Blog Archives

You pick the (sweet) food. I report on it.

banana

Now that I’ve done a series of reports on various sweets I’m familiar with, I think its time to ask the community what products they want reviewed.

Curious about that new ice cream thats a little pricey? Want to know how good a certain cookie is nutritionally? Or looking for how a certain brownie stacks up against its competitors?

Just leave a comment here with the product name. Assuming I can acquire it somewhere locally, I’ll do my best to report on all responses I get, including information about flavor, nutrition, price, and in some cases I’ll contact the producer for more information on an ingredient or the like. Or if you don’t have a specific product name, but are looking for something (“Whats the best XXX you recommend?”) let me know as well.

Looking forward to hearing from everyone!

Whole Treat Organic Ice Cream Sandwiches – Product Review

sandwich

Intro

In my high school days there was a time when I frequently ate ice cream sandwiches – vanilla ice cream held between two chocolate cookies.  But it was just a passing craze for me, and many years have passed since I went on to other desserts.

Recently I discovered Whole Foods made their own “healthy” version of the traditional ice cream sandwich, so I decided to try them out.

Flavor

By far the most noteworthy thing about this product is the texture, which is pretty rare as desserts go. Neither the ice cream nor the cookie, both very sweet, are exceptionally tasty on their own. And yet together they make a perfect match – the dark cookies with their tough, chewy texture contrast well against the soft, pure white ice cream. The latter is always the perfect consistency, even when pulled straight from the freezer, thanks to rich cream being used as the main ingredient.

Temperature difference also plays a big role here in the enjoyment. The cookie, with its relatively low density and viscosity, tends to retain less of the coldness than the ice cream. Just as you are sinking your teeth into the cookie you suddenly hit gold and the sensation of chilled cream expands in your mouth – a refreshing surprise that repeats itself on each and every bite.

Ingredients / Nutrition

Each 60 gram, 89 mL sandwich contains 170 calories and 14 grams of sugar. These are on the low end of the scale, making this a perfect dessert for those counting calories, and the individually wrapped packs make it easy to limit yourself to one sandwich per sitting.

The perceived sweetness is actually quite intense, which is perplexing at first because of the low sugar content. However, this makes sense when you take into account the fact that the sandwiches are pretty small, and that sugar (in the form of organic dehydrated cane juice) is the second ingredient in both ice cream and cookies.

The ingredients, mostly organic, are generally healthy, with the possible exception of caramel coloring present in the cookie. Caramel coloring, depending on how it is made, can be a carcinogen (see references) and cause problems with allergies. I don’t know the exact type of caramel coloring used here as it isn’t specified on the package, but I feel that using a more natural coloring agent (possibly a beet-based one) would be healthier. I’ve sent an email to Whole Foods requesting more information about this, will update this post when I receive a response.

[Update: after a few days I got a response from Whole Foods stating that the vendor uses a Class 1 caramel color, which is the least controversial because it avoids using ammonium or sulfite compounds]

This product doesn’t have much going for it nutrition wise, with low levels of protein (3 g) and other common vitamins and minerals. A nice perk is that it is much more filling than many ice cream products, probably due to the flour used in the cookie.Also, organic cocoa is listed as the final ingredient for the cookie, which means there isn’t very much caffeine to worry about.

In fact, I just had one of these sandwiches to stave off my hunger before I go to bed.

Price and Availability

This product generally sells for around $4.99 from Whole Foods Market. With six sandwiches per pack, thats less than one dollar per each, quite inexpensive for an organic dessert.

Ratings

Flavor: 7.0

Ingredients/Nutrition: 7.0

Price: 8.0

Overall: 7.3

Summary

Tasty organic snack, great for times you want to eat light.

References

http://www.fatsecret.com/Diary.aspx?pa=fjrd&rid=2448532

http://www.cspinet.org/new/201102161.html

Three Twins Organic Ice Cream, Milk Coffee (Free Trade!)

3twins

Intro

I tried this for the first time several months ago while on a coffee ice cream kick. It’s my favorite of the healthy coffee ice creams, so I thought I would review it. I’ll report on my favorite less-healthy coffee ice cream later.

Flavor

The flavor is much what you would expect from the product name – sweetened milk and coffee. There isn’t any unexpected flavors or toppings mixed in. Compared to other coffee ice creams I’ve had, everything is a little toned down, and the dominant flavor and texture is that of milk, rather than coffee. It brings back memories of when I used to drink iced milk as a boy and the milk would crystallize around the cubes.

This cream tastes significantly better when eaten in a half-melted state, bringing out extra flavor and texture. Carving out chunks of frozen cream with a spoon and popping in your mouth to chew just doesn’t give quite the same satisfaction as running your tongue across cold coffee-infused milk.

Nutrition / Ingredients

Both the sugar and calorie count is a less than similar ice creams in the same class, with 200 calories and 17 grams sugar in a 85 gram serving. There’s 4 servings per container.

All seven ingredients are organic, with three of them Fair Trade. In fact, according to a March 2013 press release by the company, this is the first Fair Trade organic ice cream, and I haven’t found any evidence to the contrary. For those unfamiliar with Free Trade, I’ll briefly quote Wikipedia’s entry on this (see references section at bottom for link):

“Fair trade is an organized social movement that aims to help producers in developing countries to make better trading conditions and promote sustainability.”

As always, the ingredients speak for themselves, listed here in the order of highest concentration first: whole milk, cream, evaporated cane juice, nonfat milk, egg yolks, coffee, and vanilla extract. As you can see, three of the top four ingredients are diary related, which explains the dominant milk taste.

Price and Availability

This product is available at Whole Foods Market for $4.69, an excellent price considering the delicious taste and natural ingredients. Its also available at The Fresh Market and a few other places in South Florida.

Ratings

Flavor:7.0

Nutrition/Ingredients:8.0

Price:8.5

Total: 7.8

Summary

Nothing revolutionary here, simply a handful of natural ingredients put together with a great milk coffee taste and mild sweetness. Definitely recommended for coffee-flavored ice cream lovers.

References

I was not able to find the nutritional and ingredient information listed online, but have sent an email to the company requesting this. Will update back when I get more information.

http://www.threetwinsicecream.com/blog/2013/03/three-twins-ice-cream-launches-first-horsemeat-free-ice-cream-at-expo-west-2013-at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_trade

Ice Cream Hacks: How to get the most out of your ice cream experience.

spoons

For this article, I’ll take a break from my usual review-style posts and try something different.

This sounds a little strange, but having eaten so many gallons of ice cream in my life, I feel like I’ve gotten “good” at eating ice cream. Sure, great ice cream tastes great no matter how you indulge yourself. But there are a few little tips I wanted to put in writing to give everyone just that extra edge in squeezing the most enjoyment and flavor out of every creamy bite.

Many of these are highly subjective, but I’m hoping that at least a few will work for you.

Let it melt – Nobody likes ice cream melted into a puddle of messy sugar, but I’ve discovered that eating half-melted ice cream really allows me to savor the flavor that much more. Scientific studies on this may be lacking, but these are my guesses for why this is so.

1) Cold is refreshing to a point, but as you cross the line to freezing the taste buds numb up and can’t do their job effectively. I remember reporting on something similar in my review of Lakewood Blueberry juice. I think its commonly accepted that some things with a mediocre taste (i.e. Beer) are more palatable when drank cold.

2) Whereas a solid will touch the tongue at a few points for a brief moment, the cool liquid of partially melted ice cream coats a large area of the tongue. With more surface area and more taste buds active, it’s  no surprise there is more flavor perceived.

There are few tricks you can use to help melt your ice cream to the right consistency:

1) Use a metal spoon. Metal is a conductor so it will help to melt the cream on the way to your mouth. Using plastic will just help it maintain its current temperature.

2) Eat ice cream from the outermost layer, that which is against the wall of the container and will melt the fastest. Occasionally wipe off the outside of the container with a towel when it gets frosty, to promote melting.

3) Chop up the top layer of ice cream with your spoon, or just poke a bunch of holes in it. That will allow more exposure to the outside air and promote faster melting.

4) Do NOT try to leave your ice cream anywhere but the freezer for any period of time to try and melt it. The risk for returning to ice cream soup is too high.

Small spoon – Several years back I switched from eating with a tablespoon to a smaller sized spoon (slightly larger than a teaspoon). This taught me to really enjoy every ounce and prolonged the length of time it took to finish off a container. It will also tend to reduce the total amount of ice cream eaten.

Small container – The advantage of a small container is that its easier to set limits on how much you eat, which prevents over-eating and helps you enjoy what you eat. With one of those giant containers, its easy to break your “ok, just one more bite” promises, until you feel ready to explode. And while it makes economical sense to buy in bulk, the quality the ice cream is typically much worse compared to the smaller containers.

Less sugar – If you eat ice cream with high sugar content day after day, you are likely to get tired of it quickly. Lower sugar ice creams need something to fill that gap, leading to more nutrition, and your body will thank you.

Ice Cream > Mlik – Don’t stay confined to only milk-based creams. Try coconut milk, goat milk, or even rice-based. This is another way to get a wider variety of nutrition and not burn yourself out.

Use Toppings – If you end up buying an ice cream that is not what you expected, don’t be afraid to use toppings to make the taste a bit more to your liking. My favorite healthy topping are walnuts (broken into small pieces), cocoa powder and cocoa nibs. Adding your own whip cream adds a new dimension of texture to any ice cream. Pouring chilled Kahlua over ice cream is also nice once in awhile.

Know your ingredients – Reading through the ingredients list to know what you’re eating (either before or after you take your first bite) is a nice way to enrich your experience. It will help train your taste buds to look for certain subtle flavors.

Try it yourself – Try making your own homemade ice cream. That will give you a better understanding of some of the more mysterious ingredients (like ‘guar gum’) and also an appreciation of how difficult it is to make a great-tasting cream. I like to make variations of the same ice cream, putting less or more of a certain ingredient, and seeing how the end result is. When you fail at this trial-and-error process (as I have), just head to the nearest supermarket for some pro-made cream.

Eat when your stomach is happy – I’ve found that its hard to enjoy ice cream fully on a completely empty stomach because my body is craving nutrition. Conversely, trying to stuff my mouth when I’m already full isn’t smart. Eating a sweet dessert an hour or two after I’ve had a moderate meal seems to be the trick to maximum appreciation.

Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss Chocolate Walnut Brownie (non-dairy ice cream)

Coconut Bliss Chocolate Walnut Brownie

Introduction

For my first review I’ve decided on a frozen dessert which is one of my recent favorites. This is something that I’ve savored several times in the last month and plan to continue on doing for the foreseeable future.

When I think back on the ice cream I used to eat in high school and compare that to what I have been enjoying the last few years, its amazing how different they are – especially regarding the ingredients used. But this is only a natural consequence of putting more consideration into what I eat. For ice cream I typically use three types of information when deciding on the healthiness of the product: calories, sugar, and the ingredients themselves, as well as a few others which I give less weight to (protein, container size, etc.). Though everyone has their own opinions on what is really ‘healthy’, I subscribe to the theory that generally ‘natural is better’.

Enough of the historical aside. Let’s move on to the juiciest, most mouthwatering part of any of my reviews, the discussion of flavor.

Flavor

First of all, I’d like to give a heads up to all the ice cream addicts who have eaten only milk-based ice cream (like me until recently). This is unabashedly a coconut milk based product, with some other important ingredients I’ll talk about in the ingredients section below. So of course there will be differences between this and dairy-based ice creams. For those willing to take a step out of their limited world of dairy ice cream, a little open mindedness will go along way to quickly accustoming to these differences.

One of the key differences is the texture when frozen. When compared to standard ice cream it seems finer and crumbles/flakes quite easily. But once it is in a half-melted state, the creaminess factor goes up a notch, though not quite reaching that of milk-based creams. All things being considered, the creaminess and overall mouthfeel of the base, crafted by a delicate balance of coconut, water, and guar gum, is quite impressive.

But the real killer here is the flavor – a deep, complex taste that lingers on the palate long afterwards. The base cream, it’s richness derived from a good helping of cocoa, is complimented nicely by a generous helping of crunchy walnuts and sweet chocolate brownie chunks. I can’t put it any better than the marketing quip on the front of the package: “A Devine Treat for Chocolate Lovers“.

The only issue I have with the flavor is that there is a mild chalky aftertaste. Its the same I get after eating walnuts by themselves, which marks them as the culprit here. Their crunchy contribution to the overall texture is nice but I wouldn’t mind sampling a version of this product without the nuts.

Ingredients and Nutrition

This dessert does an excellent job of satisfying those choosy about ingredient quality. Most ingredients are organic, with a subset declared as Fair Trade. Apart from the walnuts and the brownie morsels, the base is made from only six ingredients.  There are other products on the market with less ingredients (ex: Haagen-Dazs “Five”), but their ingredients are generally not Organic nor this rich. It is vegan friendly with no dairy, soy, or gluten, so the number of people who can safely enjoy this ice cream goes far above any typical milk-based cream.

The ingredients are also very natural, with no artificial flavors or colorings. Thankfully, my personal pet-peeve “natural flavors” is not present either. “Natural flavors”  is a general category for any flavoring which is derived from natural (animal or plant) sources. “natural” is great and all, but I’m turned off by the lack of details about what was used (could be tree bark for all you know) and that it may be heavily processed. I avoid products with this usually, though if the taste is right I can make an exception. 

The sweeteners employed are both natural and well known – agave syrup and coconut sugar. The debate on which sugars are truly healthier is far from settled but I think it’s safe to have a mixed diet of typical powdered white sugar and other variations like these which are more natural with less processing. The Vanilla extract used is also natural, with no artificial “Vanillin” used.

Calories (per 95 g serving, ¼ of container) are 250, par for the course here. Sugar is 15 g per serving and happens to be one of the reasons I decided to try this out. Compared to other products which can have approximately twice the sugar, this is surprisingly low, especially considering the rich flavor. This can be attributed to the fact agave syrup has a higher sweetness per gram than normal table sugar. Agave syrup is generally valued for its relatively low glycemic index, and less processing compared to some artificial sweeteners.

As with most ice creams salt content is low (2% of recommended daily intake). A nice bonus is a per-serving iron amount of 15% of daily intake, compared to a much lower percentage in many other products (many have 0%).

Price and Availability

Price is $6.49 with tax (bought around 9/15/13). 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 I picked it up.

Ratings (out of 10)

  • Flavor: 7.5
  • Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.5
  • Price: 6.0
  • Overall: 7.3

Summary

Great organic coconut ice cream with an excellent taste, average calorie count, but less sugar content than many other similar products. Not cheap but an exotic item definitely worth trying.

References

http://coconutbliss.com/coconut-bliss-products/chocolatewalnutbrownie

Meet the Sweets Reporter

Hello, I’m the Sweets Reporter, thanks for reading!

With a nearly uncountable number of people on this planet addicted to sweet treats, why did I decide to dedicate some of my treasured free time to reporting on a variety of delicious, delightful sweet things?

Well, for starters I’m the type of person who almost always has something sweet at night before going to bed, and have been doing so as long as I can remember. In the last few years I also have been paying more attention to what is in the sweets I eat – for health reasons as well as just natural curiosity about what makes great flavor. And finally, I feel as if the “scientist” part of me – the tendency to analyze and report detailed observations – makes me a perfect candidate for a critic of sweets. Its even taken me to the point where I have tried making my own confections (ice cream, cookies, etc.) using experimental recipes.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey, where each stop is a flavorful concoction designed to delight the senses.

One more thing before we move onto the first sweets review. Having read my share of food (and other) reviews, I am quick to pick up on those who put a positive spin for commercial reasons. Though I don’t expect to focus on items which I don’t enjoy eating, for those I do decide to review I’ll be giving my thorough, honest take. Even my favorite sweets have drawbacks, and I want to give my readers an unbiased (well, as much as a human can be unbiased) commentary on things. In any case, I’ll do my best to convey my feelings to you as if you had just popped it into your mouth, senses savoring all the glory of its sweetness.