Chocolate Peanut Butter is a standard flavor among protein bars, and with good reason. The combination of a chocolate coating with a peanut butter filling is a classic combination from the candy world, and works well most of the time in protein bar format. Combat Crunch’s solution is no different. There is a bit of the protein bar excessive chewiness, but this is offset by a softer coating and a crunchy topping. No one is going to be fooled into thinking that they are eating a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup: this is far less sweet and the peanut flavor could stand to be a bit stronger. It’s not Combat Crunch’s best flavor, nor is it the worst. It’s a middle of the road standby that is reliable. Like all Combat Crunch bars, it is substantial and filling, despite having a similar nutritional profile to smaller bars.
Many nutrition bars have silly names, but “Grenade Carb Killa” certainly is in contention for the most ridiculous. The bar itself is also somewhat unusual. Lacking the taffy-like texture of most high protein bars, Grenade is soft and considerably less sweet than its competitors. The flavor is quite mild, perhaps excessively so. The chocolate cream flavor has a layer of soft white filling reminiscent of a very mild cream cheese. This gives the entire bar a cheesecake-like impression.
I give the bar credit for being different than many others. Of the bars I have sampled, it is closest to the Pure Protein line, but the sweetness is more muted. Unfortunately, so is the flavor. It’s benign, but ultimately not worth a repurchase.
This may not be a fair review, but this highlights the risks in potentially low-turnover “limited edition” bars. I purchased two of these bars, and both were by far the worst I have tasted. They were dry, chalky, hard and essentially inedible. Maybe I got a bad batch, but both bars tasted the same. I had to throw them out after two bites. Steer clear.
These Premier Protein bars have a considerably higher sugar content than many of the competition, and this is reflected in the sweetness. I have yet to be disappointed by any of the flavors, and the Peanut Butter Caramel is no exception. Many protein bar flavors are mimicked by other companies, which can lead to some monotony in the choices available. However, Peanut Butter Caramel is not one of them. It is one of the few flavors to offer an interesting combination that does not include chocolate. If you are not a fan of sweet bars, however, you may want to steer clear of this line.
The bars themselves have a bit of a crisp texture along with a soft caramel layer. The taste is very much like that of a traditional candy bar, with only a slight chemical aftertaste.
The Pure Protein bars are dense and compact, considerably smaller than other brands. This version, like most of the others, are soft and easy to chew. The texture is similar to a Three Musketeers bar, and the popular combination of a chocolate coating with a peanut butter filling is well done. They are not excessive sweet, nor do they have a particularly dominating flavor profile. The main drawback is the texture is relatively unexciting, and at times they can have a mild chemical aftertaste. They can also seem a bit unsatisfying given the small size, even when compared with other bars with a similar calorie profile. I would not go out of my way to buy these, but they are reasonable.
One consideration is that they eschew the trend of including massive amounts of fiber. If you are…sensitive to this issue, it’s worth a consideration.
Everyone in my family had one, except me. Even my two year old daughter. Somehow, despite being the tech enthusiast in our home, I somehow became the only member of my family who didn’t have an iPad. After my prior iPad was handed down in anticipation of an upgrade that never materialized, I was left squinting at my iPhone while the others peered at me (mockingly, I’m sure) over their relatively large screens.
After a year-long hiatus, I’m back. When the first rumors of the 9.7″ iPad Pro emerged, I knew this would be the device that would return me to the fold. Little did I realize how different and improved an experience it would be. The simple addition of the keyboard cover and various new functions of iOS 9 transform this device into something is nearly as capable (and in some ways superior) to my laptop, but far more comfortable to carry around and use. I sit here typing at what seems to be quite close to full speed on the surprisingly good keyboard cover. It’s a bit louder than I expected, but perfectly comfortable to type on. The advantage of the keyboard cover is not only the speed of typing, but the fact that there is no software keyboard covering half the screen. The biggest surprise to me is how comfortable and stable the setup is on my lap.
iOS 9 has added many keyboard shortcuts, and holding the command key quickly reminds me of what they are. A quick swipe in from the right lets me multitask. This has been particularly useful for adding the Notes app to whatever I am working on, or for loading a miniturized version of 1Password for quickly password entry. The screen is superb, and the speedy processor makes the overall experience quite snappy. iOS could still benefit from additional keyboard shortcuts and other productivity enhancements, but it has take huge leaps from prior iterations, and I’m sure will continue to do so. I have a full-sized MacBook Pro, but there’s a efficiency and focus that comes with working on an iPad that feels more like, well, the future.
Falafel are great to make at home, because they are at their best when fresh and crispy. If I am going to make falafel, I might as well make hummus as well. It’s easy to make, lasts reasonably well, and rounds out a Middle Eastern meal. Homemade hummus is far better than store-bought, but until recently I relied on supermarket tahini. After a little research, I discovered that tahini is shockingly simple to make at home. The appeal of making a small batch just as needed instead of having a jar sit for months in my refrigerator prompted me to give it a try.
Tahini is essentially just sesame seeds that have been ground into a paste. All you need is sesame seeds and something that can grind them up. A food processor will likely do a good job, though I have found my mini model doesn’t do as good a job as my full-sized machine (which defeats the purpose, since my goal is to make a small batch. I recently picked up a Vitamix blender, and this seems tailor-made for the task. I toasted the sesame seeds in a skillet on medium heat for about 5 minutes (until they became fragagrent), stirring frequently. Once cooled, I put them in the Vitamix and quickly cranked up the speed to maximum. Because I was using only 300 g of sesame seeds in a 64-ounce container, I did need to stop and scrape down the sides frequently to ensure contact with the blades; a 32-ounce container might be a better choice for small amounts. Some recipies advocate adding oil, but I have found it unnecessary as long as you grind long enough to release the oil within the seeds.
After my disappointment with Combat Crunch’s Birthday Cake bar, I was unsure of what to expect from its companion Chocolate Cake flavor (also a “limited edition”). My concerns were misplaced. This is a far superior product. Instead of the pasty texture of Birthday Cake, Chocolate Cake has the chewy-crispy combination that is more typical of other Combat Crunch bars.
If fact, on first taste the flavor may come across as indistinguishable from other chocolate-based bars, but on subsequent tastes, the deep chocolate essence comes through. Unlike Birthday Cake, Chocolate Cake really does taste like its namesake, though admittedly a protein bar version with a texture that is not at all cake-like. Still, it is an overall enjoyable snack.
Confession: while I portray myself as a foodie, I also have a soft spot for protein bars. Yes, they’re not the same as “real” food, but there’s something intriguing about the challenge of trying to make an appealing-tasting packaged food that tries to fit within some nutritional constraints. The common elements of these bars (especially in the context of recent trends) include high protein content, low carbohydrate content, and moderately high fiber. To accomplish this, they generally rely on some sort of artificial sweetener, typically stevia or sucralose, and sugar alcohols.
Some are terrible, but a surprising number are a decent-tasting snack that can be sweet without the feelings I usually associate with sugary foods. Maybe it’s all in my head. Regardless, given the number of different varieties I try, I figured I would systematically review them.
First up is Combat Crunch. This ridiculously-named bar is one of the better-tasting lines I have tried. They tend to run sweet, are generously sized, and have a mix of textures. While many high-protein bars can be tough and chewy, Combat Crunch combines a mildly chewy component with a sweet chocolate or white chocolate coating and a some crunchy elements (hence the name). Birthday Cake flavors have been the latest rage in the protein bar market, though it’s still considered a “limited edition” flavor for Combat Crunch. The size and general appearance is similar to other bars in this line, but the taste is quite different.
It doesn’t really taste much like birthday cake to me, or any cake. A better comparison might be sugar cookie dough or cake batter – there’s a bit of an unappealing raw flavor. There’s a bit of a crunch from the colored “sprinkles” on top of the bar, but the pasty texture and odd flavoring is a step down from the other flavors in this line. It is a tolerable, but not necessarily enjoyable bar. I prefer the texture to the more taffy-like Quest bars, but the flavor on this one is off. The worst of this line.
For the past several years, I’ve eschewed boneless, skinless chicken breasts (BSCB) for their moister, more flavorful, and probably less-health cousins: boneless, skinless chicken thighs (BSCT). Though some will surely critque the absence of flavor-supplying bones and skin, the reality is that even the….BS variety requires a fair amount of preparation. Though trimmed of the large sections of fat, BSCTs have hidden pockets of chicken fat that can result in an unpleasant surprise for eaters if not removed before cooking. I have become much faster and more effective at locating and excising the culprit yellow-white blobs with kitchen shears, but working with a pile of chicken at a countertop while your hungry family glowers at you from across the kitchen is not an enjoyable way to spend a weeknight.
BSCBs offer the promise of considerably less effort. They are essentially free of internal fat stores, and the small amounts of residual surface fat are typically rendered off during cooking. The problem: chicken breast can easily become dry and stringy during cooking. While brining can help to ameliorate the situation, it detracts from the original promise of reduced prep work and the resulting meet can be a bit waterlogged. Dry brining is superior, but takes more time and, thus, planning.
Inspired by this article, I decided to try a sous vide approach with BSCB and have been amazed by the results. One or two hours at 140 degrees F (60 degrees C) results in moist, tender chicken breast that can easily serve as the centerpiece of a main dinner dish with minimal flavoring and preparation. The basic approach involves a simple dusting of kosher salt and pepper (and any other flavors that are desired), sealing in a watertight bag (e.g. with a FoodSaver), and a bath in the water tank. Following the sous vide cooking (which apparently can continue for up to four hours without ill effects, though I have not testing the limits myself), I give the chicken a quick sear in a hot pan with a bit of oil and butter. A roast under a hot broiler works as well. As BSCB tend to be a bit more domed than BSCT, I have found that it helps to pound them in a plastic bag prior to cooking, so they lay more flat in the pan, giving a greater surface area for searing,
The sous vide approach is mind-bogglingly simple. While the flavor will never be identical to BSCT, the saved labor and healthier profile has led to a marked shift in my preferred cut of chicken.