Blog Archives

Barney Butter Almond Butter (Crunchy)

DSC_1140

I saw this almond butter at Whole Foods and decided to try it out. I’m a big fan of Justin’s almond butter and was curious to see how this product would differ. (I reviewed Justin’s maple almond butter here.)

Flavor

Though the ingredients are exactly the same, this almond butter is very different from Justin’s almond butters. First of all, it’s crunchy which large chunks of almond strewn throughout. Not only does this give if a very different texture, but it reminds me of white chocolate chip cookies which is a big plus.

The base itself is a single light brown color, whereas Justin’s products are a mix of various shades, giving them a sandy appearance. Barney Butter is also much less oilier, which can be a positive or negative depending on how you look at it: spreadability vs over-greasiness.

Even though the sugar amount is exactly the same as Justin’s maple butter, I felt Barney Butter’s almond butter to be significantly sweeter.

All in all a great taste!

Nutrition/Ingredients

Each serving is 2 tablespoons (32 grams) and there are about 9 in the jar. There are 180 calories per serving, with 140 of those from fat.

In a serving there is also 80 mg sodium (3% of DV), 3 grams of sugars, and 6g of protein.

With no artificial flavors or colors, no preservatives, and no mysterious “natural” flavors, it can’t get much more natural than this. To top it off, evaporated cane juice and sea salt are used instead of their common counterparts. Yes, whether these are actually healthier is in debate, but if I had a choice I would pick these over their more common variants.

Full ingredient list: Dry roasted almonds, evaporated cane juice, palm fruit oil, sea salt.

Price/Availability

I bought a 10 ounce (284 g) jar of this at Whole Foods Market for around $4.99.

Ratings:   Flavor: 9.0    Nutrition/Ingredients: 9.0   Price:  8.0  Overall: 8.66

Summary

A great way to get natural protein and all the other nutrients that come packed in almonds, along with a wonderful taste. Highly recommended for those looking for an upgrade for their plain-jane peanut butter.

References

http://www.barneybutter.com/products/category/barney-butter-crunchy/

Advertisements

Product Review: Justin’s Maple Almond Butter Spread

jus

Introduction

I’m a heavy consumer of Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter (which I reviewed here), but regardless of how healthy and tasty it is I need a break from it from time to time. I decided to try another product in this series, an Almond Butter sweetened with natural maple sugar.

Flavor

I hope you’ll pardon the cheesy turn of phrase, but I’m nuts about nuts. Essentially seeds from a plant which grow in a hard shell, these amazing creations of nature are one of the few things that have a rich, savory flavor in their unprocessed natural form.

Start with a paste made from dry roasted almonds and add maple sugar for an extra touch of sweetness, palm fruit oil for increased spreadability, and round off the taste with a pinch of salt, and you get a spread made in heaven.

I’m not going to attempt to explain the intricate flavors contained with almonds, but this product will surely appeal to anyone who likes peanut butter or eating raw almonds.

There is a surprising sweetness for the actual amount of sugar present. This is because maple syrup primarily consists of sucrose, whose sweetness lies between fructose and gluctose, and as a result is approximately twice as sweet as table sugar.

My only minor complaint is the ratio of oil is a bit high. When I spread a blob of this on my bread with a knife, sometimes it overflows onto my plate and this messiness isn’t desirable.

Nutrition/Ingredients

A single serving (two tablespoons) of this thick spread contains 200 calories and 17 grams of fat. As I mentioned in my hazelnut butter review, the problem with spreads is that its hard to meter how much you eat. If you’re not careful you can wolf down 1000 calories or more in a span of minutes. For those concerned about their weight it’s best to eat this in very small doses, but everyone else shouldn’t feel any guilt when eating this. With minimally processed natural ingredients, if you going to go overboard with calories and fat this is probably the safest way to do it.

There is a minimal 3 grams of sugars per serving, less than half found in Justin’s chocolate spreads. Interestingly, the “classic” version of this paste, containing no added sugar, contains nearly the same amount of sugars at 2 grams. If you find the maple overtones bother you, feel free to try the classic version. I’ve had it and its even stronger almond taste is superb.

There is 6 grams per serving which is a good amount, especially considering that you are likely to consume multiple servings in a single sitting. This is natural protein from the nuts themselves, not something added artificially.

Both almonds and maple sugar are packet with nutrients. Almonds contain Vitamin E, manganese, copper, Vitamin B2, among others, and are considered to be very heart-healthy. Maple sugar contains a large amount of manganese, zinc, and also contains substances called polyphenols that may help control blood sugar levels. It’s estimated glycemic load is less than that of table sugar and only slightly more than honey, though diabetics still need to be careful when eating it.

Palm fruit oil, a less popular form of oil, has its own set of potential health benefits including cancer prevention, immune system strengthening, and reducing heart disease.

Full ingredients list: Dry Roasted Almonds, Maple Sugar, Organic Palm Fruit Oil, Sea Salt.

Price/Availability

Like most of Justin’s products, this sells for around $10.00 per a 454 gram jar. When compared to everyday peanut butter this is quite expensive, but its competitive to other almond butters.  After all, this product is mostly made of almonds, which have a unit price roughly double that of peanuts. Justin’s peanut butter goes for a roughly proportional price ($6.00).

I usually buy this at Whole Foods but its also started appearing at Target and other stores recently. Its also available from the producer directly via their website, and packs of 6 are sold for a slight discount. Justin’s nut butters are also sold in single serving packs.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.5   Nutrition/Ingredients:9    Price:7.0    Overall: 8.2

Summary

With a rich taste and packed with nutrients, I’m apt to call this the perfect snack food – if it weren’t for the high calorie and fat content. I consider this, along with the other products in Justin’s lineup,  to be the best available spreads judging from taste and nutrition content.

References

http://www.justins.com/products.php

http://www.thenutbox.com/Nuts-s/1.htm

http://greenlitebites.com/2010/11/11/sweetener-comparisons-honey-agave-molasses-sugar-maple-syrup/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nut_(fruit)

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=20

http://www.sugar-and-sweetener-guide.com/glycemic-index-for-sweeteners.html

http://diabeteshealth.com/read/2011/05/24/7158/maple-syrup-a-sweet-surprise/

http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/why-you-should-give-red-palm-oil-try

jus2

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!

Artisana Organic Raw Cacao Bliss – The coconut lovers’ spread!

artisana

Intro

A majority of the products I’ve reviewed in this blog up until now have been longtime favorites of mine, something I’ve enjoyed for months if not years. Those reports were a lot of fun to write, but I’m running out of ammo. If I am going to keep updating this blog at the same rate, I’m going to have to adventure out and try new things. It will be a great experience for me to see what else is out there in the world of sweets, and I hope some of you readers can learn about some products you hadn’t heard of it, or hadn’t had a chance to try.

My last review was partially in this category, but the subject this time, Artisana Oganic Raw Cacao Bliss, was chosen just so I could have something interesting to report on.

I wasn’t able to find out the official date this product was released, but I just noticed it on the shelves of Whole Foods Market a few weeks back, so it may be somewhat new.

Flavor

I could just state the flavor is a mix of coconut and cacao, which would be quite correct, but that much you could easily guess just from the product name.

In all fairness, I come a background of heavy “Justin” (Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter) use, so I can’t help but compare initially. Texture wise, cacao bliss is much more oilier with a finer consistency, almost what I would describe as grainy. Due to the lack of nuts this product is less ‘meaty’ than nut-based spreads.

What really hit me in the face, so to speak, was how *coconutty* this spread is. I’m a big proponent of coconut-based ice cream, but I’ve never been overpowered by the coconut flavor there; it’s always secondary to the other flavors. In this product it’s really exposed, with the cocoa flavor taking a back seat.

My first reaction wasn’t too rosy, but after I finished my slice of bread and rested a moment, I realized I wanted some more. So I worked my fingers and squeezed every last drop of this coconut-heavy spread into my mouth, and to my surprise was already liking it more. I have the feeling I’ll learn to love it as I eat more of this product, and learn to stop comparing it to other spreads.

Ingredients / Nutrition

In one 33.7 gram pack there are 177 calories, a value on par with similar spreads. Sugar is very low at 3 grams, nearly half that of my beloved “Justin”.

There all only five ingredients, all Organic: Coconut Butter, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Agave Syrup, Cacao, and Cacao Butter. Many will be happy to hear this product is both vegan and free of sugar cane sugar, and it should satisfy even the pickiest health fanatics. I’d like to note that the term “raw” is a bit vague, and most if not all of the ingredients here have at least some processing.

Although the protein content (2 grams) is a little lower than nut-based spreads, both coconut butter and coconut oil are known for a wide array of health benefits.  For example, they can increase metabolism, reduce cholesterol, and help maintain proper weight. 

Unfortunately in the world of nutrition there is always another side to things. Coconut oil is a saturated fat and hence should be limited a small portion of total calories due to potential increase in heart disease risk. So as with most things, eat this in moderation.

Price and Availability

This product is sold in 1.19 ounce (33.7 gram) packs, either individually or in sets of 10. I bought a single pack from Whole Foods for around $2.00, though if you look around you can buy a pack of 10 for as little as 1.67 per pack online (see references).

It’s also sold in 6 packs of 227 gram jars, for roughly 20% cheaper than buying the 33 gram packs.

Ratings

Flavor: 5.0

Ingredients/Nutrition:8.0

Price: 7.0

Overall: 6.66

Summary

Healthy chocolate spread which is great for coconut lovers.

References

http://artisanafoods.com/raw-organic-cacao-bliss-single-serving

http://artisanafoods.com/products/cacao-bliss

http://www.wholesomerepublic.com/artisana-organic-raw-cacao-butter-1-19-oz-10-squeeze-packs/

http://www.vitadigest.com/groc-870001000923.html

http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/surprising-health-benefits-coconut-oil

http://www.12minuteathlete.com/coconut-butter/

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/coconut-oil-and-health

Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter – spread made for royalty

justin1

Introduction

I’ll continue in the same vein as my last review and report on another of my sweet favorites. This one is a spread, typically used to complement something like bread, a bagel, or a crepe, but its heavenly flavor is far from secondary – more like the main event.

Speaking of spreads – In my college days I was addicted to the well-known Nutella hazelnut spread. Several years later, after I had weaned myself away from that sugary goodness, I discovered Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter. In many ways it was the healthier version of Nutella, so I decided to try it. I’ve never looked back since.

Flavor

It’s a bit difficult to describe the taste for those who have never tasted a hazelnut butter before, but I’ll try my best. It has a deep nutty flavor, not unlike peanut butter, with subtle roasted overtones. In this spread, the hazelnuts strike a harmony against rich cocoa and the sublime sweetness of cane sugar. Compared with everyday peanut butter, it has a high-class ambiance to it, almost as if it was made for royalty.

Let me try to convey how yummy this stuff is in another way. Its addictive, very addictive. I’d feel a bit too guilty eating this straight out of the jar so I always spread it on something, usually bread. But bread itself can be quite filling, so I actually have caught myself more than once trying to eat a small dinner just to have that many more slices of bread in the evening, layered thick with “Justin”.

It’s aroma is nutty and buttery rather than chocolaty, as should be expected since there is a much higher proportion of nuts than cocoa.

After eating this product quite frequently for a year or so, my only gripe regarding flavor is that the texture is very inconsistent. Fortunately, there are simple solutions to get the best experience each time. When it’s overly oily, give a long, vigorous mix to balance out the oil more evenly. When its extra dry (as it was last time I bought it), mix in a few tablespoons of walnut oil. The flavor doesn’t change appreciably, but the increase in spreadability is well worth it, enabling better control over the amount used and less chance of tearing the bread.

Nutrition / Ingredients

As I alluded to in the introduction, this is an upgraded, healthier version of classic Nutella spread. That means a whole lot less sugar (approximately one third of Nutella’s), and much more hazelnuts.

One of my simple tests for healthiness is the number of ingredients. This passes easily, with only eight ingredients, and half of those are organic. Evaporated cane sugar, more natural and less processed, is used in place of commonplace refined white sugar. Add to that a touch of natural sea salt, produced by the evaporation of seawater. There are no vague terms such as “natural flavors”, and nothing artificial is used.

For a single serving (2 tablespoons), there are 180 calories and 7 grams of sugar. The problem with spreads is that its very hard to judge the amount being used, especially if applied with a knife (as opposed to a spoon which is no small feat). I’ve noticed if I’m not careful I can easily exceed a serving *per slice of bread*, and its no wonder once after a few weeks or eating a few of these slices a night I gained a few of pounds. The good news is if you can get yourself to spread thin you’ll healthier while still enjoying the rich, nutty flavor. You’ll taste more of the bread as well, or whatever you are spreading on.

For those who really want to count their calories, you can buy the single serving packs. I tried this a few times, but kept running into the problem of trying to squeeze out every last ounce, rather than enjoying my snack. More waste produced means this isn’t an environmentally friendly option either.

With the low amount of sugar, where do all the calories come from? Well, it turns out that nuts are extremely fatty. Having said that, If it came to a choice of calories from nuts as opposed processed like corn syrup, I’d pick the former. Hazelnuts also naturally pack a good amount of protein (4 g per serving here), which is a nice extra.

One minor nitpick is that sometime around 2012 they added a significant portion of almonds to their formula.  Though I easily adjusted to the subtle change in flavor, the purist in me was frustrated by this recipe modification. I went so far as to send the company an email requesting why. Here is an unmodified excerpt of their polite response, which didn’t take too long to get back to me.

“We were getting a ton of feedback that it was just too hazelnutty. Since our chocolate spreads contain 70% nut and others contain only around 10% nuts, people just weren’t used to the robust hazelnut taste. We cut in almonds to round out the flavor.”

Serving Suggestions

Odds are whatever base you choose to ornament with this spread, the sweet, nutty flavor will overpower it. This transforms mediocre breads, which would otherwise be left to go stale, into delicious desserts. But why not be health conscious and choose a quality bread with natural ingredients?

I recommend Whole Food’s “Prairie Bread” which has a diverse mix of nuts and seeds. It’s slightly stiff texture makes it ideal to help defend against tearing when using a bottle of “Justin” that happens to be a little low on oil. This combination is sweet enough to be called a desert, yet is much better nutritionally than most other sweets I eat.

Price and Availability

This spread can be found in places like Whole Foods, Target, as well as online for $8-$9. This price is undeniably hard on the wallet, but I’m apt to forgive considering hazelnuts are typically very expensive compared to other nuts.

I happened to pick up my last two jars at around $6 on sale in Whole Foods. Unfortunately that deep of a discount is quite rare.

Ratings

Flavor: 9.0

Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.0

Price: 6.0

Overall: 7.6

Summary

A chocolaty nut butter whose addictive taste is offset by a high price tag and a minor problems with inconsistent oil content. Much healthier than some competing products, this product must be consumed in moderation to reap those benefits.

References

http://www.justins.com/products.php

justin2