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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.

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: Barilla microwaveable meals

This has nothing to do with the fact that one of my publicist contacts sent me some pasta to review–but Barilla is my favorite store-bought pasta. So I was thrilled that Barilla has new microwaveable meals. I’ve tried other versions of easy pasta like this, and kind of went into this a tad skeptical, but Barilla exceeded my expectations. There are five varieties–Mezze Penne with Tomato & Basil; Mezze Penne with Traditional Marinara Sauce; Mezze Penne with Spicy Marinara (my favorites); Whole Grain Fusilli with Vegetable Marinara Sauce; and Whole Grain Mezze Penne with Tomato & Basil Sauce.

Not only does Barilla have delicious pasta that cooks up nicely al dente, but this pre-cooked variety was very similar to Barilla pasta that you would make yourself. And these microwaveable meals are incredibly easy to make. You fold back the edge to “vent” the sauce, and warm for one minute. You peel back the entire top, and the sauce portion comes out, after which you pour it over the pasta and stir. A monkey could do this, and I mean that literally. Not only was it easy but tasty–we tried all but the fusilli, and the pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce tasty as well. The best part of these meals is that they do not taste processed. So often meals like this have sauces that taste like (and probably are) re-constituted powder–not these Barilla meals. They are a home run in every way.

Oh, wait, since we’re talking baseball, here are the other stats–all of the meals are 320 calories or less with no artificial ingredients; they have 9 to 11 grams of protein and are an excellent source of fiber and vitamin A; and the whole grain varieties are a good source of iron.

The Fourth–hot dog time

Last week I celebrated the 4th of July early with one of the synonymous food items for it–the hot dog. Specifically, I had a two-dog Chicago style dog rolled up in a tortilla. And really, this is a great way to have a dog with all those toppings, because you don’t have toppings all over your plate or the floor. It mostly all goes in your mouth. And also, it’s an easy way to slide two dogs into your bread vehicle.

So what goes on the Chicago? Any combo of this–yellow mustard, tomatoes, onions, sweet relish (neon green if you can find it), pickles, cucumber, hot peppers and celery salt. And it is best with all beef dogs, but that is not at all necessary. For me, I can’t eat raw onions without heartburn and bad breath, so I do myself and my wife a favor and omit those.

But really, you can also come up with all sorts of combos to top a dog. It’s the 4th, right? Also, the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest is on ESPN, another tradition that we have–going to our local parade, and then watching the contest and eating a dog (or 50!). Have a great holiday everyone, and make sure to hand your keys to someone if you have too many (drinks that is, not hot dogs).

Product Review: Planter’s NUT-rition Men’s Health Recommended Mix

Chef JimThat’s a mouthful of a title, huh? Well, it’s a pleasant mouthful of nuts too (insert Beavis and Butthead snickering). Seriously, this new Planter’s NUT-rition Men’s Health Recommended Mix is a simple combination of peanuts, pistachios and almonds. And before I get to the health benefits, let me just say that it’s a winning combo. I like having peanuts in my nut mixes, and more often than not lately they are not included. But Planter’s is sort of known for their peanuts, almonds are the new peanuts, and shelled pistachios are becoming more popular as well.

I don’t think this is how it’s supposed to go down, but when I opened the can I inhaled almost half of it. I don’t want to look and see how many servings that is. But they are delicious, fresh, and a filling snack. There are six grams of protein per serving, six vitamins and minerals and 3 grams of fiber.

And not only are these nuts sold in a can, they also sell them in a six-pack of single serving (1 oz.) bags to take on the go–an excellent stash for your desk to go along with all that jerky and cheese sticks (or if you are like me, a bit too much candy and assorted junk food).

Look for a media blitz geared toward guys, but I can tell you my wife took a few bags to work as well and also enjoyed them. Planter’s, you have another winner.

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