Archive for ‘Review’

August 8, 2017

Snacks from Down Under

If you have a toddler, you may think I’m writing about snacks from down under the table. I get it. I just kept my one-year-old grandson for a week. I’m pretty sure there could be food under the food on my kitchen floor. I feel like I keep finding more every time I sweep. But, that’s not the food I’m referring to. Today, I tried Majans Bhuja Snacks from Australia.
snack bag mix
I’m not sure why I picked up the bag. Curiosity, I suppose. Well, curiosity and the fact that I’m always looking for snacks to carry along on a road trip or airplane. This one boasts no preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors, a low glycemic index, 5 grams of protein per serving, non-GMO ingredients, and it’s certified gluten-free.

I took a quick look at the ingredients before putting the bag in my basket. The noodles and chips in the mix are made from yellow peas, chick peas, sunflower or canola oil plus rice, potato, tapioca, salt, sesame & cumin. Scattered throughout the noodles and chips are green peas, peanuts, and sultanas seasoned with salt, fennel, chili, turmeric, paprika, and cane sugar. There’s also a little maltodextrin thrown in.

The serving size is about 1/2 cup and has 140 calories. There are 8 total grams of fat. One gram is saturated. There are no trans fats. Each serving contains 170 mg of sodium, 16 total carbs, 2 grams of dietary fiber and 2 grams of sugars. There are 5 grams of protein.

Reading the label for the original flavor, I’m pleased with the amount of sodium and I like it that the noodles and chips rely on peas more than grains for their substance. I could do without the maltodextrin, but I’m happy that there’s less sugar included than any other ingredient.
snack mix
I like the spice blend used in this mix. It has a bit of heat that I find a pleasant alternative to mixes that rely on sugar for flavor. The crackers and noodles feel a bit dense which makes them seem a little less manufactured than a Cheeto or Veggie Straw. I’m ambivalent about the peas. I feel this way about wasabi peas as well. In general, I prefer raw nuts or seeds to dehydrated peas. The occasional sweetness of the sultanas is a great balance for the heat.
For the Americans reading this, a sultana is similar to a raisin in that it is a dried white grape, but sultanas tend to be plumper, sweeter and juicier than other raisins. Turkey is a major producer of sultanas.

The price for this snack is reasonable for a gluten-free snack. I paid $2.65 for a 7 oz bag that will provide 7 servings.

Where does that leave us? The price is reasonable, the spice blend is pleasant, and the bag contains crunch. I suppose the pertinent question is whether I will buy it again. I might.

I can’t see making this mix a regular item on my shopping or travel lists. It doesn’t have an addictive level of crunch or salt that will make me crave it. On the other hand, it isn’t too sweet or too greasy and I like the spiciness. That means I will be likely to grab the occasional bag when I see it on the shelf.

I’m giving it a solid 6 for composition and a 10 for price. That’s not bad for a snack from down under.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

October 23, 2016

If It’s Paleo, It’s Gluten-Free

paleoIf it’s Paleo, it’s gluten-free so go ahead and give it a try! I have been stuck at my office literally watching concrete dry for the past 4 hours. Yes, I knew in advance concrete would have to set up. No, I didn’t realize things would go exactly like they went, so the snacks I brought weren’t enough. Now, I’m starving.

I need to find some food that’s quick, close, and microwaveable. The neighborhood store has Tastefully Plated® frozen Paleo meals. I think I’ll give one a try. The sausage & egg scramble with cauliflower grits sounds interesting. It has 21 grams of protein and 280 calories. Not only is it gluten-free, this selection is also milk free.
Now that I’ve removed the meal from the box, I finally understand the Tastefully Plated branding. Each meal comes seated on a white plastic plate that has been vacuum sealed with plastic. The plate is a step up from most frozen meal packaging. The problem is, when you shrinkwrap sausage, eggs, and cauliflower grits, the result looks a whole lot like a regurgitated meal on the plate and that’s not too appetizing.

Knowing that we eat with our eyes first, perhaps the viewing window in the boxes isn’t such a great idea. The plate is the unique part, and it isn’t even visible when the meal is in the box. Perhaps the die-cut in the box could just show the edge of the plate and feature a photo of the food. Looking at the product in the store, I kept wondering why it said Tastefully Plated when it looked like something I may have plated a couple of times after a late night of drinking too much Scotch.

I will confess that I’m not a frequent purchaser of frozen entrees or meals, so in a sense I’m comparing this frozen meal to my memory of a home or restaurant cooked version of it. I was recently reminded how widely quality can vary. On a Thursday afternoon, I grabbed some scrambled eggs at a racetrack snack bar that had limited gluten-free choices. That night, I stayed at an old resort hotel. The building was beautiful, but the room was showing its age. The next morning, I ordered room service scrambled eggs and bacon thinking they’d be a repeat of the previous day’s meal. Boy was I wrong. The eggs were light, but firm and unbelievably good even after sitting under a metal cover. 

In fact, there was no comparison between the racetrack meal and the hotel meal. The hotel, in spite of its deteriorating decor, fuzzy TV reception, and questionable plumbing still can deliver an incredible egg. It is possible that the difference is that those eggs are cooked on site rather than being rewarmed on site.

I mention this to say that while it would probably be more fair to compare a frozen entree only to another frozen entree, that’s not what happens in my real life, so it’s not what’s happening here. This frozen Paleo meal was passable. The sausage seemed a bit more bland than my usual brand. The eggs were fine, but not full of flavor. The cauliflower grits, were watery and lacking substance.

The meal wasn’t so bad that I’d say I’ll never eat it again, but it wasn’t good enough for me to remember to choose it again on purpose. Perhaps I’d be more pleased with the braised beef with chipotle sweet potatoes & broccoli, or the grilled chicken breast with plantains & petite green beans. I like those food combinations.

I am grateful that these Paleo meals exist. They got me out of a jam without having to resort to frozen gluten-free pizza, mac & cheese, or tacos. And they offer other interesting combinations like braised pork with roasted potatoes, mango chutney, and salsa verde; cajun style shrimp with root vegetables, corn relish & plantains; and sweet potato hash with scrambled eggs and chicken apple sausage.

Paleo Tastefully Plated meals are appropriate for anyone who follows a gluten-free diet. With that being said, I can only see buying these when I’m in a jam.

So, what’s the takeaway? Perhaps this: anything that’s Paleo is, by definition, gluten-free! Anything that’s Specific Carbohydrate Diet compliant is, by definition, gluten-free. Anything that’s gluten-free may or may not be Paleo or SCD compliant.

If it’s any of the three, it can be tasty – especially when it’s made with love in your kitchen.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

September 26, 2016

A Great Snack? It’s Like Butta!

nutbutterThese snacks aren’t just like butta, they are butta! When I get hungry between breakfast and lunch, I usually need protein so I’m always on the lookout for easy-to-carry, protein-filled, gluten-free snacks.

You may immediately think of protein bars, and of course there are some gluten-free protein bars. My favorite are the KIND Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew flavor, but let’s face it, they contain 14g of sugar, 22g of carbs and only 4g of protein so they aren’t ideal for frequent consumption. I have to treat them more like candy bars.

James likes to point me toward beef jerky, but I’m not a big fan. I find it tiring to chew. Rolled up slices of sandwich meat and cheese require refrigeration, so I can’t just throw them in my purse or car. I do sometimes carry a container of raw almonds and golden raisins with me, but they require a bulky container that I don’t always have room for.

While wandering through the store the other day, I finally studied the nut and seed butter squeeze packs standing upright in a variety of boxes near the powdered peanut butter. I’ve seen them before, but have never taken time to really investigate. After studying the packets, it became clear that these are a great option for me.

These single serving squeeze packs can be eaten right out of the pack or smeared on some gluten-free crackers, apple slices, or celery sticks. They don’t require refrigeration. They’re small enough to fit in my purse. And the butters come in an amazing array of flavors – almond, cashew, pecan, hazelnut with chocolate, and sunflower to name a few.  

There are many brands available. Some contain only 1g of sugar or less. Once Again Organic Cashew Butter contains no sugars, 5g of protein, and no sodium. I would prefer a little salt added for flavor, but a salty cracker is sufficient enhancement for this light flavored nut butter. Once Again Organic Sunflower Seed Butter has 95mg of sodium, 3g of sugars, and 5g of protein. The flavor leans toward the sweet rather than salty.

Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter reflects a well-known flavor combination. It contains 4g of protein and 7g of sugars in a 32g serving. You may be more familiar with this flavor profile in the form of Nutella which has 2g of protein and 21g of sugars per 37g (2 tbsp) serving. Justin’s has a more defined flavor of hazelnut and the hint of bitter you’d expect from dark chocolate. It does not taste like dessert, but it is pleasing on the palette and nutritious enough to put on your child’s toast in the morning.

I have a couple of favorites already that I’ve thrown in a plastic bag in my purse. (Having witnessed an exploding foil packet of mayonnaise shoot 8ft across a restaurant, I wouldn’t recommend carrying these without the added protection of a plastic bag unless you want a nut butter mess in your purse or briefcase.) Before I tear them open, I’ll knead the packets to distribute the oil evenly.

It feels comforting to know that without having to plan ahead, I have a high-protein, low-carb, gluten-free snack on hand when I need it.

Problem solved…like butta!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

April 30, 2016

Travel Tip #15 – Food and Container in One

When you’re traveling, sometimes it’s nice to have your food and container in one and pitch it when you’re done. For the gluten-free among us, Bob’s Red Mill single serving Gluten Free Oatmeal Cups can fill the bill.
oatmeal row
I’m on the road again. I don’t think I’ve been home more than two weeks straight since December. The good thing is, the more you travel, the more you learn. Yesterday, I ran into a small health food market in hope of grabbing some gluten-free crackers to go with the tuna salad in my cooler.

I’m staying in a town of about 13,000 people in a rural area surrounded by mountains. The wireless service is severely lacking, but there are two health food markets that best the choices I have at home. In addition to gluten-free crackers, I chose 3 Gluten Free Oatmeal Cups. I thought it would be fun to try them out.

This morning, I gave the blueberry and hazelnut flavor a whirl. Making it was easy. I removed the lid (make sure to save it), pulled off the plastic seal and placed the bowl in the single serve coffee maker in my hotel room. The coffee cups provided by the hotel are similar in diameter to the oatmeal container, so I filled a coffee cup with water to a level approximating slightly under the fill line on the oatmeal container and poured it into the coffee maker. I put the coffee maker filter holder in place, but left it empty. Then I hit the power button.
Hot water streamed into my oatmeal. When the level reached the fill line, I removed the oatmeal cup and replaced it with the empty coffee cup to catch any remaining water. Then I stirred the oatmeal, placed the lid back on it, and let it sit for 3 minutes. One more stir and the oatmeal was ready to eat.

In addition to oats, this flavor contains cane sugar, hazelnuts, dried blueberries, chia seed, flaxseed, blueberry powder, and sea salt. The blueberry powder gives the oatmeal a slightly purple color, but there’s no strong blueberry flavor. This oatmeal is balanced. It doesn’t really lean toward sweet or salty.

While I paired my oatmeal with eggs from the hotel breakfast bar, I didn’t dress up the flavor with any of the sugar, butter or milk available there. If I were going to, I’d probably just add a little butter, but my sister would prefer more butter and brown sugar. The 2.5 oz container was more than enough for me so I put the lid back on to see how well it holds up through the day.

I can see carrying these on a road trip or camping trip. There are 4 flavors available: Classic, Blueberry Hazelnut, Apple Cinnamon, and Brown Sugar and Maple. The cup can be microwaved for preparation or reheating. And it’s great to know I have a filling choice available when the hotel breakfast bar features cereal, muffins, waffles, French toast points, eggs on bagels, biscuits, bacon and fruit. I like bacon and fruit, but it doesn’t stick with me long.

Other single serve oatmeal can be prepared in the packet, but the process is not as neat and easy as preparing as these cups. For an easy food and container choice in one, Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oatmeal Cups are a solid choice.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”