This post is sponsored by Arla Cheese
I swear I never thought I’d see the day when I’d look at a bagel and see balance, but I also promised myself I’d never write another thing once college ended…and last year I wrote a memoir, so. Here we are.
If you’ve read It Was Me All Along, you know my binge-to-balance relationship with bagels. I ate about a million bagels in college–mostly in the form of breakfast sandwiches, but of course, I didn’t discriminate against cream cheese. The thicker the schmear the better. But in 2005, when I reached my highest weight and started down the path to losing 135 pounds, I was sure I had them up. I was convinced that bagels were these nutritionally bankrupt carb bombs and that cream cheese was fattening. Now I’m convinced that youth is the ability to convince yourself of just about anything.
When I did eventually lose all of the weight, and brought cream cheese back into my life, it was nothing like I remembered, because this version was fat-free, and had such an unpleasant aftertaste that I wondered why my cream cheese made my lips pucker more than the tangiest grapefruit. A few times, I slathered it on a bagel–and not a bagel I’d particularly want these days, but one whose nutrition information made me feel safe, at least–and when I finished the last bite, I was so unsatisfied. I regretted “wasting calories.”
Back then, all of my thoughts were so black and white. And I can understand why. I went from knowing nothing about healthy eating and being overweight for 20 years, to losing weight using all of this very common low-fat dieting ideology. It wasn’t that I thought fat was “bad,” per se, but that it had a lot of calories, and keeping my calories low was my priority. I didn’t care how long a list of ingredients a food or product had, so long as the calories were reasonable, which is sad and scary to think about now. But ten years ago, the world of healthy eating and dieting was different. There wasn’t a lust for coconut oil or a grand revival of egg yolks. Almost everyone probably would have considered Splenda the “best” of the artificial sweeteners. 100-calorie packs were created just about 10 years ago (2004), and recently, AdWeek noted their major recession.
For me, eating fat-free and predominantly sugar-free in the name of maintaining a low-calorie diet left me hungry all the time. I ate constantly, and despite seemingly eating around the clock, I had this gnawing feeling of never being satisfied. Of course, now it’s plain to see that I needed more fat, and maybe more protein. I needed foods that didn’t just have volume, but substance, too. And probably a few less ingredients. But really, I just needed to learn that food is more than simply nutrition and calories, and that satiety isn’t entirely a physical experience; it’s mental and emotional, too.
NATIONAL BAGEL DAY!
Today is National Bagel Day and I am so happy to celebrate. Six years ago, when I lived in Seattle, I started eating bagels again regularly–regularly, as in, every weekend. It became my sweet little Saturday tradition: a real-deal bagel with full-fat cream cheese and so.much.coffee.
These days, I don’t have a bagel every weekend (maybe I burned myself out :), but I do live a stone’s throw from New York City, so I feel really lucky that I have access to some of the very best bagels. But you don’t have to have NYC bagels to enjoy National Bagel Day. You just have to have one you love. For me, I love a dense, chewy bagel with a crisp, salty crust and a slightly yeasty flavor. I always go for the savory ones, like sesame seed, onion, or everything. Then, I toast it dark (and I mean DARK) and spread it with full-fat cream cheese because (surprise!) it keeps me full, tastes better, and having something a little bit richer makes me feel more satisfied on every level…and that matters.
5 flavors: Original / Light / Herbs & Spices / Peppercorn / Blueberry. Favorite: Herbs & Spices!
Now, here’s the star of the show: Arla Cream Cheese. I was introduced to Arla at the Better Blog Retreat last October and I fell in love. Ever since that weekend, Daniel and I have eaten their cheeses non-stop. I can’t tell if I should admit that or not. Regardless, I’ve honestly converted everyone I know and love. I made a cheese platter for a party at Sabrina’s, put together football party sandwiches with their Sliced Dill Havarti, and even used their sister brand, Castello’s, blue cheese to make a cheese and cracker appetizer with orange marmalade and rosemary (I’m not usually this fancy I swear). Daniel tells me I’m obsessed, and I can’t even argue. I just love this brand and truly think it’s a step above.
There’s no denying the quality and integrity of a brand whose cream cheese has 4 INGREDIENTS (cream, milk, cheese culture, salt) when other leading brands have 11! ELEVEN, my friends. All of Arla’s cheeses are just as simple and pure: free of artificial flavors, with no preservatives, thickeners, or stabilizers. I seriously love that, because nowadays, especially if you’re health conscious even just a little bit, it’s really easy to feel overwhelmed by healthy eating or to feel like you should avoid ANY packaged foods whatsoever. We all probably thought we should avoid things like the packaged sliced cheeses we had when we were young (and weren’t we the luckiest generation?), but let me tell you what’s in Arla Sliced Havarti: pasteurized milk, salt, microbial rennet, culture. 4 INGREDIENTS. I checked other brands, and they have 18 ingredients. I’m not even someone who goes nuts with ingredient lists or who avoids processed foods at all costs, but when I know that delicious-tasting cheese can be made with 4 identifiable ingredients, I am less inclined to buy the one with 18–and one of them is a color.
To celebrate National Bagel Day, I dreamed up 5 downright delicious bagel toppings using all 5 of Arla’s Cream Cheese flavors! And none of them will break the bank calorie-wise or make you wonder whether or not you’ve fallen off-the-wagon. No regrets ever, my friends. For these recipes, I used mini whole wheat bagels because they’re cute as a button, and I liked that the smaller size allowed me to sample a few of the different flavors that I made (I basically threw myself a bagel party)!
I hope that if you love bagels as much as I do, you’ll celebrate today or sometime soon! You deserve to live a full and satisfying life–and a bagel every now and then, whether full-sized or mini, can absolutely be part of that!
BLUEBERRY COCONUT BAGEL
Blueberry Coconut Bagel
2 tablespoons Arla Blueberry Cream Cheese Spread
¼ cup fresh blueberries, or frozen blueberries, thawed
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
Nutrition information for the topping: Calories 130.3, Total Fat 9g, Sat Fat 7g, Cholesterol 20mg, Carb 10.1g, Fiber 2g, Sugars 7.3g, Protein 2.8g
Mediterranean Bagel Topping
2 tablespoons Arla Herbs & Spices Cream Cheese Spread
1 roasted red pepper, packed in water, finely chopped
2 kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
Nutrition information for the topping: Calories 117.9, Total Fat 10.1g, Sat Fat 4g, Cholesterol 20mg, Carb 5.3g, Fiber 0.7g, Sugars 2.5g, Protein 2.6g
Pizza Bagel Topping
2 tablespoons Arla Peppercorn Cream Cheese Spread
2 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
3 grape or cherry tomatoes, chopped
2 slices turkey pepperoni
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch red pepper flakes
Nutrition information for the topping: Calories 93.8, Total Fat 5.9g, Sat Fat 3.3g, Cholesterol 27.2mg, Carb 5.8g, Fiber 1.1g, Sugars 2.1g, Protein 4.1g
Funfetti Bagel Topping
2 tablespoons Arla Original Cream Cheese Spread
1 teaspoon honey or powdered sugar
½ teaspoon rainbow sprinkles
Nutrition information for the topping: Calories 111, Total Fat 7.5g, Sat Fat 4.5g, Cholesterol 25mg, Carb 8.2g, Fiber 0g, Sugars 8.2g, Protein 1g
CHOCO-PEANUT BUTTER BANANA BAGEL
Choco-Peanut Butter Banana Bagel
1 ½ tablespoons natural peanut butter
1 ½ tablespoons Arla Light Cream Cheese Spread
¼ medium banana, sliced
dark chocolate shavings, optional
Nutrition information for the topping: Calories 196.4, Total Fat 13.2g, Sat Fat 4.3g, Cholesterol 15.1mg, Carb 13.2g, Fiber 2.1g, Sugars 7.2g, Protein 6.0g
Two Fridays ago, I hosted an event at Park Avenue Winter with a fantastic group of bloggers and influencers to eat, drink, and spread the love about Arla!
We had a cream cheese bar with bagels and lox, the ultimate cheese platter with all the varieties of Arla’s sliced cheeses, and THEN sat down to a lunch that Park Avenue’s chef prepared using a variety of Arla’s cheeses.
I gave a 10-minute talk and the group did not fall asleep (but there were no beds!). It was nice to get the chance to meet a dozen or so local people that I hope to connect with again, and to see at least one familiar face that I love. Lastly and most pressingly, I brought home a 10-pound wheel of Gouda. So yes, Daniel and I are enjoying our engagement.
***Update: Giveaway is now closed*** To celebrate National Bagel Day, Arla is helping me give away a Simply Better Breakfast Bundle! Here’s what’s included:
– Arla Cream Cheese
– Decorative Cutting Board
– Bagel Slicer
– Toaster Tongs
How to Enter:
- Share this Post on Facebook – OR – Pin It on Pinterest!
- Leave a comment below letting me know that you shared it, and tell me your favorite bagel combo!
Winner will be chosen randomly Wednesday 2/10/16 by 12am EST!