Totally Cheesy Goodness

Share your cheesiest finds!

If you've ever tried cutting down on the carbs, you know the pain of saying goodbye to pizza, breaded cheese sticks and other similar goodies. The cool thing is that as more companies try to create lower-carb and lower-sugar items, the alternatives for these foods just keep getting more varied and better.

Take halloumi cheese. If you've ever fried it, you already know how delicious it is--and how it stands up on its own to where you can pretty much use it to dunk in sauce like a cheese stick. There are lots of cheese stick hacks, from using an almond-based flour to crumbling pork rinds as batter, but plain old halloumi works on its own. That's why Aldi's halloumi cheese sticks are such an awesome find.

Now Aldi has yet another offering--snacking string cheese bites! Not only do they look just as good, but they come in grilled cheese flavor. How perfect is that for folks who miss their grilled cheese sandwiches? Trader Joe's also has a new seasoned cheese product--pizza-seasoned "bread" cheese! It's like a pizza, but cheese only. Folks who've made keto cheese pizza in the air fryer can appreciate this find.

What are the latest finds you've seen on store shelves around where you live? What cheesey goodness have you tried and swear by--and which ones should we avoid at all costs? Share your favorites in the chat.

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How Do You Like Your Seasoning?

Some of these blends change everything!

Growing up, we had standard dried herbs in little jars in our kitchen. They were very useful for making magical potions, but I couldn't say if they transformed our nightly dinners into culinary masterpieces or not--especially if we were having the dreaded salmon patties of doom. Now that I'm an adult, I can honestly say that discovering such a wide variety of fresh and unique spices and blends has been life-changing.

Take Penzey's Sandwich Sprinkle. It transforms any garden variety sandwich into a savory, tangy masterpiece with a POP of garlic, basil, oregano, black pepper and other herbs. Their Brady Street Cheese does the same for salads, and you have to try their Arizona Dreaming on scrambled eggs.

Recently I've started using Kinder's garlic, salt and pepper blend, which some folks swear by on bacon. I've never seasoned my bacon so I'm excited to try it! Today I learned about Spiced Up Seasonings and am intrigued by most of them. Mama Clara's and Secret Sauce look especially intriguing but I want to try them all. And as far as fresh herbs, dill is my go-to. There's nothing like fresh-cut dill on a cucumber sandwich.

What herbs have changed your life? Which brands or blends do you swear by, and which ones are on your radar to try? Share them in the chat!

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Cauliflower Spaghetti

Now available in the freezer section!

The more veggie-based meals are released--especially if they're of the low-carb variety--the more I rejoice. And when it comes to veggie-based pasta, my heart sings the loudest! Pasta is my favorite food, but I have to avoid it as often as possible. Veggie pastas are a great way to deliver that yummy flavor without eating the ingredients you need to sidestep, and this new Cauliflower Spaghetti from the Tattooed Chef is definitely on my to-try list.

This food looks so good! It's gluten-free, has Plant-Based Bolognese flavor, and cooks in just minutes in some water and oil on the stovetop. What's not to love about fast veggie-based foods that are frozen and able to be prepared in mere minutes? It has a few too many carbs for my liking but overall it's a much better way to get that flavor for my body. How about yours and your needs?

What other fun frozen veggie finds have you seen this week? This one is at Target, so be sure to share any that you find there or other grocery stores in the chat.

New Lower-Carb Options at Noodles & Company

Will you be trying them?

Noodles and Company have announced a new type of noodle for the carb-conscious diner. These "Leanguini" noodles have almost 60% fewer net carbs than regular noodles, which includes 30% fewer total carbs total and 44% more protein than their other noodle offerings. This may be helpful for folks hoping to cut down on some carbs this year.

It's important to note that while this is a carb cut on traditional dishes, 60% fewer net carbs in a dish isn't enough to make it keto for many people, especially those trying to keep their count under 20 a day. It's still a healthier option for those who would like to limit their carb count without cutting them out completely. The menu, which is being tested in a limited number of stores, features three dishes that are made to order: Leanguini Lemon Parmesan, Leanguini Fresca and Leanguini Shrimp Scampi.

Will you be trying these new lower-carb options? Are you like me, hoping that the company will feature shirataki noodles someday? Share your thoughts in the chat. 

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Best Veggie Swaps

What are your favorite veggie swap-ins?

When it comes to swapping veggies into recipes for more nutritional content or low-carb or low-sugar alternatives, today we have more choices than ever. You can make your own, buy them pre-made in the store, and even get them to-go from some restaurants. But which ones are the best? As a heavy food swapper, I have a few ideas for you. 

Konjac noodles--or shirataki noodles--are one of my favorite noodle swaps. These yams are super low calorie and full of fiber. If I don't have those available or I want a different texture, my favorite swap is spaghetti squash for noodles. Just cut one in half, roast it and scoop it out. Voila--you've got "noodles" ready for any sauce you like. They work very well with white sauces, in my opinion.

For fries, I love rutabegas for swaps--they are the closest thing you'll get to a fried potato. For sauteed potatoes on the stove, radishes work really well, believe it or not! And to sub in a veggie for something sweet, I like to just char my broccoli and cauliflower for some nice, carmalized flavor in the oven.

Ruby Tuesday's squash has always been my favorite, but some notable options while dining out include Noodles & Company and Crazy Bowls & Wraps. Both have pretty good zoodles, or spiralized zucchini noodles. Cauliflower swaps are often tasty too, but many aren't that much healthier. If all else fails, you can ask for steamed veggies or broccoli as a swap-in for noodles--one of my favorite healthy hacks! I've even done this with cheese dips instead of tortilla chips when I really want something decadent. 

What are your favorite veggie swap-ins? Which ones do not work for you, and which ones do you think are the most unique? Share them in the chat.

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New Impossible Food Finds

What have you found so far?

New "Impossible" foods are popping up everywhere in 2022, making it easier for many people to eat vegetarian, particularly on the go. There are lots of new Impossible products to try making at home, too. 

These Impossible Chicken Nuggets from Impossible Foods are packed with protein like the real thing, and they're breaded for a crunchy bite. They also have no cholesterol. Fans of Impossible Foods may already know that the company also offers Impossible Burgers, Sausage, Pork and Meatballs. 

Dr. Praegers also has some new nugget-like foods that aren't Impossible-themed, but make for great vegetarian dippers (they do contain egg whites). These Broccoli Littles have simple ingredients and are shaped like stars, making them super fun for both kids and adults to eat. Out of all of the recent finds I've seen lately, these are the ones I'm most excited to try.

What Impossible finds have you run across lately? Which flavors are your favorites so far? Share what you've found in the chat. 

New Thai Chicken Soup at Panera

Plus other new menu items!

New menu items are always so exciting, aren't they? At Panera, the company is stepping things up a notch this year with some really delicious-sounding items. The first, a Thai chicken soup, contains carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, edamame, yellow coconut curry broth and other Thai spices. It's the first of the company's new globally-inspired foods so we'll surely see more rich flavors like this be released throughout the year.

Their next new item is the citrus Asian crunch salad, which is made up of kale, cabbage, romaine, carrots, red onions, and edamame, and it is served with a tangerine soy ginger dressing and a teriyaki drizzle. Yum! It's also served with chicken and carrots on top but vegetarians can certainly hold the chicken if they prefer.

What do you think of these new menu offerings at Panera? Which do you hope to try first, and what do you hope will be added to their globally-inspired lineup sometime in 2022? Share your thoughts in the chat. 

Cozy Cup Recipes

What do you cook in a mug?

Cooking in a mug is popular these days, and it makes plenty of sense. So many folks are at home working, and mug recipes are designed to be quick and easy. If you can't go out for lunch, why not microwave a mug? The kinds of mug recipes that I'm used to making are usually of the dessert variety, but I have made eggs in a mug before. They're much easier and less messy on the stove, but some people really like making them in mugs instead.

From blueberry muffins to French toast, there are plenty of sweet foods to make in mugs. Desserts, pastries and even breakfast items are mug-worthy. But did you know that you can make savory meals in mugs, too? Little quiches and lasangas, meatloaf, mac and cheese and even pizza are all possible in mug mode. The idea I'm most excited to try is this eggplant parm in a mug!

What mug recipes have been successful for you--and which ones do you suggest avoiding at all costs? Share your favorite mug recipes and tips in the chat. 

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The Best Noodle Alternatives

What are you cooking up?

Lots of people are nixing the carbs right now as part of a New Year's resolution, but even if you aren't, it's always a great time to try new things and especially implement more veggies into your daily life. Noodles are my favorite foods, but they make my blood sugar spike unlike anything else, so I tend to go for alternative noodles whenever possible.

My favorite alternative noodle is the shirataki noodle. It's made from the Japanese konjac yam and tastes the most like real noodles. It's on the expensive side, but it would be wonderful if restaurants could use it because you can easily sub it in for just about any recipe and it works great. A little goes a long way, though; it's pure fiber and a lot can upset your stomach. 

My second favorite is spaghetti squash, which takes longer to prepare but is really good. It's thinner and has a bit of a crunch to it, but not as much as zucchini noodles, which are super crunchy. I still really like those, too, and some restaurants even offer them. 

Some people swear by hearts of palm for a good noodle alternative, but I haven't tried that one. I've tried some alternative pasta-based noodles but they really cause my glucose levels to shoot up almost as much as standard noodles, so they aren't my favorite.

What other noodle alternatives are out there that you have tried, or that you've been meaning to try? Share them in the chat.

Chocolate-Covered Bacon

Would you eat it?

As some folks consider cutting back on some types of foods in the New Year, others are making resolutions to cook more and try more things. Either is good! Do what makes you feel good. If you're looking for something new to try, how does chocolate-covered bacon sound? It's simple enough to make, and you can alter it to your tastes and preferences easily.

Chocolate-covered bacon can be made with any flavor or type of bacon you prefer, and you can use dark chocolate or milk chocolate to coat it to control how much sugar goes in. This recipe adds pistachios for an extra kick of flavor but you could remove them or add in other nuts and flavors as you like. 

What other chocolate-covered recipes do you like that may seem strange at first? Share your favorite recipes and tips in the chat. 

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