CATEGORIES

Product review: Planter’s Dry Roasted Peanuts Honey BBQ and Roasted Onion & Garlic

Greetings and happy weekend everyone! If you are looking for a snack that has more substance the chips, perhaps more protein without being greasy, look no further than new Planter’s Honey BBQ Dry Roasted Peanuts, and Planter’s Roasted Onion & Garlic Dry Roasted Peanuts. I specifically say chips, because these are flavors most often associated with potato chips.

One of the nice things about these nuts is that the flavors are not super assertive–a good thing if you plan on eating more than a few handfuls. This is also a drawback if, say, you like big and bold flavors.

Chef JimThe Honey BBQ flavor taste like honey roasted peanuts a bit–though not as sweet, and with a background flavor that resembles the barbecue seasoning on, well, barbecue potato chips. For me, the flavor was just too subtle. Of course, my nut of choice in this case would more likely be the spicy ones, a la Planter’s “Heat” nuts.

Chef JimThe Roasted Onion & Garlic peanuts were more flavorful and had a really nice savory flavor profile that was also mellow and subtle enough, but with just the right amount of onion and garlic punch. The thought here is maybe that real roasted onion or garlic is more sweet than harsh. If you have ever had Wise brand Onion/Garlic chips (do they still make those?), that’s what these nuts taste like in reference to snacks I’ve had before. And I did like these more than the BBQ ones.

It’s summer and time for outdoor barbecues and just lounging around outside, and these Planter’s peanuts will definitely be a nice addition to your snack pantry for these occasions.

Cheesy Garlic Bread? Really?

Chef JimRemember back in March when we wrote about the Lay’s Potato Chips contest called “Do Us a Flavor?”

Well, last month they announced the winner, Cheesy Garlic Bread, submitted by Karen Weber-Mendham of Wisconsin. I live in Wisconsin, and I love cheese, but this one was my least favorite of the three. I’m not sure who came in second and third, but I liked the Chicken & Waffle the best, followed by the Sriracha. Oh well, I guess in the end most of the country is more likely to opt for a flavor that is classic and a tad more common and old school of an idea. And that’s okay. Or maybe those folks genuinely liked the Cheesy Garlic Bread the best, and that’s okay too.

But the reality that I’d never get to have those Chicken & Waffle chips again kind of bummed me out. Have no fear, the Frito-Lay publicist told me, however. She sent me a bag of the Chicken & Waffles (as well as two more bags of Cheesy Garlic Bread…ha!), and told me the other two flavors might be making an appearance on shelves for a limited time this summer. Lay’s sure has the marketing to this down, because in the end they may satisfy all palates with this contest.

And I’m already thinking about a flavor I could submit next year. How about you? What are your flavor ideas?

Product review: Mamma Chia

Quick, what is the first thing that pops into your head when you think of chia seeds? Yes, that commercial for Chia Pets that maybe you saw during late-night TV. But apparently chia seeds have a significant health benefit, as in Omega-3′s and fiber. And Mamma Chia, a juice/smoothie hybrid type drink/snack is a portable and tasty way to get your Omega 3′s, especially if you do not like fish or the idea of taking fish oil capsules.

I must admit I was skeptical at first when Mamma Chia was pitched to me, but for the most part I am adventurous with new products like this, so I offered to try it and write it up. There is no need to refrigerate the product, as it’s basically one of those portable juice squeeze bag type things that are all the rage right now, especially among kids. But I refrigerated mine and tried them all this past weekend when it was a wicked hot and muggy Midwest day, and not only was Mamma Chia refreshing, but they all tasted pretty good, some more than others. The grainy texture of the tiny seeds also had a somewhat pleasant mouth feel, sort of the way sprinkles on ice cream does.

Here are my observations of the four flavors I tried:
Green Magic–I’m a sucker for these “green power” type things, because it’s an easy way to get the nutrients in like four bunches of kale easily without eating all that roughage. And this one was slightly tart, not as sweet but not bad at all.
Strawberry Banana–This was a thicker consistency, and the berries were more dominant than the bananas but still tasty.
Apple Cinnamon–My favorite flavor, it tastes like apple pie. Yum.
Blackberry–This one was more watery, but not too tart nor sweet.

Chef Jim
And the added bonus? I took them out and told my wife that I read about Mamma Chia online, and that it’s a hair growing remedy just like the old Chia pets. I think she believed that for about half a second, but it is still funny to say that and I’m sure I am not the first person to joke about it.

But hey, Mamma Chia is something I’d highly recommend–have it on hand in your desk, briefcase, home, or car. It’s a tasty, easy way to get some important nutrients.

Trader Joe’s does it again with Black Forest Bacon

It seems like every week when we visit Trader Joe’s for a family grocery shopping experience, there are new products that catch my attention and somehow become pulled by gravity into the shopping cart. This can be good and bad–good because more often than not, it’s something delicious and unique or both. Bad because it’s typically something we want to eat and not stop eating.

Such is the case with Trader Joe’s Black Forest Bacon. You know what’s crazy though? There is almost no information on this stuff online. It’s like they are sort of trying to keep it top-secret. Which is fine, because that means more for me and for my wife. But mostly for me (shhhhh). I did find this contest on Food & Wine and while there are some TJ’s bacons on here, I don’t have to try anything on this list to know that the Black Label will whip their bacon asses all up and down that page.

Why is it so good? Well, it crisps up beautifully, meaning it’s tender and the fat becomes something of a liquid pork rind (which is, well, what it is), and the bacon slice itself is bursting with flavor and crispness. It also has no fake taste whatsoever, as it’s real smoked and uncured and has a nice dry rub, but it’s even more remarkable that even if you slightly burn it (which you almost have to to get it crisp), it doesn’t even taste burnt. I don’t know how they do it, but they do, and they do so in my house almost every day lately. We now buy two packs at a time, and might ramp up to three this weekend. I mean, you never know when you will have a bacon emergency, right?

K-Cup new and interesting varieties keep on coming

Being a K-Cup ambassador has surely opened my eyes (literally) and taste buds up to new and exciting flavors and varieties. There have been a few duds along the way, but for the most part, the items that the fine folks at Green Mountain have sent have been stellar.

Chef JimIn February, they delivered a sample pack of Donut House flavors–which included plain, chocolate glazed donut, cinnamon roll and decaf. The plain is very similar to the delicious coffee you might find in a donut shop–and I’m not saying that to be snarky! The cinnamon roll has a subtle, slightly sweet twist, and the chocolate donut has a nice chocolate undertone without being overpowering, but it’s a bit more than subtle as compared to the cinnamon roll. The decaf? I’m one who believes that coffee should be consumed to help me wake up, so the decafs are still sitting in our kitchen.

Chef JimMarch brought Tully’s Hawaiian Blend, and while I’ve never been to Hawaii, I imagine that the coffee there is always delicious (I also imagine shoe leather would be delicious against the backdrop of Hawaii, but I digress). This Hawaiian coffee is a darker roast but not too dark, and it has a hint of sweetness. It’s definitely one of the better ones they have sent so far.

Ah, we’re almost to iced coffee season. But first, here are some statistics courtesy of my K-Cup representative:

* Coffee consumption is on the rise! About 8 in 10 Americans (83%) are coffee drinkers, up from 78% in 2012

* Americans are switching up their brewing habits: 13% of surveyed coffee drinkers used a single-cup brewing system vs. 4% in 2010

* More people know about and own single-cup brewing systems, like the Keurig: 86% have heard of these, while ownership has grown to 12% from 10% last year! With more than 200 options for coffee, tea and other beverages it’s easy to see why!

Don’t skimp on the salt or the spice

I don’t want you to mistake my message here, and I certainly don’t want my doctor to read what I’m going to write about salt. And my message isn’t necessarily that processed foods need more salt or that you should use as much salt as possible when cooking. I do think you should be generous enough with salt and pepper to bring out the flavor of your food, though. But what I’m talking about here is the salt on commercially made pretzels, and the spice on packaged food in general.

Let’s take the first part of this, shall we? Have you ever noticed that in the last, maybe, 10, 15 or 20 years, that the salt on pretzels has diminished? First of all, I’m old-school in that I like the white pretzel salt, which has a better texture. But in general, I want my pretzel to be absolutely covered in the stuff. I know how bad it probably is for me, but I seek out the saltiest pretzels in the store. I also tend to shy away from over-processed brands (I’m looking at you Rold Gold) and toward the locally made kind or the ones made in Pennsylvania. But seriously. Who wants a pretzel with little to no salt? Yet, if you go to the store right now, you will find bags and bags of under-salted pretzels. I’m not joking–go make this a fun (or not so fun) exercise in futility. But if you seek out the likes of Tom Sturgis or Utz brands, for instance, you will find nicely salted and in some cases, perfectly over-salted treats.

Chef JimSpice. Now, have you ever noticed that when something is labeled “spicy” or even “extra spicy” it’s usually a 3 or 4 on a scale of 1 to 10? I’ve always wanted my foods, even foods like pickled jalapenos, to be spicier. Other foods like snack foods, dips, bloody mary mix, soups, chili, frozen foods….even “spicy” chicken wings….are just never spicy enough for a guy like me that likes it really hot. But alas, I have found a commercially made food that fills the bill and then some–Claussen pickles Hot & Spicy. I like Claussen pickles–they are somewhat close to the deli pickles I grew up eating in New York. But they still have somewhat of a processed thing going on. However, when I saw their Hot & Spicy variety in a local grocery store, I couldn’t not try them. But I was pleasantly surprised at the level of heat. I mean, I’d say 8 out of 10, which is super hot for a jarred pickle. I bought another jar, wondering if maybe it was a fluke. Dare I say, the second jar was slightly spicier than the first. Damn, Mr. Claussen, you are not messing around with the hot pepper essence. But I freaking love it. Now, if only everyone else would be less wimpy with the heat!

Product review: Power Crunch protein energy bars

I’m a sucker for sweet and crispy wafers, such as Kit-Kats, those Belgian wafers you can find in the candy aisle, and the really-bad-for-us ones in the cookie aisle–you know, the ones that are usually “value” brand and are strangely colored to resemble vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. But of course, what makes these crispy and creamy snacks so delicious are the combination of fat (butter or oil or both) and sugar–lots of sugar. And that means eating too many of these things makes us fat at an exponential rate.

I also am constantly mesmerized by packaging and as my wife will attest, I gravitate to new products and HAVE to try them. It’s in my DNA or something. And when I’m trying to eat healthy, these items call out to me even more. Well, there are protein bars, right? Well, most of the time, stuff like South Beach, Zone and Cliff Bars are all nice options that are low in sugar, high in protein. But most of those just taste terrible–they have this protein powder-ish after taste, sort of like a combo of yogurt and ricotta in powder or nougat form.

Hence when I saw Power Crunch Protein Energy Bars in Trader Joe’s, I was skeptical but had to try them. The package made this bar to look akin to a Kit-Kat, and I picked up a vanilla and a chocolate bar. And when I was hungry later in the day, I grabbed a vanilla bar, and I suddenly heard a choir in my head as if I’d found the meaning of life. Could it be? A delicious crunch bar that was low in sugar? Yes! These bars are incredible–and are high in protein, low in sugar (14 grams of protein/5 grams of sugar), and the first ingredient is whey protein isolate blend. They have 12 grams of fat, from palm oil mostly, but if you are going low carb that’s usually not an issue. Is there an aftertaste? Well, ever so slightly but it’s not anything like those bars I mentioned earlier. And when it tastes this good and seems sweet, it doesn’t matter.

I went and bought a case of vanilla, chocolate and cookies N cream online–and the fine folks at Power Crunch sent me a box of peanut butter creme and berry creme. I also tried the chocolate fudge flavor from the store, but that was the only one I wasn’t crazy about. And the vanilla and chocolate are still my faves, and I can tell you they have a customer for life in me.

Hopefully you will find these bars too–you will be glad you did, I promise!

Product review: Krave Jerky

You know how when you buy a car, and then you notice your model of car everywhere on the road? Yeah, where am I going with this? Well, about a month ago I was perusing the cool and interesting food items at World Market, and on the little hooks in between shelves sat some beef jerky–called Krave. And I was struck immediately by the flavors–Chili Lime, and Sweet Chipotle. I must have this jerky, I thought. And so I did. I took it home and tried the chili lime first, and it was love at first bite. Not only was this jerky bursting with flavor and spice, it was extremely tender, the direction that many commercial jerky varieties seem to be going in–that is, away from chewy meat that takes an hour to chew, to a more tender, almost fresh type.

Anyway, the Sweet Chipotle kind of paled in comparison to the Chili Lime, which I inhaled almost in one sitting. Then I did what I do a lot of these days–I looked up Krave online, and contacted them to profess my undying love. And when I perused the site, I found out they have several cool flavors–including Basil Citrus and Orange Pineapple. But the cool thing is that they match the flavor profile to type of meat–so the Basil Citrus is for turkey jerky, as is Lemon Garlic. The other beef flavors are Garlic Chili Pepper (my new favorite that I am gnawing at like a caveman as I am writing this–tastes like beef teriyaki Chinese takeout) and Pineapple Orange. And their smoked teriyaki flavor uses pork as its canvas, and it’s also tender and delicious and one of my other faves.

Right now I have a big bag of Krave that I’m working through a little at a time, since my wife got me the 5-jerky sampler pack for Valentine’s Day, and the fine folks at Krave sent me the Pineapple Orange to try. I also keep finding Krave in stores–in Target, Walgreens and other places (back to my original point, you see). And if I see the Chili Lime, Chili Garlic or Smoked Teriyaki variety, I can’t walk past it without grabbing a bag. And so my bag O Krave is never empty.

My only complaint is that they got rid of the Curry flavor before I had a chance to try it. And when I went to order some of the Garlic Chili Pepper flavor yesterday, they were out of stock. Luckily I stopped at World Market yesterday and stocked up. But they also told me a new flavor is being developed–Black Cherry Barbecue. I love that this company is coming up with new, bold and interesting flavors and maybe rotating them out. And rotating is fine so long as I know I can stock up on my faves.

My point is, if you see Krave, buy it and eat it! You will Krave it just like I do now.

Lay’s Do Us a Flavor contest is a home run

In the PR world, there are gimmicks, and there are the actual bright ideas that, when done correctly, can become a company’s signature. Frito-Lay has, in this blogger’s humble opinion, potentially laid the groundwork for the latter with their new Lay’s Potato Chip Do Us a Flavor competition. When I first heard about the competition on a radio talk show promo, I knew I had to try these chips. The concept? Lay’s asked for suggestions for new flavors between July and October of 2012, and received 3.8 million submissions from which there were three finalists chosen.

When the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange rang on February 12, the three finalists for the contest were on hand along with actress/restauranteur Eva Longoria and celebrity chef and restauranteur Michael Symon to kick off the contest, which runs until May 4, to introduce their flavors to the world. Here are the options and my thoughts on each one….

Lay’s Cheesy Garlic Bread (submitted by Karen Weber-Mendham of Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin) has a big, bold hit of garlic immediately after biting into the chip, followed by a more subtle cheese taste. I’m not a huge garlic guy, and while the flavor was more of a roasted garlic note, it kind of overpowered the other flavors of the cheesy garlic bread. And I think what is a tad disappointing is that, since I live in Wisconsin like Karen does, I would have preferred the cheese to be more dominant.

Lay’s Sriracha (submitted by Tyler Raineri of Lake Zurich, Illinois) has a touch of sweetness at the start, followed by a big chili pepper kick–just like the sriracha sauce. And it keeps getting hotter and hotter the more you eat. I love spicy food and love sriracha, and I definitely dig this flavor, but it still was my second favorite of the three.

Lay’s Chicken & Waffles (submitted by Christina Abu-Judom of Phoenix, Arizona) was the flavor I wanted to try the most, and it wound up being the one I liked the most, and wanted to just keep eating. If you’ve never had chicken and waffles, let me tell you you are missing out on one of the culinary world’s greatest gifts to our palates. The combination of crispy, juicy fried chicken with a light and fluffy waffle, both drenched in maple syrup, has my mouth watering as I type. And these chips had those notes–maple sweetness, followed by a faint savory chicken flavor. It was like a Chicken in a Biskit cracker dipped in maple syrup. Okay, where are my chips? Now I’m hungry for more.

For more information, please visit the Do Us a Flavor website, which also gives options to vote for your favorite, such as on Facebook. As for where to find the flavors, I’ve seen them in various stores, so you should be able to locate the chips easily as well….or you can use their handy store locator. So what are you waiting for? Do the fine folks at Frito-Lay a flavor!

Product review roundup

I’m a bit behind on my product reviews, so I’m going to do some short takes of items I was sent to review, and also some that I couldn’t walk by in the store without trying….

Chef JimCold-Eeze Cold Remedy Quick Melts–Yeah, I know, this isn’t a food item. But they want you to think of it as a food item so that taking medicine won’t taste gross. They are berry flavored and have zinc in them, and if you have ever taken zinc tablets you know that they have this sort of tangy snap in the back of your throat. I took these when I actually did have a cold, and the decongestant aspect worked, and the night time one contains melatonin, which helps you fall asleep naturally. But the selling point here is the taste, and the tablets really do taste decent and not like medicine.

Chef JimMinta Naturally Flavored Mint Soda–This was one of those intriguing ones that made me wonder, “Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” I’m not sure why, but it does seem like one of those things that would be popular in France but not here. My wife was afraid of trying it, but I wasn’t. As a result, she wasn’t a fan but I thought it was really good. It wasn’t the best soda I’ve ever tasted, but had a nice minty taste without being overly sweet. And for someone like me that drinks a lot of unsweetened seltzer, that latter part was important. But I’d recommend this stuff if you like mint and you like carbonated beverages.

Chef JimCheetos Mix-Ups Xtra Cheezy Mix–Well, duh. These snack companies that keep changing things up and offering new and interesting flavors have me as a target audience all the freaking time. I can’t walk past it without buying it. This one was particularly interesting, because it’s cheesy and crunchy and has four types of Cheetos–the standard fried ones with cheddar; nacho cheese waffle discs; double cheddar baked puffs; and baked parmesan balls. You really can’t go wrong combining this cheesy goodness, but those awesome waffle discs really put this mix over the top, because the way that they are shaped is conducive to collecting lots of that yummy powdered cheese that sticks to your fingers after eating cheese snacks.

Chef JimCracker Jack’D Power Bites (Vanilla Mocha and Cocoa Java flavors)–Who knew Cracker Jack was getting into new lines of snack foods? Yet here are these little balls of caffeinated goodness, and I tried both the Vanilla Mocha and Cocoa Java flavors. I was slightly afraid but yet had to try these, at the same time. They are crunchy, coated wafer cookies in the shape of balls, and in addition to the the vanilla and chocolate, the coffee flavor comes through loud and clear. And each bag of fifteen or so pieces is supposedly equal to a cup of coffee–hence the title Power Bites. They are supposed to give you an afternoon jolt, and when I tried them, they did! And they are delicious–of course, with sugar as the primary ingredient, I also say “Well, duh.”

Related Posts