Monday, November 15, 2010

Healthy Pumpkin Souffle: A Great Pumpkin Cheesecake Alternative

Souffles are hard to make, as many of us have seen from the number of chefs who have been kicked off Top Chef because of an ill fated souffle. However, if you follow my directions you will make a wonderful, healthy pumpkin souffle for all to enjoy this holiday season.


2 Tbsp sugar   
14 oz canned pumpkin, puree   
1 Tbsp cornstarch   
1/4 cup fat-free evaporated milk   
4 oz Neufchatel cheese, softened   
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice   
1 tsp ground ginger   
3 large egg(s), separated   
1 large egg white(s)   
1/3 cup(s) sugar   


Heat oven to 350ºF. 

Coat a 2 1/2-quart soufflé dish with cooking spray, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. 

Over medium heat, cook pumpkin until no longer steaming, about 8 minutes, it may still be steaming, but not as much.  We're just trying to get out the extra moisture.

Mix together cornstarch and evaporated milk, whisk into pumpkin. 

Allow mixture it to start bubbling and then remove it from heat and cool. Note - Cooling is very important, you have to do this so you do not scramble the eggs later.  If you are short on time, stick it in the freezer or fridge. 

with a mixer beat softened Neufchatel cheese with pumpkin pie spice and ginger

Beat in yolks to combine. 

Beat in cooled pumpkin mixture. 

With a whisk attachment on your mixer beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
Beating Egg Whites - to see how to do this watch this video, starting at minute 1:05.

Add remaining 1/3 cup sugar one tablespoon at a time until stiff. Note - it is important to do this slowly so you do not deflate your egg whites.

In three additions, fold whites into pumpkin mixture.
Folding - to see how to do this, watch this video (same as above) starting at minute 1:17.

Pour into prepared dish. 

Bake until puffed and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. 

Enjoy this yummy souffle without any guilt!

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Passing Judgement

    I don't understand why this is a "classic favorite." The Lemon Herb Chicken Piccata was one of the worst Smart Ones entrees I have eaten, and I have eaten a fair amount of these. Judged as "tastes like diet food," try another entree option.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Falafel Friday

     I had a Groupon for Maoz Vegetarian so I thought I would try it and of course, judge.

    "Maoz Vegetarian is a fast service restaurant serving authentic falafel and freshly made vegetarian food."
    - Maoz

    I had the Maoz Junior Sandwich, half of their signature falafel sandwich, with sweet potato fries.  The falafel balls, which are basically fried balls of ground chickpeas, were crispy and light. The pita bread, offered in white or wheat, proved to be very hardy, holding up well to the large amount of food I managed to cram in. The topping choices were excellent and as they state, very fresh.  I topped my falafel with avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes, and yogurt sauce.  

    The falafel sandwich while fried was healthy - on a wheat pita it totaled to 318 calories. The sweet potatoes fries were 397, but this is a big serving which can be easily shared with a friend.

    Since my trip to Maoz my co-workers and I have now declared that Fridays shall now be Falafel Fridays. I judge Maoz as a great place to grab a healthy bite during the work day.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Judging Grocery Stores

    Uploaded with

    I have been meaning to do a piece on grocery stores for a while, so when I saw this article about Trader Joes.  I thought that it must be a sign; therefore, I have decided to go forth in grocery store judgment.

    Since grocery stores tend to be regional not everyone will agree or even know the stores to which I am referring; however, since most my readers are friends and family, it should be fine.

    From Best to Worst:

    1. WEGMANS - The greatest grocery store ever.
    • Great selection of every day groceries at a good price.
    • Exceptionally fresh produce which is often purchased from local farmers.
    • Fresh meat and dairy.
    • The prepared foods, while it can be pricey is well worth the extra cost since it's usually very tasty. They also offer many healthy options.  Note: I judge their Asian food bar poorly.
    • Generally helpful staff, especially the managers.
    • Easy returns and exchanges.
    • Plenty of registers open so that there are minimal lines!!! Why can no other store get their act together on this?
    • Great ambiance and incredibly clean, it makes you want to cook!
    2. Trader Joe's - Quirky and great grocery store
    • While the selection is not the greatest, you will find things there you never saw before and everything is well priced.  Also, they carry certain items like Trader Joe's Hummus that are out of this world.
    • The produce and meat are often iffy, but they may get a big shipment in of a certain item and then offer it at a bargain price.
    • The employees are always friendly and will actually tell you if they do or don't like a product when you go through their line. They really seem to enjoy their jobs!
    • You can easily return any item.
    • Great selection of flowers, wine, and hors d'oeuvres - making it easy to throw a party.
    • Great recipe ideas at tasting stations they have around the store. 
    • On the downside the stores are so popular that it tends to be packed!
    3. Whole Foods - AKA Whole Paycheck, but still great.
    • The prepared food is the best grocery store food and some of the best food you will find.  Go around Thanksgiving for their hot buffet - it's amazing.
    • The prices are going to be higher than other grocery stores, but in most cases it is because the food is of higher quality. Meaning it took longer to grow because no steroids were involved or it wasn't genetically mutated.
    • The flower selection is wonderful, I usually stop here before Thanksgiving or Easter; however, so will everyone else so it tends to be very crowded.
    • Check-out lines can be long, but the staff is generally helpful, especially at the meat, fish, and prepared food counters.
    4. Giant, Safeway, Price Chopper, P & C, Tops, Stop & Shop - Any the run of the mill grocery store
    • Note - Certain store locations of the stores mentioned above are nicer than others, some have good coffee shops in store, better produce, or more pleasant staff. The following are just the usual things you find.
      • Selection of boxed items are good and well priced.
      • Produce and meat selections usually range from mediocre to bad.  Sometimes your meat or produce could go bad the next day. 
      • Prepared food tend to be bland and/or unhealthy. 
      • The checkout line is usually excruciatingly slow. 

    5. Harris Teeter - thinks it can over charge for nothing special.
    • The staff is fine, I have never been treated especially good or bad. 
    • The time you spend in the check-out line has the possibility to last longer than your shopping time.
    • Their prepared food is equal to that at Safeway or Giant, but way more expensive. As a note I do like their par baked wheat bread.
    • Harris Teeter's own generic brand can actually be more expensive than the name brand items (really, they think they are that good).
    • The thing that really rounds out the reason why Harris Teeter is judged as the worst grocery store is their produce - they will put out bad produce for people to buy and, as usual, over charge.  I have walked in the store to find rotting peppers, frost bitten broccoli, and moldy garlic. 

    This rounds out the selection for now, but this can always be added to.  I clearly have strong feelings for my grocery stores and with good reason, since this is where I buy most of my food.

      Wednesday, September 15, 2010

      Passing Judgment - DC Chain I

      There are a few chain restaurants in DC that I am absolutely in LOVE with.  The first of these is Chop't.  Originally established in New York City, there are now a few locations in DC. Chop't boasts organic veggies, naturally raised meats, and a broad selection of heirloom lettuces.  The owners and creators Colin and Tony state, "We made it our mission that only premium, ultra-fresh food would pass through our doors. Nothing processed. No trans fats. No pre-cut or pre-shredded anything. Just wholesome, delicious farm fresh food that would delight, inspire and nourish." Because of the quality ingredients the food at Chop't exceptionally delicious and healthy!

      Chop't offers a number of their own salad creations, but of course you can build your own with topics such as: beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, snow peas, corn, potatoes, artichoke hearts, cheddar cheese, grilled asparagus, chick peas, tuna, tofu, ham, chicken, turkey, egg whites, and the list goes on.

      Chop't also offers four categories of dressing - classic, bold, exotic, and spa (their low-cal option).  Within these groups there are 5 to 10 flavor options. The spa options are really good, while they may lack in calories there is no lacking in flavor.

      My typical order is the Palm Beach Shrimp (picture above).  This salad includes shrimp, tomatoes, cucumber, hearts of palm, and avocado.  I usually order the Spa Tex Mex Ranch as my dressing, it's not the one they suggest, but it's too good for me to leave it off.  For this whole salad, which by the way is huge, it's only 320 calories and 12 grams of fat.*

      Judged as a super healthy and delicious lunch option.


      Friday, July 30, 2010

      Judging Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY

      I recently went to visit my sister who resides in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY.  She just moved to the area so this was my first opportunity to visit, and I had a great time!  

      Park Slope is a neighborhood with tons of character and activities, especially for food enthusiasts. It's considered one of the nicest places to live in NY, located right next to Prospect Park the tree lined side walks, brown stones, and vibrant community make you feel like you are in a totally separate city.

      Here are a few of the places I ate while visiting:

      Lunch the first day I was there we went to a great little pub, The Double Windsor, to watch a soccer game.  The pub had wonderful fries and an exceptionally cheesy grilled cheese sandwich.  My sister ordered the fish tacos, which may not have been the best order for such as place and due to this the fish was dry.  A friend of ours ordered the veggie sandwich melt and reported that it was very good.  Judged as good bar food.

      For a snack we went to an amazing pie shop, Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Once you enter your transported to a quaint shop in the Shenandoah Valley or your grandmother's kitchen. While the ambiance was a treat itself the pie was really the star.  The owners (two sisters!) of Four and Twenty Blackbirds state, "We source our ingredients locally and organically when possible and incorporate natural sweeteners such as honey, molasses and unrefined sugar in our recipes. Many of our products are made with whole grain flour and we buy our ingredients according to season."  My sister and I ordered the rhubarb crumble, which was out of this world.  The pie was homemade with excellent ingredients, which really came through in the flavor.  I would rank this right next to my grandmother's pie.  Judged as a place you have to visit on your next trip to NYC.

      For Sunday brunch my sister and I ventured just up the block to Sotto Voce for their $12.95 brunch with unlimited mimosas.  I love mimosas and so was very excited by this deal.  I had the veggie frittata and my sister had the eggs benedict, her favorite breakfast item.  I thought the frittata was just ok, nothing special.  My sister likes their eggs benedict and has had them a few times, but admits that it's not the greatest eggs benedict she has ever had.  Mainly we went there for the price and the drinks.  Judged as a deal for yummy mimosas, but be sure to eat slowly so you can have more than one.  

      After a few month of living in Park Slope my sister has reported to me that there are many wonderful restaurants including one owned by a former Top Chef contestant.  I'm excited to return and taste some more of the local fare.    

      Please note, there was a lot of walking involved in this trip, which I have not reported.  ;)

      Tuesday, July 6, 2010

      Happy 4th Of July

      While I believe that the 4th of July is more than just fireworks and eating, I still enjoy all of the eating :)

      Here are some items I made this 4th:

      Low Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies


          3/4  cup Smart Balance Light Butter
          1/4  cup shortening
          1  cup packed brown sugar
          1/2  cup granulated sugar (Splenda)
          3/4  teaspoon baking soda
          1/2  teaspoon salt
          2  eggs
          1  teaspoon vanilla
          2-1/2  cups all-purpose flour
          3  cups semisweet chocolate pieces


      1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar (Splenda), baking soda, and salt. Beat until mixture is combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Stir in chocolate pieces.

      2. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Makes about 60 cookies. *

      Cookies judged as yummy and loved by my co-workers. These also freeze really well, so make a double batch and save them for that night that you just have to have CHOCOLATE!

      *2 WW Pts

      Blueberry Crisp

      5 cups of fresh blueberries
      4 tablespoons Splenda

      1/2  cup rolled oats
      1/2 cup packed brown sugar or brown sugar substitute equivalent
      1/4 cup and 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
      1/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon
      1/4  cup Smart Balance Light Butter
      1/4  cup chopped pecans
      Frozen light or fat free whipped dessert topping, thawed (optional)


      1. Preheat oven to 375 degree F. Wash and place blueberries in a 2 quart baking dish.

      2. Sprinkle berries with 4 tablespoons of Splenda and 3 tablespoons of flour.

      3. For topping, in a medium bowl, stir together oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles course crumbs.  Stir in the nuts and sprinkle over the top of the fruit.

      3. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until fruit is tender and topping is golden.

      4. Cool slightly. Serve warm. If desired, top with whipped topping or light ice cream. Serves 8.

      This blueberry crisp was super easy to make and a big crowd pleaser.  My family loved the fresh berries and crispy top.  Judged as a great summertime dish. 

      *4 WW Pts 
      *6 WW Pts with .5 cup of light ice cream

      Monday, June 28, 2010

      Passing Judgment - Snack Time

      Trader Joe's (judged as a great grocery store) has a product I absolutely love, "Fiberful" fruit bars.* The bars are made of dried fruit with added fiber, rolled thin and formed into delicious, chewy bars. Fiberfuls come in multiple flavors such as apricot, passion fruit, strawberry, and mixed berry. I love to have these as an afternoon snack to keep me full until dinner.

      Recently, while buying multiple bars in every flavor, I discovered a new Fiberful flavor, veggie.  Trader Joe's says, "Our new Fruit & Veggie Fiberful Bar takes that new standard to a higher level by including veggies with the fruit. The result is a great-tasting blend of apple, pumpkin, beet, carrot, broccoli, tomato & celery, with enough added fiber to bring the total to six grams in every bar!" I thought this idea might be gross, but I decided to try it. The veggie bar was fantastic! I loved the flavor which was a little sweet and generally well rounded and given that it has 6 grams of fiber, I should be full for a while.  Judged as super healthy and yummy snack. Way to go Trader Joe's!

      *0 pts.

      Thursday, June 24, 2010

      Let's Move!

      I am a firm believer that everyone should have healthy food accessible and available, especially children, which is why I am thrilled that Michelle Obama has taken on the issue with her Let's Move Campaign.  "Let’s Move will give parents the support they need, provide healthier food in schools, help our kids to be more physically active, and make healthy, affordable food available in every part of our country." This seems logical and something that we should have been doing all along, but haven't, finding it easier and less expensive to consume and provide processed foods.

      One part of the campaign brings healthier food to schools while providing parents with recipes, tips, and resources for healthy cooking.  Earlier this month Obama brought hundreds of chefs to the White House to kick off the "Chefs Move to Schools" program which will bring chefs to their local schools in order to support healthier eating in their communities, "By creating healthy dishes that taste good, chefs have a unique ability to deliver these messages in a fun and appealing way to the larger audience, particularly children."  I judge this as a fantastic idea! As a teacher I spent many days in lunch duty observing the bought and brought lunches, realizing that the nutritional value was extremely poor if present at all. 

      While I have high hopes for Let's Move, I think it is going to be a huge task with lots of red tape to get healthy food in school cafeterias (see the Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution) and affordable food to every part of the country, but if anyone can make it happen it's Michelle Obama.

      Sunday, June 6, 2010

      Passing Judgment

      Recently my friends and I went to Vapiano for dinner, "Somewhere between the nicest of fast casual and hippest of casual dining restaurants is VAPIANO. " Yes, this is the sentence they wrote, it doesn't seem to make sense and I am pretty sure they left out some words.  The main point of this sentence is that Vapiano is a really hip and fun way to get good food fast.

      The decor was modern with potted herbs lining the walls and long tables surrounded by stools.  When you first arrive you receive a card and then go up to either the pizza, pasta, or salad stations to order. Upon finishing your order, you swipe your card and the dish is added.

      My friends ordered the pizza and a salad while I ordered the wheat pasta with pesto sauce.  They said their pizza was good, though not exceptional.  The pasta was a little overcooked; however, the pesto sauce was great.  When I ordered the pesto sauce they put freshly pureed basil in a pan with freshly diced garlic, olive oil, and a few extra pine nuts.  Judged as okay food, with healthy options.

      When we were done with our meal we went to the register, handed the hostess our cards, and paid for our individual meals on our cards.  My friends pointed out that because of the ordering and card system Vapiano is a great place to have dinner or lunch with a group -  people can order when they arrive and there is no check to divvy up at the end. Vapiano is also located near the Ballston Metro. Judged a  good place for groups with a hip atmosphere.

      Friday, May 28, 2010

      Recipe to Judge: Healthy Shrimp Po' Boys

      This is one of the favorite recipes in my house.


      2 Tbsp light mayo
      Old Bay seasoning
      4 French rolls
      cooking spray
      garlic powder
      1.25 lbs raw shrimp (peeled and deveined)


      1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees
      2. Cut open the rolls lengthwise, spray with cooking spray, and then shake on some garlic powder.  Toast rolls at 375 for about 5 minutes.
      3. Combine mayo with Old Bay to taste
      4. Sprinkle Old Bay on shrimp and set aside
      5. Thinly slice the onion, spray cooking spray in a frying pan, and saute the onion until translucent
      6. Add shrimp to pan with the onion and cook until done (pink on both sides)
      7. Spread mayo on rolls, place shrimp, onion, lettuce, and tomato on top and then squirt some fresh lemon juice on top.

      Judged as, no one will know that this sandwich is good for you.*

      *about 6

      Passing Judgment: I Would Rather Eat My Calories

      Check out this blog post on the worst drinks. And it's true, I would rather eat my calories.

       Harmful Drinks in America

      Also, the author of Eat This Not That, David Zinczenko, was on the Today Show this morning. Follow the links to see what he had to say.

      Eat This Not That is judged as something I love, it exposes the reality of the food we are served.

      Image Courtesy of World of Mysteries

      Thursday, May 27, 2010

      Passing Judgment

      The new Subway Breakfast is a great option for those times on the go when you need a healthy breakfast choice.  I stopped by the other day and ordered the Western Egg and Cheese, which is a low fat english muffin topped with egg, cheese, and veggies of your choice.
      For my sandwich I opted for the the egg white, with no cheese, tomato, spinach, olives, and red onion.*  It was delicious. Judged as a great way to start your morning!

      I know in this picture it doesn't look too fabulous, but that's because it was squished when I carried it in my bag between the restaurant and the office.

      *About 2 pts.

      Wednesday, May 26, 2010

      Passing Judgment

      I decided that sometimes I don't have a whole lot to say on a certain topic, but judgment still needs to be passed.  Therefore, I have come up with a quick post format called "passing judgment."  These posts will just be little judgments I have.

      Here is the first.

      This new Stride Shift gum is judged as awful, it should have never been released from the test kitchen. The lime, mint combo is gross. Check out more judgment on this gum at Gum Alert: A Gum Blog.

      Bachelorette Party in DC

      For my sister-in-law's bachelorette party it was decided that we would have a sit-down dinner followed by dancing.  Which brings me to the following judgment.

      For dinner we went to Oyamel a high-end Mexican restaurant that is part of the Think Food Group, to which Zaytinya (head chef and top chef Mike Isabella)and Jaleo also belong. I had stopped in Oyamel before, but just for a drink and wasn't sure what to expect with the food.  I knew I loved the smaller, intimate space with Mexican/modern decor and a lively young crowd; therefore, I thought it might be the perfect space for 12 ladies to share a meal in honor of their friend.

      I called Oyamel to make a reservation and they explained to me that because we have 12 people, the group would be considered a party.  This meant that we would choose from a set menu and larger space would be prepared.  Hillary, the event planner, was extremely helpful, she sent me the menus in an e-mail, helped me with all of my related questions (and there were quite a few), and answered e-mails almost instantly.  I decided to go with a three course meal, guacamole made table-side (a fav of the bride), and an open bar with margaritas, sangria, beer, and wine.  All of this would last for two and a half hours.  Event planner judged as super helpful especially considering this was just a party of 12.

      When we arrived that evening at Oyamel we were introduced to our waitress, who was recently married and incredibly nice.  Our table was ready and a few special details were added, such as cocktail napkins, candy, and a tiara for the bride, which I purchased ahead of time.  The staff was incredibly helpful about setting this up. They quickly brought the bride her drink as well as one for all of her friends and then showed us to the table.  Serve judged as above and beyond!

      We started the meal with the table-side guacamole, which was delicious.  It had more lime than other places, but everyone agreed that we liked the extra lime and judged it as a good guac.

      For our meal we had three course, all served on small, sharable plates.  In the first course we received a salad, gaspacho, and, a tostada.  The salad, ensalada de aguacate, was a fresh fruit salad served with an orange vinaigrette that was both refreshing and flavorful.  In the second course we enjoyed tacos with bbq pork and picked onions, albondigas a.k.a. meatballs, tamal verde, and seared arctic char.  The arctic char was the highlight of this course.  It was cooked perfectly.

      For our dessert course we enjoyed a chocolate sorbet and rum cake.  The chocolate sorbet was out of this world, anyone craving chocolate would cure their craving with just one spoonful.  Judged, the best chocolate frozen treat. The rum cake was judged as having enough booze to count as one of the bachelorette's shots.

      For dancing that night we went to Shadow Room, which claims to "challenge ourselves to provide an unparalleled level of service and experience that exceeds anything that is currently available." We booked a table with bottle service through club promoter and co-owner of DC Hosts, Jason.  We arrived at the club and were on the list, directed to our table, and promptly brought a menu to choose our bottle.

      Once inside the waitress was really nice, the DJ played everything we wanted to dance to, and the bouncers outside the door kept a good count on the number of people in the club so we never felt crowded, which was so nice, since we wanted to go dance, not get pushed around.  The only downside was that random people kept sitting at the table we had reserved, it probably would have helped if there had been some sort of barrier between the dance floor and table benches.  Overall, we had a great time and danced the night away.  Shadow Room is judged as a fun place to go dancing in DC.

      Friday, May 14, 2010

      Guest Judgment: Starbucks v. Caribou

      A guest judge, Doug Ullman, has written the following post:

      If you live in America, you know Starbucks.  Check that.  If you’re a living, breathing animal—mammal, reptile or (especially) nocturnal bird—you know Starbucks.  This ubiquitous café chain has brought its peculiar brand of designer coffee to the masses; and regardless of how you feel about Starbucks coffee, convenience often commands that you drink it.

      As a recovering New Yorker, I am more than accustomed to finding little corporate coffee havens on every corner, often relying on them to slake a summer thirst or prevent hunger with their frequently pathetic baked goods.  Not being a huge coffee drinker, I have two staple orders: hot chocolate for those frosty wind-swept nights, and the ever-popular Mocha Frappuccino during the warmer months.  Thus Starbucks’ diverse drink offerings kept me in their custom for nearly ten years of city dwelling, including four years of college, and despite my invective about corporate coffee, I was pretty much hooked.  Well, as much you can be when your drinks are designed for children and high school girls.

      Starbucks, like any good American food chain, has its imitators and competitors, each trying to bite off a portion of the designer drink pie and each achieving varying degrees of success.  But in the nation’s capital, a modest entity threatens to usurp Starbucks place as America’s premier corner café.

      The place is Caribou Coffee, an Alaskan themed chain of coffee shops that have nearly the same look and feel as Starbucks, minus the pretension.  Indeed, the decided frontier feel of Caribou seems to provide an openness and calm, despite their often crowded urban settings.  So while you can also bring your laptop or a book to Starbucks and camp out for hours, at Caribou you can do the same without fear of being inadvertently included in the loud conversations of the faux intellectuals and hipsters that typically haunt the joint.  It’s just not that kind of place.  On top of that, Caribou is purportedly more eco-friendly than its Seattle-based forerunner.  If you care about that sort of thing.

      Ambience: judged as low-key and cool.

      But where Caribou truly succeeds is the way in which their menu seems to outclass Starbucks’ in every category.  Though Starbucks may have coined the term Frappuccino, Caribou’s Coolers have made the blended frozen drink an art form.  And though I have often braved the crowded lines of Starbucks for the warmth of a hot chocolate, I can promise you that as long as I’m in DC, Caribou is where I’m going for my three dollar Swiss Miss.

      The secret to Caribou’s coffee coup lies in the way in which one can customize their order.  In other coffee shops, the hot cocoa drinker is entirely at the will of the distributer.  The specific chocolate flavor of hot chocolate is not often something considered.  Thus, the darkness or sweetness of your liquid choclification is largely out of your control.  Not so at Caribou.  Here, customers can choose milk, dark or white chocolate flavors provided by mini chocolate chips that are melted into the steaming milk.  The result is an out of this world blend that puts mom’s snow day recipe to shame.  A similar process is applied to their frozen-blended drinks, which also have low-fat offerings for the calorie conscious.

      Choosing your own flavor of chocolate: judged as genius. 

      And if that wasn’t enough, Caribou recently released a new line of low-fat breakfast sandwiches that blow Starbucks’ feeble attempt at the Egg McMuffin out of the water.  On my favorite, hearty turkey sausage is placed on a genuine buttermilk biscuit with scrambled eggs.  Judged as awesome.  Two of these minis go for just $3.50.  If you must eat a pre-fab breakfast sandwich, do it at Caribou.  Check that.  If you need go to a corporate coffee joint, make it a Caribou.

      Tuesday, May 11, 2010

      A Visit to Colonial Williamsburg

      This past week I traveled to Willliamsburg, Virginia to meet my aunt for some quality time and a little birthday celebration. 

      The first stop on our trip was the Blue Talon Bistro, where they serve, what they call - Serious Comfort Food. I started with a delicious Kir Royal cocktail. A very tasty refreshment after the long train trip I had just taken from DC to Williamsburg. Judged as a great way to get over the stinky* train ride.
      As an appetizer I had their field green salad, which was a combination of fresh field greens from a local farm with an aged sherry/Parmesan vinaigrette.  The sherry/Parmesan dressing had to be the best salad dressing I have ever had and while the field mix was definitely healthy, I think the dressing undid that health benefits.  Judged as an amazingly simple and delicious salad.

      For my aunt's appetizer she had the escargots, which smelled wonderful and strong; there was enough garlic in that dish to keep the worst vampire away (I have read too much Twilight). My aunt judged this as a top ranking dish of escargot.

      For dinner I had the scallops with asparagus and the forbidden rice.  Great, forbidden rice - this MUST mean it's soaked in a butter and cream sauce right!  Well, no, it's an Indonesian black rice that is high in fiber and healthy for you; check it out.  The scallops were perfectly seared with a wonderful caramelization.  However, the rice, while forbidden was chewy and hard and the asparagus was a little over cooked. My aunt had the crab cake, that she judged as "nothing special, it had too much filler."

      I really like the ambiance of the Blue Talon, especially the TV at the bar, which shows only cooking shows and food based movies, the staff is very nice, and the decor is homey. I have eaten here before and had a wonderful nicoise salad; therefore, I do not want to judge the Blue Talon harshly, but I will say that on the night I went it was judged as not as delicious as I had hoped.

      Now for a departure from my normal food judging to spa judging.  The next day my aunt and I went to the The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg (ignore the couple in this picture, I admit it's rather odd and I would judge the place as creepy based on this image).  After a few jokes about the 17th century or "burned at the stake" treatment we finally headed in and realized, like everything else at Colonial Williamsburg, it was beautiful.  I especially love the perfect combination of modern/colonial decor and the amazing shade of light blue that is used as an accent color. While at the spa we both had a massage and facial. Afterward, both of us walked away feeling healthy and rejuvenated. Judged as a relaxing, beautiful, and welcoming spa.  I can't wait to go back.

      To wrap up the trip we headed over to the Williamsburg Farmers Market in Merchant Square.  During the market nearby farmers set up along Merchant Square to sell produce, cheese, milk, eggs, and flowers.  Among the stands were musical performances and a live cooking demonstration from one of the local restaurants. I bought some beautiful, tasty strawberries for my train ride back home.  Judge as one of the top ten reasons I would love to live in Williamsburg.
      *Item has been judged.

      Wednesday, May 5, 2010

      Cinco de Mayo & Coco's Birthday

      My friends and I went out for dinner this evening in celebration of Cinco de Mayo and their dog, Coco's birthday.  Coco did not attend her own birthday celebration as she was not allowed in the restaurant; however, she did stay home and hang out with her best friend, my dog. They had doggy treats from a local dog bakery that they judged a delicious enough to sit and wait for.

      To celebrate we went to our local Mexican chain restaurant, Guapos. We love Guapos for the location, fun atmosphere, friendly staff, margaritas (which can be made as big as your face), and homemade chips & salsa. The main entrees are usually decent and there are some healthy option.

      I had the chips, salsa, a Corona light, and the Guapos Salad.  The salad comes with grilled chicken or beef, mushrooms, green peppers, onion, avocado, and hearts of palm. The salad also comes with a delicious dressing, which I think is a Tex-Mex ranch.  The dressing is always served on the side, helping with portion control. The salad is judged as a great way to feel better about all of the chips you just ate.

      The food was good and the place was packed, but the best part of the night had to be the mariachi band.  They were a ton of fun and a great addition to the already jubilant atmosphere.  Judged as a fun way to spend Cinco de Mayo on a work night.

      Tuesday, May 4, 2010

      A Trip to the Beach

      This past weekend I went to Rehoboth Beach with my mom to enjoy the beach, relax, and try some of the local fare.

      We arrived on Saturday at lunch so we went to a sandwich place next to the board walk, Dave and Skippy's. Dave and Skippy's is one of the few places along the board walk where you can get a fresh sandwich with veggies and whole grain bread. I had a delicious turkey sandwich and my mom had the California reuben - a reuben made with turkey. Judged as a fresh way to still look good in your bathing suit.

      Later in the day we had our favorite fries ever - Thrashers.

      Thrashers fries, while not judged as healthy are worth the calories. The potatoes are sliced on site, they are then fried in peanut oil, and rather than ketchup you are encouraged to pour apple cider vinegar on top.  Judged as delicious!

      Following the fries, we took a walk on the beach.

      We had dinner at Claws on Rehoboth Ave.  Claws has some great steamed shell fish options, tasty Maryland crab soup, which has a veggie based broth for low calorie goodness.  They will also broil or fry their crab cakes, we had one broiled crab cake each.  Claws is judged as good food with lots of healthy choices.

      The next morning we took a talk around town and ended the walk at Retro Cafe & Grille.  I had the California Omelet made with egg whites and my mom had the french toast.  While the menu looked good, the food was not impressive.  The avocado in my omelet wasn't ripe and mom's meal was just so-so. My judgment is that we probably won't visit again with so many other great options in the area.

      Another long beach walk - we needed it.

      Later that day we stopped for lunch at Arenas Deli and Bar.  This was a diamond in the rough, down an ally with a dark bar and TV's it was initially judged as a place with typical bar food; however, the menu was outstanding. I had the chicken salad made with tarragon and grapes on top of a bed of fresh lettuce and veggies while my mom had the veggie burger with guacamole on top. Both were fantastic.  This was judged as a place to return the next time I am in Rehoboth.

      To finish the trip we stopped in a new place, Annie's Bananies.  The creator, Annie, came up with the idea to juice frozen bananas into a soft serve frozen treat.  Annie herself made my frozen treat while telling us her story.  The shop is cute, the Bananie was delicious, and since it was only one frozen banana the Bananie was very healthy. Note: I had her top mine with chocolate syrup. Judged as a great place to get a frozen treat!

      It's Time to Judge

      This the first post for A Hot Plate of Judgment and I'm very excited about it. This blog is going to be about food, life, and judging.

      I love food, particularly healthy eating. So recipes, restaurant reviews, product reviews and just delicious things in general will be shared.

      I try to live a healthy lifestyle so exercise, activities, and fun things going on around the DC Metro area will be shared.

      Finally, my co-workers and friends say that I love to judge. Therefore, A Hot Plate of Judgment will have a lot of judging. There will be judgments of food, clothing attire, events, and whatever else needs to be judged.