Supermarket Saturday: The Sea of Starbucks Packaged Snacks, Part 1

Starbucks offers as many (or maybe more) food options today as they do coffee.  There’s the pastry case full of treats, the cold case full of bentos, sandwiches and salads, last minute entice-rs like biscotti and chocolate covered grahams and then the shelves and rounders of packaged snacks.  How in the wild world do you decide which to pick?

The food in the pastry and cold food case is pretty transparent (you generally know what you’re getting and if you want more info, you can get nutrition facts and ingredients on the Starbucks website HERE). BUT, if you’re on-the-go and/or prefer a packaged snack, you have to pick each of them up, check the labels, sort through the information and THEN decide what you want.  Who’s got time for THAT?

I’m on it!

I started with the salty, crunchy snacks and will work my way through the packaged sweet snacks/treats.  In order to make the review legit and unbiased, I did an informally formal blind taste test.

How it went down: There were 8 blind tasters (i.e. they didn’t know what they were tasting) plus me; 4 adults, 1 teenager and 4 young kids.

They each received a tasting sheet:

A numbered plate:

A cup of water and a pen:

 

They were instructed to keep comments and opinions to themselves, drink a sip of water in between each sample and to mark the face which best describes their opinion of the snack.  They could also (though not mandatory) write a comment or descriptor from the word bank describing the snack.  They were then asked to rank their top 1, 2 & 3 favorites.

 

 

Here are the details.  Snacks are listed from most to least favorite:

POP! lite Sunflower Oil & Sea Salt Popcorn


Ingredients: Popcorn, Sunflower Oil, Sea Salt.

Taste/Texture: This popcorn is very mildly flavored. It’s salty, crunchy and tastes similar to air-popped popcorn.

Nutrition notes: It’s 100% whole grain, low in calories and saturated fat.  Even though it didn’t taste overly salty, the sodium content (420 mg) is a bit high for a 100 calorie snack. Still, a good choice for a grab-and-go snack.

Tasters’ Ranking: 1 (tied with Starbucks Kettle Corn)

Starbucks Kettle Corn

Ingredients: Popcorn, sugar, sunflower oil, salt

Taste/Texture: Tastes like your typical pre-popped kettle corn.  It’s crunchy, sweet and salty.

Nutrition notes: It’s 100% whole grain (providing 3 g of fiber), low in calories (130), saturated fat (0 g) and sodium (130 mg).  It has 6 grams of added sugar, much lower than a pastry and most granola bars but enough to reconsider if you’re trying to limit your sugar intake.  All in all, if you’re craving something sweet, this is a good choice.

Tasters’ Ranking: 1 (tied with Pop! lite)

Starbucks Butter Popcorn

Ingredients: Popcorn, corn oil, seasoning (maltodextrin, salt, natural flavor, whey powder (milk), butter powder (milk), dextrose, annatto and turmeric extract).

Taste/Texture: Reminiscent of movie theater butter popcorn .  It’s super buttery (a couple tasters thought it was cheesy), crunchy, salty, and a little greasy.

Nutrition notes: It’s 100% whole grain (providing 3 g of fiber), low in calories (150), saturated fat (1 g) and moderately salty (240 mg sodium).  Great for a grab-and-go snack.

Tasters’ Ranking: 2

One Potato Two Potato Plain Jaynes Sweet Potato Chips

Ingredients: Sweet potatoes, expeller pressed sunflower oil, sea salt.

Taste/Texture: Crunchy and thick, sweet and salty.  They were a bit greasy but not beyond what you’d expect from a chip. 

Nutrition notes: Made from real sweet potatoes, they’re high in fiber (4 g) and vitamin A (180% DV) and low in sodium (140 mg). But be careful…each bag contains 2 servings.  So, while you think you’re getting a 150 calorie snack, you’re really getting 300 if you eat the whole bag.

Tasters’ Ranking: 3 (tied with Hippeas Sriracha Sunshine)

Hippeas Sriracha Sunshine Organic Chickpea Puffs

Ingredients: Organic chickpea flour, organic rice flour, organic sunflower oil, organic tapioca starch, organic seasoning [sugar, salt, red pepper, vinegar powder (maltodextrin, vinegar), garlic powder, jalapeno pepper, paprika extract (color), natural flavor, yeast extract], organic pea hull fiber

Taste/Texture:  Crunchy like Cheetos but bigger like a cheese puff.  A little spicy, salty and flavorful. Initially, they are sweet with a spicy chili aftertaste…reminiscent of a sweet and spicy BBQ.

Nutrition notes: 130 calories, 5 grams of fat and 0 grams of saturated fat.  You get 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and only 170 mg of sodium…great for a grab-and-go snack.

Tasters’ Ranking: 3 (tied with One Potato Two Potato Sweet Potato Chips)

Moon Cheese Mozzarella

Ingredients: Mozzarella cheese (pasteurized part skim milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes)

Taste/Texture: Very crunchy and dense, the texture is like a cross between Pop’s cereal and Corn Nuts.  Initially, it’s mildly cheesy with a stronger cheese after taste.

Nutrition notes:  One serving (9-10 pieces) is roughly the same as eating 1 part-skim string cheese (100 calories, 7 g fat, 4 grams saturated fat). Buyer beware…each bag is 3 servings so, if you eat the entire bag, you get 3 times the calories and fat.  That’s pretty high for a snack.  But, if you stick to 1 serving, it’s an OK choice.

Moon Cheese Cheddar

Ingredients: Cheddar cheese [pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, annatto (vegetable color)]

Taste/Texture: Very crunchy and dense, the texture is like a cross between Pop’s cereal and Corn Nuts.  Very strong cheddar cheese flavor and even stronger after taste.

Nutrition notes: One serving (9-10 pieces) is roughly the same as eating 1 part-skim string cheese (100 calories, 7 g fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat). Buyer beware…each bag is 3 servings so, if you eat the entire bag, you get 3 times the calories and fat.  That’s pretty high for a snack. But, if you stick to 1 serving, it’s an OK choice.

Hippeas Far Out Fajita Organic Chickpea Puffs

Ingredients: Organic chickpea flour, organic rice flour, organic sunflower oil, organic tapioca starch, organic seasoning [salt, garlic powder, chili powder (spices, salt, garlic), sugar, dextrose, onion powder, spice, citric acid, paprika extract (color), yeast extract], organic pea hull fiber

Taste/Texture: Crunchy like Cheetos but bigger like a cheese puff.  Strong “spice” flavor and salty, a cross between BBQ and Mexican flavors.

Nutrition notes: 130 calories, 5 grams of fat and 0 grams of saturated fat.  You get 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and only 150 mg of sodium…great for a grab-and-go snack.

Rhythm Superfoods Roasted Kale, Sea Salt

Ingredients: Lacinato Kale, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Sea Salt, Vitamin E

Taste/Texture: Light, airy texture, mild crunch initially but then gets chewy.  Salty, earthy and bitter.  Looks like dried leaves and tastes like kale.

Nutrition notes:  The entire package is 100 calories, 9 grams of fat and 0 g saturated fat.  It’s another 2-servings-per-package snack so you have to double what’s on the label.  Sodium is high (500 mg) for a 100 calories snack but otherwise, it’s fine.  You get large dose of vitamin K, some calcium and iron because it’s a bunch of kale.

Rhythm Superfoods Naked Beet Chips

Ingredients: Beets

Taste/Texture: Earthy, bitter, and beet-y, particularly in the aftertaste.  Tastes like it’s freeze dried but it’s hard, thick and crunchy like a vegetable chip.

Nutrition notes: 100 calories, 0 g of fat and 5 grams of fiber.  Hard to beat (ha) a single ingredient packaged snack.

Hippeas Vegan White Cheddar Organic Chickpea Puffs

Ingredients: Organic chickpea flour, organic rice flour, organic sunflower oil, organic tapioca starch, organic seasoning [degermed corn flour, salt, sugar, onion powder, citric acid, garlic powder, lactic acid, canola oil, natural flavor], organic pea hull fiber

Taste/Texture: Crunchy like Cheetos but shaped bigger like a cheese puff.  Not a ton of flavor and was a bit chalky and bitter.

Nutrition notes: 130 calories, 5 grams of fat and 0 grams of saturated fat.  You get 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and only 135 mg of sodium…great for a grab-and-go snack.

Starbucks is constantly shuffling their snack selections so these may not be EXACTLY what’s in your store.  Feel free to let me know if you’ve found a salty, crunchy snack at Starbucks that you love.  I’d love to hear from you.  Stay tuned for Part 2: Fruit snacks, nuts and more!

Also, if you’ve tried and like any of the snacks above, you can purchase them in multi-packs or larger bags on Amazon by clicking the product names above.

 

Cooking Tool Thursday: Spatulas

I LOVE my spatulas.  I use them almost everyday, whether I’m scrambling eggs, baking a cake, or scraping the last scoop from the peanut butter jar.  Silicone spatulas are a definite must-have kitchen tool.  And, having worked at a cooking store and in a commercial kitchen, I’ve tried many different brands, shapes and sizes.  Ultimately, these 2 spatulas (see above) are my favorite and will always hold a special place in my heart and utensil canister.

THIS Wilton Silicon Spatula is the BEST.  I absolutely love it because it’s super sturdy yet flexible and even more so, because it’s all one piece (as opposed to those that have a wooden or metal handle and silicone head attached, which tend to accumulate gunk in their hard-to-reach places and eventually fall apart).  It helps scrape a bowl like a champ and folds batter like nobody’s business.  Also, it’s heat safe up 400 degrees so it’s ideal for scrambling eggs, mixing a sauce or sautéing anything in a non-stick skillet.  You need one.  Get it on Amazon HERE.

Sometimes, a standard size spatula just won’t do.  That’s where my second favorite, THIS Tovolo Scoop and Spread spatula comes in.  It is made of nylon and is not necessarily useful for cooking hot foods BUT it’s exceptionally useful for scraping sides of small spaces like the inside of my Nutribullet and/or an almost-empty jar, or to mix color into or spread a small batch of frosting.  Plus, one side is flexible (for scooping) and one side is more rigid (for spreading) so it’s multi-purposeful (is that even a word?.?) and can be used for 2 different things at the same time.  You also need this one.  You can get it on Amazon HERE.

 

Cooking Tip Tuesday: Secrets to perfect pasta


Young. Old. Single. Married.  We’re a population who loves our pasta.  And while boiling pasta is an easy task, it’s not void of controversy.  Here are a couple pasta water add-ins and a post-cooking procedure that spark some uncertainty:

Salt.  Should you salt your pasta water?  The answer is YES.  Why?  It seasons your noodles from the inside out.  How much?  At least a couple tablespoons but don’t be shy.  Don’t worry too much about the salt that gets absorbed into the pasta (unless, of course, you are under doctor’s orders).  Most of it gets tossed with the water and if you start with seasoned pasta, you’re likely to need less salt in your finished dish.

Oil. Should you add oil to your pasta water?  The answer is NO.  Think about what happens when you put oil in water.  They repel each other, right?  So if you think about adding oil to water, logically, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  The oil ends up congregating at the top of the water, serving no purpose except to lube up your pasta on the way out.  Which, in the end, actually inhibits the noodles from absorbing the sauce.

Worried your noodles will stick to each other?  I don’t blame you. It’s the worst when you get a clump of hard noodles mixed in with the rest of your silky beautiful bunch.  The best way to avoid this is to stir your pasta within the first minute or 2 of cooking.

The last controversy arises once your pasta is cooked…

Rinsing. Should you, could you, rinse your noodles?  You should not, could not, rinse your noodles.  I mean…NO. If you rinse your noodles, you rinse the delightful flavor you just worked so hard to get.  Not to mention you cool down the pasta, eliminating that hot-from-the-pot window, which is the prime time for pasta sauce absorption. PLUS, you rinse away the starch on the surface of your noodles, which is useful in thickening your sauce. 

In short,

  1. Salt your water
  2. Don’t add oil to your pasta water
  3. Don’t rinse your cooked pasta.

The End.

 

 

Sundays with Samantha: Coconut & Almond Bars

These amazingly delicious bars are a cross between a granola bar and dessert.  I wanted to create a kid-friendly snack or mid-afternoon treat as an alternative to packaged granola bars or cookies.  These bars would be great as a pre-sports-practice-snack, play date treat or dessert with friends.  They’re loaded with good-for-you ingredients like oats, nuts, and dried fruit and because no treat is complete without chocolate, I added some cocoa powder to give it a chocolatey kick. They’re sweetened with raw honey (and dates) instead of sugar or corn syrup, which keeps them almost completely unprocessed.

Try them out and let me know what you think!  I think you’ll love them as much as we do ;).

Almond & Coconut Oat Bars

Makes about 16

Ingredients:

2 cups old-fashioned oats (not quick-cooking)

¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup sliced almonds

1/3 cup raw honey

1/3 cup almond butter

1 tablespoon unsalted butter (plus a smidge for greasing baking pan)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

20 dried pitted dates

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease an 8” x 12” baking dish.

Combine oats, coconut and almonds on a sheet pan.  Mix.  Roast for 8-10 minutes, tossing halfway through.  Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, put honey, almond butter, butter, coconut oil, salt, and vanilla extract in a small sauce pot over medium-low heat.  When butter melts, mix and simmer an additional 30 seconds.  Remove from heat and pour into the large bowl with the oat mixture.

In a small blender or food processor (I use my Nutribullet), add the dates and cocoa powder.  Process until dates form a cohesive sticky ball.  Add the dates to the large bowl.

With a spatula, mix everything together.  Firmly press the dates into the mixture so they become evenly distributed and final mixture is sticky.  Transfer to prepared baking dish, gently pressing into an even layer.

Freeze for 30 minutes.  Slice and serve.  Store remaining bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Serving size: (1 bar)  Calories: 290  Total Fat: 13 g  Saturated Fat: 5 g  Cholesterol: 2 mg  Sodium: 40 mg  Carbohydrates: 45 g  Dietary Fiber: 6 g  Sugars: 31 g  Added Sugar: 6 g  Protein: 5 g

Note: If you are feeling extra generous, drizzle them with dark chocolate.  Uh huh. It’s good.

Favorite Recipe Friday: 5 EASY bread and cheese appetizers

 

From left to right: Ricotta & Fig, Brie & Peach, Sundried Tomato & Shaved Parmesan, Fig Cream Cheese & Prosciutto, Herbed Goat Cheese & Roasted Red Pepper

 

Fresh bread and good cheese are a match made in heaven.  Add a bit of fruit, a sprinkle of salt, fresh pepper and herbs and everyone’s tastebuds are in for a serious treat.

 

These 5 bread and cheese apps are incredibly simple and perfect for your summer BBQ’s, bunco nights, wine parties, office potlucks…you-name-it.   The ingredients are easy to find and once put together, they are sure to impress even your foodie-est of friends.

Here’s the How To:

  1. Slice your favorite fresh baguette (whole grain, seeded, french, sourdough, etc.) into 3/4 inch pieces (my 20″ baguette yielded 32 slices).
  2. Toast bread: Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.  Place slices on a sheet pan, spray with a little olive oil (or use a silicon brush to lightly brush each piece with olive oil). Toast for 5 minutes, remove from oven and let cool.
  3. Pick the combo(s) that tickles your fancy and continue on with your toppings:

Ricotta & Fig

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese

7 fresh figs, thinly sliced

1/3 cup honey

Kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Divide ricotta evenly among bread slices. Top each with 3 slices of fig, a drizzle of honey, a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste.

Brie & Peach

5 ounces (1 cup) brie cheese

2 small peaches, thinly sliced

Kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh thyme (for garnish)

Directions: Spread brie evenly among bread slices (roughly 1 1/2 teaspoons each). Top each with 2 slices of peach, a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste.  Garnish with thyme.

Sundried Tomato & Shaved Parmesan

1 (8.5 ounce) jar sliced sundried tomatoes in oil, drained, 2 tablespoons of oil reserved

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 cup tomato paste

Freshly shaved parmesan*

Kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh chopped basil (for garnish)

Drizzle olive oil (optional)

Directions: In a medium bowl, combine drained tomatoes, a tablespoon or 2 of the reserved oil, garlic, and tomato paste.  Stir to combine.  Divide mixture evenly among bread slices.  Top each slice with a few shavings of parmesan, a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with basil and drizzle with olive oil, if using.

*Use a vegetable peeler to thinly shave fresh parmesan.

Fig Cream Cheese & Proscuitto

8 ounces whipped cream cheese

2 tablespoons fig spread*

4 ounces (8 thin) sliced proscuitto, cut into quarters

Fresh chives or basil

Directions:  In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and fig spread.  Mix.  Evenly distribute spread among bread slices. Top each slice with 1/4 piece of proscuitto, a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with chives (or basil).

*Fig spread is typically found in the deli section, with the gourmet cheeses.  Trader Joe’s has a “Fig Butter”, which would probably work too.

Herbed Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper

8 ounces goat cheese with herbs

1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, sliced

Kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh thyme (for garnish)

Directions: Divide goat cheese evenly among bread slices. Top each with a few slices of red pepper, a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste.  Garnish with thyme.

 

 

Wild Card Wednesday: We got a new Bentgo!!


Dueling bentos! We love Samantha’s “Bentgo” box so much I got one in blue for Jack. He used it for the first time today and was stoked to have such a selection. Click HERE for my previous post on EASY, HEALTHY, bento box ideas and find out where YOU can get these adorable bentos.