Category Archives: dieting

Wildcard Wednesday: Dieting update

popcornersI’ve been doing this whole eating better and exercising bit for 18 days now. I know that isn’t long, but considering the last few times I’ve tried to start I’ve quit before I even made it a full week, I’m feeling pretty good about my chances this time.

Not only have I kept my calories below 1600 every day for the past 18 (usually below 1400), I’ve been to the gym for 16 of the last 18 days. Each day I did 30 minutes of exercise on either the Arc Trainer, the elliptical, the treadmill or the stationary bike. I alternated each day so I never did the same activity twice in a row.

I knew I was going to have to ease myself back into this routine, which is why I started off at 1600 calories. If the last 30 so years of dieting and exercise have taught me anything, it’s that I don’t really like dieting or exercising, so if I am going to commit, I have to trick myself into doing it. Rather than jump back in all the way, slashing my calories by, well…let’s just say a large percentage, I have to dip my toes in and slowly warm up to this diet.

Right now I feel like not only are my toes in, but starting yesterday, I took my first step toward submerging myself in this diet. I dropped my calories to 1500 per day and upped my exercise to 35 minutes.

Image1In my 18 days, I’ve lost 3 pounds, which is really helping to motivate me. I’ve also cleaned out a lot of the junk food in my house and replaced it with healthier choices. I am CRAZY about chips and salsa. I know that while salsa is a great diet option, chips are a big no no. I know myself too well…one serving of tortilla chips is never enough.

As it happens, I was at World Market the other day and happened upon some fun, low calories snacks. One of the bags I grabbed was Salt of the Earth Popcorners by Our Little Rebellion. Not only are these delicious on their own, but dipped in salsa they taste a lot like tortilla chips. However, one ounce, which is a HUGE serving, has only 110 calories. I can heap them with salsa and get away with a snack that has about 150 calories. Tasty, satisfying and surprisingly filling. I also tried the same company’s Spicy Salsa Bean Crisps and fell in love. They have some nice heat to them and are also great dipped in salsa.

I did have a bit of a set back today though. I was craving a cheeseburger. I wanted one so badly. We’d been stuck in traffic on the way home from school for over an hour and I caved. I stopped at the McDonald’s drive-thru and got a burger and fries. However, thanks to my calorie conscious breakfast and lunch, I still have 130 calories left for the day–not that I plan to use them. A burger and fries were a big enough treat.

My ultimate goal is to lose 50 pounds. However, I think that might be more than a bit ambitious. I did it once before, but I was an awful lot younger back then. And I didn’t have children, so I could be more flexible with my diet and my workouts.

Still, I think I can at least lose 20, which would make all of my clothes fit better. I might even be able to drop 30, which would be my pre-second baby weight.

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Chocolate Monday: David’s Tea “Just Peachy” tea-infused chocolate bar

David's Tea close upIt took my most of my adult life to start liking tea. My step-dad loved cheap old Lipton iced tea, so we always had it in the house. Try as I might, I couldn’t stand the smell of it, much less the taste.

I tried tea again in high school, this time at the insistence of one of my best friends. I was losing my voice and we had a big show choir concert coming up, so she made me hot tea with honey. I choked it down…and I am not exaggerating, it was a struggle to drink it. Plus, when one cup didn’t magically cure me, I stopped trying it and went back to lozenges and Chloraseptic.

In college one of my boyfriends was addicted to a Chinese buffet place. Although I have never been an enthusiastic eater of Chinese food,* he could eat it almost daily. So, we compromised on once every few weeks, which meant way more time than I would have liked in that buffet line. I did, however, like the sugar donuts. I also took another chance on tea because it was free and we were broke. This time it was green tea and I found that if I dumped enough sugar in it, I could actually stand the taste of it. Of course, enough sugar was usually three packets in that tiny little cup, so I pretty much voided any potential health benefits from it.

A few years later, during another bout with illness, a friend brought me some peppermint tea and again, with the help of my friend sugar, I could not only drink it, but actually like it. It became my new cold/sore throat aid.

It wasn’t until I went on my super big diet in my late 20’s (when I lost 50 lbs), that I actually learned to like tea. I had to give up all sugary drinks and even though I still hate coffee to this day, giving up drink calories meant basically giving up my spiced chai lattes. I had to find an alternative and it came in the form of tea. Of course, since I had cut out most of my sugar, I added a bit of Splenda instead, and viola! I liked tea.

I am now a bit of a tea fiend, usually going through at least two travel mug-sized servings a day. Which means I spend a lot of time in tea stores.

david's tea packageAnd it is this time spent in tea stores that brought me to my latest find: David’s Tea’s tea-infused chocolate bars.

I first stumbled into the store after a visit to their competitor Teavana. I had no idea the mall I was at had two tea stores, but I needed a Godiva fix and David’s Tea opened up a mere two shops down from my chocolate mecca. Since the new tea shop was on my way to Godiva and it was full of bright, eye-popping colors AND they were offering free tea samples, I had to stop in.

I’m glad I did, because I fell in LOVE with their teas. When I was paying for my first batch of tea, I couldn’t help but notice the equally brightly colored boxes of chocolate right next to the register. I didn’t grab one then. After all, I had to make sure I liked the tea first, but I definitely looked at all the flavors.

I’ve been eyeing these bars ever since. Finally, on a recent trip, I noticed this peachy chocolate on sale and I figured what the heck. I might as well try it. I happen to really love peach flavored tea. I’ve never really had any peach flavored chocolate before, but I also love peaches, so I thought it might be an undiscovered gem.

David's tea full barThe bar is pretty thick. It’s separated into five distinct segments, each with the name of the tea shop on it. It’s not particularly interesting to look at. The back has a few little “bumps” where I assume peach or tea bits are, but for the most part it is pretty smooth. The chocolate itself doesn’t smell very peachy.

At first I didn’t get much of a peach flavor either. It’s definitely got a creamy milk chocolate texture. Letting it slowly dissolve in my mouth gave me a vague hint of peach, but nothing too grabbing. With the next bite I decided to really just bite into it. When I did, got a burst of peach that tasted not so much like a fresh summer peach, but exactly like a mug of peach tea, which has been slightly sweetened (these days I sweeten with Stevia). That’s when I noticed the gritty texture of actual tea leaves in the chocolate. It was a bit unsettling at first. After all, it sort of remind me of chewing on a twig, but once I got over that, I enjoyed it.

Subsequent bites were not quite as infused with peach flavor. It seems the peach tea portions are spread out so that for the most part it was creamy chocolate with just the tiniest hint of peach and then BOOM! full peach tea flavor.

It was definitely a unique tasting experience and I’m glad I tried it. I really want to try their milk chocolate macaroon bar as their chocolate macaroon tea is one of my absolute favorites. If the bar really has the flavor of the tea the way this peachy one does, I’m guessing it’ll be quite good.

Overall:

Taste: 7/10
Appearance: 5/10
Value: 8/10 (this bar was on sale for half price, so it was only $3, which is a good price for quality chocolate. At full value I’d give it a 6/10)

*I know I sound really picky here, but honestly, aside from Chinese food and lima beans, there’s not much I try to avoid. And I will eat Chinese food, it’s just never my go to and I always feel I could have eaten something tastier, like Thai food or Japanese food. I’ll also eat lima beans if they are in something…like soup. On their own those beans are dead to me.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Back on the treadmill again

I do not like to exercise. I have never liked to exercise. And, no matter how hard people try to convince me that if I just get into the regular habit of it I will start to enjoy exercising, I know this is not true. I know this is not true because people have also tried to convince me that I will learn to like coffee and beer and after a great many years trying all three, I can say with absolute certainty that I dislike all of them. Not equally, but still, my dislike for each is strong.

This means that in my life I avidly avoid coffee and beer and for the last year or so, I’ve been pretty good at avoiding exercise as well. The avoidance of coffee and beer actually has real benefits both for my overall health and my waistline. The avoidance of exercise…well, not so much.

While I’m not actively avoiding exercise the way I am coffee and beer, for the last few months, my excuses for not exercising have really been piling up and are, quite frankly, lame. They are also partially to blame for the fact that over the last year it’s gotten harder and harder, and in some cases impossible, to fit into my favorite clothes. Hell, it’s gotten harder and harder to fit into some of my clothes I don’t even really like anymore. My “fat” jeans are now my every day jeans.

And that’s a problem.

I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. I’ve tried a variety of crazy diets and even did some probably beyond questionable things to keep my weight down. Thankfully at this point in my life I am old enough and sensible enough to realize that the only “diet” that has ever truly worked for me is counting calories and exercising.

About 15 years ago, I was at the heaviest point of my life. That summer I took a group of students on a trip to London during what turned out to be a horrific heat wave. We’d all packed for the 70 degree weather that historical trends and forecasts were promising, only to arrive to 8 days of 90+ temps. Not only that, but the tour company I booked with had us on daily forced marches. We’d be out and about the city by 9 am and wouldn’t be back at our hotel until about 9 pm. Some of that time was spent on buses that were more akin to saunas, but most of it was spent walking, walking, walking. We were so hot and so tired and probably so dehydrated (they do not have the never ending supply of water in restaurants that we do in the US), that none of us really had much of an appetite.

When I got back from my London adventure (which despite my description above was one of the best times of my life), I was 10 pounds lighter. And I knew exactly why: I’d hardly eaten and I’d walked and walked and walked.

This adventure kicked off my most successful diet ever. For countless months to follow, I lived on no more than 1300 calories each day and went to the gym at my apartment complex at least 4 times a week. It took awhile, but I dropped 50 pounds, which meant I was at my lowest weight since my junior year of high school. It was glorious.

And I kept that weight off for almost five years. Then I got pregnant with my son. After he was born I managed to lose all but 5 pounds of my baby weight, and I was ok with that. I kept that off…until I got pregnant with my daughter. After she was born I managed to lose all but 5 pounds of my baby weight again, so I was still only 10 pounds up. I had to go up a size, but that size was really steady for about 5 years.

Over this last two years it’s been slowly creeping again. I stepped on the scale last week and was appalled to see that while I was yet up to my absolute heaviest, I was only 5 pounds shy of it.

So here I am, back on the treadmill again. Well, actually I’m alternating between the Arc Trainer, the exercise bike, the elliptical and the treadmill, but you get my meaning. I’ve re-opened my My Fitness Pal account so that I can track my caloric intake and my exercise. I’ve set reasonable starting goals for myself: 1600 calories per day and 120 minutes of exercise each week. I’m ignoring the calorie adjustment the program gives me for my exercise and strictly adhering to my calorie goal. In the six days I’ve been working on this, my calorie count has been below 1400 each day and I have 130 minutes (I plan to do 30 more today).

My plan is to lower my calorie limit to 1500 per day and up my exercise to 130 minutes per week starting 8/1. Then in September, I’ll put it down to 1400 calories and 140 minutes. By October I want to keep things at 1300 calories and 150 minutes. Once I’m there I hope I can stick with it until I get things back under control.

I know this will not be easy, but I have to do it. I want to be healthy.

 

 

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Free Reading Friday: be-liev-a-rex-ic

BelieverexicOne of my summer goals, aside from reading at least 20 books, is to read as many of this year’s Rosie nominated books as possible. For those of you who don’t know what that means, “Rosie” is the nickname for the Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award. The award is named after a character created by Kurt Vonnegut, probably Indiana’s most famous author. Rosewater not only shows up in several of his novels, but also has one directly named after him, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.

Each year Indiana high school students rate the books they read off of the Rosie list. The book that receives the best rating wins the award. The books that come in second and third receive Rosie honors. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven won the 2016-2017 award and if you haven’t read it, you really should. It was breathtaking and heartbreaking and everything an amazing YA book should be.

Each year there are 20 books nominated and my wonderful school librarian not only has copies of each nominated books, but also highly promotes the books, both to the students and to the staff. Not only did she give each English teacher a great poster of the Rosie nominees, but she also gave us bookmarks and let several of us truly dedicated readers on staff bring home books for the summer. As a result, I have read 12 of the 2017-2018 nominees (7 of them this summer).

The most recent book I checked off my list (the bookmarks actually have check boxes on the back next to each title) was be-liev-a-rex-ic by J.J. Johnson. The author refers to her book as an “autobiographical novel” because she was admitted to an inpatient program for bulimarexia when she was 15. According to Johnson, the admission and discharge dates are real as is the information about the therapy sessions, rules, groups and policies Jennifer goes through in the novel. She does, however, change some of the situations, add fictional details, consolidate characters and change the internal time line to make the story function better. That being said, the book is incredibly real and definitely coincides with other memoirs I’ve read from girls who have been hospitalized for eating disorders.

I think this is a great book for teenagers, especially girls. Unlike several books I’ve read about eating disorders, this one centers on the recovery process. There is no glorification of the disorder nor is there anything that could really constitute a “how to” guide that many books dealing with disorders are accused of containing. The author deals very little with the behavior that lands Jennifer in the hospital and more with the issues that lead her to the hospital. The book is about the road to recovery and the slips along the way.

Considering that according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 30 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder, it is critical that books like be-liev-a-rex-ic get into the hands of young adults to let them know not only the seriousness of eating disorders, but also that there is hope and help. The statistics on eating disorders are pretty darn scary. Every 62 minutes, one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder. Eating disorders also have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

As a teacher, this is an issue close to my heart. Over the years far too many of my female students have told me about their struggles with eating disorders. Some have been hospitalized. Many have been in counseling. Some have tried to fight it on their own. It breaks my heart even more because I know their struggle. It was my struggle too. Thankfully mine never got to desperate levels, but much like Jennifer, no one around me noticed. I was good at hiding what I was eating…or more specifically, what I wasn’t. When I got to college, I had a wonderful boyfriend who noticed my shaking hands, my fogginess, and the fact that I would go an entire day and only eat a single Kit Kat bar. It took a lot of work, a lot of tears and a lot of self-examination, but I changed my habits. However, food has always been and will always be a life long struggle for me.

While be-liev-a-rexi-ic may not be my favorite book on this year’s Rosie list (right now that honor goes to Salt to the Sea by Rita Sepetys), I think it is an important book teens should read.

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Chocolate Monday: Healthy Choice Fudge Bar

I’m back on the diet express again. I won’t lie, I hate it. At this point in my life, the only memories I have that don’t seem to involve dieting in some way all seem to involve Strawberry Shortcake  and her Berry Patch friends. It definitely feels like I’ve been on some sort of diet longer than I’ve been off on–at least in the last 10 years that is.

I know that makes me sound like some sort of loser with no self-control, and I don’t have a stellar ability to refrain from eating things I love, but I’m also not entirely hopeless. It did take me about two years to lose 50 lbs and really keep them off. I managed to maintain that for a good two more years. Then, I got pregnant, which was nearly a year of putting weight on and then about a year and a half taking it back off. Five pounds from my pre-baby weight, I got pregnant again, which brings me to my current two years of gaining and now trying to lose it again. It’s some sort of vicious cycle I plan to break free of now that I’m out of the baby making business.

So, when my husband’s Call of Duty buddy brought over some Healthy Choice Fudge Bars to share, I saw a golden opportunity. Not only did they give offer up some potential chocolate goodness, but they did it for a measly 100 calories a pop. And they were decent sized too, not some teeny tiny three lick cicle!

I’m not sure how long they’d been in his freezer, but they had that classic bit of frost built up on them which initially threw me quite a bit. There is nothing quite so disappointing as expecting to get a lick of chocolate and having my tongue meet boring ol’ ice. So, I dug my teeth in and chomped a bit off.

The first bite didn’t leave me drooling for more, but it didn’t leave me gagging either. It took my a few licks to commit to it, since the flavor isn’t exactly one I’d call fudge. Which, is probably for the best since I had a nasty run-in with fudgesicles as a child and still avoid them. I probably shouldn’t hold a grudge, after all, it wasn’t the chocolate’s fault my best friend and I decided to split an entire box by ourselves. Thankfully we only made it through about three each before starting to feel a bit sick. But in the twenty-five years or so that have followed, I have pretty well Nancified all fudge bar-like products.

I wouldn’t really describe the taste as chocolatey. At least not in a traditional way. The bar was definitely creamy. Texture wise, it reminded me of a slightly thinner Frosty from Wendy’s. But, it didn’t have that creamy chocolate taste of a true Frosty, but rather a more generally creamy taste, that I know isn’t associated with actual real cream (not for 100 calories).

When I got about half way done with the bar, I had an easier time making a flavor connection: Jell-O pudding pops. But not the amazing ones of my past (which were actually manufactured by Jell-O), but the ones I found at a Meijer about five years back which claimed to be Jell-O pudding pops, but seemed like cheap, icier imitations. This was not the rich, decadent treat I once forced myself to eat an entire bowl of Spaghettio’s for (I DETEST those slimy fake tomatoey tasting rings of doom). This was more akin to that pale shadow which my  taste buds met with excitement, but quickly balked at when I found the box nearly two decades later. I mean, I could still eat the second batch of pops, but I didn’t really want to.

When I’d finished with the HC Fudge Bar, I had a slight after taste I couldn’t quite place in my mouth. At first I wanted to say chalky, but it wasn’t. And it wasn’t entirely unpleasant. It just sort of tasted artificial, which is no doubt what it was, some sort of aspartame or Nutra Sweet deal.

Now, I know it sounds like I hated these bars, but in truth, they weren’t so bad. The creaminess, while not exactly chocolate, was perfectly fine. Not my first choice for an ice cream treat, but when I’m limiting myself to under 1500 calories and I’ve already spent the bulk on my three squares a day, I found these bars perfectly acceptable. I know it’s not a rousing endorsement, but it’s diet chocolate. Try as I might, I can’t get super jazzed about the concept. They are a nice alternative for those trying to cut (or even just watch) the extra calories. Heck, I might even go to the store and actually buy a box, as long as I could put blinders on and not see the Ben and Jerry’s right next to them.

Overall:

Taste: 4.5/10 (for a diet food, I’d say 6/10)

Price: well, mine were free, so I’m not sure this counts, but based on retail 5/10

Appearance: 5/10 (I did like that they looked like Jell-O pops, I could mentally trick myself a bit)

*Nancified is a term used among my circle of friends to describe a basically irrational hatred of a food because of our own stupid over-indulgence in it. It was coined by my friend Che (I think) because our dear pal who the condition is named after has a nasty habit of obsessively eating a food, making her self outrageously sick off of it and never eating it again. She’s also afraid of milk, but that is another story entirely.

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I’ll Never Be That Girl

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but I think my treadmill may be trying to kill me.

 I don’t say this merely because I am some sort of an exerphobe. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am definitely an exerphobe, but that is not what is fueling my fears of technological misconduct here. I am after all, a long time hater of anything and everything workout related, but I’ve never thought it was plotting my demise. This is different.

Now, you may think I’m taking a bit of an extreme viewpoint here. Hate, as my mother told me time and time again, is a strong word. As a child I was not even allowed to hate anyone. I could dislike them. A lot. A really, really awful, awful lot. As long as I didn’t hate them. But I do hate exercise.

My husband keeps trying to tell me that I’m just not giving it enough of a chance. Every time I sit down red-faced, out of breath and complaining about sore muscles, he cheerfully tells me that I’m going to grow to like it. He says this as if the concept of exercise is somehow new to me rather than something I’ve been battling my whole life. It seems he’s managed to forget that before I got pregnant with our two awesome children, I lost 50 lbs and not just by eating a ridiculously small amount of calories each day (1200-1300 to be exact). I visited our apartment gym several times a week. I kept charts of my routines. I peddled that elliptical machine, increasing my speed every few minutes until I could do 45 minutes no problem. I know what exercise feels like. And I want to be clear here: I don’t like it.

I get what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to encourage me. And I think he actually thinks that if I do it enough I’m going to become addicted and really like it. I understand that happens to some people. I have friends who do silly things like run every day for fun. Some do it to relieve stress. Some of them even get some sort of endorphin high from it. Not me. I find reading, watching movies and eating chocolate fun. Exercise not only doesn’t relieve stress, but causes me even more because I don’t like being all sweaty, and tired and smelly. And, I don’t get any sort of rush from it. Mostly I just feel sleepy.

I don’t exercise because I take any sort of pleasure in it. I don’t even do it because I know it’s good for me. I do know that, but as my mom also liked to point out, lima beans are good for me. I know it, but they taste like dirt and even though I had to eat every last one off my plate when I was a kid, I’m a grown up now and I don’t have to eat ’em, so there is no way in hell I will. I may know all the health benefits of exercise (and lima beans for that matter), but that’s not at all what motivates me to get back on the treadmill.

I do it because I have to. Years and years and some more years of dieting have taught me that if I want to drop this extra chub and get into my pre-pregnancy clothes, just cutting fat and calories alone won’t do it for me. I have to get somewhat active to boot.

But, I don’t have to like it. And I never, ever, ever will, no matter how many times my husband tries to tell me I will. He says the same thing about beer, and it’s been 17 years since I had my first taste and I haven’t developed that taste yet. And I’ve been trying to muddle through this exercise thing for even longer.

Nope, I am not that girl.

But my extensive loathing for exercising has nothing to do with my fear of my treadmill. And no, this is not some sort of rebellion against working out. Neither is it all in my mind. My treadmill really does have it in for me.

See, a few weeks ago when I started using it again, I noticed an odd little quirk. Suddenly, and for no reason I could figure out, as I was walking at a nice, easy 2.8 mph, it suddenly started speeding up. Now, the readout still clearly said 2.8 miles, but that is not what was going on under my feet. That thing was rolling like crazy and I found myself having to jog to keep up. When I tried to slow the speed down, it reported a slower speed, but didn’t actually slow down even a teeny, tiny bit. When I tried to pause it to catch my breath, it refused to pause. It just kept rolling, rolling, rolling. Hell, when I tried to stop it it was a no go. Only when I jumped off and pulled the emergency rope did it actually stop. And then it came to a near dead halt.

When I got back on, it seemed to work fine for a few minutes. Then, lo and behold, it started getting harder and harder to keep up because the belt started spinning at a crazy rate. I tried stopping it again, but no dice. I held the stop button in and it did reset the machine without the abrupt stop. When I tried to fire it up a third time, it was fine.

Now, every time I get on it’s a crap shoot of sorts. I could probably take odds in Vegas for how many resets I have to do before I get the speeds I actually want (or I think I want, for all I know even though it’s slowed a bit, it could still be lying to me). My husband has a theory that it might be due to all the little brown outs we have. Our power switches off for just a millisecond and then comes back up. He thinks it may have fried the “brain” of the machine a little. And I’ll be honest, when he uses the term “brain” to describe the machine, it creeps me out. Because now all I can imagine is it sitting down there, lying in wait for me, plotting, oh ever so cleverly plotting my demise.

I’m really quite afraid to get on it. I fear for my safety, but I know it’s one of those risks I have to take if I want to get back in my cute khaki’s before Christmas break.

See, I told you my treadmill was trying to kill me.

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Chocolate Monday: Gigi’s Cupcakes

Oh no, I’m in big trouble once again. I found another cupcake place. It’s close to my house. And, well, I really, really like them. This does not bode well for the diet I really need to be on in order to lose that baby weight. The baby is four months old, so it’s probably time to shed more than the 10 non-baby pounds I’ve gotten rid of so far. But man, people keep putting me right in the path of chocolate, and my will power has never been what you might call strong.

I blame this particular event on my BFF. My son was staying with my folks and she thought it would be a good day to visit a cafe we both love, but is way too small to handle my son’s boisterous personality. After a delicious lunch, she just happened to mention there was a new cupcake place in the shopping center right across the street. Despite the delicious cinnamony potato bread we’d just consumed, I knew we just had to drop in. Neither of us planned to eat anything right away, so it would just be a look and maybe one cupcake, right?

I should know myself better. When we got inside Gigi’s Cupcakes, there were a dozen cupcakes on display. The store itself was small, but cute and the cupcake trays were filled to the hilt. Like all fancy shmancy cupcakes these days, they had cutesy names and frosting piled a mile high. Actually, these cakes had frosting piled way higher than any other place I’ve visited: at least two miles high. To me, this was an instant drawback, but being the cake lover I am, I figured I could take one for the blogging team, scrape the extra frosting off and just savor the cake.

I wasn’t too thrilled about several of the flavors being offered that day. I was even more disappointed when I picked up the really pretty full color brochure to see what flavors they rotated during the week. Turns out the very next day had about ten flavors I wanted to try, but at the moment I was a bit stuck. So I picked a few from the case and figured I’d give ’em a whirl. I was kind of happy to see that they did have some with what I considered “normal” heaps of  frosting, so I grabbed a turtle (not on the regular menu) and a Southern Comfort. I also snagged a Peanut Butter Cup for my husband. My final one was tough since I wasn’t thrilled about any of the others, but since it’s a chocolate blog, I asked for a Midnight Magic in chocolate.

Turns out I tried a cupcake sooner than I thought I would. I got several pieces of bad news later that day and figured I deserved a cupcake to help me cope (this is why I am bad with diets). The Midnight Magic was the one I grabbed since it was the biggest and most decadent looking. If I was going off the diet reservation, I was going way the hell off. At first I was a little concerned about how to eat it. There was no way I could take an actual bite of it. I know I’ve been told I have a big mouth (usually followed by some hint to shut it), but I would have to have a snake-like ability to unhinge my jaw to actually get a bite of this monster in my mouth. So, I scraped the frosting off and decided to eat it with a fork.

First I tried the cake. I like to eat them separately (even when I don’t have to), so I can get a feel for the actual cake. It was fairly moist, although just a hint chewy. It also wasn’t overly chocolate, despite being touted as a devil’s food. It was a sort of mellow chocolate, but it was perfectly good. Just not great. However, when I bit into the frosting, I understood why the chocolate of the cake was understated. I was expecting the coarse sugary consistency of most decorative buttercreams. What I actually got was a rich, fudge like cream. I was expecting to scrap 99% of the frosting, but I ended up shoveling it in my mouth until I felt almost sick. When I got a bite of cake with the frosting, it was full of chocolatey goodness.

My thoughts about frosting had started to turn a bit.

Because I needed to do something nice as a pick me up for a friend, I went back to Gigi’s the next day. Some people console with flowers or balloons; I do it with chocolate. I brought a sick friend four cupcakes and since I was there, I figured I’d pick up a few more for me to try. Turns out Thursday had a whole bunch of flavors I thought looked pretty damn tasty.

My second cupcake encounter was the Cherry Cordial. Now, as a kid I adored the candy version. As an adult, they make my teeth hurt and I can’t stomach them. This cupcake version intrigued me because it looked like an ice cream sundae. The chocolate ganache covered frosting was too cool sounding to pass up. I am so glad my inner child won out. This was awesome. Instead of a buttercream, this one had a cream cheese frosting, and it was creamy. Not quite as creamy as the ice cream it looked like, but I didn’t care. Once again, the cake seemed to be lacking a bit. It wasn’t overly cherry, but when I mixed it with the taste of the frosting, I was hooked. The ganache dip was subtle and mixed really well. It reminded me of a DQ dipped cone and I vowed I would get another, soon.

Next, I tried the Turtle one. I am a huge fan of most things turtle. This one had appealed to me initially because it had normal sized frosting. When I tried to eat it, I encountered a problem. My hands were immediately sticky from the caramel. The frosting had definite nice, rich caramel flavor and I liked the lacey pattern of the frosting. The cake was very dense and a little dry. Not full of chocolate flavor like I thought it would be, but it was creamy when combined with the frosting. It was a nice homage to the candy, but the candies are still the best way to eat this treat.

Scarlett’s Red Velvet was next on my list. As a rule of thumb, I always try a red velvet everywhere I go. I think it’s a true test of a company’s baking prowess. This one had that two mile high thick cream cheese frosting I’d already fallen in love with. It also had a few surprises. The candy sprinkles on top gave it a fun crunch which I don’t usually associate with red velvet. The cake was moist with a small, and I do mean small hint of cocoa. It also had the second twist, a vanilla cream center, which makes the cake taste really creamy. It was good. I definitely like it, but I’ll have to admit, I keep waiting for any cupcake place to really wow me with a red velvet. My husband, however, said it was the best cake he thought he’d ever eaten (and as the baker of his last 8 birthday cakes or so, I was only a tad bit hurt).

The Coconut Snowball had extra creamy frosting. I loved the coconut mixed not only in the frosting, but also in the cake. It made it moist and creamy like Southern coconut icebox cake. The cake had a rich vanilla taste to it. Since this one had so little frosting (in comparison), it was important for the cake to be good, and it was.

The last one I tried was the Mellow Cream. It looked like a designer Hostess Cupcake. And to be quite honest, that’s what it tasted like. Instead of that almost plastic chocolate “frosting” Hostess makes, this one had a rich ganache (which was much better). Instead of the sometimes dry cake Hostess delivers, this one was moist and had a good cocoa flavor. Instead of the also sort of plasticky cream that someone once joked was one ingredient shy of polyester, this one had a rich, creamy marshmallow center (although it tasted a bit vanillay to me). It was the grown up, mature version, even though it left my hands just as messy as the Hostess ones did when I was a kid. I loved every second of it.

So, overall, I am quite impressed with Gigi’s. I am assuming that because the consistency of everything is so uniform, they are making their cakes and frostings from a mix, but I don’t care. They’ve gotten me to really, really like cake frosting, and that is great. I actually find myself willing to make myself a little ill from all the sugar just because I don’t want to stop eating the frosting. In fact, I found cutting them in half was the only way I could not go into a sugar coma after eating one, but it was well worth it.

Overall:

Taste: 9/10

Appearance: 9/10

Value: 9/10

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