REVIEW: Nuts ‘N More Chocolate Maple Pretzel

In my life peanut butter is a food group.  Whether it be smooth or crunchy, salted or unsalted, plain or flavored – peanut butter has a luxuriously addictive and delicious texture that I go to town on with just a spoon and a jar on a regular basis.  There comes a point in every PB-addicts life when reducing some of the fat and increasing the amount of protein simply makes sense, and it is with that mentality that brands like Nuts ’N More flourish – off of nut butter fiends seeking ways to justify their addiction.  At the end of last year I ordered one of the company’s newest flavors – Chocolate Maple Pretzel – and hoarded it until the moment was just right.  Well friends, the moment is now, and it feels (and hopefully tastes) oh so sweet.

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I guess it should come as no surprise that a product that combines three of my favorite flavors into one (put cinnamon in there and I might die) is tasty, but this nutty spread exceeded even my own expectations.  The aroma is spot on chocolate covered pretzel, with that salty sweetness accented by cocoa and rounded out beautifully by maple and yeast.  It’s like dunking your head into a bag of chocolate covered pretzels with just a drizzle of maple syrup on top, and it is divine.  The other Nuts ’N More spreads I’ve had have a kind of protein-y almost artificial peanut butter smell to them, and this one has none of that, which is really appealing.

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The flavor of this stuff is absolutely through the roof.  The peanut butter base has been perfectly integrated with chocolate chips that blended themselves into a smooth brown color as I mixed.  There are big chunks of actual pretzel that crunch and pop with salty explosions that set off the chocolate and peanut butter to brilliant new heights.  The use of real, gluten free pretzels is executed flawlessly, as they’ve maintained their texture and add a different kind of depth to this butter than any other I’ve had before, and they didn’t skimp on them either.  Maple is the least dominant of the flavors but it’s definitely present and its role is cherished, adding a little extra sweetness that enhances the bready flavor of the pretzels; and a little kiss of that Sunday morning magic that comes along with anything that registers “syrup” in my brain.

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Check out the pretzel sticks in there – my GOODNESS!

What’s most impressive about eating this spread is if I didn’t tell you there was some extra protein punch from whey you would have no idea because there is no fake flavor or grainy texture to be found.  The chocolate and maple do a tremendous job of masking any unpleasant or artificial notes that can come through in low sugar high protein products and the flavor is not only convincing but deliciously addictive for any flavored peanut butter.  It is without a doubt the best Nuts ’N More release I have tried and is up there with D’s Natural’s best Fluffbutter flavors in battling for the protein butter title.  This jar literally lasted me three days – I simply could not stop eating it.  It’s salty, it’s sweet, and dare I say I think it might be perfect.

Rating: 10/10

Quick Nutrition:
2 TBS – 182 Cals – 11g Fat – 9g Carbs – 2g Fiber – 2g Sugar 11g Protein – 138mg Sodium

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REVIEW: Doughbar Doughnuts (feat. Junk Banter Variety Pack)

Doughbar Doughnuts are a Bay Area based company cranking out made to order protein packed baked donuts with a slew of fun and limited offering toppings and variety packs shipped straight to your door.  Their goal is to offer a macro-friendly alternative to the often frowned upon fried treat that is versatile, healthy, and delicious all at the same time.  The un-dressed donuts, including the hole, clock in at 150 calories, 4 grams of fat, 16 grams of carbs, 3 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.  You can order the donuts with no toppings, or, more commonly, with toppings packaged individually that you put on yourself in whatever fashion you’d like.  For my first run with Doughbar I ordered the Junk Banter variety pack, which included four donuts and toppings for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, Cookie Monster (Chips Ahoy/Oreo), Cinnamon with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Nutella with Kit Kat pieces.

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The naked base flavor of a Doughbar Doughnut is relatively plain with a yeasty whole wheat bounce, slight sweetness, and a hint of cinnamon.  The texture is more like a bagel than a donut, with an eggy dense inside that is neither super delicious or offensive.  Since they are baked and not fried there is no outside crisp or greasiness, and as with most donuts, “real” or otherwise, most of the flavor comes from the toppings.  The success of the doughnuts themselves varied based not only on the toppings but the actual bake itself.  Since they’re all individually made I found some of them to be a little bit thinner and darker with a tougher, less-dount-y texture, and some of them to be fluffier and lighter in color, which much more closely resembled a true donut.

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The experience of putting the doughnuts together is pretty damn fun.  They arrive in a nostalgia-laden pink box with each component clearly labeled and packaged so you can truly choose your own destiny.  All of the toppings have their own nutritional information provided, and while the icing containers looked really small to me at first, they actually do provide enough to piece together a pretty tasty breakfast treat.

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I enjoyed all of the doughnuts that I got but by far my favorite was the Nutella with Kit Kat crumbles.  I’m not sure if it was the slight nuttiness in the glaze or the luck of the fluff on that particular ‘nut but it gave me the most satisfying donut fix of them all.  My least favorite was very surprisingly the Reese’s-inspired peanut butter one, because I felt it just didn’t have enough authentic peanut butter flavor.  Luckily, I had a couple of extra naked donuts and put together my own decadent masterpiece using their classic doughnut glaze, crunchy peanut butter, and banana.

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PB Banana Doughnut: 320 Cals/10g Fat/11g Sugar/30g Carbs/15g Protein

All in all, are Doughbar Doughnuts better than one from your local shop or Krispy Kreme?  Nah.  But are they a fun switch up from a protein bar or shake or carb-heavy weekend breakfast?  Most certainly.  The ability to customize and switch things up on the go is definitely a plus and I look forward to ordering again when time and money will allow.  Hopefully this small creative company can get wider distribution and/or a brick and mortar location so we can all “eat more hole foods” on the regular.

Rating: 8/10

REVIEW: flapJACKed Buttermilk Protein Pancake and Baking Mix

While I have so far only had experience with their Mighty Muffins, what flapJACKed is most well known for is their Protein Pancake and Baking Mix.  Utilizing a combination of whole oat flour and both whey and pea protein, they’ve put together a mixture that delivers approximately three pancakes for only 200 calories that provides 20 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.  Sounds almost too good to be true, but my good luck with the Mighty Muffin’s recently has me feeling optimistic.

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Opening the bag it looks and smells like tan flour with no distinguishable pancake or waffle aromas except for a hint of sweet and salty shimmer.  Once you add in the 1/3 cup cold water, however, it smells distinctly like a pancake or biscuit dough, with the slight tang of buttermilk and a Bisquick familiarity.  Let the mixture sit for three minutes to thicken up, and all of the prep work is done.

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I decided to start with a sacrificial cake and try the ratios exactly as recommended.  Coming off the griddle the pancake has a lovely sweet and cake-like smell with a solid fluffy appearance and bounce.  On its own the taste is a little dry and bland, with a slight grainy texture.  It reminds me a bit of when I make my own pancakes with whole wheat flour and don’t do anything to try and transform the flavor.  To be fair though, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a naked pancake, and when the classic butter and syrup combination is applied the flavor is greatly improved.  The texture holds up just like a traditional pancake but a bit more dense and tough.

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For the second, full batch, I added a little bit more water to thin out the batter, in hopes that they may cook a little more evenly with a slightly less tough result.  This was the right move, as these cakes are fluffier and wider with an overall more appealing look.  The smell, once again, is fantastic, with the flavor being good but a bit muted.  I tried them again with the classic butter and syrup combo and they were great.  Not as intensely indulgent as a true stack of pancakes but for 200 calories, 23 carbs, and 20 grams of protein these are a fantastic tradeoff.  To really put the cake to the test I made a short stack in a fashion that I would actually make if I was cooking from scratch; with syrup, butter, banana, blackberries, and peanut butter.

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This was absolutely delicious, and the exact reason why this product has such potential, because when most people, myself included, eat pancakes or waffles, we put so many additional things on them that the base flavor gets lost.  The flapJACKed pancakes give you a great filling and fluffy base by which to build your masterpiece and leave extra macro-space for syrups, fruits, and delicious spreads.

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The protein pancake masters at flapJACKed have slowly become one of my favorite companies, delivering great products that are filling, delicious, and an exciting way to still enjoy a weekend breakfast without the inevitable carb and sugar crash.  I’ll be on the lookout for other mixes but this Buttermilk version is a fantastic start to any pancake or waffle creation.
Rating: 9/10

REVIEW: G Butter Limited Edition Sugar Cookie Spread

G Butter is one of many small nut and protein spread companies slowly spreading their seed through follows and likes of helpless peanut butter addicts on Instagram (me), and are proving quite successful at doing so. Using a slew of different nuts and whey protein they have flavors ranging from cookie dough to butter pecan to the one that intrigued me the most – sugar cookie. Touting the insane nutritional stat line of 100 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1 gram of sugar, 4 grams of carbs, and 10 grams of protein for two tablespoons I was eager to dig in and see how this was possible.
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Visually this stuff ain’t much of a show stopper. It looks like a jar of snot or the worst most pale gravy you’ve ever seen, BUT, it is trying to look like a sugar cookie, which is pale and weird, and is made out of cashews, which are…pale and weird; so, this all makes perfect sense. There are no sprinkles or chunky mix ins of any kind so the spread has a relatively static and flat look that luckily has more flavor than eye candy.
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The texture is smooth with the occasional sugary crackle and the flavor favors neither cashews or artificial sweeteners too heavily. The mouth feel more closely resembles the gooey-ness of honey than the fatty richness of your usual nut butter and takes a little while to get used to but isn’t ultimately unappealing.
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Sugar cookie is an incredibly delicate flavor and it comes across more convincingly here than most products I’ve had trying to tackle it. G Butter didn’t try to smack you in the face with harsh sweetness, but rather carry the subtleties that make sugar cookies so great – lightly sweet with a well rounded butterniess that coats your tongue.
The side of the jar suggests you put one serving on a plate and microwave it for 10-30 seconds and you will have an actual cookie. To my absolute surprise, it makes a damn good sugar cookie. The cookie comes out cakey and fluffy and smells like fresh baked buttery goodness. Right when coming out of the microwave it’s soft and prone to squishing just like you had pulled a batch from the oven. Using a spoon you can take a bite and get that melty warm cookie texture that tastes and feels completely authentic with no noticeable protein or “healthy cookie” flavor. Let the cookie sit for a couple of minutes and it firms up to a soft texture while maintaining all of that splendid texture and you can hold and eat it like a glorious cookie cake hybrid.

 

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I had some sprinkles on hand so I tossed a few on top. Perfect. Cookie. One tablespoon for 20 seconds. 50 calories, 5 grams of protein.

This cookie rivals or beats any pre-packaged protein cookie I’ve had and is so successful I’m almost surprised they don’t advertise and sell this as a protein dough as opposed to a butter. Really great stuff with insane potential, which if I was rating based just on taste it would rank lower, but factoring in flavor, macros, and creativity this cookie is a keeper.
Rating: 8/10

REVIEW: flapJACKed S’Mores Mighty Muffin

S’mores is one of the most popular flavors in snack foods the last couple of years, dominating everything from Oreo’s to breakfast cereal to ice cream to protein bars, so it’s no surprise that flapJACKed decided to try this flavor for their Mighty Muffin.  Although I’ve never had a regular s’mores muffin I like the idea and it should be relatively easy to pull off if you can get all three elements to come across – graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate.  Fortunately for flapJACKed they got all three into a magical microwavable protein bomb you make yourself in 35 seconds.

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In my mind the perfect s’mores muffin would be a golden honey graham base loaded with marshmallows, chocolate, and additional chunks of graham cracker.  This Mighty Muffin has all of those components except for the cracker pieces and I can accept that as a pretty solid attempt.  The first thing you will notice is the very strong graham cracker aroma that comes from the freshly zapped muffin.  Much like a good cup of tea the smell is a lot stronger than the actual taste but the honey undercurrent is there and ties the whole s’mores experience together.  The importance of the graham oftentimes gets overlooked when companies try to make a s’mores flavor and I commend flapJACKed for not ignoring this pivotal piece of the campfire puzzle.

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Freshly zapped and muffin-esque

Putting my fork in I find marshmallows and chocolate immediately.  Although small, they are ample, and I’m never left searching for them as I continue to eat.  The chocolate chips get a little bit melty, but oddly enough the marshmallows stay completely firm, so the texture lacks that ooey gooey goodness that make s’mores so fun.  This is a bit disappointing considering the muffin comes out hot, but the sweetness of the marshmallows helps elevate the graham cracker taste in the muffin base and genuinely adds to the s’mores experience despite their lack of meltiness.  Think of these ‘mallows as more like the ones you get on top of Swiss Miss packaged hot chocolate that disappear almost immediately rather than a fresh pack of Jet Puffed.

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Much like the Double Chocolate version I reviewed earlier, this muffin benefits greatly from a little additional moisture and sweetness, either from fruit or nut butter.  The obvious pairing here is D’s Naturals S’mores Fluffbutter, which was awesome, but I found Nuts ’N More’s Birthday Cake spread to really take the s’mores experience to the next level.  This little addition helped fill in the melty gaps I was missing from the marshmallows and created a wonderful protein-loaded eating experience.  This product is not perfect but good enough to keep me trying the rest of their flavors in search of the ultimate Mighty Muffin.

Rating: 7/10

Quick Nutrition: 210 calories – 6g fat – 350mg Sodium – 24g Carbs – 5g Fiber – 10g Sugar – 20g Protein

REVIEW: Nuts ‘N More Birthday Cake High Protein Peanut Spread

One of the most triumphant moments in anyone’s proper birthday celebrations is the inevitable leftover birthday cake and the ensuing morning of really owning that birth crown and having cake for breakfast.  Thanks to the folks at Nuts ’N More, who are celebrating their fifth birthday, we have one more excuse to have cake for breakfast before our big day with the limited release of their Birthday Cake high protein and peanut spread.

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Visually it’s festive as hell, with sprinkles dotting every surface, and the cake flavor is pretty strong.  If I had to officially assign it a cake flavor it would probably be yellow cake, with its eggy density being more dominant than a vanilla or “white” kind of cake.  In fact, there really is no prominent vanilla flavor, which is impressive, as oftentimes companies will label something as cake when its taste is simply vanilla with some decorative flair.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the flavor of “cake” is – sugar, butter, eggs, flour – but we all know it and love it and the essence is definitely triggering that part of the birthday brain.

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Of the eight ingredients sugar is the third and sprinkles are the sixth, so the Nuts ’N More folks were being real when they said it was time to celebrate.  This isn’t a low sugar affair like many other protein nut butters out there, which helped them be successful in not having to mask an abundant use of artificial sweeteners or skimp on the ‘sprinks.  The higher amount of sugar also helps keep the butter more solid, with a lot less oil separation than you usually find in Nuts ’N More products.  It required very little mixing when first opened and the initial texture is pretty much the texture the spread stays.

Speaking of texture, this butter is definitely on the grainier side, with a sugar crystal crunch in every bite.  The crunchiness goes beyond the sprinkles and feels like an un-cooked cake batter with its granulated sugar waiting to be baked into fluffy glory.  I can’t decide whether or not I like this textural play and whether or not it was intentional.  It doesn’t bother me but I also kind of wish it had the velvety smooth texture of one of D’s Natural’s peanut-based Fluffbutters.

The crunchy texture issues get greatly remedied when used as a spread on a warm piece of bread and not eaten straight out of the jar like a savage (my preferred method).  Putting the spread on a toasted english muffin and letting the cake melt into the yeasty crevices smoothed out the texture and gave it more velvety satisfaction – I can imagine this would be insanely good on a stack of warm pancakes or waffles.

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Overall this is a solid-tasting protein spread that would be a welcome addition to any breakfast, snack, or dessert, and is a fun way to switch it up from regular or flavored peanut butters.  For the extra sugar I’m not sure it’s different enough from their Salted Caramel or Toffee Crunch flavors to warrant ordering online for the average consumer but I will certainly be scraping my container clean and savoring every spoonful before my actual birthday in January when I will eat as much real cake as humanely possible.

Rating: 8/10

REVIEW: flapJACKed Double Chocolate Mighty Muffin

I have been cautiously eyeballing flapJACKed Mighty Muffin’s for quite awhile.  The “powder turned fluffy muffin” carton was intriguing, with very similar macros to the protein bars I enjoy on a daily basis, all happening with 35 magical seconds in the microwave.  Admittedly, I was skeptical of the ability to get a good muffin texture in such short time for only 21 grams of carbs, but the might of the muffin left me pleasantly surprised.

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FlapJACKed specializes in a protein fortified pancake mix, which they’ve cleverly branded and packaged into a portable muffin mixture with protein, fiber, and probiotics.  Opening the container it looks like a store bought cake mix, and smells like one minus all the tasty sugar crystals and plus some stevia and odd earthy notes.  Pour in 1/4 cup of water, mix it into a goop, pop it in the micro, and ta-da – you have yourself a muffin.

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Mixture before the micro-zap

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Ta-da! Waddup muffin man

This is where my expectations started to be exceeded.  The muffin came out like a fluffy chocolate brownie, with the very top slightly underdone and gooey in the best way.  Seeing a cup of wet mix turn into a gorgeous rounded muffin was impressive, and lived up to the name.  There is a little bit of a strange smell from the cooked product that reminded me of dry cat food, but it wouldn’t hold me back from digging in.

The taste is dominated by a deep bitter cocoa that finishes with the flavor of the primary sweetener stevia, which I find more cloying and distracting than the Sucralose finish.  For a product with 7 grams of sugar I think the artificial tail on the flavor is a bit of a letdown, but is still a good tradeoff to the 30 or more grams of sugar you would find in a traditional muffin.  Every three or so bites you’ll come across a bittersweet chocolate chip which adds to the dark cocoa taste and helps earn its Double Chocolate name.  The good, but not great, flavor of the muffin gets greatly improved with the addition of some sliced banana and/or peanut butter, but then again, what doesn’t?

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Where this product really succeeds, and what makes it unique, is its texture.  They nailed the muffin mouth feel, with not only high protein and low carbs but gluten free as well.  I’ve had many gluten free muffins that don’t compare to the texture of the Mighty Muffin and this is the element that will have me trying another flavor or two down the line.  Far from perfect, this is a fun take on portable protein to mix it up from bars or powders.

Rating: 7/10

Quick Nutrition: Calories: 220 – Fat cals: 80 – Total Fat: 8g – Cholesterol: 5mg – Sodium: 350mg – Total Carb: 21g – Fiber: 6g – Sugars: 7g – Protein: 20g