  My parents came into the town for the show and my aunt and uncle came from elsewhere in suburban Chicagoland to join us as well.  The non-performers had appetizers, dinner, and a nice visit at our house before Shrek.  On a whim, I had picked up 34 Degrees wafers at Jewel for my cheese and cracker tray, and my mom and I discussed how they made a nice, low calorie vehicle for cheese.  I finished that package of crackers during the first week of quarantine and ended up ordering more via Amazon (they are now a Subscribe and Save item for me) and ordered the Olina's variety to be delivered with my Oberweis milk.

One word of warning:  the 34 Degree crisps are fragile so you'll need to be a bit gentle when spreading your cheese.  The Olina's ones are sturdier.  Neither cracker tastes like anything special on its own so don't come back to me complaining the crackers are bland.  Both brands have some flavored varieties if that floats your boat, but the plain ones are plain.  This plainness is not a problem for me as I believe the point of any cracker is to serve as a vehicle by/upon which something more exciting gains access to your taste buds. 

A final note:  if you are a WW point person, you probably know that most of the Laughing Cow cheese varieties are 1 point per wedge, but not all of them, so check your app if that matters to you.  I don't count points for jam (or FYI, for ketchup or the sauces at Chick-fil-A) even though I am well aware that it is not a zero point food.  I just tell myself that if I am eating it mindfully and sparingly, it's fine.  I gained some Covid pounds, but not from teaspoons of jam.  




Thursday, October 29, 2020

Halloween Scrooge and the Fun/Full Size Solution

Halloween Scrooge.  That's me. 

I'm not miserly, but my levels of Halloween spirit are pretty darn low.  Indeed, I would test negative for Halloween spirit.  Sure, I enjoyed Halloween as a child.  I ate my doughnut and drank my apple cider at the classroom Halloween party.  I donned costumes, roamed my neighborhood, filled my pillowcase, and negotiated trades with my siblings.  There was some build-up before the big day -- visiting the "spooky aisle" at Kroger, carving a pumpkin, thinking about a costume.  At least for my family, however, Halloween in the 1980s was a special night NOT a major holiday.  My mom did not start helping me plan a costume months in advance and would not have invested a great deal of time or money in one (talk to my brother Mark about wearing a garbage bag and being a "California Raisin").  A jack-o-lantern on the porch was the extent of our Halloween decor.

Times they are a-changing or have a-changed.  Drive through the streets of Pleasantville and you'll see mini pumpkin patches on porches, ghosts, witches, skeletons in lawn chairs, spider-webbed bushes, graveyards in front yards, and many, many Halloween lights.  There are homes with more Halloween lights and decor than we can muster for Christmas.  That's all fine.  If decorating for Halloween makes people happy, especially during a global pandemic, have at it and don't let me harsh your buzz.  Good for you, not for me.  The thought of coming up with a Halloween display exhausts me, and I have traditionally have enough to worry about with figuring out trick or treating plans for three kids (more complications and potential for hurt feelings than I would ever have guessed) who have long passed the stage of wanting to walk around the neighborhood together with their dad.   

And we haven't even discussed candy yet.  I love candy.  Love it fiercely.  But my love of candy does not translate into a love of Halloween as I am not someone who feels that I can only eat candy given to my children by neighbors and strangers.  If I need candy, I have funds and there are stores, but since I also love fitting into my clothes I generally try to keep my candy-eating in check.  One dimension of the Halloween fervor of more recent years is the focus on full-size candy bars.  One of the first things I was told by our neighborhood babysitter when we moved to Pleasantville nine years ago was that our neighborhood was "known for giving out full-size candy bars."  

I have resisted adding to that reputation.  Not out of a scrooge-like unwillingness to spend money (just ask my husband) but out of a refusal to make Halloween any bigger than it already is.  I'm not buying Halloween lights and I'm not passing out full-size Hershey bars (which, by the way, is the second to worst kind of candy bar in the world with Three Musketeers being the absolute worst).  Fun-size candy offerings present their own challenges though.  When I bought fun-size candy to pass out, I never knew when to stop.  Each kid would come to the door, I'd feel the need to give 2, 3, 4 units of candy to each and to start making crazy attempts to vary what I gave them ... a mini box of lemonheads, a mini bag of Skittles and a mini bag of Swedish fish for you.  But wait, oh shit, I just gave that kid two mini boxes of cherry lemonheads with his mini bag of Tropical skittles and those skittles are kind of iffy.  Stay focused, Megan, try to mix it up.  Who needs that kind of stress?

Three years ago, I came up with the perfect solution.  Airheads.  Those disgusting wrapped rectangles of taffy (at least I think it's taffy).  They come 90 to a box, which costs $10.98 at Sam's Club.  I bought six boxes and, guess what, unopened boxes can be returned.  

In addition to being a cost effective and returnable solution, here are several other reasons why Airheads are perfect for passing out on Halloween:

1.   Kids love them.  The response is always positive with even more intense reactions when someone gets a coveted "mystery flavor" Airhead in their pillow case.  One pro tip is to hide any unopened boxes and return ASAP as it is disgusting to watch your own children consume Airheads.

2.  I hate them.  There is ZERO temptation for me to sample the product.  Nada.

3.  Airheads are nut-free (I only pass out nut-free candy) and gluten free.

4.  A single Airhead looks almost like a full size item ... if that's important in your market.  I usually give two per trick or treater (maybe 3 if I know the kids and want to, say, lean into my role as "Tommy's Mom" for a group of his female classmates).  However, you could easily give one Airhead per trick or treater and feel pretty secure in your offering.  

The perfection of this offering warms my cold Halloween heart just a little bit, but I am still looking ahead to this coming Saturday as something to survive.  

My only fear in sharing this post is that other households in my neighborhood will read it and board the Airheads train, leaving me unable to pilfer enough of the candy I like from the pillowcases of my children:  Reese's of any variety, Butterfinger, Heath, Snickers, Milky Way Dark, Almond Joy.  Given that this is my first blog post in over six months and that even six months ago, I could count my readers on this practically-secret blog on two hands, I think I'm safe.  

One final note is that even as a self-professed Halloween Scrooge, I have never opted out of candy distribution.  I get it that there are those who don't feel comfortable participating during these Covid times and I get it that in some households it isn't possible for one parent to stay home and man the front door (which I have been doing since 2006).  Pandemic and special circumstances aside, leaving a "please take one" bowl on the porch or just skipping the whole thing is unacceptable.