Review: Combat Crunch Cookies and Cream bar

Cookies and Cream has become a mainstream protein bar flavor, and is usually a successful one. Who doesn’t like Oreos (other than, say, Donald Trump). I’ve posted before how Clmbat Crunch bars are generally one of the better ones on the market. Unfortunately, their Cookies and Cream flavor is not one of the better options. 

The flavor is reasonable, but the problem is the texture. While the trademark crispy top layer is still there, the interior is a bit too tough and chewy. The whole appeal of cookies and cream is the crunch of the cookie, which is wholly lacking here. It’s not a terrible bar, but the other Combat Crunch flavors (with a few exceptions, like Birthday Cake and Chocolate Brownie) are much better. 

Review: Fit Crunch Cookies and Cream

Like the Pure Protein bars, the Fit Crunch bars are small relative to their competition. In contrast, however, they have a more interesting layered construction with different texture. There’s a cookie-like layer, a soft filling layer, and a bit of chew. The bars are sweet and candy-like, but don’t have the artificial chemical sweetener aftertaste that many competitors have. As long as you don’t mind the sweetness and small size, these are one of the better tasting bars on the market.

Review: Mission1 Chocolate Brownie

I have mixed feelings about Mission1 bars. They are relatively balanced nutritionally, not excessively sweet, and have reasonably well-chose flavors. They can also come across as a bit bland and uninspired. The best of the bunch is the Cookies and Cream variety. While a bit on the dry and crumbly side, it avoids the tough and chewy texture that soils so many protein bars, including their own Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavor

Chocolate Brownie falls somewhere in between. Others have liked it to a large Tootsie Roll, which is a reasonable description. It is not quite as tough and chewy, but it’s a close call. The dense chocolate flavor is similar, and there is a textural homgeneity that is a bit boring. While the flavor is distinctly chocolate, there is nothing remotely brownie-like in the texture. Pass on this one. 

Review: Combat Crunch Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup

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.

Review: Grenade Carb Killa Chocolate Cream

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. 

Review: Combat Crunch Chocolate Brownie bar

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. 

Review: Premier Protein Fiber – Peanut Butter Caramel

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.

Review: Pure Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter bar

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.

My New Pad

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. 

Homemade Tahini

 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.