Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Enjoy Life Baked Chewy Bars Review

I'm a snacker. It's a condition I've lived with it for a long time. Most notably in high school, I would get so hungry between my 6:45 breakfast and 12:20pm lunch period that I would have to keep granola bars stashed in my bag and sneak them between classes. Of course, we were not "supposed" to have food outside lunch, but then again, I often broke those rules.

So regardless to say when Enjoy Life sent me their new and improved baked chewy bars, I was very excited. I'm a big fan of Enjoy Life and I have been happy to see their products pop up in stores more and more since I first tried them. They sent me these bars last month, but I waited to post my review as I wanted to give these bars photos worth their goodness. 

It is important to note what makes Enjoy Life’s products so special. Not only are all of their products gluten-free and vegan, they are also free of the 8 most common allergens such as nuts, soy, dairy, fish, and even casein (an allergen found in dairy products and most “vegan” dairy alternatives that also cause issues.) They are also all natural, nothing artificial, GMO-free, Pareve, etc. everything good. Basically these babies are good for anyone on your list from your gluten-free sister to your kid’s school birthday parties.

I've tried several of Enjoy Life's many products before including their Plentils Lentil Chips, chocolate chips, and granola. So far, these backed chewy bars are my favorite.

They sent me four flavors:
Caramel Apple
Cocoa Loco
Mixed Berry
SunButter Crunch

Sporting the line, "now featuring ancient grains," it was hard to pick a favorite. Surprisingly I think I'd have to go with Mixed Berry. I actually thought this would be my least favorite due to past experiences with the flavor and overly sweet strawberry bars. I mean, the other ones were up there. But the Mixed Berry bar itself was my favorite. It tasted like fresh sugar cookies, and the bites of chewy red fruit was just icing on the proverbial cake.

The taste of the Caramel Apple bars reminded me so much of the classic Nutri-Grain variety, but I like that the apple flavor went throughout the “cake” of the bar instead of just jelly shoved inside. It was also the moistest of the varieties and you could really taste those "ancient grains," meaning quinoa, amaranth, and millet which are all in there. The only thing I would say is I didn't get the "caramel" they were boasting, but rather a flavor reminiscent of apple cinnamon than caramel apple.

Cocoa Loco with a bite taken out of it...
The SunButter Crunch was really good. Made from sunflower seeds it is supposed to be a nod to the classic peanut butter that so many allergy suffers cannot enjoy. While the flavor is definitely not as nutty as peanut butter, it was such a satisfying, and lightly sweet bar.

Surprisingly, the Cocoa Loco bar was my least favorite. And not due to lack of flavor. The chocolate flavor is as decadent as a store bought brownie, especially with their “melty” vegan chocolate chunks tucked inside. What turned me off from this bar was the texture. With a lot of gluten-free products, the after taste can lend towards the grainy side, like after drinking a smoothie with whey powder in it. With that said, I didn't dislike the bar. It was quite tasty. But compared to the other bars, the texture was so different. It did include the "ancient grains" tag-line of the other bars, but I am always impressed with richness of Enjoy Life's chocolate products without the dairy.

I loved the "oaty" texture of the other bars, the visible quinoa flakes, and the subtle crunch. It made me feel healthy while still enjoying a treat.

Another thing is, these bars are small. Weighing in at about an ounce they are much small than the more commercial brands. But, again this isn't necessarily a bad quality. The bars ranger from 110-120 calories each with the Cocoa Loco and Sunbutter Crunch on the high end. This is more for portion control than skimpiness. So these are definitely a filling snack or addition to your packed lunch. You definitely won't feel jipped once you finish a bar. You just have to get used to the weight and not try hard not to eat it all in one bite…

I’ve seen Enjoy Life’s baked chewy bars at a few stores now and as always, you can purchase them online.

Overall, I would definitely buy these bars for myself, gluten-free or not. And that’s what I like most about their products—they are for everyone, not just the allergy sufferers. They fit easily in even a small bag, and are perfect for snaking between meals or a chocolate indulgence at night. And hey, I’m serious about those birthday parties, but I don’t think these are quite the thing to pass as homemade at the next bake-sale.

Disclaimer: Enjoy Life did not pay nor endorse me for a positive review. I did receive samples of their product for purpose of review.

Happy New Year to all!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Edamame and Corn Dumplings

My work is never done. After a Thanksgivukkah recipe hangover and starting a new job at the county library here in Texas, I’ve had a busy December. Before we ring out the new year I thought I’d share my new favorite recipe.

Asian edamame and corn dumplings. Yep.

If you still need a recipe for Christmas Eve or maybe a New Year’s party, these are definitely a crowd-pleaser. The below substitutions are also great if you have guests with special dietary restrictions. If you know a Gluten-free vegan who is also allergic to soy and corn, you can substitute the corn for delightfully crunchy canned water chestnuts and just omit the soy sauce, simply using salt or even ketchup for the tang.

Aaron’s new favorite meal is Asian lettuce wraps, first made with ground turkey and later beef for him and tofu for me. As good as the lettuce wraps are, you need something else to feel hungry. That’s where the dumplings come in.

I found those pre-made won-ton wrappers at the Commissary, which I have used before but haven’t been as creative as I could be. These dumplings were perfect. I also recommend there eggroll wrappers.

I love edamame and with all the fabulous Asian flavors in the dumplings, these babies don’t even need dipping sauce. Frozen corn added a little sweetness and the cream cheese held it all together. If you are a strict vegetarian or vegan, you can easily omit the cream cheese and fish sauce to make this recipe. The mixture will be a bit more crumbly though, so just be aware when assembling your dumplings.

Though previously stated these babies do not need a dipping sauce, they would be lovely with hoisin or terayaki.

Asian Edamame and Corn Dumplings
Makes about 16-18 dumplings

1 cup shelled edamame
1/4 cup corn kernels
1-2 scallions chopped
1 " ginger root, minced
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce
½ tsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar
Garlic powder
3 oz. cream cheese
Dash of chili powder
Pinch of Red pepper flakes
Black pepper
Dash of Sriracha
16-18 wonton wrappers

Vegan or vegetarian recipe: omit fish sauce and cream cheese, add additional soy sauce if needed.

Gluten-free? Try this great recipe for homemade GF wonton wrappers and use GF soy sauce instead.

Microwave edamame and corn in separate bowls according to package instructions.
Allow corn and edamame to slightly cool, then transfer to food processer or blender.

Blend until edamame is slightly chunky, but well mashed.

In a small bowl or cup microwave cream cheese for 10 seconds until soft, not melted. Add cream cheese and remaining ingredients to the food processor except wonton wrappers, cooking oil and water. Blend until mixture is creamy and mixed well. The edamame should still be noticeably chunky.

Lay wonton wrappers out on a clean, dry cutting board or plate, working in batches if necessary. On each square wrapper, scoop about ½ tbsp. of mixture onto the enter of each wrapper, making sure it doesn’t spill over to the sides.

With a small pastry brush or paper towel, gently brush the edges of the wrapper with small amount warm water.  Immediately fold wrapper over making a triangle and pinching closed with your fingers.

In a large flat frying pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Once hot, add 4-5 dumplings at a time and fry on each side for 1-2 minutes until golden brown. Once all dumplings in the pan are crispy, pour ¼ cup of water into the pan and immediately cover for 1-3 minutes until water is evaporated and dumplings are soft and cooked.

Remove dumplings from the pan and cover to stay warm while cooking remaining dumplings in the same fashion. Serve while still warm with or without sauce.


The Cuisiner