Thursday, November 29, 2012

Breyers Blasts! Birthday Oreo (An Ice Cream Review)

OK, there seem to be a lot of mixed opinions out there about Breyers “frozen dairy desserts.” I’ve seen a lot of people that say they’re gummy, they melt too fast, they’re just so obviously not ice cream. I happen to like the ease with which they scoop (most of them, anyway) and they way they get slightly melty as you eat them.

One of my favorites is, of course, a limited edition flavor in celebration of Oreo’s 100th birthday. Since we’re coming up on the end of the year, I figured I’d better enjoy it while I still could, so here were are with the Birthday Oreo Blast! from Breyers.

“To celebrate family-favorite cookie,  OREO®, on its 100th birthday, Breyers® has whipped up a limited edition, cake-flavored treat exploding with OREO® cookie pieces and rainbow sprinkles!”
Now, if you don’t already know, I am a lover of all things cake flavored (except cheesecake). Especially cake batter, but that’s another story. I have a couple of other favorites, but I haven’t had this one in a while. So we had a nice reunion. :)

It’s like the Golden Oreo Blast! in that the Oreo chunks are a mix of nice, big cookie pieces and blenderized flecks. The sprinkles are fun for color, but they don’t add much else. I’ve never been a huge sprinkle fan because mostly they just get in the way, but here they’re pretty harmless.

I only wish the Oreos were a little bit more like the ones in the Golden Oreo ice cream (OK, frozen dairy dessert or whatever), in that they aren’t as soft. In fact some of them keep their crunch as if they weren’t immersed in a melting frozen dairy dessert, and I did really like the way the Golden Oreos felt like they’d been soaking in milk. Then again, maybe I just like Golden Oreos better than regular Oreos. Does that make me a traitor?

Sorry, I got a little off track there. But the bottom line is, I like this frozen dairy dessert, which I will henceforth refer to as ice cream no matter what the FDA says about its classification. The base ice cream is distinctly cake flavored and very sweet, so it’s basically what you’d expect: Cookies & Cream with a sweetened cake base. Slightly more exciting than plain old cookies & cream. So, if you’re like me and you love cake and Oreos, and have nothing against Breyers
non-ice-cream ice cream, this is definitely worth buying.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review: GNC Pro Performance Deluxe Oatmeal Protein Bar Glazed Cinnamon Roll

Whew. That has to be the longest post title in the history of blogs. Sorry if I already lost you, especially since this bar is worth it.

Up till last week, I’ve never actually bought anything from GNC. I usually only ever go in there with free coupons, which is actually what I did last week, but they didn’t carry the brand I wanted. Anyway, it was buy three/get one free on protein bars, so I decided to try a couple new ones. Being a lover of Quest’s Cinnamon Roll bar, I naturally gravitated right toward the GNC Pro Performance Glazed Cinnamon Roll oatmeal protein bar.

It may not look as big as some of the other 400-calorie, 30-grams-of-protein monsters out there, but trust me, this thing is a brick. It’s tall and wide, heavy, and solid...very substantial. The icing puts you in mind of a cinnamon bun, although it’s annoying about crumbling off the bar and making a mess. Oh, and the thing legitimately smells like cinnamon rolls. I mean, really.

You can see the texture is going to be pretty consistent the whole way through. There’s also no coating, and the box in the store advertised them as microwaveable, so I’m hoping it’ll be sort of like a Quest bar.

OK, I was thinking with the weight and the fact that I got this bar from the basement on a below-freezing November evening, that it would be tough to chew. I know my Quest bars do that sometimes when I keep them in my backpack and then bike to class, and I have to sit on them to warm them up...sorry, too much information, right? Anyway, no such problem here. It’s really soft, even without microwaving. There’s a little bit of oatmeal vibe from the texture, but not much. It was chewy enough that you won’t blow right through it but it’s not tiring at all.

And it also tastes pretty much like a cinnamon roll. It actually reminds me of the new Keebler Cinnabon cookies, or the ButterBraid bread we made a few nights ago. Very well done. The icing also tastes great--very sweet--and I like the crusty texture it adds, but it has an annoying habit of sticking to your upper lip if you eat the bar right side up and falling off if you don’t.

Of course, I had to microwave the last bit. It gets even softer, almost gooey but not quite. In the danger zone because now you could definitely blow right through it. But the cinnamon flavor doesn’t seem as strong anymore, although the icing comes through even stronger and loses some of its crustiness.

This is now another one of my favorites, but it’s going to be a dessert replacement rather than meal supplement because of the calorie load. I’ve got another flavor waiting in the wings that just became a priority to try, too. ;)

Taste: 10--this is really just like a cinnamon roll.
Texture: 10--soft and chewy, and almost gooey in the microwave.
Health: 8--only 6 grams of sugar, but it still has a lot of carbs if you’re concerned about that. Still, a thousand times better than an actual cinnamon roll!
Eat Again? Yes.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Review: Pure Protein Bar Peanut Marshmallow Eclipse

OK, with two Pure Protein bars under my belt, we have one success and one...well, I was trying to come up with a nicer word than failure, but I, uh, failed.

Anyway, the S’mores bar was the better of the two by far, mainly because of the marshmallow. So when I was the Peanut Marshmallow Eclipse bar at Weis, I reacted instinctively and snatched it up, remembering just how fluffy and sweet that marshmallow layer was.

That was a bit of a shock. I was expecting a chocolate coating, but now I realize that the packaging never really said anything about chocolate at all. The peanut butter coloring is perfectly acceptable, and it even has me exciting thinking that this could be something like a Fluffernutter, or my own PB & Peeps concoctions.

I am not disappointed by the marshmallow--it’s as soft and fluffy as ever and is obviously going to compete with the coating as the star of the bar here. The base is also peanut butter colored, but I’m not holding out much hope for it given previous experiences.

Yup, it’s pretty much just as I expected. As before, the base is less than stellar, sort of sour and distinctly proteiny, although bearable when combined with the other layers. Is also leaves a bit of a gritty powder feel in your mouth, which is slightly annoying. The biggest disappointment was that only once throughout the whole bar (which isn’t really that big, by the way) did I get a vague hint of something that might be peanut.

That said, once again the marshmallow was very sweet and made up for the base somewhat. It did a good job of masking the not-so-pleasant taste of protein. The coating wasn’t a huge player, but it was inoffensive and nice to look at.

In texture, it was the typical gummy, chewy protein bar. I liked that the coating didn’t make a mess, and it was easy enough to eat. Almost too easy, considering the size and the fact that it would have been gone in about two minutes if I didn’t force myself to slow down and think about it so I could write this review.

In the end, this bar is inoffensive enough, and I could see myself eating it again if I needed a protein boost. But I still think there are more satisfying bars out there, so I don’t think this will be a regular.

Taste: 7--doesn’t taste like peanuts, and the base is obviously protein. But the marshmallow helps.
Texture: 8--fluffy marshmallow on top of your typical gummy protein bar.
Health: 8--why do all these bars have sugar alcohols? Still, not a bad trade off for 19 grams of protein, in my opinion.
Eat Again? Maybe.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Few Food Finds

In case you’re wondering if I ever eat real food...I do. It’s just part of my routine and I don’t really think about posting it. But I had a few discoveries over the past month or so that I felt were worth sharing, because...well, they were good!

Firstly, have you heard of Butter Braids? Yeah, me neither. They make frozen pastries for fundraisers, and they’re not available any other way. Since my mom always buys things from kids going door to door, we’ve had this frozen cinnamon braided bread in our freezer for about a year now. So at the beginning of Thanksgiving break I suggested that we finally make it, since my sister (who doesn’t like cinnamon) wasn’t going to be around.

Well, we did, and it was amazing. You have to let it sit out for 8 to 12 hours, and it rises until it’s twice the size...then you bake it and frost it, and voila! Warm, flaky bread with ooey gooey cinnamon oozing out. It was a little messy, but you know that means it was good!

Discovery #2: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter. Speculoos are cookies popular in Europe around the holidays, but they’re invading America now too. I don’t know what the actual cookies are like, but I think they’re sort of like shortbread with ginger, cinnamon, and a couple other spices. And they come in a spreadable form!

It’s slightly thicker than peanut butter and a bit harder to spread, and it tastes like gingerbread. Which is a plus in a house where we never make gingerbread cookies because I’m the only one who eats them. It’s great between two halves of an Oreo after you scrape out the filling (saving it for later, of course), or for a sandwich. Personally, the best use I’ve found for it is spreading it between a Thomas’ corn bagel.

Something about the sweet bagel and the gingerbread just mixes so well together, it’s almost as good as brownies. There’s some grittiness to the spread, too, which provides just the right amount of texture in between the soft bread. If you haven’t tried this stuff, go buy some. It’s awesome.

So there you have it, living proof that I don’t just eat protein bars and ice cream. I guess trying new things doesn’t have to mean picking up a new bar at Wegmans. :)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Review: Metragenix 7:1 Bar White Crispy Crunch

I walked into one of my local GNC’s (there are three) the other day with a coupon for a free Eat Smart bar from iSatori, but for the second time was told that they weren’t in stock. (The last time they told me to come back next week, and so I waited patiently...maybe I will have to try a different local GNC!). But they did have a ton of other protein bars, and the guy at the counter helpfully informed me that it was buy three, get one I bought three and got one free,  of course!

Among them was the Metragenix 7:1 White Crispy Crunch bar. The last Metragenix bar I got from GNC really impressed me, which is why I chose this. That, and I had no idea what “White Crispy Crunch” tastes like (the description on that website claims birthday cake), but I’m assuming it’s got a white coating and you know I love those. ;)

Whoa. That looks like some mutant protein bar with warts! OK, they’re actually what appear to be broken up Cheerio bits, but still...I was expecting crunch inside the bar, not outside. On the plus side, the coating is definitely white! Unfortunately it, and the little Cheerio things, are leaving residue all over the table and my, warning number one: Don’t eat this in the car unless you want to look like you’ve got baby powder all over your crotch.

Another surprise! The inside just looks like a plain old protein-bar base. It’s white, in keeping with the name of the bar, but it doesn’t look crispy or crunchy. Still, maybe those crispies are hiding in there somewhere....

Nope, I can officially say they are not. The “crisp” and “crunch” of this part consist solely of the Cheerio bits glued to the coating. Weird, I definitely wouldn’t call this bar either crispy or crunchy, even with the Cheerios on it. It’s just a gummy protein bar with, well, with Cheerios on it. (Sorry, I’m getting repetitive here.) And those Cheerios happen to be very awkward and even painful when it comes to actually taking a bite, because they cut into the roof of your mouth. I have a couple sore spots right behind my front teeth from those little suckers. The thing is, I actually liked the gummy inside. I think they should just get rid of the Cheerio pieces, only then they’d have to name the bar “White.”

Despite the texture inconsistencies and the mess, I really enjoyed this bar. It was the taste that did it for me. I still don’t know what “White Crispy Crunch” tastes like, but it’s sort of a vanilla-like sweetness. I could totally see the birthday cake thing, which might explain why I liked it so much! And it didn’t have any protein taste. This really impressed me about the other Metragenix bar, too, because they’re both big like the MET-Rx or Supreme Protein I’ve eaten, but they’re somewhere in the range of 100 fewer calories and the same amount of protein. However they do it, it’s amazing.

The chewiness and taste were definitely the winning aspects of this bar. In the end, it really satisfied me, and I would gladly risk the roof of my mouth again to eat this one.

Taste: 9.5--pleasantly sweet, with no protein taste; vanilla-ish.
Texture: 9--I would have preferred if they left off the Cheerios. The interior was gummy enough to occupy me but not so much that I got tired.
Health: 9--these bars are great because they have the high protein content of the jumbo “candy bars” you can get, but without all the extra stuff you don’t need.
Eat Again? Yes, even though my mouth might not like those Cheerios.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friendly's Butter Crunch Ice Cream, Meet Turkey Hill Baklava Frozen Greek Yogurt

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! As I’m still trying to recover from the three kinds of pie I ate last night, I decided to make this post cream!

OK, I’ve been eyeing these two up in the Weis by the YMCA for weeks now, every time I walk by the freezer aisle to get Greek yogurt. Well, I finally just gave in and bought the carton of Friendly’s Butter Crunch ice cream that was staring me down relentlessly, because I knew that until I tried it, I would just keep drooling at it through the glass.

This is for you maple lovers out there. (I love the color!)

“Our Rich & Creamy premium butter and maple flavored ice cream with butter crunch candy pieces.”
It’s an accurate description. This is definitely premium ice cream, it’s super creamy and easy to scoop (and keep scooping...).  It has a really strong maple flavor, so if you’re like me and can’t have maple syrup around because you drown your pancakes, this is definitely for you. The candy pieces are crunchy like toffee and just intensify the maple flavor. They are also quite plentiful.

Now, the other one that’s been torturing me from behind the freezer glass is Turkey Hill’s Baklava frozen Greek yogurt. I was a bit reluctant to buy it because I’ve never tried Greek frozen yogurt before and I was afraid it would be too tangy for me. But I read the description...

“Vanilla GREEK frozen yogurt with crunchy baklava pieces and a honey cinnamon swirl.”
Well, I had to Google “baklava,” but the swirl had me hooked anyway.

This one is a lot different in texture--very solid and harder to scoop. Even though it’s not as creamy, it’s just as good as the Friendly’s. The baklava pieces are sweet and cinnamony and have the same crunch as the candy in Friendly’s ice cream. The swirl is well distributed, although there are some liquid puddles of it in places. No matter, though, it just adds a really sweet element! I couldn’t taste any Greek yogurt tang at all. In fact, it reminded me of cinnamon streusel and maybe--dare I even say it?--Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns on a less rich scale.

No, neither one contains chocolate. Maybe I’m finally learning to love other flavors, too. ;) But they’re still great ice creams. Which I will definitely not put off buying ever again. They are coming back as soon as I finish these cartons!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: Supreme Protein Carb Conscious Peanut Butter Crunch

OK, I know this is only my second Supreme Protein review, but I’ve already come to see them as candy-protein bars rather than “clean” protein bars. That said, you know I can’t stay away from these gargantuan sugary treats, I just seem to be going through a phase where bigger is better. Which is partly why I found myself eating this 86-gram Supreme Protein Carb Conscious Peanut Butter Crunch bar. That, and because I wanted peanut butter, didn’t want to dig into the leftover Halloween candy, and was too lazy to make myself a peanut butter-and-Peeps sandwich.

Like I said, it’s big, so it should at least curb your appetite.

OK, I can definitely see the “crunch”--I’m assuming it refers to those rice crispies you can see through the chocolate coating on the top. And I can smell the peanut butter, although it’s not the pure peanut butter smell you’d get from sticking your nose inside a jar of Jif (yes, I do this sometimes). But I’ve found that a lot of products labeled “peanut butter” just don’t meet my picky standards.

The inside looks a lot like a souped-up Reese’s. There’s a base protein layer, a creamy layer above that, and then the chocolate coating. I love the peanut butter coloring here. But when I broke it in half for this picture, there was a BIG snap--no flexibility, just brittle resistance. It was sort of like breaking a carrot. So I took that as a bit of an ominous sign and proceeded with caution.

Well, let’s just say it’s not the easiest thing to eat. But then again, neither is peanut butter when you get right down to it.... Anyway, the main issue here is that it’s really hard to chew. The coating and creamy layer are fine, in fact they’re great. But the protein base is, like the ominous snap foreshadowed, a cross between a brick and a Laffy Taffy. It’s tough to bite and kind of dry, although it has a weird way of moistening and expanding in your mouth. The other issue is mess: the coating kept chipping off and getting all over my lap, keyboard, floor, couch, etc. The bar gets stuck all over your mouth, which I guess is sort of like peanut butter in that you’ll be wanting a glass of milk (if you like milk) to un-stick everything from everything else.

OK, on to taste. I can’t say it’s not peanut buttery, though of course not like real peanut butter. If you take a big-ish bite (please, not too big or you’ll never be able to chew it!), the peanut butter flavor comes through even stronger. It’s no mildly sweet peanut butter, it’s more down-to-earth and maybe a little on the bitter side. The creamy layer seems to hold most of the peanut butter flavor. But there’s no aftertaste and I’ll be darned if I can tell it’s supposed to be a protein bar (aside from the texture). I will say that after my initial bites, the second half definitely seemed more peanut buttery.

This bar was a mixed bag. It certainly satisfied my peanut butter craving, but at the same time I would have liked a little less work for my snack. I mean, I picked this because I was too lazy to make a sandwich! The texture here really slows you down because you cannot chew this bar fast. Just trust me. But I’d still call it a success overall. That’s how much I love peanut butter.

Taste: 9--it’s pretty much peanut butter surrounded by chocolate.
Texture: 6--the coating is messy and the base is could keep you busy for a day or two. And that’s not including the time you spend trying to unstick your mouth. On the plus side, the creamy peanut butter layer is prime candy bar fare.
Health: 7--high protein, but also high in sugar alcohols
Eat Again? Maybe, but there are better options out there.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cast Your Ballots, Or We'll Make You

We have a funny way of looking at government here in America. We enjoy the benefits it gives us, yet we don’t hesitate to condemn it for imposing itself upon our freedom. Particularly in the case of our national epidemic of obesity and its associated risks, we want government to fix our problems. But we bemoan the laws they pass, such as banning soda from schools, in order to stay the growth of our collective waistline.

We can’t have it both ways. Either we take accountability for our own health and make the effort to choose nutritious foods over Big Macs and pizza, or water instead of soda. Or we can refuse to make changes until the severity of the problem becomes so evident that we are forced to legislate our food for our own good.

I came across a really interesting (and thoughtful) blog post from the president of Quest Nutrition, who argues against such legislation even when the consequences to our health can be negative. He sums up his reasoning in one sentence: “By trying to legislate people’s eating habits you force compliance rather than inspiring companies to deliver higher quality products.”

Which is a really good point. But while he’s looking at the mindset of companies, I think the same can be said of individuals. When you legislate eating habits, you don’t inspire people to make positive changes for the sake of their health--in some cases, you turn them against the very choices they should be making.

And let’s face it, in a corporate world where survival depends on outselling your competitors, what’s going to inspire companies to deliver these higher quality, healthier products, if we don’t write it into laws?

The answer: we are. Us. We, the people. This is why it’s important to look at the way legislation affects the individual, not just the company. America is a democracy, and nowhere is this truer than in retail. Only here, we vote with our wallets. If we all took a stand against fatty foods or sugary beverages or shopped local and organic instead of buying processed cereal with ingredients you can’t even pronounce, those processed products wouldn’t last long on the shelves. By decreasing their profits, we could inspire companies to change their ways. We could rewrite the nutritional panel of America’s superstores.

Unfortunately, as long as it’s more convenient to stop at Walmart for frozen TV dinners or at McDonald’s for a burger and fries, that’s what most people will do (and I’m guilty of this sort of thing, though not the burger specifically ;)). It’s cheaper, it’s easier, so why should we do it any other way? Therein lies the challenge.

So remember next time you cast your vote. Even a little change can make a difference. It’s our collective effort that will ultimately determine the outcome. And if we’re going to beat this health challenge, we need to make lifestyle changes for our own sake. Forcing people is just a band-aid on the wound. What we need is a lasting change, for the better.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: MET-Rx ProteinPlus Chocolate Chocolate Chunk

You’ll be relieved to know that after this post, I’m out of MET-Rx bars for now. Unless there’s somewhere else in State College that carries different flavors, I’ve run through all the local varieties. Which is a shame because I really do enjoy their enormous size when I'm feeling really hungry. But anyway, back to the review at hand! Can the Chocolate Chocolate Chunk bar from the ProteinPlus line give them a proper send-off?

Your standard chocolate-coated, mammoth protein bar on the outside...

...and your standard chocolate-flavored protein bar on the inside. I’m not sure where the “chunks” are, because all I can see is the chocolate. There’s chocolate coating. Then there’s the chocolate protein base. And, if you look really hard, you can see a third chocolate layer. It’s on top of the base, and it’s slightly creamier than the coating. That’s three layers of chocolate, and no chunk. So maybe “Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate” is a better name for this bar.

OK, the biggest thing about this bar was the amount of effort I had to put into eating it. I’m all for a good workout but not when it comes to my food, and this thing is really hard. Aside from the coating and creamy layer, the base is basically a big brick. You have to take really small bites, or else you’ll be chewing forever. I could almost feel my front teeth moving out of place with every bite.

It was also a little dry, but at least there was no aftertaste. Then again there wasn’t really any actual taste from the base layer, either; it was mostly the coating and creamy stuff. But that at least means it tastes for the most part like chocolate, although I’m starting to wonder if I got a stale one. I feel like it was supposed to be chewy, like the other MET-Rx ProteinPlus bars. I’d be interested to try another one and compare.

Taste: 6--the base doesn’t really taste like much, but at least there’s no aftertaste either.
Texture: 5--it’s like trying to eat a brick.
Health: 7--on the plus side, it has 32 grams of protein and only 1 gram of sugar...but with 28 grams of sugar alcohols, you might be clearing the room after eating this bar. It’s also a little hefty on saturated fat. GoodGuide gives it a 7.7.
Eat Again? Maybe, to see if this one was just stale.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Papa's in the House!

OK, just a real quick post. I have to demo my iPad app for the people I’m developing it for this week, so I’m busy making absolutely sure it’s not going to crash halfway through. Between that and crossing my fingers, I’m just ready for Thanksgiving!

I’m also ready! Well, I was, last night anyway. Actually this craving started earlier this week, ever since I learned that Papa John’s makes a Spinach Alfredo pizza. I have to admit that I’ve never had anything other than a plain cheese pizza before in my life, not even before I became vegetarian. And Papa John’s cheese pizza is one of my favorites. But then I read the description:

“This irresistible pizza has a rich and creamy blend of spinach and garlic Parmesan Alfredo sauce.”
Ohhh. If there’s one improvement you could make on pizza in general, it would be the sauce. It’s my least favorite part. And buttery alfredo sauce would definitely be an improvement! Thus my cravings started.

And finally, last night they were answered! My dad (my hero) picked up this thin-crust Spinach Alfredo pizza when he went to Wegmans last night:

I think I spent almost as much time drooling over it and trying to decide which was the best piece as I did actually eating it. But I waited three days for this pizza, and it was going to be perfect!

OK, we all know nothing is perfect, but this thing came pretty darn close. In fact the only better pizza I’ve had was in Virginia Beach this summer (because, I’m sorry, you just can’t beat those aliens). The thin crust was crispy, which I generally wouldn’t prefer, but for some reason it worked really well on this pizza. There was cheese everywhere. The spinach was there but not overwhelming, which was a relief because come on, when I get a pizza I get it for the cheese! The alfredo sauce took a few bites to get used to, but after that it was even better than your average pizza sauce. It was heavenly. And the best part? There are still two pieces left!

The only downside is the cost: $15.99. A plain cheese thin-crust would have been $10.99. But I think it was justified. And totally worth the wait.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Review: MHP Power Pak Protein Pudding

You might have noticed I love protein bars. I’ve done review after review of them, justifying it by the fact that at the same time I was meeting my daily protein goals. 15 grams, 20 grams, and now even some of the enormous ones packing up to 32 grams in one bar! I can’t help it, I think they’re...well, OK, not all of them are great, but for some reason I really enjoy trying them.

What I haven’t done yet, is protein pudding. I tried putting protein powder in Greek yogurt once, with gag-inducing results. So I’m kind of afraid of mixing anything up myself, aside from my usual water-and-powder shakes. But if someone packaged it up for me and came up with a nice flavor...

Oh look, my last order from Netrition included a FREE can of Power Pak Vanilla Creme protein pudding! I have to hand it to them, the nutrition information on this thing looks stellar: 30 grams of protein; only 190 calories; sugar-, lactose-, and gluten-free; and it’s not one of those measly Jello snack cups. This is a substantial size--8.8 oz. Plus, the words “vanilla creme” have already sent me into a whole world of Oreo filling fantasy.

So I opened the can eagerly...

...well, it doesn’t look all that appetizing, does it? There are little bubbles everywhere, but it’s nice and thick and maybe a little gloopy. I tried to remind myself that the reason I like Greek yogurt is that it’s so thick.

Well, after taking a few bites I came to the conclusion that while Jello pudding gives you little nutritional bang for your buck, it’s also something you’re likely to eat again after the first time. This...not so much. It is sweet, but almost sickly-sweet and faintly gross. I’m not sure what it was, but my stomach was a little queasy the whole time. Granted, the same thing happened the first time I tried protein shakes, so maybe I just needed some time.

Unfortunately I don’t think I’d actually spend money on this just to try it again. On top of the queasiness, it gave me a powdery feel instead of the creamy bliss you expect from pudding. Basically, it’s what I would expect to get from mixing protein powder with pudding. Which really isn’t surprising considering that’s pretty much what this product is.

Taste: 5--it is sweet, but there was something about it that made me want to puke at the same time.
Texture: 7--nice and thick, which is good, but powdery rather than creamy.
Health: 9--for all that protein, it’s got very few negative ingredients. I like the fact that it’s sugar-free, and with about half the calories of a jumbo protein bar with the same amount of protein.
Eat Again? Probably not.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Review: Promax Cookies & Cream Energy Bar

So, State College finally got a Trader Joe’s on November 9th. Guess how I spent my Friday night? Weaving through a very crowded discount store, on opening night, that’s how! It was crazy in there, almost impossible to move while carrying a basket full of food. It was so overwhelming that I didn’t buy nearly as much as I was expecting. But that’s OK, it just means another trip later! ;)

So anyway, imagine my excitement when they had a whole wall of nutrition bars, many of which I’d never seen before! I had a hard time choosing, but the crush of people forced me to limit my choices. I did grab some promising ones, and among them was this Promax Cookies & Cream energy bar.

It’s another big one, like the MET-Rx and Detour bars I’ve reviewed, but being an “energy bar,” it has less protein (20 grams, which is what I usually get out of my normal-sized protein bars). It’s also not as tall as those other behemoths, though comparable in length. Sort of like an elongated thinkThin bar.

OK, I love white coatings. And looking at the ingredients list, this one says “yogurt flavored.” Score!! I love yogurt-flavored white coatings even more. :) The downside is that this one looks thin--I can see from here that the inside is brown because it shows through.

A real look at the inside is a bit disappointing. I was thinking of cookies & cream--a light base with cookie bits swirled around in there. This actually looks a little boring, but I guess appearance isn’t important as long as it tastes good...

My first impression was of cocoa. Not exactly cookies & cream, but not bad either. But after the initial taste, it gets a little protein-y. You know what I mean, there’s something slightly funky going on underneath it all. I’ve had similar experiences with some of the Balance Bars, and while I can put up with it, some people might be turned away. But honestly, if you keep going it’s actually a pretty enjoyable bar. By the end of it I was liking the combination of the melty coating and the base. In fact, by the end of it I was reminded of the Life Choice Cookies & Cream energy bar, which still remains one of my favorites.

It helps that the bar is pretty soft, not gummy like a lot of protein bars. It’s almost cakey and very easy to eat. There are chocolate chips scattered about in the base, or maybe they’re little cookie pieces since this is, after all, supposed to be cookies & cream. They aren’t that noticeable but they do add some nice variety. I overlooked them at first because they’re hard to see with the dark color of the bar.

Is it cookies & cream? Maybe, if you stretch it a little. But is it good? Yeah. Definitely worth a try if you’re into this kind of thing.

Taste: 8--not quite cookies & cream, more of a cocoa flavor with a bit of funny aftertaste that’s not too hard to overlook.
Texture: 8--soft like cake, with UCO’s (unidentified chocolate objects) adding crunch.
Health: 6.5--the wrapper says “energy bar,” although it does contain a lot of protein...if you’re wondering where the energy comes from, it’s probably the whopping 30 grams of sugar.
Eat Again? Maybe.

[nutrition information]

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Those Quirks You Love

In first grade, all I ever wanted was a dog. It was all I ever talked about, all I ever thought about. I was obsessed with 101 Dalmatians. Dalmatians were all over my clothes, from shirts to sweaters to nightgowns. I begged my parents relentlessly for a dog and babbled to my classmates and teachers so much that the lady who helped in my classroom all but threatened my parents: “You are going to get her a dog, aren’t you?”

I was six years old. I was thinking of the happy years ahead, of playing with a puppy and petting my dog--my dog, not someone else’s. It could sleep in my bed. I could hug it and snuggle with it and everything would be perfect.

Well, we ended up with Ashes--not a Dalmatian, but a more manageable-sized Lhasa Apso/Poodle mix. He was sort of an accident. We were dress shopping for a wedding when we walked by the pet store in the mall, and of course my sister and I had to go inside, and there he was in the back of a cage shared with another lively puppy, I can’t remember what kind anymore. I don’t know why we were immediately drawn to him--maybe because he was the smallest one there. But somehow we  ended up getting the manager to take him out and let us play with him.

The first thing he did was bite me. And so, after playing a while, we drove home pestering my mom the whole way and, as soon as we got out of the car, started in on my dad too. And later that night Ashes sat in my mom’s lap while my dad ran into Walmart for puppy supplies.

He never did sleep in my bed. More often than not when I tried to hug him he bared his teeth and growled. Forget about tug of war--reach for his toy and you’d get your hand snapped at. In fact once he drew blood when I carelessly got too close without realizing he was having his “toy time.” And after the initial puppy stages he only ever really snuggled with my mom.

He was grumpy. When he wanted food he would repeatedly unleash piercing howls until you just wanted to wire his jaw shut. He was also the cutest dog ever to walk the face of the earth, and he knew it. But above all that, despite his not-so-sunshiny personality, he was loveable, unbearably so, and we all loved him.

Sudden death is a blessing. Watching someone you love roll with ever increasing steadiness toward the end of life is one of the hardest things you can face. Ashes was always at a disadvantage, with malformed legs and a really long back. He was on joint medication for years, but over the past year his prescriptions started piling up. He lost weight, then stopped eating his regular food. He tolerated canned food for a while, then only hamburger and rice; eventually the rice had to be replaced by noodles, and finally all he would even pick at was hot dogs. He spent increasing portions of the day asleep in his bed. He couldn’t go up or down stairs anymore. His kidneys were failing. He very likely had some sort of malignancy.

His ears were failing, his memory not what it used to be. His eyes were cloudy and, the very last time I saw him, already somewhere far away as if trying to escape the pain. I don’t think he really knew I was there. It was time, but that didn’t make it easier to say goodbye.

Now Missy comes to the door alone when I get home. She’s lonely, but coping. She was always number two, and now she has to learn how to beg for treats on her own. No tag-teaming with Ashes, pretending they have to go potty at different times because they both get food each time one of them does. (Who says animals aren’t smart??) Like the rest of us, she is adjusting to a new normal.

There is a hole in our lives where Ashes used to bite, beg, and on rare and special occasions, allow a hug or snuggle. But he’s far from gone, because those special moments bring him to life in another way. There never was, and never will be, another quite like him. He was one of a kind, and I will always love him for it.