Thirsty Thursdays: Trader Joe’s Low Calorie Pink Lemonade

This is quite possibly the most delicious store-bought lemonade I’ve ever had. Trader Joe’s has thrown down a gauntlet for all lo-cal beverage manufacturers in creating a drink with only 40 calories per 8-ounce serving. And the secret to their success? STEVIA. Stevia is, admittedly, a bit of a shock to the system when it’s the only sweetener in the cup; but TJ’s has softened it with the addition of a small amount of organic cane sugar. The result is a guiltless guzzle of epic proportions.

For you organi-philes, this will be an especially refreshing drink. The front label proudly states that the lemonade is made with organic lemon juice, but it also includes other organic ingredients: cane sugar, lemon extract, lemon juice concentrate, and flavor (all certified by QAI).

.Now, if you go searching for this gem in your local TJ’s, you will see that there are actually TWO lo-cal lemonade options: yellow and pink. There are people who insist that you cannot tell the difference, but our family has tried them both and swears that you can. DH, DS, and I prefer the pink version; my parents prefer the yellow. The only discernible difference on the label is the addition of black carrot extract (for color) to the pink version. Both versions contain “organic flavor” and “natural flavor”, so the secret may lie therein. I’d like to believe that, somewhere in the pink’s natural and organic flavor formulary, there is just a tiny extra bit of sunshine and happiness that seems lacking in the yellow. Or maybe I just like the color better. Either way, it rocks my tastebuds.

Incidentally, in our house the half-gallon container is a one-day supply. It’s a safer beverage alternative for the DH, since it’s reduced-sugar and low in phosphorus (two considerations for Type-1 diabetics everywhere). So on my once-weekly trip to TJ’s, I generally purchase 7-10 1/2-gallon bottles. The one time our local store was out (since the warehouse was out also), DH had to go without for almost two weeks. One the outside he was calm, but I know on the inside he was practically rabid over the loss.

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Thirsty Thursdays: Sambazon Lo-Cal Amazon Energy

It’s a morning caffeine buzz incorporating Vitamin C and crazy amounts of bioflavanoids. It’s low in calories (only 60 per 12-oz. can), thanks to a combination of evaporated cane juice and stevia. And it tastes great. What more could you want? Oh yeah, it’s USDImageA-certified organic! My joy abounds.

I first ran into the Sambazon Amazon Energy line at our local Costco. I got a 12-pack of the full-test (at 140 calories per can) for a road trip with the DH and DS into the Pacific Northwest. It was fairly priced and tasted delicious, so I was sold. This was my go-to morning rush for months. Then on a separate trip to Whole Foods, I found the lo-cal version. Obviously it was more expensive to buy one can at WF instead of 12 at Costco, but not terribly so; I gave it a shot. After all, how many lo-cal energy drinks use natural sweeteners? Not a lot.

Wowie! I was converted. It was still sweet, but not AS sweet, which meant that the acai berry flavors could shine through. But of course, Costco didn’t carry the lo-cal version. Thankfully, my old standby had a Subscribe and Save option for a 24-can investment.

For those of you who read labels, the caffeine (80 mg per 12-oz can, which is less than that of an espresso shot) comes from guarana, yerba mate, and green tea extract. The Vitamin C is primarily from acerola juice.

I’m not the sort who cannot rise in the morning without a jolt, but occasionally the boost is pleasant (and, oddly enough, I seem so much more efficient! Hmmm…). And nothing will ever replace my love for a well-brewed French press with a tiny pitcher of half-and-half. But I can attest to this: it’s berry, berry good.

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Our Easter Oeno-experience

Easter 2011, I must say, was pretty cool. So cool, in fact, that the exploits of the day are going to have to be broken down into several posts. Well, at least a couple. But this aspect of Easter definitely deserves stand-alone recognition.

Some of you may know that, in another lifetime, I was in the wine business. My first job in wine, as a matter of fact, was at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, CA.¬† I still have relationships with a few of the people I met there. One of those is John Downing, who is my go-to guy for recommendations on Italian (and other) wines. So when I found myself inviting an ex-pat Italian — from Rome, to be exact — to Easter dinner, I knew I was going to have to do something special. So I trotted over to Hi-Time when I knew John would be in the cellar, and I waited.

Pretty soon John was able to break away and spend a few minutes with me. I need help, I said.

Your mom’s a therapist, he said.

Not that kind of help, I said. (Yes, we have that kind of friendship.)

And I boiled it down for him: I wanted two bottles of wine, one each red and white, and I wanted them from the Emilia-Romagna region. (Rome is located in the Emilia-Romagna, and our dinner guest was Roman, so I wanted to do my best to make him feel welcome.)

John chuckles and scratches his head and starts kicking some thoughts around. At first, he thinks he only has one — a Sangiovese/Cabernet¬† blend. Thirteen bucks. I’m on it. But what about white? It takes him another minute, but he produces one more bottle for me: a white, this one a varietal called Albana. Not very acidic, very round, a little sweetness. I shrug and take the bottle. Could be great, could be gross. We’ll find out tomorrow. I go home and put the red on the sideboard and the white goes in the fridge.

So now it’s Easter dinner and our guest has arrived. He’s affable and charming, and is quite engaging in conversation. He compliments everything that comes out of the kitchen. One of our friends asks if he can open the wine. Go ahead, I say, I’m busy in the kitchen. So a couple minutes later, I get handed a glass of the Albana. It’s reminiscent of honey and pears, kind of like a Greek dessert. I take a sip. I swear if you had not told me this was Albana, I would have put money on it being an unoaked Chardonnay. Barely sweet, fat, not woody. Not normally my kind of white wine, but I have to say it was a killer match for the Ceaser salad and the fondue I was laying out on the table. So I was pleased. I was also pleased that our Roman friend was enjoying himself.

Finally I get the pasta on the table, and it’s time to get the red wine into the glasses. The bottle has been open for an hour or so, but not decanted. Didn’t matter; it was pretty young, but not tight at all, so it did just fine being poured straight away. I generally don’t get excited about Sangiovese, but this was yummy. The nose was like the darkest red roses you’ve ever smelled, and in the mouth it was rich but not tannic. It was a perfect foil for our pasta with spinach/wild mushrooms/truffle oil.

It was no surprise when the bottles were completely drained. Nor was it a surprise when our Italian friend reached for second glasses of each with a big smile on his face. I’m sure someone dead and famous once said that wine is the lubrication to make fast and lasting friends of us all, but for the life of me I don’t know who that might be. So maybe it’s me. After I’m dead, be sure to quote me.

FATTORIA MONTICINO ROSSO 2009 ALBANA, $12.98 and DREI DONA 2009 SANGIOVESE CABERNET “ROSENERE”, $12.95; both at Hi-Time Wine Cellars.

Categories: Cooking, Food, Wine | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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