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Justin’s White Chocolate Organic Peanut Butter Cups [Limited Time Only]

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I’m a huge fan of Justin’s products because of their great taste and natural, simple ingredients. I reviewed their Chocolate Hazelnut spread and their Maple Almond Butter spread previously.

Flavor

These peanut butter cups consist of a white chocolate shell surrounding a peanut butter filling. Honestly, I usually prefer dark or semi-sweet chocolate to white, but the buttery flavor of white chocolate fits well with the earthy peanut butter taste.

The peanut butter filling seems like the same mixture they sell as a separate product, with a smooth, rich flavor and no strange overtones.

Justin’s also sells milk chocolate and dark chocolate versions of this product which are also quite tasty. What I really like about this set of products is that they are easy to eat on the go and make portion control easy.

Nutrition/Ingredients

One serving is two cups (40 grams), and contains 180 calories, 17 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.

These cups pack a hefty sweetness in a small package, but after all they are considered a candy and meant to be eaten only a pack at a time.

As with Justin’s other products, the ingredients are top class and are all organic, all natural, with no artifical/natural flavors or colorings of any sort. They are also fair-trade which means buying this product helps farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses, another thing which should make you feel good about this product.

Ingredients: Organic White Chocolate (Organic Sugar, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Whole Milk Powder, Organic Soy Lecithin, Organic Vanilla), Organic Peanuts, Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Palm Fruit Oil, Organic Vanilla Flavor, Sea Salt.

Price/Availability

According to Justin’s web site, these are only available via Whole Foods Market for a limited time. I have only seen them in the stores very recently, so I guess they are intended for the holiday season, possibly for a “white christmas” concept.

Ratings:   Flavor:  7.5  Nutrition/Ingredients:  8.5  Price:  8.0  Overall: 8.0

Summary

These sweet peanut butter cups are a great healthy snack with ingredients you don’t have to fret about. Be sure to try a pack or two before they stop production.

References

http://www.justins.com/faq.php?s=2

http://fairtradeusa.org/what-is-fair-trade

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Rickland Orchards Greek On The Go Mango Granola Bites

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I recently came back from a family trip to Tennessee, where I enjoyed the beautiful fall colors – fiery red, bold orange, and luscious green. Living in South Florida there isn’t much feeling of the changing seasons, but when you head north it’s really a different world. I was thinking of creating a blog post about some of the things I saw there, including the very memorable “Rock City”, but decided against it since I want to keep my blog relatively focused on sweets, at least for the time being.

I looked through one of the local grocery stores ice cream sections there, but didn’t see much that caught my eye. There was a few brands that were new to me but most were sold in large one gallon containers, which typically aren’t in the class of ice cream I like. Some brands I was familiar with back home, such as Ben and Jerry’s, didn’t have too many unique flavors there either. That’s one of the disadvantages of globalization – wherever you go things are more or less the same.  Of course, I didn’t do a thorough survey and had I checked out a few other stores I might have seen a wider selection and some more things I wanted to taste and review.

I did stop by a Ben and Jerry’s store which I may briefly review in another post, but for this post I’d like to focus on a sweet product I bought literally at the last minute. I picked it up in on a whim at one of the Nashville airport’s many gift shops.

Flavor

The appearance of these little white balls is a bit surprising at first glance. They look like a homemade gum ball, so when you pop one in your mouth you might be thinking “is it really OK to eat this?” No worries though – as your teeth sink into the soft yogurt coating you soon realize this has little in common with a gum ball. The texture of the coating is not a perfect sphere (hence the “homemade” part), but rather lumpy, as if it was a Frankenstein made of a bunch of smaller pieces. Not the most appealing first impression, but as with most sweets the taste and texture are paramount over the appearance.

The yogurt coating is very much like that on your average granola bar, like Nature Valley’s yogurt bar, except there is a very strong mango flavor infused into it. To be honest I am not a big mango fan (which may have caused me to be extra sensitive to the flavor), but I can see this being delicious to mango lovers so I won’t count it against the product. There is a certain chewyness which reminds me of a protein bar (in a good way), probably because of soy protein isolate contained within.

The inner core of the balls is made up of granola, which has a pretty underwhelming crunch to it. I think a little more snap would improve the overall taste experience. As with the coating, I wasn’t too satisfied with the appearance of the granola portion. It was too mashed together without any visible granola pieces (oats) or other recognizable elements.

My biggest disappointment is that both the inner and outer portions look very different from the packaging illustration, where the granola oats are well-defined and coating is much smoother and even.

Because of my feelings towards mango I won’t say I’m eager to purchase this again, but both my wife and son really enjoyed these sweet, crunchy bites.

Nutrition/Ingredients

One pack contains roughly 36 bites, and a single serving is defined as 9 bites. In a serving there is 190 calories, 80 from fat, and 15 grams of sugars. Though far from being a diet product, these values are pretty reasonable. There is 3 grams of fiber and 5 of protein per serving.

Although there is a mild yogurt taste and actual yogurt is used in the ingredients, it isn’t enough for me to recommend this product for those looking to get the health benefits of yogurt. See another of my reviews where I talked about this here. From the ingredient list we can see there is a higher proportion of sugar, vegetable fat, and skim milk powder over yogurt. Same thing with mango – there is enough of it for a taste, but not enough to count as eating fruit for health reasons.

The ingredients used are generally healthy and natural, with the exception of “natural flavors” which is pretty common in products of this sort. I’m a little curious why they added soy protein isolate which could turn some people off from this (being a more heavily processed ingredient), but the extra protein and flavor is a plus for me. Sugar and fructose syrup aren’t my favorite ways to sweeten something up and ideally I’d prefer a less processed form like agave, but because there is still debate on which sugars are healthiest this is a very minor point. I wonder how the taste would change if they reduce thed amount of these sugars and upped the proportion of brown rice syrup and honey, which are already present. I’m guessing the current ratios were chosen mostly for cost reasons.

Full ingredient list: Greek yogurt coating [sugar, vegetable fat (shea butter, palm oil, palm kernel oil), skim milk powder, dried greek yogurt, soy lecithin, natural flavor, citric acid], oats, mango bit [fruit (mango puree, apple puree), sugar, fructose syrup, rice flour, vegetable fat, natural flavor, pectin, citric acid], soy protein isolate, honey, canola oil, chicory root extract, natural flavors, brown rice syrup, water, tapioca starch, calcium carbonate, gum acacia, probiotics: lactobacillus acidophilus.

Price/Availability

I got this at the Nashville airport but according to their website it’s available at a variety of store chains, including Target and Winn-Dixie. I paid $5.99 but odds are this will be at least a dollar or two cheaper when purchased outside of an airport. For example, I saw this for around $4.00 on this site. I’ll give my numerical rating for price based on the latter since its not fair to the product to use the airport giftshop’s price.

Their website also supports direct purchase, which is nice.

I was a little annoyed the company’s website didn’t list this flavor, but that can be excused by the fact it is a relatively new product, at least according to the “New” label on the corner of the package.

Ratings:   Flavor:  7.0  Nutrition/Ingredients: 7.0    Price: 8.0   Overall: 7.33

Summary

Although the appearance is not that attractive, I’d still recommend this product for anyone who likes mangos and yogurt coating. Granola lovers might want to stay away since the granola portion lacks a certain crispness and definition.

References

http://www.amazon.com/Rickland-Orchards-Greek-Mango-Granola/dp/B00CLHXEP8

http://www.ricklandorchards.com/products#granola-bites

http://www.smartpowders.com/rickland-orchards-greek-on-the-go.html

Somersaults Dutch Cocoa (crunchy nuggets baked with sunflower seeds & toasted grains)

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Introduction

This time we’ll focus on a healthy snack food which I recently discovered. Unlike many of the others I’ve reported on so far, it stands pretty well nutritionally on its own. Being in cookie form makes it easy nibble in the middle of work, in bed, or anytime the munchies strike.

Another thing I like about this product is the manufacturer is focused exclusively on making sunflower seed based snacks, and only has five products to date.

Flavor

As soon as I pulled one of these cookies from the pack with my thumb and pointer finger, I was surprised by it’s tiny size and odd appearance – the manufacturer clearly favors substance over style. Popping it into my mouth, it’s firmness was another surprise, not quite tough enough to achieve ‘rock’ status, but definitely harder than I expected. However after a few bite-sized chunks, I quickly got used to the crunchy texture and began enjoying the process of breaking each cookie into smaller and smaller fragments in my mouth. This is another product where the texture takes importance over the flavor.

The flavor itself is quite mild, a mixture of chocolate and nuttiness well blended together, accompanied by a light sweetness. I wouldn’t say there is much of a sunflower seed taste, though as far as I remember sunflower seeds are more about the texture of the seed and saltiness than any particular taste that stands out.

Ingredients / Nutrition

One serving of 14 pieces (30 g, or roughly 1/6th of a 6 ounce pack) contains 140 calories which is reasonable given how filling these little nuggets are. Sugar is also on the low side, with only 4 grams per serving. This is around half that in Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut butter, which is already low in sugar. Sodium is also low at 140 mg (6% DV), and there is a good amount of fiber – 3 grams which translates to 12% of daily recommended value. There is a modest amount of protein as well, with 6 grams per serving.

Sunflower seeds contain a wide variety of nutrients including amino acids, Vitamin E (10% DV), and cholesterol lowering phytosterols. They also are top rank in the nuts & seeds category, based on Whole Food’s ANDI score, which measures nutrient density (“Aggregate Nutrient Density Index”). In case you’re curious, sesame seeds are #2 which coincidentally are also present in these cookies.

There are 13 ingredients, with the top five as follows: sunflower seeds, wheat flour, sugar, organic evaporated cane juice, and cocoa powder. A key point here is that sunflower seeds are #1 on the list – these are not something thrown in just to add a appearance of healthiness, they are the most prevalent ingredient. Cocoa as the fifth ingredient is also a nice bonus.

My only major gripe is the presence of “natural flavors” in the ingredient list (as #11, but still). As mentioned in other reports, I am uncomfortable with this since I don’t know exactly what I am eating, only that it’s “natural”. It could be made from tree bark for all I know. I’ve sent a request to Somersaults Snack Company for more information about what “natural flavors” contains, will update this post when I receive a response. This ingredient does contain the text “(milk)” next to it, but It’s not clear if that means only milk is included or if milk is just one of the things used.

Update: I received a response from Somersaults regarding their natural flavors. I’ll excerpt part of their response, unedited:

The natural flavors in our Dutch Cocoa are: butter and brownie. So while there isn’t explicit butter or brownie ingredients inside the product, natural derivatives used to make these products can be found in Somersaults. 

Price and Availability

These are available directly from the producer’s website in .5 oz , 2 oz, or 6 oz bags. The current prices for these are very reasonable at $0.71, $1.70, and $3.59, respectively. You can also buy in bulk for a discount. Supporting direct sale in a variety of sizes like this is pretty impressive, and the first time I’ve seen this for a product. There is even an option on the site to sign up for recurring delivery and save an extra 10%!

I purchased my 6 ounce bag from Whole Foods Market for around the same price as above.

Ratings

Flavor: 7.0

Ingredients/Nutrition: 8.5

Price: 8.0

Overall: 7.8

Summary

Dutch Cocoa Somersaults are a sunflower seed-based snack with a mild flavor and can fill you up pretty easily with their natural ingredients. Great for anytime you hunger for some nutrition but don’t have time for a proper meal.

References

http://www.somersaultsnackco.com/?event=enjoy.cocoa

http://shop.somersaultsnackco.com/Dutch-Cocoa/p/SOM-DCOCOA

http://www.somersaultsnackco.com/?event=enjoy.powerofseeds

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflower_seed#Nutritional_value

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/healthy-eating/health-starts-here/resources-and-tools/top-ten-andi-scores#nuts-and-seeds