Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review: Detour Lean Muscle Cookies & Cream

So by now I’m sure the two employees (there must be more, but I only ever see two of them) at GNC must know that I only come in if I’ve got a coupon for something free. After several occasions walking in and out of the store without ever taking out my wallet, I started to feel bad, thinking maybe I should actually buy something while I was there. And then I learned about their protein bar special (buy three, get one free), which seems to be permanent. It all kind of snowballed from there, and now those two employees know I’m usually good for an extra four protein bars in addition to my original free one.

Anyway, they had a couple of Detour bars, and the ones I’ve tried so far were pretty good (in fact, the Cookie Dough Caramel Crisp was literally candy). After experiencing MET-Rx’s Super Cookie Crunch and Creamy Cookie Crisp, I was curious about Detour’s take on the classic Cookies & Cream.

Just showing you the size of this monstrosity. ;)

OK, you probably know how I feel about white coatings, so I’m already in love with this bar. I also like that you can see the cookie pieces showing through. Not only is it a nice visual touch, but now I know they’re really in there. On the other hand, it smells like protein. I know that sounds weird, but it’s a weird off-smell, kind of bitter, I guess...anybody who’s had enough protein bars probably knows what I’m talking about. Basically, it smells a bit like protein aftertaste.

It looks pretty much like the picture on the wrapper. It’s a protein base with cookies & cream mixed in, with a chocolate layer running through the middle. I’m not sure if that chocolate layer is a protein layer or a “treat” layer, but in any case it’s not really thick enough to impart significant flavor.

The overall taste is pleasantly sweet. The protein I smelled is definitely there, but not nearly as much as I’d feared, and the sweetness is what lingers in your mouth. I think the coating does a good job of hiding any imperfections in the base. Because the coating is awesome. The ingredients say it’s white chocolate flavored, which isn’t normally a part of C&C, but since I love white chocolate I’m not going to complain. Still, I wouldn’t liken it to a candy bar like I have with other Detour bars, because I was always aware of that protein taste.

The texture might be a little much for some. It’s really a workout, especially if you try to hurry through the bar. I know there are cookie chunks inside, but they’re totally consumed by the gumminess of the base and don’t add crunch or crisp or anything noticeable. So they’re more of an aesthetic addition. I found that this bar got stuck in my mouth (sort of like a gummy version of peanut butter?), and the leftover feeling may have been slightly chalky, or I was just dehydrated.

I don’t like this flavor as much as some of the other Detour bars I’ve had, and MET-Rx’s bars were a much better approximation of cookies & cream. It’s too bad, because the white chocolate coating really was a star...hmm, could we have a bar that was just solid coating? :)

Taste: 8--overall quite sweet, but the protein never really disappears completely.
Texture: 7--tough to chew, gets stuck in your mouth.
Health: 8--TONS of protein, minimal sugar and active carbs...but also a lot of sugar alcohols. Read the label before you decide it’s right for you.
Eat Again? Probably not. I’ll go for the Cookie Dough Caramel Crisp if I feel an inexplicable craving for enormous Detour bars.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review: KIND Bar Almond Cashew + Omega 3

A few months ago (OK, maybe more like 6...), I received a free KIND snack bar. It has since been lost, found, forgotten, and lost again, but I recently uncovered it in the basement and decided I’d better eat it before it runs away for good.

I received the Almond Cashew with Flax + OMEGA 3 bar, which is a “chewy and crunchy blend of whole almonds, cashews and dates” and has 500 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids, which I’m sure I don’t get enough of as a vegetarian (or whatever you call marshmallow/gummy bear-eating “vegetarians”).

The first thing I can say about this bar is that it’s sticky. It stuck to my napkin and, while it doesn’t leave visible residue, you fingers will be sticky until you wash them, so be ready. I think it’s a combination of the dates and whatever else binds this bar together. It also makes it a little challenging to take a bite, but a little work never killed anyone. :)

This bar reminds me a lot of just munching on almonds, albeit sweetened ones. It’s packed with these nuts, and they’re whole, so they definitely play a big role in making the texture crunchy. I can taste the cashews, too, but not nearly as much. The rest of the bar--the sticky stuff, dates I suppose--it sweet and gives the nuts a candied feel. It almost gave me a molasses/appley vibe.

This bar is sort of like the Coconut Cashew truebar I had over the summer, in that it’s a sweet nutty nutrition bar. But it’s less of a dessert-y bakery item, and it’s coarser. It’s like trail mix in a bar from.

I’m not much for fruit-and-nut bars, but I can’t deny that this one is good. If you’re an almond fan (or are open to any kind of nuts), it’s a sure winner. A sweet take on Omega-3s.

Taste: 9--like candied almonds.
Texture: 7--a bit sticky and tough to chew, but the nut crunch is still intact.
Health: 8--GoodGuide gives it a 3.9, but its only warning is about the sugar content. Also note the 10 grams of fat, though most of that is healthy fats from the nuts.
Eat Again? Maybe.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: EAS Advantedge Carb Control Chocolate Chip Brownie Bar

This is only the third EAS product I’ve tried, and the first in their line of chocolate-coated protein bars. I found the Advantedge Carb Control Chocolate Chip Brownie bar at Weis, oddly enough  separated from the rest of the protein bars (although it was among other EAS supplements). Good thing I didn’t miss it!

My first impression is that it’s got that fake-chocolatey smell of a protein bar that tries to hide its protein base but maybe doesn’t quite succeed. It’s also not very tall, although it’s long enough to make up for it.

The upper layer it softer than the base, though I wouldn’t exactly call it’s somewhere between very soft nougat and hot fudge in consistency. As for the base, it tries to be chewy, but it’s a bit hard and dry for my liking. In fact, if it weren’t for the fudge layer, this bar might be borderline unlikeable. Definitely doesn’t remind me of a brownie.

It also doesn’t really try to hide the fact that it’s a protein bar. That slightly bitter mark is ever-present, although hitting the occasional chocolate chip helps mitigate it somewhat. In fact, aside from the smooth but average chocolate coating, the chocolate chips are the best part of this bar. In addition to making it taste a little more chocolatey, they also provide a nice thud to distract you from the dryness of the base.

Now, I suppose if you’re picking up a protein bar, you’re not expecting it to taste like candy (although I have had that happen with brands like Supreme Protein, MET-Rx and Detour). Even so, this did little to impress me. It might be worth a try if you’re a fan of Balance Bars or something similar, but I won’t be going back to this flavor. EAS does a much better job with their granola-based bars.

Taste: 6--while the chocolate chips help, the bitter protein taste is the most noticeable element.
Texture: 7--the chocolate chips add a nice thud, but the base is quite dry. The softer fudge layer helps cover it up a bit, but not enough the simulate a brownie.
Health: 7--it’s low sugar, but there are 17 grams of sugar alcohols, so beware. The 17 grams of protein are a plus, however.
Eat Again? No.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Accidents, Great Friends, and New Beginnings

Sometimes things happen by accident that change your life forever. I know the word “accident” tends to have a negative connotation, like a car accident or a getting-bucked-off-the-pony accident. I’m an accident-prone person, just ask my health insurance provider (or my parents).

But I’ve learned that not all accidents are bad. For example, I always say I ended up with the aforementioned pony by accident, and despite the fact that he did buck me off and broke my pelvis in the process, my life has been richer because of him. So he was a good accident.

And then there’s the job I got by accident.

How do you get a job by accident? Well, first you start with a really great friend who doesn’t want said job, knows it’s exactly the kind of thing you are good at and like to do, and is willing to send your resume in place of his own.

And that’s why I’m moving to Raleigh, North Carolina after graduation. With a great, well-paying job, working for IBM in the Triangle area. By accident.

I wasn’t actively looking for jobs, even though I probably should have been. I wasn’t even thinking beyond graduation. That unknown limbo was too scary to contemplate, so the farthest I’d gone was, “Hey, ARL will probably keep me after I graduate.” I have lived in State College all my life, and never really considered leaving. And I’ve never lived completely on my own, even when I was in the dorms on campus, because I’d always come home on weekends and during the week on the way out to the barn. I still brought my laundry home.

My dad changes the oil in my car. He knows when it needs to be inspected and he knows where to take it. When it needs to go in, we trade cars. He lubed my bike for me and he keeps the tires inflated. My mom makes sure we always have peanut butter and cereal. She does all of our laundry (including my sister’s). My dad cleans the bathrooms and mops the floors, my mom shampoos and vacuums the rugs. She makes cookies and brownies and all sorts of goodies.

Moving more than eight hours away, starting a new job, and taking on all these little responsibilities myself is scary. Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking. But I can’t live with my parents forever, however convenient that might seem. And lately I’ve been feeling like I just need to get out of here. That, combined with the subzero weather last week (it was 30+ degrees warmer in Raleigh), probably nudged me to accept the offer.

Of course I’ll miss State College, seeing my family every day, and especially riding. Eventually, maybe Sydney can move with me, but until I get things figured out it’s probably best that he stay where I know he’ll be well cared for (if fat and lazy). The last thing I want to do is haul him somewhere completely foreign, only to be neglected because I find I can’t handle caring for myself as well as a four-legged eating machine. But I’ll count the days until I feel like I can find a balance.

Is it scary? Yes. But this is an accident that I’m also excited about. It’s like an adventure. I know it will be hard, but there are no rewards without challenges. And since a job at IBM seems like a heck of a reward, I KNOW there will be challenges. But it’s time.

So, goodbye Pennsylvania license plates, hello North Carolina driver’s license! I’ll be baking in the hot sunshine this summer, just two hours from Virginia Beach and close to some gorgeous mountains as well. A chapter of my life is ending, but a new one is starting, and I can’t wait to write it.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: Detour Lower Sugar Caramel Peanut

My induction into the world of jumbo, 30-gram, candy-bar-like protein bars began with a Detour bar. Before that, I never saw the virtues of eating something that big, and I never knew what people meant when they likened their protein bars to Snickers or other candy bars. Sure, some bars taste good, but I wouldn’t call them candy...and then I ate the Lean Muscle Cookie Dough Caramel Crisp bar.

But I haven’t tried any more Detour bars since then, although I’m not sure why. Possibly because the only place that carries them around here is GNC, which is where I decided to reintroduce this brand, with the Lower Sugar Caramel Peanut bar.

I did not get a jumbo-sized bar this time, because they had the option of a smaller one. And it is pretty small, at least to me. I wish there was an in-between size. :)

Inside, we have caramel, peanuts, and a cream-colored base. That caramel does look gooey, although it’s a very thin layer. I’d like to see a bit more, but that’s just me because I love all things caramel.

All right, let’s get down to the important stuff: taste! Despite the seemingly thin caramel layer, this bar is quite sweet, so I can only guess that the base is caramel-flavored as well. There is a funny tint to the sweetness; I wouldn’t exactly call it protein, just odd. I could only really detect it when I didn’t get enough peanuts, so I think it’s coming from the base because trust me, that caramel is the real deal.

The peanuts aren’t wimpy, either. They’re big chunks (seeming all the bigger in this smaller bar), and they impart their flavor accordingly. When you get a huge chunk, the caramel becomes more of a background complement. But they’re not overwhelming by any means, which lets the bar keep a nice mix of sweet and salty.

The only thing keeping this from being a Snickers is the base--it’s definitely not nougat-soft (have you ever met a protein bar with a soft base?). There’s quite a bit of resistance as you bite into it, and I wouldn’t recommend big bites or you’ll get tired. The peanuts add a nice variation with their crunch, and the caramel...well, it’s not that noticeable texture-wise, but as long as I can taste it that’s OK.

I liked it, plain and simple. It’s like a healthier version of a Snickers, pleasantly sweet and at the same time satisfying any nut cravings you have. There might be a bit of funny taste, but nothing that’s a dealbreaker. Good job on this one.
Taste: 8--really peanutty, but the caramel makes itself heard, too. The only detractor is that slight weird sweetness in the base.
Texture: 9--it’s fine if you don’t rush it. Much more satisfying to chew than a Snickers, with the same peanutty crunch.
Health: 8--the protein blend they use is made entirely of whey, and this bar has roughly half the sugar as does the original Caramel Peanut bar (3 grams for the small bar, vs. 6 for the original).
Eat Again? Yes.

Ben & Jerry, You've Met Your Match! (An Ice Cream Review: Talenti Caramel Cookie Crunch Gelato)

I have to admit that I am a bit of an ice cream snob. I spend so much time extolling the virtues of Ben & Jerry’s that you might think it’s the only ice cream I consider worth buying (even though it’s so expensive). But it’s only fair to give other brands a chance, even if they’re just as snobbish and expensive as the Vermont duo. And, in this case, not even ice cream.

I saw this pint of Talenti Caramel Cookie Crunch gelato at Giant the other day, but not being familiar with gelato (I mean, I know it’s an Italian ice cream sort of thing, but I also know it’s not quite the same), I chickened out and left it safely in the freezer before heading to the checkout. Since then I’ve Googled gelato, and discovered that the main difference is that there’s no added air and less fat. Gelato is supposed to be very rich and creamy...sounds right up my alley! So when I also found it at Weis, I grabbed it right away.

I love the container. When have you ever  seen ice cream (fine, gelato) in a plastic pint with a screw-on lid? The reuse potential for this thing is so high, I’d almost feel guilty not eating the entire pint. ;)

It’s also cool that you can see into the container, even though it does induce drooling. Because that caramel swirl looks absolutely amazing!

As you can see, the cookie chunks are quite small, nothing like those big pieces of Oreo that I loved in Breyers’ Golden Oreo and Birthday Oreo Blasts! But in this case, I wouldn’t do anything different. If you’re a true mix-in junkie, these might seem a bit sparse, but they hold their own while letting the magnificent vanilla base shine through. They might be small, but they really pack a chocolatey punch and feel more like a cross between an Oreo and a chocolate chip than a plain old Oreo. They’re just cool. And, between these and the caramel, it’s impossible to get a decent-sized spoonful of just base.

Oh yeah, I mentioned that magnificent base...all those raves about gelato are totally justified, this was by far the best vanilla base I’ve ever had. It has sooo much flavor, it’s insane. Straight out of the freezer it was already a creamy gel-like consistency. I don’t want to say gel because that makes it sound weird, but it’s the best way I can think of to describe it. It was very close to Ben & Jerry’s after it sits out and the edges get that melted appearance.

And the caramel? Easily the best caramel swirl I’ve ever had, too, and that includes B&J’s. I love B&J’s thickness and chewy consistency and still find it amazing. But Talenti has outdone them here with a super-smooth, creamy caramel that melts in your mouth and has so much flavor it makes your eyes bug out. It has actually infused itself throughout the pint, so that even where it’s not visibly present, there is still a subtle hint. It is ingenious.

It looks like Ben & Jerry have met their match, though they still win hands down in the flavor department (not so much in the nutritional information, though). My first experience with gelato has me hooked and ready for more...there’s room in the freezer, since I did eat the entire pint. :)

Friday, January 25, 2013

January Thanksgiving

** I was going to ask my sister if she minded if I wrote this post, but seeing as she posted the pictures that follow on Facebook, I’m thinking she’d be OK with it. If this post disappears...well, this introduction won’t even be here to read, so it won’t matter. Warning: the pictures are a little (OK, a lot) graphic. If you’re squeamish, please don’t scroll down. **

A little over three years ago, my sister started complaining of headaches. They got so bad that she couldn’t sleep, and we watched as the circles under her eyes got bigger and darker. She threw up a lot. Sometimes she came close to passing out, but she doggedly continued to ride and attempted to go to school, until my mom finally made a doctor’s appointment. She thought it had something to do with Zoe’s wisdom teeth.

I still remember saying to her, “Well, at least you don’t have a brain tumor or something.”

The MRI came back later that day. My sister was admitted to the ICU that evening. And early the next morning, her neurosurgeon inserted a stent in her brain to relieve pressure caused by the spinal fluid building up there, blocked by the tumor no one could have imagined possible.

My dad called me that first night to tell me the news. I sat shaking in the hallway of my dorm, my roommate happily working away in our room, and whispered, “What does that mean?”

As in, is she dying?

In the following days I came to know the ICU as a third home. There was home, there was my dorm, and there was Zoe’s room. I did my homework in there. We played countless games of Trivial Pursuit and Skip-Bo, always trying to let Zoe win because it seemed wrong to beat the girl with the tube coming out of her head.

Zoe’s attitude was amazing. She made jokes about it. She told me once that a nurse came in as she was studying for finals and asked if she needed anything. “I almost said, ‘A brain,’” Zoe said, but she decided that might be in poor taste. Nevertheless, we had a laugh.

Finally, a week later, on January 25, 2010--three years ago today, Zoe went into surgery. I waited on pins and needles all day. It wasn’t until the middle of my riding lesson, as I was walking Sydney without even feeling the bone-numbing cold, that my dad called my riding coach. “It’s out,” he said when he hung up, and that’s all I heard, because then I started crying.

During surgery
A week later, she was home. She only missed three weeks of school, and was riding again not long after that. No one could believe how fast she bounced back. It was some freakishly inhuman feat, and I mean that in the best possible way. My sister is amazing. I can’t imagine facing death, going into the operating room knowing that you might not come out the other side, but also that if you don’t go ahead you’ll die. She made the best of a really terrible situation (and that’s an understatement). I think we all have something to learn from her.

The scar
I am so grateful to everyone who helped my family through those long weeks--the hospital staff, everyone who visited, comforted, pitched in, and sent gifts. We were eating Edible Arrangements and cakes and cookies for weeks after Zoe came back home. It was touching how much everyone pulled together to help us come through.

I am not religious, but when I think about everything that could have happened--that if she hadn’t been diagnosed, Zoe could have just gone to sleep one day and never woken up, that there might not have been such an amazing surgeon right here in State College, that the surgery could have gone wrong...I can’t help but think there was someone watching over our family. Again, thank you to everyone who helped. These words aren’t enough.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: MET-Rx Big 100 Peanut Butter Cookie Dough

Up until now, I’ve only been shopping at local supermarkets. But during the first week of the semester, I decided to stop in at one of the convenience stores on campus (The Mix at Pollock, for those of you familiar with Penn State), to use up a bit of my LionCash before I graduate and it all gets sucked into the huge void of Penn State’s funds.

The thing about college convenience stores is, they stock a lot of big protein bars. It makes sense, given who they’re catering to, and I have no complaints, because it allowed me to find some new MET-Rx flavors, including this Big 100 Peanut Butter Cookie Dough bar.

You probably already know how I feel about peanut butter and cookie dough (LOVE them both), so this bar has a lot to live up to.

It definitely smells like peanut butter, and there’s no coating, much like the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough version. Unfortunately, this makes it sticky, although it didn’t stick to my napkin so much that it tore. It did, however, leave enough residue on my fingers that I didn’t want to touch my keyboard while eating. That’s easily fixed, though, by not taking pictures of your food and instead eating straight out of the wrapper. ;)

The texture is correspondingly gummy, and pretty darn tough to chew. Especially trying to detach a bite from the bar. I ended up gnawing on it with my molars after my incisors got sore. Granted, it was a little chilled from being in the basement, which probably didn’t help. I don’t know whether these can be microwaved like Quest bars, but it may be worth a shot. Otherwise, don’t eat it too fast; your jaws will be tired enough as it is. On the plus side, it’s juicy once you start chewing.

The good news is, it’s quite peanut buttery. It’s a little bit of an off-peanut butter taste, but you can’t really expect it to taste exactly like Jif. It’s not too proteiny; in fact, I can’t tell if I’m tasting protein or just the fact that it’s not quite peanut butter.

There are little crispy pieces in the base, either peanuts or rice crispies, I can’t tell. They feel more like rice, but with the gummy texture it’s difficult to discern. Anyway, they do break up the toughness, which is nice, but they’re not overly plentiful. I think MET-Rx is really trying for the soft “dough” feel here.

By the time I got done, I was ready for a break! This bar is definitely a workout, but a peanut buttery one. Plus, I actually kind of like that it slows you down, since that gives you more time to realize that you’re ingesting 370 calories packed into one bar and, no, you don’t need another “snack” when you finish. :)

Taste: 8--pretty peanut buttery; though there’s something slightly off, it’s pretty good for a protein bar.
Texture: 7--an attempt at “dough” that leaves your jaws sore, with some crisps thrown in for variety.
Health: 6--it’s a little on the candy side of things, but substituting it for real cookie dough (or maybe just a typical dessert or for a post-workout meal) isn’t the worst thing you could do. GoodGuide gives it a 5 for health.
Eat Again? Yeah, but not very often.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: thinkThin Cookies & Cream High Protein Bar

A while back I promised some upcoming thinkThin reviews, as I found two new flavors at one of the local Giants. I was torn between which one to try first, but I finally decided on the Cookies & Creme bar.

Yes, the white chocolate coating had something to do with my pick. Given a choice, I’ll almost always say that white chocolate adds better flavor to a bar (except maybe the old classic, milk chocolate/peanut butter), and this is no exception. Plus, the white puts you in mind of cookies & cream, even if it’s not really the “cream” component. So far, it smells like white chocolate.

OK, the inside is deceptive at first. You might think those white things are Oreo-like cookies & cream components, but they’re actually just rice crisps. They’s not very plentiful and only lend a random crisp every once in a while. There are darker brown pieces inside that I assume are suppose to be the “cookies.” Otherwise, the base is just soft and sort of cookie-ish, though not like a fresh-baked cookie...more like a store-bought one. It’s also pretty dry, leaving me thirsty and with a powdery feel to my teeth.

In terms of taste, it’s not exactly a standout, nor does it remind me of Oreos. It seems to be just a chocolate base with white chocolate coating. There’s a bit of flatness to it, which I’d attribute to the fact that it’s a protein bar, but the base doesn’t necessarily taste bad; it just doesn’t particularly taste good, either. For me it was just a vehicle for eating the coating, which was pleasantly sweet, rich, cool, and crunchy (in the sense of a chocolate shell being crunchy rather than melty).

The softness and white chocolate coating make this bar easy to eat, although I would recommend having a drink nearby. But, if I want to go for white chocolate, I liked the White Chocolate flavor better. Something about these standard chocolate bases just doesn’t work as well for me.

Taste: 7--not exactly bad, but not quite tasty either (aside from the coating); didn’t remind me of cookies & cream, but certainly edible.
Texture: 8--a little dry and chalky, but soft.
Health: 9--no sugar, no gluten, but mind the sugar alcohols.
Eat Again? No, there are better flavors (and brands).

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Creme Brulee a la Mode (An Ice Cream Review)

Yep, I’m blogging about ice cream on the coldest day of the year, after biking to class in -14-degree weather and 20-mph wind gusts. But hey, it’s Ben & Jerry’s, and I think that is more than enough explanation. ;)

This time I got to try something totally new, something I had no idea what to expect from: Creme Brulee.

“Sweet Custard Ice Cream with a Caramelized Sugar Swirl”
Now, I’ve never even had real creme brulee before, so I won’t be able to tell you how well this represents the actual dessert. But the words “caramelized sugar” sound right up my alley, so I decided to take a chance in this pint. By the way, the ONLY store that sells this in State College is Wegmans.

Opening it up, I’m a bit nervous because it looks so...boring. You know I love mix-ins, and all this has is a swirl, which is hard to see because the color is similar to that of the ice cream. I had the same trepidation with Cake Batter, but at least with that one the chocolate frosting swirl was both obvious and super-plentiful.

I started scooping, and eventually found some more obvious trails of swirl, but they’re still deceptively hidden.

I say deceptive because once you start eating, they unleash their full potential on you. But first, to comment on the base: whatever “sweet custard” is, it is REALLY sweet! Cake Batter had an almost overly sweet and rich frosting swirl, and both the base and pastry cream of Boston Cream Pie had my eyes popping, but this is on a whole new level. If I had to describe it, I’d say it was pure sugar.

And the swirl is even MORE sugary (what would you excpect from a caramelized sugar swirl?). Starting out, I almost thought I wouldn’t be able to finish my bowl (which did NOT include the entire pint, thank you very much ;)). And the texture threw me off. It’s a sugary, gritty crunch, and at first it felt like finding ice in your ice cream, which I’m pretty sure most of you would agree is a terrible experience. It almost made my teeth hurt just thinking about crunching on ice.

As the ice cream sits out and gets that extra-creamy, melty texture, though, things improve dramatically. The thicker areas of swirl and those in the more melted sections take on a bit of a cookie/dough texture, more of a soft grit. Maybe I was just getting used to it, but it also seemed easier to take the sweetness when slightly melted. Plus, there’s no arguing with such a creamy base. While perfectly scoopable straight out of the freezer, it goes to a whole new level if you let it sit for a bit.

So, I guess I need to try creme brulee and see if it’s really this overpoweringly sugary. Until then, I’ll have to trust Ben & Jerry’s representation. They definitely didn’t make my top flavors with this one, but it was no failure either. As always with B&J, highly enjoyable and unique in its own way. I’m just not sure it’ll be back in my freezer.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: NoGii Peanut Butter Caramel Crisp Super Protein Bar

About halfway through the book The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide by Elisabeth Hasselbeck, I decided to try the Peanut Butter Caramel Crisp Super Protein Bar by NoGii. I won both items through a Christmastime Twitter giveaway, and I’ve found the book almost as interesting as the protein and nutrition bars that came with it. ;)

Anyway, the Super Protein bar only comes in this flavor (as far as I can tell), and it’s mega-big! It’s also mega-sugary and calorie-dense, at 390 calories and 22 grams of sugar (total carbs: 38 grams, only 3 of which are fiber).

I think something happened to this bar either during shipment or while it sat on my kitchen counter for a few days, because the coating is all weird and flaky. Then again, if you’re going to eat a meal replacement bar, you want something that’s going to hold up well in all conditions. And really, I haven’t abused this bar at all.

Despite its name, it smells mostly like chocolate, maybe a little bit of peanut butter. Which is funny, because the taste is the exact opposite: the chocolate is really more of a background player. I can definitely taste the peanut butter; it’s salty and maybe a very little bit proteiny. The only thing was, I totally forgot there was “caramel” in the title until I was almost finished, because I couldn’t taste it at all. On the other hand, it was pretty sweet--sweeter than you’d expect from something solely peanut butter--so maybe that was the influence of the caramel.

This bar is made up of rice crisps, but it’s a very soft crisp. If you like that crunchy sound when you bite into a Rice Krispies Treat, you won’t get your fix here. But that’s fine with me; my main issue here is with the coating. This is by far the messiest and most annoying bar I’ve ever tried, with the coating flaking off everywhere and, when it landed, effectively smearing itself onto whatever surface I tried to swipe it off of. On the one hand, it’s a very smooth and sliky chocolate texture. On the other, it’s a pain in the butt to clean up after eating this bar.

So, in the plus side: it tastes pretty good, especially considering how picky I am about peanut butter protein bars. And I liked the crispy texture. On the downside: it may have you bouncing off the walls, but at least you’ll have the energy (if not the attention span ;)) to clean up the pile of coating flakes and smears.

Taste: 8.5--I’d like to see more caramel, but it really was quite peanut buttery for a protein bar. The chocolate is also good quality.
Texture: 6--if not for all the mess, I’d give it an 8, because it really is nice and crispy. Although, going with the above caramel comment, I wouldn’t mind some gooey caramel in there.
Health: 7--the main issue is the carbs and sugar, which some people might find too high. But, it could also be an ideal post-workout energy source. Being gluten free is also a plus.
Eat Again? This really is a tough call, because I liked the taste. Maybe my bar was a mess fluke.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ben & Jerry's Cake Batter (An Ice Cream Review)

I’m getting scared. What happens when I run out of new Ben & Jerry’s flavors that sound enjoyable (or at least acceptable)? I’ve been considering slowing down my consumption of out fat-saturated friends, but then...I remembered I had a pint of Cake Batter in the freezer.

I remember this as being one of my all-time favorites, since I love all things unbaked and most especially brownie and cake batter. (Sadly, B&J’s killed their Brownie Batter, which I consider blasphemy. Chocolate Therapy can only make up for it so much.) But I’ve developed quite a taste for solid mix-ins, and this pint simply doesn’t have any.

“Yellow Cake Batter Ice Cream with a Chocolate Frosting Swirl”
Oh yeah, one of my other favorite things to do is eat spoonfuls of Betty Crocker Whipped frosting straight out of the can...although I haven’t done that in a while, and only ever with vanilla.

Anyway, I got off track. Despite the light color (I find the light ones softer than, say, a chocolate base), it was really hard to scoop. So maybe don’t pull it right out of the freezer, let it sit for a minute and then dig in. But in this case, the difficulty of scooping helped control my portion size, so there’s always a bright side. :)

If I thought the Breyers Birthday Blast! was sweet, this is a whole other story. It tastes just like yellow cake batter you make out of the box. It’s the difference between Breyers’ cake-flavored base and a cake batter-flavored base. If you’ve ever had the two flavors, you know what I mean. If you haven’t...well, I don’t know what to tell you, you’ve had a deprived childhood. Go buy some, right now.

Despite the fight to get it out of the pint, this ice cream is super creamy. I attribute part of that to the fact that literally about half of it is swirl, not base. Which is great if you love chocolate frosting, but it does kind of drown out the cake batter flavor. Which is sad, because, as mentioned above, I LOVE cake batter!

The frosting here is really, really rich. I can’t decide whether to avoid it or aim for it, save it for last or get it over with. It melts before the rest of the ice cream, so it’s dripping down the mounds of scoops in my bowl.... It’s almost too much, too strong, too...something. Maybe too sweet? Or too chocolatey? Two things I never thought I’d hear myself say. But then again, Ben & Jerry seem to be experts at making us question our previous assumptions.

Bottom line? I love the cake batter, but that’s not a surprise. The chocolate frosting swirl is more of a chocolate frosting bomb that exploded right in the middle of the pint, obliterating half the actual ice cream and seeping into the holes left behind. I’d like to see less of it. In fact, if I were to advise B&J (wouldn’t that be a cool job?!), I’d say make it a (much) thinner swirl, and add in cake pieces to mix up the texture. That said, its super creamy texture and most awesome cake batter base ever used in an ice cream still make it a favorite.