REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Mixed Nut Butter

Who doesn’t love a good handful of mixed nuts?  Each reach inside of the jar or bowl is much like our buddy Gump would say and you “never know what you’re gonna get”.  Whether salty or sweet or straight up plain, mixed nuts earn praise from health freaks, beer guzzling bar goers, and those who just like a good crunch for their afternoon snack.  So why hasn’t anyone pulverized them all and shoved the mixture into a jar?  Welcome Trader Joe’s to the equation.  In addition to their already packed line of butters – from the heralded cookie to the classic peanut, TJ’s is now slangin’ Mixed Nut Butter, which combines dry roasted and salted almonds, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans into a gooey runny treat to spread up your life.

image1

The butter has an extremely smooth and creamy consistency.  Right after mixing and out of the jar it is thin, runny, and oily in a way that is tempting to want to drizzle it all over any and everything.  The texture is very unique – much similar in appearance and initial feeling to almond butter except not nearly as thick or grainy.  The primary flavors that come through are almond and cashew with some hints of pecans and brazil nuts.  I don’t specifically taste the hazelnuts, but I’m okay with that because they’re generally my least favorite and most astringent tasting in any mixed nut variety, and I can’t pinpoint the flavor of walnuts either.  The salt level is perfect – not so much that the butter tastes salty, but just enough that the spread pops and shines on its own to highlight the complexity of all the different components.

image2

After leaving the mixed butter in the fridge for a couple days I was surprised that it didn’t seize up and become firmer the way almost all other nut butters do.  It was slightly more together than when I first opened it but it stayed thin and runny enough that it could still be poured onto food (or into your mouth) straight from the jar.  After cooling I also noticed the pecan notes to be more pronounced, which isn’t a bad thing at all since they provide a great golden richness that amps up the overall flavor on this unique product.

image4

For the final test: the butter goes good on top of toast, but it doesn’t achieve the same ultimate magical combo with banana that peanut butter does.  I’ve always preferred peanut butter to all other types of nut butter, and while this mixed one is fun and well done, it doesn’t change my mind on which nut makes the champion butter.  It’s fun and tasty, but factoring in flavor, cost, and macros, I think I’ll stick with my one true nut butter love – the peanut.

Rating: 8/10

REVIEW: Baskin Robbins Reese’s 3-Pointer

Everyone has their favorite things, and for me, three of the greatest achievements of man are basketball, ice cream, and peanut butter.  As beautiful as all of these elements of life are on their own it’s not too often that all of them come together.  Sure, peanut butter is great in ice cream, and Reese’s will release occasional limited cups in tandem with the NBA or NCAA, but for all three of these things to combine into one is something of pure magic; and in tandem with March Madness Baskin Robbins is making my dreams a reality with their newest flavor of the month – Reese’s 3-Pointer.  This made-for-Sean E scoop combines Reese’s Pieces candies, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and a Reese’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate ribbon all swimming in a sea of chocolate ice cream.

image1
The chocolate ice cream is your standard affair – a smooth light milk chocolate that isn’t over the top sweet, bitter, or remarkably rich.  It’s much more basic than the chocolate fudge base Baskin Robbins have at their disposal, and while it isn’t a bad base ice cream it’s definitely the most underwhelming aspect of this scoop.

image2
The mix ins utilized here are a real treat for those with a love for the PB cup and the most dominant of them is the chocolate peanut butter ribbon.  The ribbon has a smooth, almost flaky texture that reminds me of a soft serve cone that has been dipped in a chocolate shell with the way that it melts on the tongue.  It’s a solid peanut butter-infused chocolate, and with the Reese’s spread being the second ingredient on the list it’s no surprise how powerful the flavor comes through.  it does a great job of boosting up the ice cream and weaving the Reese’s profile into nearly every bite.

image4
The Reese’s Pieces are a bit of a miss in this format; they freeze pretty hard and lose all of their signature creamy and oiliness that makes them a movie theater staple.  The chunks of peanut butter cup are the best part of this flavor and pop with the nutty saltiness you know and love, working with the ribbon to really shine against the mellow chocolate base.

image3
The coolest part about this flavor is that it is literally like eating an ice cream version of a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup.  While many flavors will utilize chocolate and peanut butter (like BR’s own great Peanut Butter ‘N Chocolate) or peanut butter cups as a mix in, this one eats liked the beloved Hershey’s classic turned into a frozen scoop-able dessert and is a treat for Reese’s lovers like myself.  While it’s a couple of execution points away from a full on alley oop, it’s a damn fine flavor that most people will be happy stuffing their nutritional stat sheet with.

Rating: 8/10

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.

image1
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.

image2
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.

image3

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

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.

image1

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.

image2

image3

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.

image4
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.

image5

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.

image1
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.

image2
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.

image3image4

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.

image5
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.

image6
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: Trader Joe’s and the Astounding Multi-Flavor Joe Joe’s

Yes, it’s January, and technically the holiday season has come and gone, but there are such an insane amount of delicious seasonal products released every year that sometimes it takes a little longer than December 25 to get to them all.  This could end up being my last Christmas-y write up of the year, and fortunately, it’s a good one.  Trader Joe’s have done something I have always wished Nabisco would do with Oreo’s – released a variety pack.  This, however, is no ordinary variety pack, this is the “Trader Joe’s and the Astounding Multi-Flavor Joe Joe’s” variety pack featuring four different sandwich cookies, covered in different chocolate, and garnished with additional texture/flavor boosts.

image1

Let me start off by saying there isn’t a bad cookie in the box, and I am going to attempt to talk about each one and rate them somewhat based off of each other because honestly they all kick ass.

image2
First up is the only one you can get in a separate package outside of this box – the Peppermint Joe Joe in Dark Chocolate with Peppermint Sprinkles.  It should come as no surprise that this one is awesome, since Candy Cane Joe Joe’s are one of the best seasonal cookies TJ’s offers, it’s a no brainer to amplify those flavors even more and they simply slap even harder.  The dark chocolate is rich and indulgent, with the peppermint “sprinkles” on top actually being crushed up pieces of candy cane that give crunch and an extra mint boost.  Completely crave-able and delicious, the only thing I can fault this one on is the dark chocolate coating mutes a bit of the mint bite from the creme and the “sprinkles” don’t add enough to really take the minty-ness over the top.  Still, an absolute winter wonderland in your mouth.
Rating: 9/10.

image3
Next we have one of my favorite flavor combinations ever with PB&C – Peanut Butter Joe Joe in Milk Chocolate with Dark Chocolate Drizzle.  Chocolate and PB is an automatic win and this cookie basically transforms the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup into cookie – beautiful round shape and all.  As much as I was looking forward to this one it didn’t give me the depth of peanut butter flavor I had hoped for, once again being a bit muted by the chocolate cookie and double chocolate coating.  One of the best aspects of a solid peanut butter cup is the ratio of PB to chocolate and I’ve never been a fan of a cup that gets too chocolate dominant, which happens here.  Again, still completely delicious but some of the fatty nutty nuances of the peanut get lost in the drizzle party.
Rating: 8/10

image4
The third cookie in the lineup is the most unique and by far the one I was most excited to try – it was actually the push that came to shove that convinced me to spend $6.99 on this box of brilliance – Ginger Joe Joe in White Chocolate with Ginger Sprinkles.  I absolutely love white chocolate when it’s executed well and ginger is one of my favorite flavors of the festive season (or anytime, really).  I have never tried a naked Ginger Joe Joe so I’m not sure how this one stacks up but the first flavor I got was lemon.  I’m don’t know if this is a weird mind trick from the flavor play of the ginger and white chocolate together but the initial bite reminded me of that lemony cookie flavor you get from a box of Barnum’s Animals crackers.  The white chocolate is smooth and sweet, and on the finish you get a pleasant little dance of ginger that gets extra heightened when a bite with the gingersnap crumbles comes into the picture.  The flavor on this one really seemed to vary depending on the amount of sprinkles, with either just enough, or not enough ginger spiciness to mellow out the white chocolate.
Rating: 8.5/10

image5
Finally, last but definitely not least, the one I was least looking forward to and took me by surprise – Double Chocolate Joe Joe in Dark Chocolate with a Milk Chocolate Drizzle.  This cookie is a perfect example of don’t dog it till you’ve tried it, because while I expected this to be a relatively one-note boring experience it ended up being my favorite in the whole box and absolutely perfect.  The layers of chocolate on chocolate give a rich, almost brownie-like flavor and texture to the cookie, with the variations between the creme, wafer, and coating being more distinct than in the other three Joe Joe’s.  This cookie channels all of the greatest chocolate indulgences, reminding me of not only brownies but layer cakes, truffles, and candy bars.  It’s got the kind of cocoa richness and depth you would expect from a high end chocolate shop like See’s or Godiva, not a cardboard box of cookies from a grocery store.
Rating: 10/10

alltogether

The whole happy family

It took me awhile to review this product, not only because each cookie has 130 calories and 11 grams of sugar, but because I wanted to give each one its proper due in how they not only stood on their own but how they fit in in relation to the others in the box as well.  During the holiday’s Trader Joe’s becomes awash with an insane amount of high quality limited time products and these astounding Joe Joe’s are no exception.  Highly recommended, highly delicious, highly dangerous.

Overall rating: 9/10

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.

image1

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.

image2
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.

image3

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