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Friday, January 27, 2006 

LesserEvil All Natural Flavored Popcorn - Black & White

I have a confession to make--my food tastes aren't always as "pure" as I'd like everyone to believe. The truth is that I, the "Food Guru" herself, have a VICIOUS sweet-tooth. In fact, I have a whole mouth full of "sweet teeth" that I try to keep under wraps for health's sake. That being said, I was absolutely thrilled to find LesserEvil Black & White Flavored Popcorn--a blend of chocolate-covered popcorn and salty/sweet kettle corn that, when all is said and done, really isn't all that bad for you.

The folks over at LesserEvil are brave enough to flat-out state what all of us are ashamed to admit--that we ARE going to give in to temptation on occasion, so why not create a snack option that lets us indulge ourselves without all the attached guilt? And create they did! This popcorn is out-of-this-world tasty with only 120 calories, 2 g of fat, 180 mg of sodium, and 16 g of sugar. The snack-sized bag is 1.75 ounces (considered to be 1.5 servings), so even if you eat the whole bag (which you will), you can still respect yourself knowing that you haven't completely blown your diet. You'll also be delighted to find that you haven't consumed any trans-fatty acids, high-fructose corn-syrup, or other unnatural ingredients, and that you've even managed to get a gram of fiber and 4% of your daily iron requirement (based on a 2, 000 calorie diet). Not bad for something so tasty!

Ingredients: Evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, popcorn, chocolate liquor, clarified butter, salt, lecithin.

Manufacturer says: Half of the kernels in this "LesserEvil" snack are covered in a natural cocoa glaze and the other half is our classic KettleCorn. Crave something chocolatey? Want a harmonious balance of sweet and salty? Black&White solves all your snacking needs! LesserEvil has no preservatives, no high-fructose corn syrup, no trans-fatty acids, no artificial flavors. It's low fat and gluten free!

He says: Can I have my own bag?

3 year old says: More, more, MORE!

6 year old says: YUM!

Try it now: LesserEvil

Sunny Seed Drops Chocolate Sunflower Nuts

Sunny Seed Drops are chocolate-covered sunflower nuts with an all-natural colorful coating. These chocolatey treats come in a 3 oz-sized package that's perfect to throw in a purse, lunch box, or backpack for a quick, nutritious treat.

In my opinion, these little guys are tasty! Delightfully chocolately and crispy, they're great for a mid-afternoon snack or an after-dinner treat. They're sodium free and contain 3 grams of protein per serving--plus, they let you reap all the benefits of sunflower seeds such as vitamin E, folate, iron, manganese, selenium, vitamin B6, and zinc in a delicious way.

One word of caution, however, take note that a serving size of the "seeds" is only 1 ounce, and NOT THE WHOLE 3-oz PACKAGE! These treats are quite addictive, and it is darn near impossible to stop yourself from eating them. Keep in mind, though, that 1 ounce contains 80 calories and 8 grams of fat (only 1 saturated)--so go easy and don't mindlessly munch your way into giving yourself too much of a good thing! My advice is to take a handful and put the rest away for later.

Manufacturer says: Nutritious and delicious, this healthy snack is a chocolate-lover's tasty treat.

He says: (Nothing. Eats the whole pack.)

3 year old says: (Nothing. Hums and eats.)

6 year old says: These taste like M&M's! Are they M&M's?

Try them now: Sunny Seed Drops

The Switch 100% Carbonated Juice - Orange Mango


I'm not a soda drinker. In fact, I absolutely detest that sugary stuff and won't even drink it on special occasions. I, therefore, did not encounter The Switch 100% Carbonated Juice while searching for a "healthier" alternative to help me kick the cola habit. Instead, I first discovered The Switch in my quest for an unsweetened fruit juice that had broad appeal.

The Switch, with it's lack of added sugar, corn syrup, or preservatives, seemed to fit the profile nicely--not only was it healthy, but it had the nice twist of carbonation to appeal to soda drinkers young and old. The first flavor I tried was Orange Mango. It had a delicious "sweet" taste and a familiar "tickle" of soda, yet I knew I wasn't torturing my body with refined sugars. I took a quick glance at the Nutrition Facts, and I was thrilled at what I found--this fantastic beverage wasn't simply "not bad for you," but it boasted 100% vitamin C, 8% vitamin A, and a whopping 30% of iron (percentage of daily values for a 2,000 calorie diet). With this stuff around, why in the world would anyone drink soda?!?!?

This is a great beverage for soda-lovers--adults and children alike, as well as for health "foodies" looking for something a little different. It's an especially great product for kids, because they really think they are getting soda, but it's really just fancy juice that's (GULP!) good for them!

Manufacturer says: We were tired of all the hype. You know, the weird ingredients you can't even pronounce. The natural-sounding drinks that have artificial colors and flavors. The "juice drinks" that are 6% juice. That's why we started The Switch. So we could make a healthy, all-natural, 100% juice beverage without any hype. Then we added carbonation to make it fun.

He says: Delicious. Fantastic. I'll drink this anytime.

3 year old says: Can I have some more soda?

6 year old says: Can I have some more soda?

Try it now: The Switch

Sharkies Organic Energy Sports Chews--Berry Blast Flavor


I've never been a big fan of sports gels, drinks, or other "energy aids" and/or electrolyte replacement products, so it is with extreme bias and hesitation that I try Sharkies Organic Energy Sports Chews.

I'm prompted to try Sharkies only because they are a natural and organic source of electrolytes and energy, and I'd like to have such a product to recommend to athletes.

My initial reaction to these chewy snacks is that they taste like Gatorade gummy bears. Since I dislike Gatorade, I'm not a big fan. I eat about a handful of them, and my opinion remains the same--I don't like them. Keep in mind that I do not use this type of product before, during, or after a workout, and I did not try Sharkies in this context either. I cannot, therefore, attest to their ability to provide energy, boost endurance, or help in recovery. I can, however, tell you that after about 20 minutes of consuming Sharkies, I felt quite nauseous--a feeling which I can state with certainty would not assist me through a workout.

On the positive side, children seem to enjoy these, and they make a great alternative to candy.

Manufacturer Says: Certified Organic Real Fruit Chews for Energy & Endurance with A Natural Source of Electrolytes. Gelatin Free • Wheat Free • Fat Free • Vegetarian • No Gluten • Kosher. A handful of Sharkies is an easy and delicious way to give your body what it needs for optimal performance. The grape juice, which is a simple sugar, offers a quick burst of energy and the brown rice syrup is a complex carbohydrate, which offers longer sustained energy. The electrolytes allow for the absorption of water in the cells and keep your body hydrated.

He says: Good.

3 year old says: MMM! These are my favorite (holds out hand for more).

6 year old says: (Nothing. Nods head vigorously in approval.)

Try them now: Sharkies

Tuesday, January 24, 2006 

Bionaturae Organic Whole Wheat Pasta

My first taste of whole wheat pasta was not altogether pleasant. I distinctly remember a beautiful, rich, red tomato sauce clinging to particle-board textured strands that had quite a bit of nerve calling themselves "pasta." This dining experience left me leery of the whole wheat pasta scene for a good three or so years.

My next taste of whole wheat pasta--I promise you--arose out of sheer desperation. It was nearing the dinner hour in our house, and a lack of time for grocery shopping left me with quite the bare cupboard. Since I owned a healthy gift basket company, I had a warehouse full of food from which I would occasionally "shop" as the need arose. This night, I scanned the shelves, and my eyes settled on a bag of Bionaturae Whole Wheat Pasta. I wasn't overjoyed, but there wasn't much else that could feed a family of four. I grabbed the bag and a jar of Walnut Acres Organic Pasta sauce and ran for the kitchen.

I never said a word to anyone else in the family about the "different" pasta, because I figured I'd know soon enough if dinner were intolerable. I sipped my water slowly--waiting for what I thought were inevitable groans of protest. To my surprise, I heard nothing except chewing and forks clanging against bowls, so I decided it was my turn to give it a try.

One bite later, and I was "all in." This was good stuff! No cardboard taste. No overwhelming "wheat" flavor. It was a little different from "regular" pasta, but it was tasty! It had a very light taste of wheat giving it a richer body and flavor than ordinary pasta, but it was extremely understated and didn't overpower the sauce by screaming "I'M WHOLE WHEAT PASTA AND I'M GOOD FOR YOU!"

I've since tried the pasta with just about every sauce imaginable, and I've always had spectacular results. My favorite way of serving it, however, is in baked ziti, but perhaps that has more to do with the story that goes with it...

My salt-, sugar-, and fat-happy father-in-law was visiting. We were standing around in the warehouse after dinner, when he suddenly spotted the bags of Bionaturae Whole Wheat pasta. He picked one up, and declared disgustedly that he "absolutely hated that stuff." My husband and I burst out laughing as my husband informed him that he had just praised that very "stuff" at dinner after eating several helpings of it.

So, people, cast off your preconceived notions about whole wheat pasta, and actually TRY THIS PRODUCT! Your body will definitely thank you, and your tastebuds won't disown you. If you're family isn't on board with a "health-food" philosophy, they don't have to know that this is "healthy" pasta. I say, in this case, what they don't know definitely won't hurt them.

Manufacturer says: Bionaturæ® organic whole wheat pasta has a nutty flavor that is pleasing to your palate, not gritty or grainy. The whole wheat pasta cooks just like semolina pasta and has a wonderful texture that works well with any recipe.

What they say: Nothing. They just eat it, and eat it, and eat it...

Try it now: Bionaturae Whole Wheat Pasta

Sunday, January 22, 2006 

Just the Cheese™ Crunchy Baked Cheese™ - Lower Salt Cheddar Flavor

Admittedly this snack is not for everyone. It doesn't exactly taste like cheese--at least no cheese I've ever eaten--in fact, it doesn't taste like much at first. The overwhelming pleasure of these baked cheese rounds is an incredible crunch that simply feels great in your mouth. As you crunch, a subtle cheese flavor is released, prompting you to grab another one and munch again. This is a bit dangerous, because the 2 oz bag is actually four servings with each one containing 75 calories, 6.5 grams of fat (3.4 g of them saturated), 25 mg of cholesterol, and 225 mg of sodium (and this is the lower salt flavor!). I don't actually think one could eat the whole bag, however, because as delightful as these are, they do get sickening after a bit.

On the upside, these are great for milk-haters, such as myself, since they contain a nice amount of calcium. They also make a great snack for those on low-carb diets, as they only contain 1 gram of carbohydrates per serving.

Manufacturer says: To make these snacks, we simply crumble our natural cheese into cookie cutters, oven bake and season to crisp, delicious perfection. Nothing else added. And, since our patent-pending baking process preserves cheese's natural nutrients, our Just the Cheese Crunchy Baked Cheese are PROTEIN AND CALCIUM RICH but LOW IN CARBOHYDRATES. 100% Cheese taste because it's 100% pure cheese!

Each piece of Just the Cheese Crunchy Baked Cheese is a golden gem of natural cheese that first crunches, then melts in your mouth. Just the Cheese Crunchy Baked Cheese pieces make sensational snacks, creative crumbles for soups and salads, and are delicious with your favorite dips.

He says: Tastes like unsalted cardboard. Dog food. Garbage.

3 year old says: I don't like these.

6 year old says: (Nothing. Just spits it out.)

Kashi Go Lean Waffles - Original 7 Grain

I love Kashi Go Lean Crunch! Cereal, so when I saw these waffles at a local grocery store, I just had to investigate further. A quick glance at the nutrition facts revealed that these waffles contain 170 calories with 6 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein, and only 3 grams of fat--and that's for two waffles! I was intrigued from a weight loss perspective (I needed to drop about 5 pounds at the time), as well as an athletic perspective (as a powerlifter I need a little extra protein), so I decided to give it a try.

Since I'm mostly a purist, I ate these straight from the toaster with no butter, syrup, or other topping. They have a delicious crispiness and a delightful, light sweetness (with only 4 grams of sugar) that makes them perfect for breakfast or a post-workout snack. When I'm feeling adventurous, I'll spread them with natural peanut butter and raisins (which really curbs the need for something sweet in the morning), or I'll top them with fat-free cottage cheese (the waffles have such a delicate flavor that they can be swayed in either a sweet or savory direction).

Manufacturer says: With a hint of vanilla, it tastes delicious on its own, as well as with syrup, butter or fruit. Protein – 8g, High Fiber – 6g, Low Fat – 3g

He says: Good.

3 year old says: More syrup.

6 year old says: I like them!

Try it now: Use the store locator at Kashi.com to find Go Lean Waffles in a store near you.

Saturday, January 21, 2006 

Emelia's Special Sauce

This sauce is praised by a local chiropractor as a great way to include more antioxidants into the diet. We say it's simply a great sauce to eat (to quote the manufacturer) on "just about anything."

My mother stumbled on this gem of a sauce at a local craft show and brought it home for us to taste. We dipped bread in it, opened a bottle of red wine, and darn near ate the whole bottle!

I find this sauce absolutely addictive. It has a warm vinegar flavor and a spicy garlic bite that blends very well with the herbs. It finishes with a little heat that makes you want more, and more, and more...

Ingredients: Olive oil, garlic, vinegar, paprika, black pepper, red pepper, bay leaves, salt, cayenne pepper.

This one was a little to "heated" for the wee ones, so the reviews are limited to "he says," my "WOW" and my mother's "MMM, MMM, MMM--more bread."

Manufacturer says: This special sauce is great for meats, potatoes, rice, salads, and just about anything else.

He says: I'm not so sure about this. (keeps eating) It's not that spectacular. (keeps eating) It's kind of bland and oily. Not bold in any direction.

Try it now: Emelia's Special Sauce

Papadini High Protein Lentil Pasta

Lentil Pasta--admittedly strange sounding, but with 13 grams of protein (I'm a powerlifter, so I'm always trying to find healthy, low fat sources of protein), 5 grams of fiber, and only 1 gram of fat, it was definitely on my "have to try list." After boiling it up, I wasn't quite sure what kind of sauce to add--I opted for tossing it with Bella Cucina's Walnut Sage Pesto (a gourmet treat in its own right), and, after one bite, I was immediately hooked. This pasta has a firm bite, a delightfully nutty flavor, and a "chewy" texture that I simply LOVED! I have since tried the pasta with traditional red sauce, clam sauce, and a variety of other toppings--and I have yet to be disappointed. I highly recommend this pasta both as an extremely healthy food (it's also a great source of iron and folic acid), and as a knock-out taste sensation. One word of advice--make more than one box--the 7 oz goes quicker than you'd expect.

Manufacturer says: Papadini, the lentil bean pasta, is a revolutionary new source of nutrition, so unique that it has been awarded a U.S. patent. This delicious high protein lentil flour pasta is made from beans, providing significant amounts of protein, complex carbohydrates, and soluble fiber (and of course, protein from beans contains no cholesterol or saturated fat.) Provides 13 grams of protein per serving. You'll find that Papadini pasta has the same al dente texture and mild nutty flavor as semolina pasta.

He says: I love the pasta--it's delicious.

3 Year Old says: (No comments--just joyful humming and eating)

6 Year Old says: Good. I like it.

Try it now: Papadini Lentil Pasta

LÄRABAR--Apple Pie


Apple Pie flavored LÄRABAR is a delicious blend of dates, walnuts, unsweetened apples, raisins, and cinnamon. The ingredients are raw--never cooked, never processed. This bar is surprisingly sweet despite the fact that it doesn't contain any sweeteners. I'm apt to eat it as a quick breakfast or a pre-workout snack. Sometimes I'll eat it for dessert. The nutrition facts state that for this 190-calorie bar you get 9 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and an impressive amount of a host of other vitamins and minerals. I find it a great substitute for a candy bar--it truly satisfies the cravings for something sweet while it does something great for your body.

Manufacturer says: Apple Pie — just like mom's … satisfying as well as nourishing. Spiced with cinnamon and paired with juicy raisins, the apples deliver 3 grams of natural fiber. Almonds contribute Vitamin E and protein while the dates add 14 essential vitamins and minerals. Omega 3 & 6 essential fatty acids come from the walnuts. With all this goodness occurring naturally, you can eat Apple Pie every day! Uncooked, Unprocessed, No Added Sugars, Non-Irradiated, Non-GMO, Preservative-Free, Sulfite-Free, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Corn-Free, Vegan, Kosher.

He says: MMM. I really like the nuts in them. The raisins are really good. It all blends together really well. It's light, but sustaining. Seems like it would give you a lot of staying power if you were trying to do something such as ski or weightlift. It's a great 10 a.m. snack--it would get you right through to lunch. It's one of the best bars I've ever had. It blows granola bars away--really a man's granola bar.

3 Year Old says: YUM! Can I have another one?

6 Year Old says: I kind of like it.

Try it now: LäraBar

 
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