Monthly Archives: October 2013
As a I did research for each of my sweets reports, I discovered that there are a huge amount of other blogs reviewing many of the same products. That it itself isn’t a major surprise, but it got me thinking that if I really want to distinguish myself from other blogs, I need to work hard on not only top-quality, detailed reviews, but also on targeting new products or those that are not as popular yet in the mainstream.
My product selection this time, a Japanese confection from Adachi Sangyo, is an attempt to introduce a niche product to a wider audience. I’m hoping that those unfamiliar with ‘daifuku’ will be happy to learn about one more way to indulge in your craving for sweets.
Food products from other countries are always interesting. Not only do you get a unique flavor not found in everyday American foods, but you also get a unique set of ingredients that has potentially to be different, if not healthier, than typical ingredients used in domestic foods.
Nutrients / Ingredients
So what is a ‘daifuku’ anyway? It’s a traditional Japanese sweet existing for over two centuries which consists of a sweetened red bean paste (anko) wrapped by a layer of glutinous rice cake (mochi). They are in flattened sphere form, and these daifuku are small enough to fit in the circle made by my thumb and forefinger.
One bag contains 7 daifuku and each one is 16 grams (1 serving). Each serving is only 50 calories, but that hides the fact that over 80% of this product (13 grams) is sugar. The first two ingredients are sugar and starch syrup, the latter being made in a process similar to corn syrup where starch is converted to syrup. If that didn’t make you run screaming then the rest of the story isn’t quite as bad.
This product is pretty nutritionally barren, in both a positive and negative sense: no sodium, no fat, no protein, and no fiber.
The great thing is that the 3rd, 4th, and 5th ingredients are all made natural plants or grains – rice, red beans, and mugwort. The latter is a flowering herb whose extracts have been shown to inhibit a certain type of cancer cells in vitro. The name ‘Wakakusa’ means something like ‘young plant’ and refers to this Japanese mugwort (yomogi).
The package I bought contained an English translation of the ingredients and nutritional information along with the original text in Japanese. I was surprised to find that the original contained two ingredients not found in the English translation: coloring (Safflower and common gardenia ) and “flavoring”. I’m glad they decided to use natural coloring agents, but very nonplussed about the mysterious “flavoring”. Translation of this word (香料 “kouryou”）says it can refer to both natural and artificial flavoring.
Oddly, I couldn’t find the calorie count listed in the original Japanese text. Because of the omission with some ingredients in the translation I’m suspicious about this number.
Here is the full list of ingredients:
Sugar, starch syrup, rice cake powder, red bean paste, (japanese) mugwort, starch, trehalose, skim milk powder, antioxidant (vitamin e), coloring (from flowers), flavoring.
One interesting ingredient used here is ‘trehalose’, a sweetener that is roughly 45 percent as sweet as sucrose and a low insulin response. It has the nickname ‘mushroom sugar’ because it can be found in some mushrooms. I believe it is used here primary as a preservative since it is present in only a small amount.
Vitamin E is also used as a preservative to prevent oxidation and keep the food fresher. But for a product that is sold in a refrigerated section this seems unnecessary. Vitamin or not, I’d prefer less preservatives in my food.
Overall, the use of natural ingredients such a rice, beans, and mugwort are a great idea, but the extreme amount of sugar renders them practically useless from a nutritional point of view.
Besides the light green color mixed with darker green colored spots, you’ll notice a fine powder covering the outside of each daifuku. This is most likely rice cake powder (or another type of flour) and is used to keep the confection from sticking to the little plastic wrapper containing it.
As you pick up one of the little daifuku, you’ll notice it has a gummy texture, and when you bite into it you are taken captive by the sticky, chewy sensation. That is the glutinous rice. Besides a moderate sweetness I don’t detect any other strong flavor in it.
When you reach its core there is a burst of extreme sweetness, as well as coldness, as your tongue savors the dark red azuki paste with its smooth texture. The contrast between the filling and the outer core is quite well balanced and keeps your senses busy.
I’m very familiar with azuki beans to the extent that I have made my own paste, so I quickly picked up on the subtle, but distinctive bean flavor of the filling. However, those less accustomed to this might just only perceive it as an ‘earthy’ taste. It doesn’t really taste like other beans (black, pinto, etc.), though the mashed texture is not too different.
Ironically, the mugwort (which the product was named after) didn’t have a strong taste. I had the sensation of eating flowers/plants but with my a priori knowledge of the ingredients its hard to give an unbiased description of the flavor. For my future reports I’m considering eating the product before reading though the ingredients so I can have a more neutral impression.
As a side note, the packaging is very artistic and feels like more effort was put into designing it that many American sweets.
Price and Availability
I found these at a asian grocery store in south florida, and odds are you can find it at a similar place in your neighborhood.
Since these are somewhat of a specialty imported item, they are not cheap. For a bag of 7 the price is around $3-$4. I apologize for not keeping track of the exact price, I’ll check it next time I return to the store and update this entry.
You could probably buy it online but as an imported good the shipping would probably make it prohibitively expensive.
Great entry point into the world of exotic Japanese sweets, although the natural ingredients employed are offset by a load of sugar.
This is my second product report of a Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss product, the first being of Chocolate Walnut Brownie flavor. I’m a big fan of that ice cream so I thought I would experiment with another flavor.
I’ve had my share of mint ice creams: Bryer’s mint chocolate chip was one of my favorites as a boy, and recently I’ve enjoyed Talenti’s Mediterranean Mint on a handful of occasions.
I was won over by this product’s great name (could it be because I’m a fan of Science Fiction?), even before I tossed the pint into my shopping cart. If I gave a rating for naming, I would surely give this a 10/10.
The base cream has a strong coconut flavor, more so than other makers’ coconut ice cream I’ve tasted, and the mint is very much in-your-face. These two flavors mesh well and make a great foundation for an excellent taste experience.
But this ice cream falls short to deliver a strong counterpoint which serves as a contrast, like a picture with a well defined foreground and background. In my previous review, there was a nice contrast between the sweet chocolate coating and the (somewhat) crunchy cookie part.
The chocolate flakes are supposed to serve that role, but until I ate this I didn’t realize the true difference between ‘flakes’ and ‘chips’. Chips are cube shaped and flakes are, well, similar to well-known corn flakes where they have a large, irregular surface area, but are extremely thin. My problem with this shape is that they appear large and tasty, but when you taste them there is practically no substance. As a result they don’t influence texture or taste much. I included a close-up picture of the flakes at the bottom of this post for reference.
After several servings of this I might get used to these flakes and understand their contribution better, but at present I just feel like there this product is just too hollow and lacking depth.
Another minor disappointment is that this ice cream is white, not colored green like some other mint-flavored creams. Of course I’m against using artificial colorings, but apart from that I feel the color has a psychological effect of emphasizing the mint flavor and making it taste all the more refreshing. To me, plain white signifies vanilla, which is at odds with the actual flavor here.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to say this coconut ice cream is that bad, its just that when compared to similar products it falls short. In fact, I am enjoying eating it while writing this report.
Nutrition / Ingredients
A 1/2 cup serving (97 grams) contains 15 grams of sugar, below average for ice creams, and 240 calories which also on the low side. There are 3 grams of fiber and 2 of protein.
Nutritionally this ice cream is very similar to the previously reviewed Chocolate Walnut Brownie, except that here we have much less Iron (4% vs 15% DV), one-fifth the salt (10mg vs 55mg), and a few other minor differences.
The base ingredients are also similar between these two products, and everything is organic. Of course there are no brownies or walnuts, which have been replaced by peppermint extract and coconut cream, the latter being an ingredient I haven’t seen used before. The chocolate here is in flake form as opposed to be mixed into the cream itself.
I have been researching the health effects on various types of sugar, and apparently some professionals believe that agave isn’t especially good for the body. The high amount of fructose contained in agave makes it resemble the dreaded “high-fructose corn syrup”. I plan on doing some more research on this critical topic and eventually would like to write a detailed post with my results, but for now I’ll just say that there is disagreement on how healthy each type of sugar really is. I personally still prefer agave to standard sugar, but because of the uncertainty I’ve reduced my ingredients/nutrition rating of this product from 8.5 to 8.0.
Price and Availability
This typically sells for around $6.49 with tax. This a bit pricey for those on a budget, but not unexpected, considering this is a non-dairy specialty product.
There a only a few places that I know of in South Florida that sell this, one is Whole Foods Market which is where it happened to be on sale for roughly one dollar cheaper.
Nice healthy ice cream with natural ingredients, but the flavor may be a little underwhelming for those who are used to other mint creams.
In my college days, Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie was my go-to ice cream when I had a rough week or had accomplished something noteworthy and deserved a reward. Though I would never attempt this at my age, in those days I would just sit down and polish off an entire carton in a matter of minutes.
I generally try to gravitate towards less sweet products, but there was a half price sale at Publix so I had an excuse to pick up a pint of this.
In spite of my nostalgic attachment to this product, I’ll do my best for an unbiased review.
This ice cream is about as sweet, rich, and decadent as you can get. As you come across the brownie pieces, your teeth sink into spongy cake with an even deeper sweetness (if that is even possible). When I eat this my “avoid too much sugar” angel on my shoulder has to keep quiet or else I can’t enjoy myself.
I love how the base ice cream itself is so thick and gooey. It would work fine on its own even without the brownie bites inserted.
This ice cream also tastes colder on the tongue than most others I have tasted, possibly because it is so dense an can hold a low temperature better than others. One reason for this is a high concentration of water.
Ingredients & Nutrition
A 105 g serving (1/4 of the container) contains 270 calories, which is significantly above average for the ice creams I typically enjoy.
I’ll just let the cat out of the bag – Chocolate Fudge ice cream contains way more sugar than anyone health-conscious would ever consider consuming, a whopping 28 grams per serving. But the fact this ice cream is so bad for you is what makes it so tasty, and why it’s perfect for special occasions when you feel you deserve it. Just make sure you eat no more than half of the carton at a time!
Other nutrients are mediocre, with 5 grams protein, 2 grams fiber, 15% DV of iron and 10 %DV of calcium.
There are around 20 ingredients, which is no surprise because typically brownies require several ingredients on their own. Also, this product isn’t marketed as a healthy ice cream so there’s no reason for the producer to try and reduce the ingredient count. Ingredients of note are liquid sugar (#2), water (#4), and cocoa (#6). There is also three egg ingredients (egg yolks, whole eggs, and egg whites) present.
While Ben & Jerry didn’t go out of their way to use ingredients thought to be ‘healthier’ such as agave syrup instead of plain sugar, its nice to see there are no artificial flavorings or colorings. There is no ‘natural flavor’ either.
One minor annoyance I have with this product is the ingredients for the base ice cream and brownie bites are not separated as is done for other products. I have a feeling the thick texture of the ice cream base is due in part to egg yolks, but I can’t tell for sure since eggs are also typically used in brownie baking.
The brownie bytes make this ice cream very filling so it can be enjoyed even when you’re hungry. Regardless of the state of your stomach, you’ll get a huge sugar rush after this.
Price and Availability
This is available in many different grocery stores, from Publix to Target to Walmart, for roughly $3.79 for a one pint container.
This ice cream is perfect for when you want to go overboard and just totally enjoy yourself – at the cost of a massive amount of sugar intake. Not recommend for frequent consumption.
I live a conflicted life – I yearn for sweet treats while simultaneously scrutinizing them for sugar content. Sugar is also the topic of this blog, albeit indirectly.
As I studied my sugar intake I began to realize there is enormous amounts of it in some unexpected places, especially in breakfast foods. Everyone knows donuts are quite sugary, but when you turn a careful eye to other foods such as yogurts, and even many cereals, the sugar really comes out of the woodwork.
Our product this time is in that very category, a strongly sweetened breakfast cereal made by Three Sisters company (not to be confused with “Three Twins”, the ice cream producer). A great thing about this company is that they purchase wind-generated credits proportional to the electricity used to make their cereals, a nice aid to sustainable energy.
This cereal is made of sweetened wheat grains, puffed with heat in a process much like popcorn. Both flavor and composition is very similar to Post’s Super Golden Crisp, which it’s clearly modeled after.
I think you probably already saw this coming, but the sweetness is a little too heavy for my taste, especially when eating this as my first meal of the day. The puffy texture is pleasant, but it seems a tad airier than Post’s classic cereal, at least as far as I can remember.
If the overt sweetness doesn’t bother you, you will likely find this cereal quite delicious. My young son loves this and eats it up, sometimes asking for seconds.
Ingredients / Nutrition
One serving (27 grams or ¾ cup) contains only 110 calories, a typical value for cereals. Unfortunately sugar clocks in at a whopping 15 grams. Sure, if you only have one serving this isn’t a massive amount, but the amount of sugar per weight is very high, surpassing many ice creams!
With minor amounts of minerals, this product is nutritionally unimpressive, with only 2 grams of protein and zero fiber. There is low salt (65 mg), and no fat or cholesterol, but that doesn’t make up for the lack of nutrition.
Ingredient composition isn’t anything special either. Here is the full list:
Sugar, Wheat, Corn Syrup, Honey, salt, Caramel Color, Soy Lechitin, Citric Acid, and Sodium Acetate.
Three out of four of the top ingredients are used for sweetness. With a name like “Honey Puffs” you would expect honey to be the most prevalent, but instead its disappointingly last, and thereby in a much lower proportion that the other sweeteners. Corn Syrup, while not nearly as bad as its evil brother High Fructose Corn Syrup, is nevertheless made from processed corn and something I think we all have had too much of in our diets.
Caramel Color is another undesirable item which I discussed in one of my recent posts. Effects on the body vary depending on the process used but coloring is never a plus unless its from something completely natural.
Sodium Acetate is a common flavoring agent (it gives the characteristic taste to salt and vinegar chips), which supposedly has no major health drawbacks. Having said that, I prefer they would use something a bit more natural, like plain old salt.
Above all my biggest problem with this cereal is that it isn’t much different than the classic cereal it is clearly based off, Post’s Super Golden Crisp. Ingredients are very similar, though there are some minor tradeoffs like less salt (40 mg) and non-zero fat (.5 g). To make matters worse, Honey Puffs actually has *more* sugar than Super Golden Crisp. Give me a break!
I think making a healthy version of a not-so-healthy classic is a great idea, but I wish they would set themselves apart by a wider margin.
Price and Availability
Available exclusively from Whole Foods. I purchased mine for $3.99, though recently they had a sale for buy one get one free.
Cereal with too much sugar and not enough nutrients to make a well-balanced breakfast.
I recommend the Honey Oaties cereal from the same company, which contains more fiber and much less sugar.