The first year I lived in Minnesota, I heard a lot of talk about the state fair. It seemed like the Minnesotan event of the summer, the one thing that everyone seemed to go to. I was intrigued. I’d never been to a state fair before. Oh, sure, Michigan has one, and New York has one too. New Jersey even has a state fair (although I didn’t know until I looked it up just now)! And yet I’d never been to any of them.
Growing up, I thought only people who raised livestock went to the fair. I was slightly disturbed by the whole idea, having grown up reading and watching Charlotte’s Web. I didn’t want to see cute little(!) pigs and cows that would be eaten when they got home. My parents weren’t interested in going to the fair either, but for different reasons. It seems the Michigan State Fair is held in a somewhat sketchy part of town. Neither of my parents grew up going to fair; it just wasn’t the thing to do there. So I was pretty surprised to find out that it IS the thing to do here in Minnesota. So that first year, Jim and I hopped in the car and drove out to the fair to see what it was all about.
On that first visit we didn’t really check a map and headed north to see what there was to see. It seems the northern part of the state fair is where the farm equipment is displayed. I’d never seen so many tractors in my life, and was in awe of the size and variety of tractors and tillers available. Being a city girl, I didn’t even know what a lot of the stuff was used for! It was a real eye-opener for me, knowing that I truly was in the heart of farm country. We also got to see some of of the logging equipment in use, classic cars and tractors and the dog show. It wasn’t until we started to get hungry that we ventured over to the south end of the fair.
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I find gummy bears completely addictive, so it was just about impossible for me to pass up Bissinger’s Gummy Pandas. These bears are made with organic ingredients and come in really yummy flavors like blueberry acai and pomegranate white tea. All five flavors are loaded with antioxidants and while I’ve personally only tasted three of the flavors, I can tell you they’re some of the best tasting bears out there.
Gummy bears are a great snack even if you’re trying to lose weight, as they’re low in calories (Bissinger’s blueberry acai gummy pandas are only 8 calories per bear) and contain simple sugars to give you an energy boost. Since all you really need is few bears here and there when your energy is low, Bissinger’s sells the bears in a resealable pouch so they won’t dry out between snacks. If you’re like me and have a hard time having just one or two, knowing that they’ll will taste just as fresh later on can help you resist the urge to eat them all in one sitting.
I should warn you, these are VERY addictive. Pandaholics Anonymous, anyone?
I love these bars! They have the taste and texture of dense, chewy brownies with walnuts, but hidden inside are two servings of fruit. I keep one in each of my camera bags and take them on all my bike rides, just in case I feel my blood sugar start to drop. They’re low on the glycemic index, which means that they provide a steady level of energy and won’t cause a sudden surge of blood sugar followed by a drop. They’re the perfect snack for me when I need to keep my energy up and keep hunger at bay.
Clif uses all organic ingredients and free-trade cocoa in these bars, and they’re a member of 1% for the planet, so you can feel good about where your cash is going when you buy a nectar bar. Good taste, good for you, and good for the planet – I couldn’t ask for more in an chocolate bar.
Starbucks has been getting quite a bit of bad press lately, and some of it is well-deserved. However, I can confidently say that they scored big points with me when they put the vanilla rooibos latte on the menu. This blend of vanilla and rooibos with a healthy dose of steamed milk has really put Starbucks back on the map for me. This is a drink I drive out of my way to get, and not just in the morning. Since it’s naturally caffeine-free I can get my latte fix all day and still sleep well at night.
If you’re not familiar with rooibos, it’s a reddish-brown leaf grown only in South Africa. The name is actually means “red bush.” It’s naturally caffeine-free, doesn’t get bitter if it steeps for a long time and is high in antioxidants. It has a slightly sweet flavor, but I still prefer it with a tiny bit of honey, and it goes really nicely with milk. Starbucks’ version has vanilla, but I’m not sure if that’s from the tea or from a vanilla syrup added to the drink. Either way it’s pretty tasty.
I’ve tried to make this drink at home, and I’ve not been able to duplicate the full flavor of Starbucks’ version. It might be that I’m using skim milk, or that I’m using a different brand of tea. I’m going to keep trying though – I’ll let you know if I find a recipe that works for me.