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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.

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.

Product review: Element Bars

I realize that this blog is often geared toward recipes, reviews and ideas that are not exactly healthy. But we do include our share of healthy ideas, and truth be told, my gut is growing in inverse proportion to the inactivity I’ve endured following recent back surgery. And so I need to eat better, something that is always easier when it’s more convenient.

Well, there is a product that was pitched to me recently for this blog that is healthy, convenient, and tasty–and has the added bonus of being gluten free–Element Bars. Standard granola bars often have so much added sugar or other sweeteners that offset the health benefits. Protein bars have long lists of ingredients that you can’t pronounce and usually they have this weird aftertaste. And there has been another wave of bars–the all natural kind, and Element Bars fit that bill. But they take it a step further by allowing you to customize your bars.

Go to www.elementbars.com, and poke around. You can make your own bars based on whether you’d like them chewy, oaty, crispy, datey or fruit&nut. Those are the “core” parts of the bar, and from there you add whatever types of dried fruit, nuts, sweeteners (such as honey or maple syrup) and “boosts” such as whey, fiber or Omega-3. But you can also order pre-determined recipes, and some flavors I sampled were Datey Divine, PB Power, Almond Sunrise, Cherry Charge, Banana Repair, and Cherry Chocolate.

They were all delicious, and I’m not just saying that because they sent me product to try. But there was the added bonus of knowing I was eating something all natural and good for me–with good amounts of fiber or protein or both. I have to say though that I was really partial to the “Cherry Charge,” which had oats and whey crisps, as well as dried cherries and cashews. And maybe one of the best points here–I was running out the door twice recently and realized I had no time to make breakfast. I grabbed an Element Bar, ate one in the car and my hunger was curbed for a few hours. No joke. I guess when you give your body the nutrients it needs, you don’t get hungry. Imagine that!

Seriously though, for you folks that are health conscious, you won’t find a bar that tastes this good with this much nutrition. Or one that you can create on your own. Now that’s good marketing.

For more information, check out www.elementbars.com

Foods I miss from…..Cleveland

After living in New York from when I was born until I was around 27 or 28, I moved to Cleveland and kick-started my life and career in various ways that, while involving many twists and turns, were somewhat defining. I also went through various phases of food experimentation–and back in the late ’80′s, and ’90′s there was a lot of low-fat this and that, and less meat. Thankfully the pendulum for that stuff swung back toward high protein, low-carb, which is still not ideal (I want to eat everything, yo), but, well, I love bacon. Let’s leave it at that.

Anyway, as was the case when I moved away from New York, moving from Cleveland to Nashville left a void in some areas food-wise. And so here are a few items I miss and still do from the Buckeye state…..

Aladdin’s–okay so this isn’t a food item as much as it’s a restaurant, but it’s something I have to have when going back there. Aladdin’s is a local chain that serves delicious and inexpensive Middle Eastern food. They have great stuff like hummus, stuffed grape leaves and falafel. But it’s more than that–they have some delicious signature items like pita pizzas and one I miss in particular is the one with spicy chicken, peas, fried onions and a spicy tomato mixture. Also, they have these smoothies that you can get with combinations of fruits and vegetables. Seriously, they make veggies more palatable than you can imagine using a blender.

Pad thai–I’ve never had pad thai like the pad thai at Phnom Penh in Cleveland. It’s….wait for it…..Phnomenal. Sadly, I haven’t been back there since moving in 2003, but maybe next time. I mean, we have great Thai and Vietnemese and Laoatian food here in Madison, but….

Pizza–There really is great pizza in Cleveland. There is Mama Santa’s, Tasty, Geraci’s on the east side. There is Antonio’s and Santos on the west side. This is all coming from a New Yorker too.

West Side Market–There is nothing like the West Side Market in Cleveland. It’s an institution, and you can get all kinds of fresh produce, but also the indoor portion has vendors selling meat, bakery products, cheese, nuts, candies, and more. It was always fun to go there hungry, and we try to get to the market whenever we are in town. My mouth is watering thinking of the spicy jerky at this one place, and I think Michael Symon profiled it on The Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network once.

Krispy Kreme Donuts–I don’t think there is a single donut shop in Madison. In fact, you have to go to grocery stores and gas stations to find donuts at all. Yikes. But the ones in Krispy Kreme are freaking heavenly. The glazed ones in particular are their signature item, and it’s quite easy to down five or six at a sitting (no, I really haven’t ever actually tried that. No, really!).

Homemade granola/fruit bars–The Arabica coffee shop at University Circle has these pastries they sell at the counter, and they are like granola bars with a layer of cherry or berry preserves. And I go way out of my way to get some no matter how long we are in town for. In fact, last time I think I brought home a dozen.

Tommy’s fries–Tommy’s in Cleveland Heights has amazing french fries, but also makes some mean sandwiches and veggie creations. Oh, and milk shakes!

I know there is more. But we’ll have to just re-visit this column from time to time!

Product review: Planters Nuts for March Madness

I’ve never seen such hype around March Madness bracket-wise. There are brackets for everything now, but many of them are food-related. What are the top cereals, the top snack foods, the top fast food. Well, here are some snacks that were sent to us to review during March Madness–Planters Five Alarm Chili Dry Roasted Peanuts, and Dry Roasted Pistachios. As the press release said, before mentioning that these are indeed a healthy and tasty snack option, “What’s a party without Mr. Peanut?”

Chef JimDry Roasted Pistachios–these nuts are roasted in the shell with sea salt added. I was expecting these to be without shells as many pistachios now are, but that’s okay. I think part of the charm of pistachios is opening the shells. It takes longer and makes you eat slower. And they were nice and easy to crack open which is always a plus. Oh, and the taste? Delicious, and a good source of fiber and protein to boot! By the way, remember when pistachios had that pinkish-red dye? You ate them and your hands looked like they were smeared with lipstick. Just thought I would throw that in to reminisce.

Chef JimFive Alarm Chili Dry Roasted Peanuts–One of the biggest complaints I have about spicy snack foods is that they are often not spicy enough. Not so with these dry roasted peanuts. They are spicy in a deceptive kind of way–you pop them in your mouth, and enjoy the peppery/spicy taste of the dry rub. Then a boot comes up from behind and kicks you square in the butt. And one of the best parts? They are dry roasted, so you don’t get oily hands afterward. The peanuts also now come in a plastic jar, and there is a little “green” sticker on it that says “84% less packaging.” Hey, more spice, less carbon footprint. But yeah, these are might tasty too.

So the Final Four starts this weekend, which means more time to enjoy March Madness party food like Planter’s nuts.

Why diets are a downer

I have excellent intentions every new year. I start every January on a diet and sometimes they last a few months, sometimes a few hours. I started this one on Monday and have made it thus far to the end of Wednesday doing the South Beach Diet, and if you have done this particular diet you know that the first two weeks (Phase 1) are extremely restrictive–no carbs of any kind. That means only meat, dairy, vegetables, eggs, beans and nuts. And it’s freaking HARD. Especially if you’ve been just eating whatever for whenever. And I think the reason so many of us fail at dieting is that we go from eating so bad to so good so fast, as I just did.

I’m not saying I can’t keep it up, but let me tell you a few reasons why all I want tonight is a huge plate of fries, a pizza and a whole coconut cream pie. One, I haven’t had time to adequately plan, which has left me scrounging for jerky and nuts mostly. Oh and sugar free candy. You get sick of these items real fast, believe me. Secondly, the broccoli cheese soup I made yesterday was great, but for whatever reason my belly was not happy yesterday. And today it really wasn’t happy after I ate it again for lunch. Finally, my breath smells like a large metropolitan market’s sewage plant. I know this because my wife keeps reminding me of it. And I can just feel how bad my breath smells.

Mrs. Mike is on Weight Watchers, so it’s pretty easy for us to synch these diets. But I have a feeling we’re about to binge, and try to start this diet again (or skip to Phase 2) tomorrow or the next day, or Monday!

Do you have diet horror stories, or anything else you’d like to share this January?

Mikey’s Food Resolutions for 2012

The last few years, Mrs. Mike and I have done New Year’s resolutions together on New Year’s Day. And I must say, we’ve stuck to many of them, often referring to our lists as the year wears on. That’s what resolutions are intended for, but many of us forget about them on or around January 3. But I thought it would be fun to put together a few food resolutions for 2012–feel free to add yours below or on Facebook:

Try one new kind of cheese per month–I started doing this in 2011 and got sidetracked or disinterested. But wait, I live in Wisconsin. Disinterested? Not an option, so I’m going to follow through this time. There are simply too many good cheeses to try in this part of the country.

Try a few things that are out of my comfort zone–I’m not a big fan of seafood, or anything in the organ meat vicinity. But in a meal at Graham Elliott in Chicago this past September, Mrs. Mike and I had a meal that had cooked fish; a deconstructed Caesar salad with a whole anchovy on top; and a foie gras lollipop with watermelon pop rocks. That was enough out of comfort zone for a whole year for me, but the foie gras was phenomenal–and I’m glad I took a step out of my comfort zone to try it.

Eat less junk–and by junk I mean stuff like candy, snack cakes and greasy chips. I am vowing to get back into shape in the New Year, and especially after having back surgery in February. And while I don’t think there is anything wrong with occasional junk food, I ate far too much of it in 2011. Time to start eating more nuts, dried fruit and sensible snacks when possible.

Work even harder to eat what’s in season–we belong to a CSA (community supported agriculture) but found ourselves not using everything in our box before some of it went bad. I want to make more of an effort on that one.

Teach our son to eat better–our four year old, who has autism, is very picky about his food. We work hard on this, but it’s extremely difficult to get him to open his mind with food. I think we can work harder at it.

Revive “a can a week”–that was a fun column I started here but need to revive it, reviewing a canned food item per week, be it a new product or one that we’ve been eating for decades.

Use the deep fryer more–I don’t think I took that thing out at all in 2011, and that’s a shame. Who doesn’t love fried food (except me, when my doctor is reading this!)?

Find more cool restaurants and review them here–We live in Madison, one of the coolest food cities on the planet. Mrs. Mike and I love trying new places to eat but need to do so more often. And I’ll bring you the play by play here.

DVR more food shows–I keep seeing press releases and then forget to DVR the shows.

Eat more tofu–seriously? No, that was a joke. Blech.

Thanks for reading, and happy new year!

Product review: Planter’s Tailgate snacks

Chef JimFootball season starts next week–next Thursday night to be exact, with the Super Bowl champion Packers hosting the Saints. Then the Sunday after that, it’s the first NFL Sunday. Of course, this weekend marks the start of the college football season. And fans of both college and pro football share one thing in common–they love to tailgate, and that means lots of good food and good drink.

So with that, Planter’s is putting out some great new products for you to enjoy munching while watching the games, and they were kind enough to send a few for me to try…..

Honey Smoked Tailgate Almonds–Smoked almonds have long been a favorite of mine, but these are unique. They combine the smoky flavor of smoke-flavored almonds with the glazed sweetness of honey roasted nuts. So you have a sweet and smoky combo that, quite honestly, makes it hard not to eat the whole can. Good thing they sent me giant 19 oz. cans!

Tailgate Nut Mix--This is a smoky, salty combo of chipotle almonds and peanuts, corn nuts and pretzels. This has more of a subtle smoky taste, but there is more of a savory, almost tangy flavor that makes this just an explosive (though not spicy) snack. And again, I”m glad there are 19 full ounces of this stuff!

There is also pumpkin spice almonds, which are not my thing, but definitely a fall season item.

So go grab a couple of these cans and happy football season to you all!

Product review: Savi Seed

When the rep reached out to me about Savi Seed, it sounded too good to be true. Here was a nut product that is harvested in South America that have 13 times Omega 3 fatty acids as wild salmon. Say what? Well, that’s good news for me because I’m not a fish person. I am hesitant as well to take fish oil capsules, because I am afraid of having fish burps. But if you can have a product that has 3500 milligrams of Omega 3′s in a convenient little pouch, and if these nuts can be covered in sugar or chocolate to make them taste even better, why would you ever eat fish? Okay, I know that was a rhetorical question, because I’m in the minority about my distaste for seafood.

Anyway, Savi Seeds are all that. I tried the two they sent me–”karmalized,” which are coated with raw sugar cane; and cocoa kissed, which are coated in extra dark chocolate. The sugar ones were a bit too crunchy, and kind of grainy. But you could still taste the roasted seeds and they taste pretty good. The chocolate ones are way better, and incredibly addictive. The seeds themselves are something akin to a cross between a peanut and hazelnut, and about the size of a small peanut. Each packet (1 oz./28 g) also has 5-6 grams of protein. Can you say mega-food?

Anyway, it looks like these are distributed by Sequel Naturals in Vancouver, but if you can’t find them online or in health food or Whole Foods type stores, let me know–the information that was sent with the product was limited. But either way, Savi Seeds are well worth seeking out.

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