Product Review: Caveman Bakery Alpine Caveman Cookies

Caveman Bakery Apline Caveman Cookies

Caveman Bakery Apline Caveman Cookies

Product: Caveman Bakery Apline Caveman Cookies – $6.29+

Can cookies really be made the caveman way?  Can paleo really go that far?

Ah, that new fad that so many people are jumping onto.  Eat like a caveman, and reap the wonderful health benefits.  While I find nothing wrong with cutting out refined sugars and processed grains…I go back and forth on the whole “eat like a caveman” thing.  I mean…not being able to eat beans…or corn…due to sugar content or something.  Nope.  Not a fan.

However…paleo items are gluten-free.  And when something hits the market that I’ve never seen before…my friend Jenn usually supplies me with a box.  God love her!  Well, I have previously tried and was not thrilled with the Tropical version of these cookies.  Jenn assured me via a Twitter account that, surprisingly, the Alpine were better.

Well, it’s moment of truth week because I have no dessert on hand and these are in my pantry.  Out came the box of Caveman Bakery Alpine Caveman Cookies.

Much like the Tropical variety of these cookies, these come individually wrapped inside the box.  They are little flat cookies, slightly sticky as you remove them from the wrapper…probably the honey…no…definitely the honey.  They smelled good.  They looked deceivingly chocolatey.  Would they be better than the very bland and disappointing Tropical flavor?  Was it possible?

Kinda…I guess.

Here’s the thing.  These cookies are chewy.  Not like…soft…fresh out of the oven chewy.  Not even processed cookies that are made to be soft and chewy chewy.  Nope.  These are just…chewy.  Like…not quite gum…but almost…chewy.  Which, we all know I prefer a chewy cookie to a crunchy one (although I will eat both and do so happily and without any measure of guilt!), but these…these are just too chewy.  Yes…a cookie that is too chewy for me.

As for taste…Jenn was right.  These actually do taste better than the Tropical variety.  The Alpine Caveman Cookies have a hint of chocolate flavor.  But it’s very mild and almost…not there.  The honey really sort of stands out the most.  I took a bite, tugging the very chewy cookie back and tried to savor it…find that flavor…find that chocolate flavor that I was craving.  Only a hint.  But…it was enough to cleanse the palate.

I guess.

I still wasn’t impressed.  Strike two Caveman Bakery.

Sad, because I love what goes into these cookies.  You want to talk about clean eating…these cookies are made from what Caveman Bakery says are ingredients that cavemen could have found while hiking in the alps.  These cookies are simply made from honey, hazelnut meal, almond meal, and toasted carob seeds.  They are gluten-free, dairy-free, and cholesterol free.

As for the nutritional aspect of these cookies…a serving size of the Caveman Bakery Alpine Caveman Cookies is 2 cookies.  Yep.  Two.  Get those jaws loosened up, folks!  This serving will provide you with 150 calories and 9 grams of fat.  Most of that fat is from the use of the nuts (hazelnuts and almonds), so that is at least the healthy kind of fat.  These two cookies contain 0 mg sodium, but 14 whopping grams of sugar.  YIKES!!  Okay…so it’s from the honey and carob but…YIKES!  Okay…they are cookies.  I’ll give them that.  But still.  And finally, you will have 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.  Let’s hear it for meals made from nuts!

I don’t know…I understand the concept.  I get that it’s considered a better way of eating.  But I think these cookies are not what the cavemen had in mind when they thought about polishing off their saber tooth tiger consommé and needed to cleanse their palate.  Perhaps some wild berries or nuts would have been sufficient.

While these cookies aren’t awful, they definitely didn’t do anything for me.  Therefore, once the package is gone…it will be the last of the Caveman Cookies in my home.  Kind of pricey for a product that didn’t wow me.  Not one bit.

But, I think my jaw got the workout of a lifetime.

Product Review: Celiac Specialities Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls

Celiac Specialties Gluten Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls

Celiac Specialties Gluten Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls

Product: Celiac Specialties Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls – $3.99+

Dear Celiac Specialties:

You had me at croissant.

For real!!

I mean…here I was…walking through the freezer section of a natural food store in Columbus, Ohio…and there you are…just screaming at me from your shelf in the freezer: CROISSANT.

Seriously…that was all I needed before jamming it into my rapidly filling basket and hoping the giant box wouldn’t take up too much of my allotted room.  My roommate was treating me to gluten-free treats…things I couldn’t get anywhere else…but I had one medium-sized basket.  My friend Jenn and I were pretty certain that we could “Tetris the shit” out of the basket with the products that were inside if needed.  But…I was rapidly filling up and this box was one of the last items I put in.  Mostly due to package size.

But…CROISSANT STYLE ROLLS!  HELLO!

I wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted to utilize these, but I knew they were coming home with me.  Fast forward to another meager living out of the pantry, fridge, and freezer week (I was out of town again, so no CSA bin).  I happened to have some avocado on hand (because I always have that on hand) and a can of chickpeas, so I whipped up a delicious chickpea and avocado salad.  I needed a vehicle in which to serve this on…and the Celiac Specialties Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls were screaming (once again) to me from my own freezer.  BINGO!

Celiac Specialties Gluten Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls

Celiac Specialties Gluten Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls

So, after a long day at work, I was ready for an easy dinner.  I had set two of the four rolls in the box out on the counter to thaw in a bag.  They did so beautifully.  You can just eat them straight like that, but I like to toast my bread.  So, I sliced the Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls in half, drizzled lightly with olive oil, and popped them in the oven for about 5 minutes to lightly toast.  While that occurred, I washed some baby kale and got the chickpea and avocado salad put together.  When the Plain Croissant Style Rolls were ready, I popped them out of the oven and plated them.  Then on went the kale and then a scoop of the chickpea and avocado spread.

Dinner was simple…and served.

When I first got these rolls out to toast, I noticed how light they were.  Well, they were still light.  Very light.  In fact, toasting them didn’t really add any additional weight to them.  I love that.  Because so often bread can overshadow the dish.  There is just so much of it.  Well, this was not the case here.  And upon taking my first bite, I found it to taste exactly like fresh bread right out of the oven.  It had that crusty, warm, delicious, lightness to it.  And it didn’t have any weird aftertaste or horrible flavor.  It was just…plain bread.  Very good plain bread.  In a croissant roll form.  And it was really, really good.  I mean, really good.  I was sad I only had 2 days worth of it, honestly.  I liked it that much.  Anything that can remind me of homemade, fresh bread is okay by me.  Sure, this wasn’t seasoned with special flavors, but it’s honest-to-goodness good.  And that’s all that matters.

Let’s look at the ingredients, shall we?  Celiac Specialties Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls are made from water, whole egg, tapioca starch, corn starch, corn flour, canola oil, potato starch, xanthan gum, sugar, rice flour, active dry yeast, and salt.  That’s it.  They are gluten-free and dairy-free.

As for nutrition… a serving size is 1 roll.  In this roll, you will be consuming 110 calories and 3.5 grams of fat.  One of the Celiac Specialties Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls contains 50 mg cholesterol, 140 mg sodium, and 1 gram of sugar.  That’s not too bad for bread.  Trust me.  You will also be taking in only 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein.  They are light and fluffy, remember…but not very filling.  So, be sure you sandwich it up with something good and packed with both fiber and protein (like chickpeas and avocado!).

I wasn’t sure what these were going to taste like…and I admit, after my initial excitement, I was a bit worried that they would taste like cardboard…or worse.  But that wasn’t the case.  These actually tasted like real, “normal” bread rolls and I was thrilled that I made the decision to go ahead and give them a try.  I hope I can find more of the various products that Celiac Specialties sells so I can give those a try as well.

Next time…two boxes.

Chickpea and Avocado Salad Sandwich made with Celiac Specialties Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls

Chickpea and Avocado Salad Sandwich made with Celiac Specialties Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls

Product Review: Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels

Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels

Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels

Product: Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels – $5.99

You know…I’ve had a difficult time finding decent and delicious gluten-free bagels.  Being that I grew up in New York, bagels are more than just breakfast.  They are a thing.  No…really.  They are religion.  And when you are able to eat “normal” bagels, finding a good one isn’t a problem, even outside of the Bagel State of the World.

When you are gluten-free, however…this can be a task.  I struggled to find a tasty and authentic bagel after I had to go gluten-free.  There were so many failures.  In texture, taste, and even size.  I am a bagel connoisseur.  I know what makes a good bagel…and the gluten-free ones just weren’t making the cut.  And I was depressed.

My friend, Sara, who at the time was gluten-free, pointed me in the direction of Udi’s bagels.  They were pricey…but…damn…they tasted just like the bagels I grew up eating.  I was beyond impressed.  And to this day, they are one of (now three) brands that I will all-out purchase because I trust that they will be good.  O’Doughs Gluten-Free Bagel Thins are another.  And…Katz Gluten Free rounds out the Trifecta of Gluten Free Bagel Awesomesauce™.

Katz Gluten Free introduced the bagels to their already amazing lineup of delicious gluten-free baked goods last year.  I was stoked.  I couldn’t wait to try them.  But then…I just never got around to ordering them.  When I had to order the $35 loaf of Gluten Free Braided Challah Bread…I added on some items to take me to $50 for the free shipping.  One of these items was the Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels.

FINALLY!!

And this morning, I pulled them out of my freezer to finally give them a try.

Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels

Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels

First of all…keep in mind that Everything Bagels are not meant to be clean.  As in…they are coated in seeds and seasonings and…well…you are going to make a mess.  It just happens.  But, you see, Everything Bagels are the iconic bagel.  They have all the best toppings in one place.  They are legendary.  And they are delicious.  I hoped the Katz Gluten Free version would be as good as the ones I grew up eating.

After allowing two of the four bagels that come in a pack thaw on the counter while I went to my spin class, I returned home and turned on my oven.  I removed the bagels from the ziplock bag I had them in to thaw and eased their pre-sliced halves apart.  I set each one on a baking sheet and threw them into the oven to toast while I took a quick shower before having to head to work.

They toasted up beautifully.  Sheer bagel toasting perfection.  As I emerged, now dressed for work and no longer a hot, sweaty mess I pulled them from the oven and put a schmear of vegan cream cheese on each half.  I served up one bagel to my roommate (who has had Everything Muffins, but not an Everything Bagel) and allowed her to dive in while I put the cream cheese on my own halves, poured my coffee, and went to tuck in to my own brekkies.

One bite…and I was transported back to my bagel-eating days of yore.  For real.  These bagels are packed…and I mean packed with flavor and all the authentic ingredients of a “real” Everything Bagel.  Katz Gluten Free knows exactly how to make bagels.  This was spot-on perfect in taste, texture, and…yes…even size.  Udi’s Gluten Free Bagels can be a bit…large (but, OMG…SO YUMMY!), and the bagel thins are made to be thin without as much bread.  This…this is the happy medium.  Seasoned to perfection.  No lacking in any of the toppings.  Gluten Free Bagel of Everything and More!!  WOW!

I’m already salivating knowing I still have two more in my freezer.

Let’s talk ingredients, as we always do.  The Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagel is made from a gluten-free flour blend (tapioca, white rice, brown rice, potato, soy, corn), egg whites, water, cellulose fiber, oil, corn syrup, sugar, cellulose gum, yeast, salt, corn fiber, soy lecithin, lactic acid, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced garlic, and minced onion!  Yep…that’s an Everything Bagel to me.  These are not just gluten-free but also dairy-free.

Nutritionally speaking, these aren’t bad for bagels.  Not at all.  A serving size is one bagel.  This serving will provide you with 250 calories and 9 grams of fat.  You will also be getting 150 mg sodium and 6 grams of sugar.  These are cholesterol-free.  In addition, you will be consuming 12 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein, so you will certainly feel full.  That’s always nice!

Oh yeah…Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels are definitely a hit.  I intend to stock my freezer with them more often.  For sure.  If you haven’t tried them yet…get right on it.  You will thank me for it later.

Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagel toasted with a schmear of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese

Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagel toasted with a schmear of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese

Product Review: Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies

Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies

Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies

Product: Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies – $6.29+

Yep.

This is just what you are thinking.  These cookies are called “caveman cookies” for a reason.  And that reason is…(insert trumpeting here)…they are a part of the “caveman” diet…or the Paleo Diet as it is often called now.

Now, as a gluten-free vegetarian, a lot of what I make can be done the Paleo way…but a lot of my protein sources (beans, peanut butter, etc.) are frowned upon in the paleo diet.  As are some of my favorite vegetables – like potatoes and corn.  So, while I know a few people who do follow that “caveman” way of eating…I can’t for my own health.  It just isn’t feasible for me.  But, that’s not to say that I don’t try these “paleo” recipes and items that are now on the market.  As long as they fit into my dietary restrictions, I’m never one to turn down the opportunity to try something new.  And…since I do know people who live by this form of “diet”…I have learned how to bake many staples to fit into the “caveman” diet by trying out different flours, often made from almonds or coconut.

So, while I was in Ohio visiting my friend Jenn, she picked up for me some interesting cookies that fit my tastes and…were gluten-free.  Jenn loves me like this and often has goodies for me to try waiting at her house.  I took a gander at the boxes…seeing the open-mouthed Caveman and the words Tropical on one box.  Alpine is the other flavor…and the one I haven’t tried yet.  YET!

Well, with the demise of the gluten-free vanilla bean pound cake (it was SO good!), I needed a new sweet treat to cleanse the palate after dinner.  I recalled these boxes in my pantry and screamed my thanks to Jenn as I pumped a fist in the air in dessert victory.  I mean…dessert is something I grew up eating after dinner.  It doesn’t have to be huge.  A cookie or a small bowl of ice cream…just something sweet to tie up the meal.  That’s how I was raised.  I still swear to this today.  So, I happily snagged the Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies from the pantry.

So, it was cookie time.  And you know…I am a complete cookie monster.  My favorite thing in life is a good cookie!!  And when I opened up this box…I found individually wrapped little cookies (about the size of a silver dollar) just eagerly awaiting their trial.  I plucked four from the box (two for me and two for my roomie) and got to unwrapping them.  They smelled absolutely delicious.  Hard to explain just how they smelled, but I caught the macadamia nut and a hint of sweetness from the coconut and ginger.  I opened up two cookies for my roommate and delivered them, giving her the usual disclaimer that, “if they suck we can try something else…”  As I was heading back into the kitchen, she took a bite.  At first…I couldn’t tell what she thought of them.  The face she was making was sort of neutral.  Then…there was something.  But from where I stood, I couldn’t tell if it was good or bad.  So, as I was opening up my cookies, I asked her how they were.

“They are like…chewy cardboard that is sweet.”

Um…that can’t be good.

“Are they edible?” I inquired.

She thought for a moment and took another bite.  “Well…I’ll eat them…but they aren’t something I’d buy again.”

Okay…

Guess it was my turn to give them a try.  I settled in for dessert and took a bite.

So…here is the nitty-gritty:

The Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies are good in that they are chewy and use real ingredients.  I mean…it doesn’t get much more real than what goes into these cookies.  They are not so good in that they don’t really have that much of a flavor.  I know…you probably think it’s that I’m missing the sugar…but I cut down on sugars wherever I can and try to do low sugar even in my snacks and cookies.  Often I substitute honey…which is what is used in these cookies to sweeten them.  The thing is…they are really bland.  They do have a nice nutty flavor to them, which I like.  The coconut hits at the end.  And the ginger doesn’t overpower…but there is just something about them that didn’t…wow me.  I wouldn’t say they taste like cardboard, but they definitely take some getting used to.  I love a chewy cookie and I wasn’t certain these would be…but they are very chewy.  And that…is my favorite part.  With nothing more than the hint of coconut for something “tropical”…I can’t for the life of me figure out why these are called “tropical”.  But…they aren’t awful.  And we will polish off the box.

Let’s talk ingredients.  Honestly, the good thing about the Paleo Diet is how straightforward ingredients are in products.  The Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies contain almond flour, organic honey, unsulfured coconut, macadamia nuts, and ginger.  That’s it.  They really are chewy…and contain 100% real ingredients and are gluten-free.  They are also cholesterol free and sugar free.

Nutritionally speaking…here’s how the Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies stack up.  A serving size is 2 cookies.  Yep.  TWO cookies.  This serving will provide you with 140 calories and 10 grams of fat.  Yep…10 GRAMS OF FAT!!  Don’t freak out though.  Much of this fat is derived from the macadamia nuts and almond flour.  Fat from nuts is a healthy fat.  So…yeah…deep breath.  It’s okay.  Additionally, these cookies contain 10 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber rand 3 grams of protein.

So…while these aren’t awful, they aren’t amazing either.  They are just sort of “MEH.”  And a “MEH” dessert is not a dessert that will be repeated.  We are going to finish up the box.  And, yes, we will also try the Alpine Caveman Cookies as well to see if they perhaps satisfy us better or have more flavor.  I give kudos to Caveman Bakery for making a paleo-friendly cookie for the market…but it seems they could use a little help with the recipe.  But, that’s just my cookie-loving opinion.  I don’t think I’d invest in these in the future.  At least not this flavor.

Product Review: KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars

KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars

KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars

Product: KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars – $3.99+

Granola bars.

While there are gluten-free options out there for granola bars, it is something that I gave up when I had to go gluten-free.  Why?  I just didn’t find any that tasted…right…or good for that matter.  Sure, there are plenty of fruit and nut bars out there, but when you think granola bar, you think of oats and that chewy-sticky goodness that you get with each bite.  That was what I wanted.  And that was not what I was finding.

Until…

KIND once again rose to the occasion.

I keep becoming so indebted to KIND because their products are superb.  Honestly.  I wouldn’t keep going back to KIND bars and KIND Healthy Grain Clusters time after time after time.  Lord knows, these days there are plenty of delicious and gluten-free options when it comes to protein bars and granola.  But there is something so spectacular about the products that KIND puts out.  I trust them with my food budget.  I really do.

So, imagine my glee the day I stepped into my local grocery store and went to scope out the Manager’s Special shelves and found the KIND Healthy Grains Bars on the shelf.  They had the discounted price ticket on there.  The only flavor being offered at the discounted price was the KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars…so that’s what came home with me.  Two boxes of them.  That meant, without any idea of how they tasted…I invested in 10 bars (they come 5 to a box).  But I didn’t even flinch…because it was KIND.

Sadly, these just sort of sat in my drawer of protein bars and race day snackies up until the other day.  I was working my way through the pantry that I totally forgot about those in that drawer.  And, with my sprained ankle, I hadn’t been racing or running so there was no reason for me to open that drawer.  It slipped my mind.  Until…I started running again.  I noticed the boxes in the drawer and knew it was time to bust them out for one of my work snacks.  It would be just like the old days.  A morning snack of a “granola” bar.  But this…this is even better than a granola bar.  It tastes better…has actual real ingredients…and it has more (and better) nutritional value.  Trust me.

I couldn’t wait for snack time to roll around the other day.  Honestly.  I had the bar out on my desk…anticipating it.  Wanting to see if it was any good.  Needing to know if it lived up to the high standards that KIND set for its products with me in the past.  And when it was time, I tore into that wrapper and broke off a corner of the Healthy Grains Bar.  The first thing I noticed was this didn’t snap away.  The bar itself is very light and soft.  You definitely get that hint of sticky-soft goodness from the honey, which helps to also sweeten the oats and other grains that are used in the making of these bars.  The dark chocolate chunks provide this amazing sweetness that doesn’t detract from the rest of the bar, but works with it…bringing out all the other flavors.  And I love that hint of coconut flavor you get right at the end.  Honestly…one of the best bars I have ever consumed.  EVER!  Even better…I don’t feel guilty about this little indulgence, because it’s not really an indulgence.  The name of this product says it all – HEALTHY Grains Bars.  Add in that sweet hint of heart-healthy dark chocolate and you have my new favorite snack in life.

So, what all goes into the KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars?  Well, KIND never hides anything when it comes to their products.  That’s why their packaging and wrappers have large open windows.  They honestly have nothing to hide.  At all.  The KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars are a blend of whole grains (which include gluten-free oats, brown rice, millet, gluten-free oat flour, buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa), tapioca syrup, evaporated cane juice, honey, non-GMO canola oil, coconut, chocolate liquor, sugar, brown rice syrup, molasses, gum acacia, sea salt, vanilla extract, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, and natural vitamin E.

How does it stack up nutritionally?  Not too bad at all.  A serving of the KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars is one bar.  This bar will provide 150 calories and 4.5 grams of fat.  One bar will also provide you with only 65 mg sodium and 9 grams of sugar.  You will also be getting 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein…so you actually do feel full after eating one.  These are gluten-free and cholesterol-free.

If you’re looking for a healthy snack that you can easily pack and take with you…anywhere…I highly recommend KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars.  They remind me, a lot, of the homemade granola bars I used to make.  Flavor is SUPER fantastic.  Texture and feel is spot on.  And that chocolate…tames even the biggest sweet tooth.  My snack time just got a lot sweeter….without the extra sugar and…additives.  Thank you, KIND, for products that I’m proud to have right out on my desk.

KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars

KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars

Product Review: Sophie’s Kitchen Breaded Vegan Calamari

Sophie's Kitchen Breaded Vegan Calamari

Sophie’s Kitchen Breaded Vegan Calamari

Product: Sophie’s Kitchen Breaded Vegan Calamari – $5.99+

This is it!

The final product from Sophie’s Kitchen for me to review.  Well, there are a couple other products out there, just none that I have found in this area yet.  All the ones that are available in the various natural food stores around here…have now been eaten, consumed, and reviewed.  It all ends here…with Sophie’s Kitchen Breaded Vegan Calamari.

Yes…my freezer has now been cleared of my delicious vegan seafood.  And the Vegan Breaded Calamari is another fine example of how Sophie’s Kitchen is doing vegan seafood well!  I mean…I was blown away.

Back before I became a vegetarian, I began eating calamari after moving to Indiana.  My roommate and her family were huge fans of splitting the appetizer calamari at any restaurant it was offered in…especially Red Lobster.  That being said, I grew to have a taste for the little rubbery rings of…squid.  But after making a conscious decision to go vegetarian…I gave up seafood and all other meats.  And when going gluten-free was necessary, anything breaded went the way of the dodo in my diet.

Until…Sophie’s Kitchen brought breaded “seafood” back into my life.

The other night, the Breaded Vegan Calamari remained in my freezer.  And as I had been out of town and had no fresh produce bin delivered…I was living out of my pantry, fridge, and freezer.  This seemed like an easy enough thing to prepare for dinner.  All I hoped for was that it would live up to the standards and quality of the other Sophie’s Kitchen products I had in the past.

I should have known it wouldn’t disappoint.

Sophie's Kitchen Breaded Vegan Calamari (frozen)

Sophie’s Kitchen Breaded Vegan Calamari (frozen)

Sophie’s Kitchen Breaded Vegan Calamari is so simple to prepare.  You can do it in either the oven or a skillet, but I opted for the oven this time.  I placed the Breaded Vegan Calamari rings on a pan and put them in the oven for about 15 minutes.  When I retrieved them, they smelled amazing and were now a beautiful golden brown.  I plated the rings and served it up with some marinara for dipping (because calamari should always be eaten with marinara…always!).  My roommate and I tucked into our basic, simple dinner…and we were both once again WOWED!  I mean…totally in awe at how accurate the texture and taste of these vegan seafood products are to the real thing.  I loved how the Breaded Vegan Calamari rings had that bit of rubbery texture…just like actual calamari.  I thought it had amazing flavor, and the breading was more than seasoned correctly and packed with amazing flavor.  I might have devoured mine in record time.  I told my roommate that this one was ranking up there in popularity as far as my favorites to eat.  So delicious.  Beyond impressed.  And now I want to restock my freezer with all of the products again…and work my way through them once more.  This just clinches the fact that Sophie’s Kitchen makes high quality products that gluten-free vegans can enjoy!

So…what exactly is vegan seafood made from?  Well, the Sophie’s Kitchen Breaded Vegan Calamari is made from water, konjac powder, beta glucan, potato starch, organic agave nectar, sea salt, canola oil, rice flakes (from brown rice), potato starch, turmeric, white pepper, carrageenan, alginate, and calcium hydroxide.  Is it clean eating…nope.  Not even close.  But…it’s not too bad as processed, frozen products go.  Not at all.  These are soy-free, vegan (100% plant based), non-GMO, gluten-free, contain no artificial preservatives, no artificial colors, no MSG, they are free of trans fats, and they are cholesterol free.  These also contain no added sugar.  Nothing about them is artificial.  Nothing.

Nutritionally speaking, a serving size of Sophie’s Breaded Vegan Calamari is 4 pieces (or about 3 ounces).  This serving size will dish you up 210 calories and 9 grams of fat.  You will also be taking in 250 mg sodium and only 2 grams of sugar.  Love that!  In addition, you will be consuming 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein.  Trust me…you will feel full after eating these.  But deliciously full!

I have become a huge fan of Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Seafood items.  The Breaded Vegan Calamari ranks right up there as one of the best products in the lineup.  Try it.  Even if you aren’t a vegan, you might appreciate a healthier, and environmentally-friendly seafood.  You won’t be disappointed.  Trust me!

Sophie's Kitchen Breaded Vegan Calamari (served with marinara sauce)

Sophie’s Kitchen Breaded Vegan Calamari (baked) (served with marinara sauce)

Product Review: Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter

Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter

Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter

Product: Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter – $1.99+

I am not very good about blogging about various spreads and nut butters that I try.  I don’t know why…but mostly because it’s hard to wax rhapsodic about different varieties of nut butters…because…while they don’t all taste the same…it’s the same thing.  Besides, I’m a  Trader Joe’s Creamy Peanut Butter girl.  That doesn’t change.

Except…when something leaps out at me and catches my eye.

That was the case this past visit to Birmingham, Alabama.  I went to my mom’s favorite natural food store, Organic Harvest, and was shopping around for some products to try that I had never seen in my area.  I was walking the aisles, doing my initial scouting when I spotted little sample packs of almond butters at the bottom of one of the shelves.

The brand: Wild Friends Foods.

The flavor: Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter.

HELLO!!  How could I not buy this?!  I had to.  So, it was one of the items that I chose to bring home with me to try.  And…that’s what happened.  All I needed was the perfect opportunity to use it and to allow it to shine.  I mean…vanilla…espresso…almond butter.  That’s three of my favorite things all rolled into one product.  I was elated.  I was in heaven.  I…needed to find something to use it with.

And so…it all came together one morning when I was toasting up some gluten-free cinnamon raising English muffins.  I had pulled out some butter and honey to top the English muffins with, but then I recalled this spread.  So I decided to do half of the English muffins with the butter and honey, and the other half with this amazing sounding almond butter.

I made a fantastic choice.

The Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter is just as amazing as it sounds.  It has all the texture and flavor of almond butter, but elevated with the bits of ground up espresso beans and the amazing aroma and flavor of vanilla.  It’s almond butter taken to the nth degree.  And there is nothing wrong with that at all.  This packet, once kneaded as instructed, provided a creamy, flavorful topper for the cinnamon raising English muffin.  The espresso bits don’t get in the way or overpower the natural flavor of the almond butter.  In fact, they serve as a bit of a flavor enhancer.   And it was AWESOME!!  Trust me, even my roommate was raving about it.  Seriously…I wish I could find this stuff here.

So, let’s talk about the ingredients.  One very important thing about Wild Friends Foods is that the creators wanted to make fun flavors of nut butters without the white sugars, preservatives, additives, or oil.  So, instead of using slick oils and processed sweeteners, they use natural ingredients that are awesome…and…yes…healthy!  The Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter contains almonds, organic agave, natural vanilla flavor, espresso, and sea salt.  That’s it.  It is non-GMO, dairy-free, gluten-free, and kosher.

Nutritionally speaking, you can’t beat these statistics when it comes to almond butter.  The Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter has a serving size of 2 tablespoons.  This serving will provide you with 190 calories and 17 grams of fat (but it’s the healthy fat you get from nuts…so don’t freak out, okay?).  You will also be getting 95 mg sodium and 2 grams of sugar.  And finally, you will be taking in 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.

And it really does taste amazing.  Possibly my favorite almond butter I have had to date.  I wish I had more than just the sample pack.  From a quick check on the Wild Friends Foods Web site, it looks like a regular jar of this flavor is a whopping $11.99.  One jar.  But…I would say it was worth it.  For now, I guess I’ll just supplement with the amazing little sample packs whenever I go to Birmingham.

If you can order it online to try it…or if you can find it locally…don’t hesitate…just do it!

Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter (on a gluten-free cinnamon raisin English muffin)

Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter (on a gluten-free cinnamon raisin English muffin)