Paleo Bar Review: MyHealthyEats Cashew & Cocoa Bar

Hi, friends!

So, I finally had a chance to crack into that shipment of Paleo Bars sent to me by My Healthy Eats over the weekend!

I decided to try out the Cashew & Cocoa Bar first, because, well … CASHEWS ARE MY JAM and who doesn’t love chocolate?

At a hefty 289 calories per bar, I will point out that these babies should likely be considered a meal replacement versus a snack – unless you’re a much bigger person. As a 135 lb woman, 289 calories is a substantial chunk out of my day, so I decided to have the bar as my dinner on Tuesday night.

 

First and foremost: these bars are moist, thick, and LOOK LIKE REAL FOOD.

If you recall my experience with Julian Bakery’s Paleo Protein bars, this is a DRASTIC –and much appreciated– difference.

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Seriously, this actually looks really good. Big chunks of nuts, NO MOLD (again, see my review of Julian Bakery’s bars), and a pretty substantial-looking bar.

I was most impressed by the TEXTURE: it was soft, chewy (think brownie, not tootsie roll), and had a dessert-like flavor on first bite.

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Similar to a LaraBar or the RXBars, the main ingredient of these bars is dates. This is what gives it a sweetness and the moist, thick texture that is such a departure from the Julian Bakery bars.

My husband tried a bite and thought I was having a dessert bar; so that’s definitely a vote of confidence!

All in all, I liked these bars, but I probably wouldn’t have them daily.

Here’s my voting/opinion in summary:

TEXTURE: Perfect! Moist, chewy, and brownie-like.

FLAVOR: Good, but not much different than a LaraBar.

CALORIES: HIGH – 289 is a substantial snack!

SUGARS: The bar is marketed as a “low carb” option, but this is NOT THE CASE. While it doesn’t have added sugars, the first ingredient is “date paste,” which is very naturally sugar-dense. This bar packed a whopping 24g of sugar, which is more than I normally aim to eat in a day. I would strongly advise against these bars if you’re following a Ketogenic or low carb diet.

PROTEIN: The bars are marketed as high protein, but with only 8g of egg white protein –it’s literally the last ingredient– I would consider these to be more of an energy bar versus a protein bar. I told my husband I plan to use the bars as carb-supplements while doing my marathon training this Fall.

Overall, I found the bar tasty and a decent option for those following a Paleo, Primal, Whole30 or vegetarian eating plan. I wasn’t floored by it, but I did find it substantially better than Julian Bakery’s Paleo bars.

That being said, I doubt I’ll be ordering any for myself. At over $4 per bar (almost double what Quest Nutrition and RX Bars charges), it’s definitely not in my price range. On top of that, I aim to eat less than 25g sugars MAXIMUM per day (realistically, I try to avoid sugar fully, as I’m following a hybrid Keto-Paleo diet), so these don’t fit well into my Macros.

For someone not concerned about carbs/sugars and who has more money to burn, these could be a good option. They do taste good, and I’m sure they’d be a nice treat warmed up, but they’re not a viable option for me to consume daily, both from a financial and nutritional perspective.

MY HEALTHY EATS BARS IN REVIEW:

PROS:

  • Paleo/Primal/Whole30 compliant.
  • Vegetarian option!
  • Natural ingredients (not 100% sure if they were organic, but I didn’t research it).
  • No junk fillers.
  • Available on Amazon for easy/expedient delivery.

CONS:

  • Very high in sugar (24g of sugars alone in the bar I ate)
  • High calories (between 250 to 289 in the three flavors they offer)
  • Relatively low in protein (only 8g)
  • Very pricey: Almost $37 for 9 bars! (yikes)

I do plan to try the other flavors this weekend (planned for the days I do my LONGEST training runs for my upcoming marathon), so I’ll post again if I have any additional feedback about them!

Bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

Dining at Disney: Cinderella’s Royal Table

For those of you who didn’t know, my husband and I are DISNEY JUNKIES.

Seriously, we’re at the parks almost every weekend. Epcot is our favorite – especially during the Food & Wine or Flower & Garden festivals – but we’ve been recently rediscovering the cuisine of Magic Kingdom and I have to admit we’ve been pleasantly surprised.

Last week was our ninth wedding anniversary (cue the “Awwwwws!”), so I surprised him with reservations at Cinderella’s Royal Table, located in the beautiful castle the park is so famous for!

Let it be known, Cinderella’s Royal Table is not something you can do impulsively: you have to book reservations MONTHS in advance, and even then you can’t guarantee you’ll get an ideal time slot. I booked almost three months in advance, and managed to get a 10:15pm reservation for dinner. Not ideal dining time, but beggars can’t be choosers.

There are some caveats to keep in mind with dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table:

  • You pre-pay for dinner. It’s roughly $75 per person, but that covers a soft drink, appetizer, entree, and dessert, plus tax and gratuity.
  • It’s a pre-fix menu, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
  • If you don’t like being visited by Disney princesses in full costume throughout your meal, this is not the place for you.
  • NO ALCOHOL. (boooo)

That being said, I was very impressed by the food quality, presentation, and overall experience!

The Menu at Cinderella's Royal Table

The Menu at Cinderella’s Royal Table

The appetizer selection was a bit small – but the cheese tray was scrumptious and my husband said his sea-scallop compote was very nicely plated and surprisingly flavorful.

The dinner entrees, however, were STELLAR. We both enjoyed the filet and shrimp and, though again small portions, they were perfectly cooked and the tenderness of the steak was downright impressive.

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Seriously, this may be small, but it packed a ton of flavor. And the shrimp is almost as wide as the steak!

I was so tickled to see how many gluten-free and allergy-sensitive options they had! They offered vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and diet conscious choices, which was honestly very impressive.

Of course, since we were celebrating our anniversary, we didn’t really follow our normal diets (we both stick closely to Paleo), but rather we enjoyed the bread basket (so delicious!), and got whatever dessert sounded best.

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Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

I tried the flourless chocolate cake (I can’t resist chocolate) and he tried the seasonal dessert, which turned out to be a delicious strawberry cheesecake I ate too quickly to take a picture of – whoops!

All in all, I would definitely recommend Cinderella’s Royal Table to anyone looking for some fine-dining on Disney property with all the fun of a character meet-and-greet. The food was worth the expense (unlike some of the other dining options, which are egregiously overpriced), and the ambiance was lovely.

Naturally, we took lots and lots of photos with the princesses.

 

P.S. It’s probably not a surprise (based on these photos), but we did enjoy a few drinks at Epcot before heading over. Hey, we were celebrating, so it’s 100% acceptable.

On that note… bon appetit, my friends!

Tori

Meal Prep and Real Life!

Today is officially my last day of “vacation.” Yes, I’m technically still off for the weekend, but today ends the last of my holiday vacation time.

While I had a blast in NYC from 12/28-1/3, I found this week extremely challenging. I was no longer in “chill mode” (aka: eat whatever, do whatever), but wasn’t back to my regimen, either. To be honest, I really didn’t know what to do with myself.

So, like any good yoyo dieter, I decided to use the week to “transition” myself back into the real world.

Since I had all day off while my husband was back at work, I used the free time to rack up a few hours at the gym, buy my school books, and catch up on some personal reading. I should’ve gotten ahead on school reading, of course, but that’s what my panic-induced Sunday cram sessions are for.

Today, though, I decided it was crucial I do something proactive for the upcoming week, as I will be back to full time work AND graduate school starting Monday.

I decided to invite my best friend Delonna, who has to follow a restrictive ketogenic and allergen-free diet, over to my house to do some healthy prep cooking for the week!

After three hours of laughing, making a mess, and “quality assurance testing” our goodies, here’s what I ended up with in my freezer:

3 individual turkey meatloaves (267 calories, 51g protein each)

3 individual beef meatloaves (288 calories each, 35g protein)

12 lamb meatballs (80 calories each, 7g protein)

12 chicken veggie muffins (72 calories each, 10g protein)

18 grain-free Italian muffins (98 calories each, 6g protein)

I’ll be making veggie egg muffins and grain-free cookies Sunday evening so there’s really no excuse to deviate from a healthy diet. Preparation is key to living (and maintaining control despite temptation) with a busy schedule. School and work are back full time on Monday!!

So, on that note, it’s time for a run and a little wine!

Bon appetit, my friends!

– Tori

RX Bars: Best Customer Service!

So, I’m sure all of you remember the horrific debacle I dealt with a few weeks back with Julian’s Bakery regarding their moldy, nasty Paleo protein bars, right? It was an all-around terrible experience: their customer service led me in circles, insisted I mail back their product, and told me I’d be responsible for shipping costs – all while I dealt with a product that was literally slimy with white mold. Needless to say, when I finally got my money back, I vowed to never order from them again.

While I absolutely love Quest Bars, though, I knew I needed to find a Paleo-approved substitute to use in my regular diet. Quest Bars are made with corn fiber and dairy/whey, which is a big no-no for most primal diets. So, while they are good for the occasional cheat, they definitely shouldn’t play a prominent role in your daily nutrition.

That being said, I did a bit of research and discovered the RX Bar company!

RX Bars are 100% natural: they contain fruit, nuts, and egg whites. The end.

And, with each RX Bar boasting 12g of protein and lots of fiber, they’re the perfect breakfast-on-the go for Paleo and non-Paleo people alike!

I had ordered three cases back in July and kept them in my pantry, where they were unfortunately forgotten for about three months. When I rediscovered them last week, I was thrilled to dive back in and enjoy them. I did notice, though, that two of the bars I opened had a tiny spot of mold on them. I checked the expiration date and the product should have been OK, but I did note the wrappers were thin, so I likely had damaged/ripped them when I put them away.

Fearful for a repeat of the terror Julian’s Bakery, I sent a request through the “Contact Us” form on the RX Bar’s website, praying to just get a coupon or something for the product so I could order more.

But I got so, so much more.

About an hour after my request was submitted (noting the mold on the bar, the expiration date, and the fact that I believed the wrapper could have been damaged by me or in transport), they had a customer service representative call me personally.

What?! A call from a real human being?! What sorcery is this?

The young lady was SUPER sweet, verifying the details I put on my request form and just asking for the bar code from the packaging so she could check to see if there was any history or issue with that particular batch of bars. She was never accusatory or defensive (see my conversations with Julian’s Bakery to see the OPPOSITE of this behavior), and she apologized several times for any inconvenience this caused me. She immediately told me that they’d redesigned their packaging to avoid this issue several months ago, and also changed the recipe slightly to bring down the moisture (switched from dates to cashews), so she was positive I’d have a better experience in the future. She also confirmed I didn’t have any allergies (seriously, how courteous is that?) and then offered to replace the bars – a full 12-pack! – as an apology and a means of rectifying the situation.

WHAT?!

So, not only did she offer an apology for a slight issue with the product, but she also replaced it – with free shipping! – by 1200%!

****LOOK****

THEY ARE SO CONFIDENT ABOUT THE QUALITY OF THEIR BARS, THEY GUARANTEE THEM RIGHT ON THEIR WEBSITE!

This is LIGHTYEAR’S beyond how the customer service department at Julian’s Bakery treated me, and far beyond my expectations for excellent customer service. I already loved RX Bars for their delicious product, but now their incredible customer service has now solidified a life-long relationship with me.

If you’re on a Paleo, Whole30, Primal, or nutrition-focused diet — or just love real, healthy food — you definitely need to pick up a few packs of these bars! I love the Coffee Cacao and Blueberry, but ALL of the flavors are truly amazing!

Bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

 

 

 

Lemon Coconut Creme Paleo (and Candida-diet friendly) Cake!

As I mentioned before, a close friend of mine has been struggling under the confines of a very restrictive diet (Phase I of the Candida-diet) and the lack of variety has been very draining on her.

Her birthday was last week and I knew she was very upset that not only could she not indulge on her birthday with a drink, a birthday cake was totally out of the picture.

Or was it?

I decided I was NOT going to let her celebrate her 28th birthday without a sweet treat to make it special. Working with no grains, no sugars, and limited approved ingredients would make for a challenge, but I was ready to test my culinary prowess.

This is what I made my best friend:

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What you are looking at is:

Grain Free, Sugar Free, Dairy Free, and 100% Paleo-Approved.

And, most importantly, DELICIOUS.

How did I do it?

Well, if you recall, a few weeks ago I decided to experiment with a Candida-approved Italian bread recipe that turned out REALLY well.

Running with that variation, I decided to see if I could turn a savory bread into a sweet cake with some mild variations. After FOUR experiments (using different measures of coconut milk, eggs, and flour ratios), I came up with the following PERFECT cake mix:

PERFECT PALEO (SUGAR FREE!) LEMON CAKE:

3/4 cup unsweetened, pure coconut cream
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/3 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut fiber
1/2 cup granulated Stevia
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tbsp alcohol-free pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp coconut oil
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon, with pulp

The cake would be prepared like any other cake: dry ingredients are first in the bowl, and then you’ll fold in the wet ingredients.

Place dough (it’ll be thick, but pliable) in a 9″ round cake pan that you’ve greased ahead of time. I used organic coconut oil spray, but you can go with whatever oil you prefer.

Bake for 25 minutes at 350.

But what is a CAKE without icing?

Now, I knew I’d never recreate a perfect, fluffy icing …and if I did, I realized it would be very temperature-weak, since it would have to be comprised of coconut oil which melts at pretty much any temperature over 72 degrees. So, I decided to forgo a traditional icing and aim for a lemony, zesty glaze to drizzle on top. After dabbling, I landed on the perfect recipe cited below.

ZESTY PALEO (SUGAR FREE!) LEMON ICING GLAZE:

1/3 cup unsweetened, pure coconut cream
4 tbsp coconut oil
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 egg white
1/3 cup stevia
1 tbsp alcohol-free pure vanilla extract

The icing is best prepared in a sauce pan on the stove, stirring NONSTOP until it thickens. Pour over cake while still warm. You’ll have a ton with this recipe, so think of this like a Lemon Tres Leches cake!

And there you have it! My best friend got to enjoy a slice of REAL CAKE on her birthday, and I had a real win in the kitchen!

For those of you worried about calories, the entire cake was roughly 2,100 total (with the icing included), and that worked out to about 10-12 slices, depending on how heavy-handed you are with your servings. If anyone wants a full nutritional breakdown (I have it!), let me know!

So, what are you waiting for? Time to start baking!

Bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

Sometimes the Good People Win! (AKA, I won the battle with Julian’s Bakery!)

Well, it took almost a full week, but I finally got Julian’s Bakery to refund my money for the nasty, inedible, and falsely advertised protein bars they shipped me last week. I made it very clear that mailing the product back was not an option, and it appears they conceded in battle.

Since it has been so enjoyable for my readers, here’s the final round of correspondence between myself and the lovely staff of Julian’s Bakery:

To: Julian Bakery
Sep 21 at 8:44 PM

Julian’s Bakery: Worst Customer Service!

OK, so, remember how I posted a review of my Paleo Protein Bars from Julian’s Bakery last week? Well, I surprisingly found something worse than their bars …their customer service!

Allow me to share the follow-up emails to my complaint (and request for a refund) from last week:

Hello Victoria,

I am so sorry but we are currently modifying the bars, so we are in and out of updating the website.
So I do apologize about that, the nutrition facts on the bars are correct.
The white film is from the coconut/palm oil. These bars sweat because of the heat, which causes the white film.
But it does not effect the taste of the bar.
These bars are supposed to have a tootsie roll feel to them, if they harden you can always put them in the microwave for about 10-15 second, and they will be perfect.
If you are still uncomfortable with the bars, you can always send the un-opened product back to us, and we will then issue you a refund once we receive the product back.
Please send to:
Julian Bakery
624 Garrison St Ste 102
Oceanside, CA 92054-4844
Thanks,
Dallas

Wait, what? They mislabeled the nutrition facts, the bars are inedible, and I have to mail it back in order to get a refund? Um, NO.

Dallas,
The convenience of protein bars is the lack of preparation time needed to enjoy them. We throw them into gym bags, purses, and pockets so that they can be consumed on the run. Last time I checked, portable pocket-sized microwaves weren’t universally common or available, so your product fails to meet the category of either convenience or prep-less.
Secondly, a food product, for the most part, should have a somewhat aesthetic nature to it. My food should not, under any circumstances, look like it has been dipped in semen (which, though vulgar to describe that way, is honestly the most accurate representation) and hard as a piece of bark. It literally made a crunch/snapping sound when I tried to break a piece off to try. 
I don’t know about you, but microwaving a semen-coated brown brick in lieu of grabbing a convenient protein bar product, like Quest Nutrition bars, is a decision that is not difficult for me to make.
But here’s where I’m even more concerned:
You delivered a mislabeled (incorrect nutrition), miscategorized (a bar that needs to be microwaved to regain its normal physical attributes is not “on-the-go”), and all together nasty product and I’m the one that needs to repackage it (find a box, since yours was moistened by rain and destroyed), pay for shipping, and wait for you to confirm my honesty (receipt of your subpar product) before you’ll return my money?
Really?
How, on this blessed earth, are you guys still in business?!

Best,

Tori

Well, it looks like Julian’s Bakery didn’t appreciate my response. Check out what I got back:

Victoria, 

The bars were affected in transit due to the record heat we have been experiencing here in California, and all over the US. I understand your frustration with receiving an unsatisfactory product, however I cannot change our policy.
We do not do returns based on taste. We are offering a return and refund on the unopened products to rectify a situation that was affected by variables out of our hands. Once our product leaves the shipping department of our facility (in which we insure quality before sending to our customers), we cannot control the handling or weather which our products can be affected by. 
Our bars have a shelf stable life of 1 year and are still safe and edible if introduced to hot temperatures. However, this does not mean the product does not change shape and/or in some cases texture due to the rehardening once the product is affected by the heat.
I do believe that Quest Nutrition bars carry the same possibility of being affected by heat in transit, thus changing the texture and or/shape of the product. 
The return policy in which we require to receive the product before we process a refund is a purely finance related concern. It does not reflect an opinion of the customers integrity. 
I will be happy to process your refund or replacement for any unopened bars upon arrival to our facility.
Beyond these two options, I am not able to offer another solution at this time. 
I do apologize for any inconvenience. 
Thank you,
Katie 

Oh, this means war.

My Dearest Katie, (hope Dallas is OK!)
I’m sorry to hear about California being hot. Living in Florida, I would have no idea how that must feel and affect your business. It’s ghastly to think companies have to take into consideration weather, packaging, and the quality of their ingredients when shipping to consumers! I deeply sympathize with your plight.
That being said, I’ve ordered Quest Nutrition bars consistently for over two years now (in case you weren’t aware, that means throughout hot days, and cold days, and wet days, and dry days, and blue days, and gray days, and red fish, and two fish), with likely thousands spent and have only had ONE instance where their product was not of usual consistency due to their packaging getting hot. And guess what they did? Immediately issued an apology (without blaming weather or outside factors, since, of course, yours is the only company in the U.S. to face them), refunded the product AND sent a replacement, never once asking me to send back the inferior quality product.
Whereby, I’ve ordered from you about five times in the last four years and have received moldy bread in the past (and, surprise, this was blamed on RECORD HEAT in California -gasp!- despite my paying for expedited shipping), and I actually had to send pictures of the moldy product because, much like I am now, I refused to spend my money and time to repackage and mail the product back.
But wait! You said you wanted it back for FINANCE reasons, and not because you doubt customer integrity! That makes total sense! I mean, why wouldn’t you want to reclaim a subpar, misrepresented food product back that was in someone’s HOME? I mean, of course you want to reclaim that item so you can RESELL it to new consumers, right? For that’s the only rational and logical reason you’d insist on a return of a product that should, based on how it looks/tastes/and feels, be disposed of. Unless, of course, instead of selling said protein bars, you wish to dispose of them in your facility? I mean, I’m not a tree-hugger or anything, but spending the $10 to mail this back to you and considering the carbon emissions of the trucks/planes that will be necessary to get these lovely bars from always-perfect-weather Florida to the unseasonably-wretched-heat-wave that is California right now seems like an awful waste of resources if you plan on doing the appropriate (and hygienic) task of throwing these away. Want me to set fire to the plant outside, too, while I’m at it? I mean, if we’re going to waste resources just for the hell of it, why not go all the way, am I right?
Katie, I understand that you’re doing your job. I get it. Julian’s Bakery is reveling in the euphoria of a Paleo-monopoly right now and they’re doing all they can to maximize profits until their competition catches on and introduces better quality, more affordable alternatives. That being said, I strongly suggest your team spend a little less time on their internet marketing tactics and a little more time figuring out how to improve the durability of their products so they can retain quality, texture, and flavor in transit. Or, maybe just spend the money on building a machine to alter earth’s atmosphere and improve weather conditions? Either way, you’re wasting a lot of money attracting consumers that are likely just as irked as I am by the inconsistency of your products’ quality. 
This is a huge problem and obviously I’m not the first to voice concerns, as your Facebook team has managed to PREVENT comments and has, in fact, staged multiple comments that do nothing but praise the taste and quality of your products. Do you really think consumers believe that not a single person has anything negative to say on social media about your company? Really? I’m pretty sure people blast the pope, the Dalai-llama, and the inventor of blessed chocolate on Facebook, but good to know YOU (as in Julian’s Bakery, not YOU, lovely Katie) are perfect and have never had one displeased customer ever. Congrats! Pretty sure that deserves a blue ribbon or gold star.
That being said, the BEST I will do will be to open every single semen-brick bar out of its wrapper and take pictures of each as I toss them in the trash for you. I’m not going to mail back a subpar product for you to either sell (both unethical and extremely unhygienic) or throw away, as that’s just a big waste of money and time for both of us.
So, it appears we are at an impasse, Katie. Shall we escalate this to your boss? I’m ready when you are.

Best,

Tori
Not surprisingly, I haven’t heard back yet. I’ve already requested a refund from Paypal.com (how I paid), and I’m going to keep harassing them until a refund is issued.
On that note …buyer beware!
~ Tori