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

Six Minute Low-Calorie, Low-Carb Pasta!

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After a LOOOOONG day (work and school), I didn’t get home last night until 10pm. I was hungry, cranky, and ready to completely blow my diet on some junk food – just because I knew it would be fast.

Fighting the temptation of scarfing down a few Cadbury Creme Eggs, I decided to throw together a “pasta” dish (you’ll understand the quotation marks in a second) before I succumbed to diet temptation.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m a huge fan of Miracle Noodles. 

Made of yam flour (non-digestible), they have ZERO CALORIES, ZERO CARBS, and ZERO GUILT. They’re a bit expensive, so I visit my local Asian Market and buy the non-branded version, also known as “Yam Shirataki.”

These noodles, which have the consistency of an al dente rice noodle, pick up the flavor of anything you cook them in. Since they’re pure fiber and don’t digest, you feel VERY full after eating them – which definitely helps with overall calorie consumption. I’ve played around with recipes in the past and decided to just wing it last night and see what I came up with. Surprisingly, I concocted a delicious, simple, low-calorie dish that helped me avoid the chocolate cravings on a Monday night!

Ingredients (approximately FOUR servings):

  • Two 12 oz bags of Shirataki noodles, drained
  • One bag of Steamfresh Garlic Sweet Peas with Mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup of red sauce of your choosing (I happen to love Newman’s Own Roasted Garlic tomato sauce)
  • 2 tbsp of fat free cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp of fresh basil (or basil paste, as I use)
  • 1 tbsp of dried onions

Super Simple Cooking Instructions:

Empty contents of Shirataki noodles into a colander to drain, then rinse with HOT water for about 30 seconds. I cut them up (the noodles are VERY long) into smaller, easier to manage pieces. Place in a deep sauce pan and cook on HIGH – you need to do this to cook off the excess water and get the desired al dente texture.

While the noodles pan-fry, toss the Steamfresh veggies into the microwave and cook accordingly to package directions. I believe it’s about 5 minutes.

While the peas are cooking, toss your seasonings (garlic powder, basil, onions, etc) into the pan with the noodles and stir vigorously. You should see a lot of excess moisture at the bottom of the pan; the steam is probably intense right about now, so enjoy the facial.

Once the water volume has almost fully cooked off (about 3-4 minutes at the HIGH setting), add your red sauce and cream cheese. It’ll mix with the remaining water, thus fully coating the noodles in a thin, but rich, sauce. Add the Steamfresh veggies to the pan (even if they have a few seconds left in the microwave, you’re fine to pull them out now) and stir into the noodles. The garlic sauce from the vegetables will add to the flavor of the pasta (even more!) and you will notice you don’t need to add any salt to get a lot of flavor out of this dish.

TA-DA!

Seriously, less than six minutes and you have a FULL meal! I didn’t add any protein to it (I’d had a LOT of meat throughout the day), but you can easily add some leftover cooked chicken breast or leftover burger patty to this for a protein punch with no additional cooking time. I almost always have leftover chopped chicken breast in the fridge (I cook about a dozen breasts at a time to guarantee leftovers, actually), so it wouldn’t have been any effort to add some in. At 10pm at night, though, I didn’t want to add any more weight to my dinner than necessary.

This is NOT a Paleo recipe (Paleo would’ve frowned against the cream cheese and peas) but it made my belly happy, was low calorie, and wasn’t the bowl of chocolate I originally was craving when I got home – so I call that a win.

Bon appetit, my friends, and enjoy this simple dinner recipe! 🙂

Tori

Current Temptation: Raphsodic Bakery Cupcakes!

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These beautiful cupcakes are my current temptation.

Eighteen vegan, gluten-free, and DELICIOUS cupcakes are sitting in my fridge, begging to be devoured.

If you are vegan and/or following a gluten-free diet and live in the Orlando area, you NEED to check out Raphsodic Bakery on Mills Ave. Located right next to the Colonial/ST RD 50 intersection, this co-op is a haven of delectable treats and kind bakers.

I’ve always been greeted with a smile (and a free sample), and I’ve never made it out of the store without a box of goodies to savor for the week.

I can’t speak highly enough for the quality of their products, their customer service, and the overall warmth of their environment. In fact, when I called in my order last night (I pre-paid for two cupcake boxes after they announced a special on Facebook!), they threw in two free scones (also vegan and gluten-free) as a thank you for my repeat business.

Seriously, how amazing is that?

Regardless of what diet you’re on, Raphsodic Bakery is the place to go in Orlando when you’ve got a sweet tooth. So, what are you waiting for? Go check them out and tell them Victoria Elizabeth sent you! 🙂

Bon appetit, my friends!

Tori

Paleo Recipe: Spicy, Nutty Kale Chips!

Regardless of what diet or health plan you’re currently on, chances are you’ve been hearing a lot about kale recently. Kale seems to be the new “superfood” of the month, the absolute miracle cure to all things that ail you. I would try to convince you that I’ve always liked kale – long before the hype – but I realize that makes me sound like a food hipster.

The bad thing about the rising popularity of kale is the rising cost of kale-based snacks. I was at Whole Foods last night and a bag of seasoned baked kale was $5.99! Seriously, $5.99 for 1 oz of food? Really? I can get a pound of organic chicken for $5.99 or a pound of seasoned kale for $96. Does that even make sense? Yeah, my thoughts exactly.

I decided to pay a visit to my favorite Sunday morning stop: the Lake Eola Farmer’s Market. A little pricier than other local markets, but the scenery and selection make it worth the extra cost. For $5, I got two HUUUUGE bundles of fresh, organic kale – over two pounds, easily. I decided to test my hand at making my own homemade kale chips and concocted the following recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bundle fresh kale, washed, chopped, and dried. (approx one pound)
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil.
  • 2 tbsp chili powder.
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder.
  • 2 tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds, crushed.
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper – seeded – diced very small.

Put the oven on BROIL (500 degrees F) to preheat.

In a large plastic bag, combine all ingredients and shake well to coat. You can add a tiny bit more oil if it doesn’t seem well covered, but 2 tbsp worked well for me.

On an aluminum foil lined cookie sheet (for ease of cleaning – I’m lazy), spread out the kale evenly. Place the cookie sheet on the SECOND shelf – not directly against the broiler – and allow to cook for approximately ten minutes. Remove the tray from the oven, flip the kale over (spatula is easiest), and cook another five to seven minutes.

PLEASE NOTE: If you put the cookie sheet on the TOP shelf, the kale will get super crunchy on one side, half raw and green on the other – no bueno. So make sure to use the second shelf to ensure an evenly-cooked finished product. I learned this the hard way!

Once cool, store in an air tight container at room temperature. It can probably last a few days, but if yours tastes half as good as mine came out, you’ll be lucky if it lasts an hour or two.

This is only half of the batch! Seriously, making your own kale chips is far more cost effective.

This is only half of the batch! Seriously, making your own kale chips is far more cost effective.

I want to experiment with different flavors this week (I have a lot of kale to cook). I have an idea for dessert chips (think: coconut oil, shredded coconut, agave syrup, cinnamon, and pecans!) and I’d like to attempt a ranch/cheese flavor to really knock out my potato chip cravings. So many options, so few calories!

More recipes to come!

In the meantime, bon appetit my friends!

~ Tori

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Product Review: MaraNatha Caramel Almond Spread

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Looking for an alternative to peanut butter (aka, the Reese’s peanut butter cups I was inhaling prior to the New Year), I scoured the shelves of the local Publix for something new and different from the plain almond butter I’ve been living on. Bless my lucky stars, I stumbled across this hidden gem: MaraNatha Caramel Almond spread. It was approximately $7 for the jar – a bit steep – but I decided to give it a try.

WARNING: This is NOT Paleo!

I didn’t realize until I got the jar home that it contained both soy and milk derivatives – two things you’re encouraged to avoid on the Paleo/Caveman diet. However, given the fact that I’d paid so much for the jar and was curious about the flavor, I decided to count it as my “cheat” and dig in for a spoonful.

DearSWEETLordBabyJesus.

This stuff is AMAZING. Crack-in-a-jar.

It has a rich, buttery, and sweet flavor that hits your tongue in a foodgastic explosion of taste. It’s more of a butterscotch flavor than caramel but I assure you that I mean that in a complimentary way: it’s decadent. The texture is much like normal almond butter, only it had a creamier (more sinful) residue on the tongue.

A serving consists of two tablespoons packing a whopping 190 calories, 14g fat (4g saturated), 13g carbs (11g of which are from sugar – yipes!), and only 4g of protein.

Fortunately, the flavor is very strong, so I was able to use less of it and still get a satisfying experience. The label on the package actually suggests using it on cake, so I probably should have been prepared for the ambrosial experience. Who needs cake when you have this stuff?

Confession: I ate 1/3rd of the jar the first day.

I had to hide it from myself to avoid eating more. It’s so good, it’s bad.

So, for those of you looking for a heavenly sweet treat (and not worried about the extra sugars/lack of protein), I would strongly suggest picking up a jar of this stuff. But make sure you have a sturdy padlock to put on the cabinet you store it in because I promise you it’ll be a Herculean feat to stop yourself from eating it all once you taste it.

On that note, bon appetit!

~ Tori

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Loaded Mashed “Potatoes”

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I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this recipe before, but it’s too good not to share it again!

And it’s ridiculously easy to make.

Ingredients:
2 bags of frozen cauliflower
1 cup of Chobani nonfat Greek yogurt
2 cups organic chicken stock
3 tbsp dried onion flakes
4 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 cup fat free sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Easy Prep:
Boil (lid on) the cauliflower until fork tender in the chicken stock with the garlic powder and dried onions.

Once well done (about 10 minutes at a heavy boil), empty contents into blender or food processor. Most of the stock should have boiled off, but drain in the event it’s still very liquidy.

Add 1 cup of Chobani yogurt to blender and chopped green onion. Blend vigorously.

This should result in a “whipped,” fluffy texture.

Spoon into bowl and stir in cheddar cheese and then sprinkle with excess green onions.

The stock gives it the perfect level of salt, so make sure you taste it before you add any additional seasoning.

I don’t have an exact calorie count per serving, but the entire bowl is roughly 400 calories and results in a pretty massive bowl. I would guesstimate it’s about eight 2/3 cup servings, so it’s an incredibly low calorie side dish!

For those on a non-dairy Paleo diet, I suggest swapping the Chobani for So Delicious plain coconut yogurt (higher in calories and fat) and Daiya cheddar cheese alternative. This raises the calories to about 550 for the pot, but then it’s pure, non-dairy and caveman approved!

On that note… Bon appetit!

~Tori

Easiest Eggplant Recipe EVER!

One of my favorite dishes in the WORLD is Eggplant Parmesan. Of course, that’s basically one of the least healthy preparation methods for vegetables you can think of.

My alternative to that is the following recipe, which tastes DELICIOUS, is super cheap (under $5), and super quick.

Ingredients:

  • Giant, fresh eggplant, sliced about 1 inch thick.
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Garlic Powder
  • Dried Basil
  • Dried Oregano
  • Kraft Romano Parmesan Shaker
  • Sliced cherry, Roma, or beefsteak tomatoes (your preference.)
  • Breadcrumbs (optional)

As a VEGAN option, replace regular Parmesan with a soy or almond-milk alternative. There are several to choose from!

The night before, slice your eggplant and throw it into one of those giant (gallon) plastic bags. Add the olive oil (I use roughly 2 tbsp) and the balsamic vinegar (roughly 1 tbsp) to the bag. Target also makes an awesome mixture of the two which is only 90 calories per serving, great for those of us who find using two bottles of sauce too complicated.

Shake well to evenly coat the sliced eggplant, then add the garlic powder, basil, and oregano. Allow to marinate overnight.

Ignore the broccoli. I was prepping another meal simultaneously. I'm nothing if not a multi-tasker!

Ignore the broccoli. I was prepping another meal simultaneously. I’m nothing if not a multi-tasker!

The next day, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

While it’s preheating, lay out the marinated eggplant on an un-greased cookie sheet. Cover each slice of eggplant with tomato (I prefer beefsteak, as they create a nice silhouette on the eggplant) and then shake some Parmesan over the top. If you like breadcrumbs, now is the time to add them, as well. In addition to this, I normally sprinkle on a little extra basil, salt, and pepper – totally optional.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until desired softness. If you’re feeling crazy, feel free to add some 2% mozzarella cheese (or Daiya, if you’re Paleo like me!) and broil at 500 degrees for an additional 3-5 minutes to melt the cheese.

I eat these as is but I serve them alongside marina sauce for my husband, who likes to dunk everything (including babies, I’m sure) into some sort of sauce.

Each slice of eggplant is roughly 65-75 calories if you DON’T add the extra cheese and breadcrumbs. With the additional items, each is probably increased to 90-100 calories. Which is totally worth it, considering two big slices fills me up and a third slice makes me STUFFED.

A great dinner or side dish and perfect for those on Paleo, vegetarian, or calorie-cutting diets! 🙂

Bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

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Vegan? Yeah, I’ve tried that, too.

Like many people, I’m an animal lover. I have two pet Chihuahuas that are my life and soul. Unlike many other people, I have a very hard time disassociating them with other animals. It’s difficult for me to look at a pig, or a cow, or a chicken and not see the same innocence and cuteness that I see in my pets. For that reason, I’ve sampled the vegetarian and vegan lifestyles many times over the last three decades of my life.

For those that do not know, there are MULTIPLE levels to this sort of thing. Multiple.

Here’s a quick summary of all the different types of vegetarians/vegans out there. Prepare to have your mind blown by the varieties out there, folks:

  • Flexitarian: Tries to avoid meat, but occasionally allows themselves to indulge. These people tend to do this as a “humane” effort and not necessarily as a health issue.
  • Pescatarian: Avoids chicken, pork, and red meat, but considers fish & seafood to be acceptable for consumption. They are also OK with eating animal products, such as dairy and eggs.
  • The Basic Vegetarian: Avoids meat things cooked in meat-bases, such as chicken-stock, beef-stock, etc. They tend to focus on plant and soy based foods and are OK with the consumption of dairy, eggs, honey, and many other animal by-products.
  • Ovo-Vegetarian: All of the above, but avoids dairy and dairy by-products. No milk for these peeps!
  • Lacto-Vegetarian: Same as the basic vegetarian, except they permit the consumption of dairy but avoid eggs and egg-containing products, as they consider it to be an unfertilized embryo. Ewwww.
  • Ovo-Lacto: Avoids meat, dairy, and eggs as well as their by-products.
  • Vegan: The extreme version of vegetarian. No meat, no dairy, no eggs, no honey, or any other product that results from the use of animals. True vegans will not use make-up tested on animals, wear leather, or even use vitamins that contain stearic acid or another other potential animal derivatives. This can even include something as simple as yellow dye #5, which is a pork derivative. As someone allergic to pork [sucks, I know], I’ve already learned how to avoid these foods.
  • Fruitarian: EXTREME. These people only eat the “fruit” of plants – think apples, tomatoes, bananas, etc. They will not eat root vegetables, as that kills the plant. Not sure how you can live like this, but so be it.

I’ve heard a rumor that there is ANOTHER level of extremist vegan, which somehow involves living on the microbes in the air and the healing effects of the sun. Um. Yeah. That’s not happening.

Currently, I’m in a stage between vegetarian and vegan. I’m trying to avoid eggs and dairy products, but find myself cheating often. I’ve successfully avoided meat for almost two weeks, primarily because I freaking LOVE Boca Burgers and Morningstar Farms products. And don’t get me started on Gardein – nom nom nom!

However… I also really, really love cheese. Almond milk cheese – as good as it is – really doesn’t compare. I’ve never been a milk drinker, so I don’t really miss out in that area. I eat soy yogurts, use coconut based creamer for my coffee, and eat pints of coconut and rice-milk ice cream like it’s going out of style. Just CHEESE kills me.

I’ll be honest with you, though. I haven’t lost a pound. Nor have I gained, though, but that’s through conscious effort on my part. I can see how easily I could gain weight this way, as it’s very easy to get lazy and just sit down with a giant bowl of rice or pasta. That seems to be the “vegetarian-option” at most restaurants, too, so I’m learning to just order big salads and ask for the meat to be replaced with extra veggies. It’s an extra step on the part of the server, but it’s worth it for the damage that would otherwise happen to my waistline.

For those considering a vegan diet, I’d strongly suggest checking out the following blog:

http://howilost150pounds.wordpress.com/

This guy is my HERO.

Bon appetit!

~ Tori