Category: product reviews

McDonald’s Oatmeal

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I really love my oats. My idea of a perfect morning includes a warm bowl of stove top oats, eaten while sitting in my pajamas and watching the Today show. But that’s not realistic these days!

A few weeks ago, I did a review of Starbucks oatmeal, which I thought was pretty good. It’s a convenient option for mornings when I am not prepared and need to eat breakfast on the go. Blog reader Nanc sent me a coupon to try the oatmeal at McDonald’s, so that I could compare (and get a free breakfast in the process!)

So I stepped into McDonald’s recently and asked for the oats, without brown sugar please. The staff seemed confused; initially they thought they were out of the oats, and then someone found them. I guess customers don’t order the oats very often? But soon after I was given a bowl filled with hot oats topped with apples and dried fruit.

While the Starbucks oats might be considered a little dry, the McDonald’s version might be considered a little too soupy. Without brown sugar, it wasn’t very sweet of course, but the apples and dried fruit did lend a slightly sweet flavor and a nice texture. Overall, I enjoyed it and would order it again if I found myself in a McDonald’s. And the oatmeal is available all day, not just at breakfast, so it could be an option while traveling. The nutrition label is right on the container, although the calculation includes the brown sugar which can be omitted as I requested.

This oatmeal was heavily criticized by Mark Bittman for having several artificial ingredients, and a unnecessarily high calorie count due to the addition of cream and added sugar. He also makes the point that it is much cheaper and healthier to make a bowl of oats at home, but you probably already knew that! This article offers a rebuttal to Bittman’s arguments. While the oats may have a calorie count similar to an Egg McMuffin, they have less fat and saturated fat. And even if there are artificial ingredients, the oats do contain whole grains with fiber.

I’d like to add another point. While oats are a familiar food for me, that may not be the case for many McDonald’s customers. Maybe some people will be introduced to oats via the fast food version, and then be more likely to try them in other settings. Maybe some people will like the oatmeal so much that they purchase oats at the grocery store to cook at home. While I still have many concerns about fast food, the frequency at which it is consumed, and the portion sizes which are sold, the McDonald’s oatmeal may not be all bad.

Feel free to weigh in with a comment!

Tostitos Artisan Chips

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I was sent two complimentary bags of Tostitos Artisan chips. As luck would have it, I was hosting my book club the following night, and they were happy to help me give these a try. To accompany the chips, I threw together a quick dip of black beans, avocado, lemon juice, cumin, and chili powder. Let’s talk about taste first. The first thing that came to mind was “Doritos for Grownups”. (To be fair, a book club member pointed out that we are not too old to eat actual Doritos. I just hate having orange fingers.) But I think the black bean and garlic seasoning powder made the chips seem more artificial. The texture though was good and crunchy, and the leftover chips held up well for a few days.

The artisan chips boast natural ingredients and nine whole grains. While there are several different whole grains in these chips, they are still not a health food. I appreciate the fact that Tostidos is trying to improve the quality of the ingredients used and the overall nutritional value, but these are still a snack type food, not something you’d eat on a daily basis to get your whole grains. The group overall liked the chips, but weren’t ready to run out and buy a bag, unless there was an occasion or they were on sale. Oh, and by the way, we discussed ‘For the Thrill of It’ by Simon Baatz, an interesting book. Thanks to Tostidos for letting us try these out!

Lemon Plum

It’s been a while since I’ve tried any new fruits or vegetables, and I am sure there’s a lot that I haven’t tasted. I was at Russo’s Market and spotted this lemon plum. It’s not a local fruit of course, but comes from Chile. It is the size of an average plum, with yellow flesh. It tastes similar to a plum, perhaps just a little more tart. But this lemon plum was a nice treat, and makes me look forward to fresh fruit in the season ahead!

Buitoni Wild Mushroom Agnolotti

I admit that I’ve had this coupon for a free package of Buitoni pasta for a long time. I am not sure why I waited. I love pasta, and this version from Buitoni is stuffed with a mixture of Portobello and cremini mushrooms, garlic, and two types of cheese. I boiled the pasta for just five minutes, and tossed it with some grated Parmesan. It was a quick and elegant dinner.

Fresh pasta is always nice, but it’s the filling that really makes this pasta great. It has a rich mushroom flavor which you don’t want to cover up with tomato sauce. In fact, you’ll want to savor each bite! The pasta is a bit expensive without a coupon, but perhaps I could figure out how to whip up a similar filling on my own. Thanks to Buitoni for a great dinner and the inspiration to try my hand at mushroom pasta.

I was provided this product with a coupon from the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program. I was not compensated in any other manner to write this product review.

Garlic Gold

One of the gifts in the bag you saw on Monday was a bottle of Garlic Gold oil. I’ve been wanting to try this stuff ever since I heard about it over on KERF. It’s an organic garlic infused oil, which promises a subtle garlic flavor.

I used it to dress a simple salad of Romaine, with croutons and Parmesan cheese. This oil really is that good – it’s flavorful, without a strong garlic aftertaste. I am glad I have a bottle in my cabinet, and I actually think my salad consumption is going to rise in December!

Dorset Cereal

It’s true that many companies send samples to food bloggers hoping for a product review. But sometimes we get free stuff by being in the right place at the right time. I was at Whole Foods recently, and was handed a sample box of Dorset cereal. I had never heard of that brand, but I tossed it in my cart and went on my merry way. When I got home, I realized that the list of ingredients is very impressive!

This week, I tore open the box and decided to give it a try. I poured some skim milk over the top and dug in. Wow – this stuff is good! I love the crunchiness and variety, and it was naturally just sweet enough.
This cereal is nutritious but calorie dense, so I might be more inclined to use it as a topping for a bowl of yogurt rather than a breakfast cereal. And while I do like making my own granola, this is a good option for convenience. Thanks to Dorset for the sample, and I might pick up a box soon.

Uncle Sam’s Cereal

I won my very first blog giveaway on Don’t (White) Sugar Coat It, and was given a coupon for a free box of Uncle Sam’s cereal. It was quite an exciting moment!

Now I’ll be honest, I don’t eat a lot of cold cereal these days. Not because I don’t like it, but because I have a hard time just eating one bowl. If there’s a little milk leftover, I’ll add some cereal. And if there’s a little cereal at the bottom, I’ll add some milk. And thus I end up eating more than I need. It’s a vicious cycle. Plus, sometimes when I eat cereal I am hungry again just a couple of hours later.

But I was still very happy to try a new cereal, especially one that features whole grains and flax seed, offering plenty of carbohydrate, fiber, and some healthy fat. I poured my first bowl, and loved the crunch. The texture was great, but the flavor was just a little too plain. So the next time I tried it, I tossed in a few raisins. That pushed this cereal from good to great, and I wasn’t hungry again until lunchtime. If you are looking for a new cold cereal, this is a great choice.

Thanks to both Elizabeth and attune for giving me the chance to try it out!

Gerbs Pumpkin Seeds

I never expected to find my next product review at the Newport Irish Festival last weekend, but Gerbs Pumpkin Seeds was there offering free samples. We tried the kernels, both the ‘touch of salt’ variety and the ‘onion and garlic’ flavor. They were good! So we went back for the whole roasted seeds (not pictured), and they were good too!

Before you could sing “Whiskey in a Jar”, I purchased three varieties of pumpkin seeds to split with my family (the same people who spent hours chopping tomatoes!) The taste alone is enough to make me want to buy and eat them, but there are other benefits. First, they are a local (RI) company and are committed to environmentally friendly processing. They use no artificial ingredients; the ones that are salted contain only pumpkin seeds and salt. And pumpkin seeds themselves are quite nutritious as a source of protein, healthy fat, fiber, and several minerals.

So far, I’ve eaten them straight up as a snack, and tossed a few on salad. I am partial to the whole roasted seeds as they provide you with more to chew. My sister emailed me this week to report they were a good complement to her apple. If you’re looking for a new snack, I highly recommend you give these a try.

Bertolli Arrabbiata Red Pasta Sauce

I am going to talk about three different tomato sauces this week, and the first is a very late product review of Bertolli’s Arrabbiata Sauce, flavored with red peppers. The reason this jar stuck around so long was because I am not really a fan of red peppers. So I had to wait until I could serve this pasta sauce to other people so it would get a fair review.

I tossed the sauce with whole wheat penne to keep this dish simple. I did sneak a taste myself, and I liked it more than I expected. The red pepper flavor wasn’t dominant; there was just a hint of spice. In fact, one taste tester thought the pasta sauce almost tasted sweet. Most people enjoyed their dish of pasta, but said they wouldn’t purchase this sauce. Sauce from a jar isn’t really popular in my crowd anyway. But I understand the appeal of the jar for a quick and easy dinner. Thanks to Bertolli for letting us try this one!

This sauce was provided to me as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program. I was not compensated in any other manner for the product review.

Homemade Crackers, Bandit Wine, and the Beach

This post includes a recipe, a product review, and a picnic at the beach. It was an action packed day!

The Crackers

You might ask the question – why make homemade crackers? When I told people about this project, just about everyone gave me a funny look. I like store-bought crackers as much as the next person, but even the healthiest options have some less than desirable ingredients. Plus, they can be rather expensive, while these crackers cost very little to make. And there’s a certain satisfaction in enjoying food you’ve made yourself. At the very least, you might file this recipe away for a day (VERY far away) when you’re snowed in without any crackers in the house, and need something crunchy for happy hour!

My Mom spotted this recipe from Smitten Kitchen which requires only a few ingredients, and purchased the spelt flour from the bulk bin of a natural foods store. I don’t think the type of flour you use is important – the key here is the toppings. We used sea salt (not pictured) and sesame seeds.

Rolling out the dough is a little tricky. My Mom is more adept with a rolling pin, so she was elected for this task. We could almost hear my grandmother saying “patience, patience” as it took several minutes of rolling to get the dough thin enough to cover the cookie sheet. But finally, the crackers were ready to go in the oven.

The final result? They were definitely crunchy, but tasted very plain. You really have to go all out on the toppings, and next time we’ll use some dried herbs as well. The basic concept gets high marks, we just need to execute it a bit differently.

The Product Review

My sister purchased this Bandit wine before the summer even started, but somehow did not get around to drinking it. I am pretty sure she picked it up for the convenience; the carton makes it easy to toss in your bag and go, but the packaging is also environmentally friendly. And most importantly, the wine was good. I can’t claim to be a wine expert, but if you’re looking for an easy way to enjoy wine in the great outdoors, this is a great option. (Don’t worry – I’ll replace the carton I stole!)

The Beach

The crackers and wine were put to good use for happy hour at the beach. It is so quiet there in the early evening; you can just sit back and relax and watch the waves roll in.