Bonnie: Annie Chun's has a make-your-own sushi kit. What fun! Annie provides the rice, seaweed wraps and soy sauce. You select your filling leftover meats, fish, veggies, fruit or even cheese and roll that with the cooked rice in the seaweed.
The rice in this version is sprouted brown, which is unhulled brown rice soaked overnight so that it begins to germinate. That rice has a softer texture and is more easily digested than regular brown rice. It also has slightly more nutrition than regular brown rice and 4 grams of fiber.My only complaint is the missing condiments. What, no pickled ginger or wasabi?
Carolyn: I'm not a fan of seaweed either when swimming or eating. I've been further alienated from sushi by stories of chefs who spend years learning how to prepare it. Five minutes of microwaving is about as long as I'm willing to devote to making dinner on a weekday (lunch gets even less time).
But amazingly, it takes only about two minutes to make a sushi roll from Annie Chun's kit: One minute for the rice to cook just about perfectly, and the other minute to place that rice and something else you have in the house on the seaweed (also called "nori") and roll it up. Even I could do it!
The seaweed wraps still taste like seaweed, but you don't have to fill them with raw fish. In fact Annie's suggestions of string cheese, pastrami, bacon and eggs, and peanut butter seem designed to give this traditional Asian food American snack appeal. This actually got me rooting through the refrigerator for different fillings having much more fun and eating many more rolls than I ever imagined.I don't recommend using peanut butter (too salty) or dates (which were overwhelmed by the powerful seaweed during one of my experiments). But sweet, ripe cantaloupe provided a wonderful balance to the nori's saltiness. If only all sushi wraps were as tasty, affordable and fun as these I made with the help of Annie Chun.
Nabisco Garden Harvest Toasted Chips. Apple Cinnamon, Banana, Tomato Basil, and Vegetable Medley. $2.99 per 6-ounce bag.
Bonnie: Nabisco has just introduced new whole-grain chips containing a quarter-cup of fruit or vegetables in each serving. Odd is the way I'd describe these: an odd concept and odd-tasting.
One 16-chip serving provides 120 calories, 3 to 4 grams of total fat, 3 grams of fiber and a half serving (out of the 5 to 9 servings) of fruits and vegetables that the government suggests we get daily. The chips are crunchy and taste redolent of the named fruit or veggie. But they're still not something I'd want to eat with a sandwich or with a dip.I do give credit to Nabisco for attempting to incorporate more nutrition into its foods. Eating these in place of potato chips would be a good thing. Eating them in place of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables would not.
Carolyn: Americans love bad-for-you snack chips, and they hate healthy whole fruits and veggies. But what if some smart food scientist could create tasty snack chips with some fruit or veggie servings in them? It would be a license to print money, right?
That's obviously what the food marketers behind Frito-Lay's Flat Earth Fruit and Veggie Crisps and these new Nabisco Garden Harvest Toasted Chips were thinking. The question is: Were they thinking straight?
Fruit-flavored snack chips are, after all, quite an unusual idea. While Garden Harvest certainly delivers on the promised sweet banana and apple cinnamon flavors, who wants those flavors in a snack chip?The savory veggie flavors make a lot more sense, especially when paired with Garden Harvest Wheat Thins-like cracker base. But that doesn't mean I recommend them. The Vegetable Medley delivers no distinctive taste. And both it and the (better) Tomato Basil smell and taste like the salty dehydrated veggies found in some boxed rice and pasta dishes i.e., not like a snack treat.
Yoplait Yo-Plus Yogurt. Strawberry, Vanilla, Peach and Cherry. $2.49 per package of four 4-ounce cups.
Bonnie: Yoplait Yo-Plus has followed Dannon's Activia and Breyers Light! Probiotic Plus in offering yogurt that contains probiotic ingredients (healthy bacteria), which purport to regulate your digestive system. Yo-Plus contains Optibalance, a special culture and a natural fiber. Activia contains Bifidus Regularis, and Breyers has Probiotic Plus, a bacteria that may also boost immunity. They all help decrease transit time of food through your gut meaning, you'll be more regular.I'm wondering whether it's the older baby boomers who are driving this trend, as many are getting to the age when prunes (or, as they are now called, dried plums) are needed to help keep things moving. If you are one of those folks, give Yo-Plus a try: It's the only one of these new yogurts not made with artificial sweeteners.
Carolyn: Could the yogurt case be replacing the cereal aisle as the most gimmicky place in the supermarket? Whipped yogurt, organic yogurt, yogurt with toppings or added calcium, yogurt in tubes and yogurt drinks are now old news as these products are being replaced by newer digestive-health yogurts.
The good news is that these kinds of bacteria don't change the yogurt's taste or texture for the worse. The bad news is that there are now so many brands with bacteria, they are starting to dominate the yogurt case, especially in smaller supermarkets. That means that yogurt eaters without digestive problems who are forced to eat these could suddenly start having some of their own problems.
For those seeking such products, Yo-Plus is similar to Activia in price, calories and small size (about 100 calories for 4 ounces). Breyers added its probiotics to an 8-ounce diet yogurt that also contains extra calcium and vitamins at the bargain price of only 10 to 30 cents more than Yo-Plus and Activia.Breyers Light! would obviously be the choice of people who are as concerned with their weight and their money as they are with their bathroom habits.
Bonnie Tandy Leblang is a registered dietitian and professional speaker. Carolyn Wyman is a junk-food fanatic and author of "Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed the Way We Eat" (Quirk). Each week they critique three new food items. For previous columns, visit www.supermarketsampler.com, and for more food info and chances to win free products, visit www.biteofthebest.com. © Universal Press Syndicate