Food Find: Enjoy Life Foods’ Dark Chocolate Regular Size Morsels

I love what Colette Martin wrote about holiday baking – it is great to see everyone firing up their ovens but baking is a year round thing in our house.  Since you may be pondering holiday -focused baking right now, I thought this review could include a roundup of some chocolate baking ideas I’ve already featured on this blog.  If you are shopping for the allergy friendly baker in your life, I must suggest books by Colette Martin (amazon affiliate link), Cybele Pascal (amazon affiliate link), and Kelly Rudnicki (amazon affiliate link – thank you to my friend Alison for my copy!).  I met all three ladies at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference and they are just as gracious and amazing as I had hoped.  My friend Elyse snapped this picture of me with Cybele that I will always treasure:

Me (on the left) with Cybele Pascal (on the right)
Me (on the left) with Cybele Pascal (on the right)

I was able to taste Cybele’s chocolate chip cookies (amazon affiliate link) at the conference and they were great!  Very cool to see more shelf stable options for grab and go sorts of days.  As usual, I digress.

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Back to the main subject of this post – Enjoy Life Foods’ Dark Chocolate Regular Size Morsels (my free sample is pictured above between the mini chips and the mega chunks from our own stash) are just now rolling out!  I haven’t seen them on store shelves yet but I received a bag free from Enjoy Life to review and they are our new favorite.  They even have five less calories per serving compared to the mini chips (related to being a bit less sweet I am guessing).

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The posts below can feature any variety of Enjoy Life chocolate (substitute freely!).

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chunk Blondies

Holiday Shaped Chocolate (featuring Erewhon Cereal)

Chocolate Covered Chocolate Cupcakes

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Gingerbread Boys with Chocolate Buttons (or a Gingerbread House)

Chocolate Covered Strawberries and Chocolate Covered Sunbutter Balls

Allergy Friendly Thin Mints

All of the ideas featured here are top 8 allergen free.  As full disclosure, this is actually our first holiday season with new safe foods (read more about that here).  Happy baking!

Food Find: Enjoy Life Chewy Bars (Revisited)

This is about as late as I’ve ever gotten with a product review.  I took photos of the free Chewy Bars I received in the mail from Enjoy Life Foods for review purposes on October 8th and it is already November 14th.  The good news is that during that time the Cocoa Loco bars have made it to Las Vegas store shelves and they are the bee’s knees (modern definition of course).  Which will lead me to point out that there are no photos of said variety of bars.

Enjoy Life Chewy Bars
Exhibit A: The only bar that survived for photographic purposes.

We opened the Sunbutter Crunch bars first and they were just as good as they had been previously.  The Caramel Apple and Mixed (formerly “Very”) Berry varieties had improved (more consistent) texture and a more balanced taste.  The packaging for each bar now leaves less space around the bar but they are actually the same portion they’ve always been.  As a packaging and design nerd I really love all the details in the box redesign as well.

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I tasted the Cocoa Loco bars last because I was worried that the recent recipe change (which I first blogged about in an update to my original review of this line of bars) would alter my favorite flavor.  The newer version is richer and reminiscent of those Little Debbie chocolate brownies I used to eat as a child.  Delicious!

I was bemoaning on twitter that I couldn’t find all varieties locally to Joel Warady, Enjoy Life’s CMO the funniest thing was that when I got to meet him in person at this year’s Las Vegas FARE Walk one of the first things he asked me was whether I had found the Cocoa Loco bars on shelves.  That’s the level of detail you get with the folks at Enjoy Life.  I was humbled by their post about the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference as it captured much of what Jenny and I were setting out to do with encouraging personal connections with sponsors instead of a traditional expo format.  Joel also spoke to E and asked her what her about her allergies and told her that none of those things are in any of their products.  That they wouldn’t be in their products.  Oats are a tough one to avoid in the top 8 free arena so I’ve always appreciated that there are no oats in Enjoy Life products.

At any rate, to state what must be obvious, I love this company.  So many other families feel the same way because they are not afraid to keep changing and adapting both for continued product quality and innovation.  A dear friend of mine was able to take a few hours away from her family to come to the conference and I knew I had to introduce her to Joel.  We had a great chat (he even told us what Costco will be carrying from Enjoy Life soon!) and made sure he knew that Enjoy Life was a lifesaver to so many food allergic families.  I’m sure he’s heard that before but it is true.  We leave the allergist’s office with a diagnosis and turn to other sources to figure out what to do next.  We read labels and call companies.  Enjoy Life “gets it.”

Our options have broadened since E outgrew her wheat, soy, milk, and egg allergies but we still love Enjoy Life’s bars, cookies, chips (chocolate and lentil) and stock up often.  E and her friend K are able to share snacks on playdates because they can both have Enjoy Life treats – how neat it must be to make products that are impacting childhood memories in a positive way.

By way of a teaser, my next Enjoy Life review is going to be of their new dark chocolate morsels and we can’t wait to try them!  I have a few ideas for recipes that can incorporate a darker chocolate especially as holiday baking season approaches.

Food Find: Enjoy Life Decadent Bars

Enjoy Life Decadent Bars

It is always a happy occasion when a box bearing the Enjoy Life Foods sticker arrives at our door, though I did hesitate briefly when offered these bars to review (I was not compensated in any other way) because it had been hovering at 105 degrees Fahrenheit of late.  Vegas summers don’t kid around.  Luckily, putting the entire shipping box into the fridge the minute these arrived seemed to have protected these sweet treats.

In the interest of full disclosure, this was not my first taste of the new Enjoy Life Decadent Bars.  I ordered a Gluten Free Saver special a while back and though the kids adored them from the get-go, my husband and I were disappointed because of our own high expectations.

Speaking of our high expectations, I was at work the day the initial box arrived and my husband sent me this picture with the suggestion that I hurry home:

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…followed by this picture to assure me that our children “wouldn’t suspect a thing.”  It still cracks me up with the parenthetical:

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At any rate, my husband and I weren’t planning to buy Decadent Bars again because we still preferred Chewy Bars.  I think it is like when your favorite musical artist puts out an album that is good compared to other music in general but isn’t your favorite compared to their own previous work.  I know I feel disloyal when I don’t adore a song by Morrissey but sometimes it does happen.  I love Enjoy Life because they are not only top 8 allergen free but oat free which is a specific allergy my daughter has (her allergen list is currently: oat, peanut, tree nut, and sesame).

At any rate, though these aren’t the revelation Plentils were in our household, I’m so glad I gave these another chance as I now have some tips for getting the most out of the experience.  My husband and I agreed they were much better with the following caveats:

1) Don’t expect the flavors to match the names exactly – Chocolate Sunbutter is the most accurate of the four varieties, with Cherry Cobbler coming in second.  The Chocolate Sunbutter has a drizzle of chocolate and isn’t as sweet as the other flavors but in a very good way.  It lets the Sunbutter shine through.  The Cherry Cobbler seems to have other reviewers split about the strong fruity/tart flavor but it ended up being my favorite the fist time around because of the white glaze and the cherry notes offered something unique.  That said, the S’mores and Cinnamon Bun Decadent Bars weren’t what I expected.  Still a nice treat but they both had a strong date flavor that hides any intended marshmallow-esque (that’s a word, right?) or cinnamon ingredients.

2) Refrigerate the bars before enjoying – The first time I bit into the S’mores variety it was not what I expected but on the second go-around I found that the graham cracker texture comes through much better upon refrigeration.  This may not be a problem where you live but our house is always about 80 degrees.  The drizzles on the bars are more noticeable when they are refrigerated as well.  

3) Share with a friend (these are too sweet for adults to eat in one go) – When I initially heard the new line to follow the awesome Plentils from Enjoy Life involved more snack bars I wasn’t sure why.  We love the Chewy Bars so I worried the Decadent Bars meant the Chewy Bars may be phased out, however, once we ate these I realized they are very much a candy bar and therefore in a different market niche.  Colette Martin remarked in her own review of these bars that these fall in the treat category and I agree.  It seems that kids across the board love these, while I find kids are usually split 50/50 when we share Chewy Bars with the kids’ friends.  Something to consider as you decide on the right mix of snack foods to keep on hand.

Overall, these are a great option to add to your arsenal but see how you like each flavor on its own merits and make sure they’re kept on a refrigerator shelf out of reach of certain small individuals (who will remain nameless) that have figured out how to open candy bar wrappers.

Enjoy!

Food Find: Enjoy Life Chewy Bars

 

 

Note: On June 25, 2013 Enjoy Life Foods posted this update about the formulation and ingredients of their Chewy Bars.  This review is regarding an older version of the product.  As always, please review ingredients and processes for products that might be safe for your specific needs.  The reformulated bars, for example, now include honey as an ingredient and are no longer strictly vegan.  Our family does consume honey but yours might not.  If I do try the new version of the bars I’ll try to post an update.

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The lovely folks at Enjoy Life Foods sent me one of each variety of their Chewy Bars to review for the blog.  The stack looks impressive but we already buy them by the case  so you can guess that we love them before I get too far into this post.  The four varieties are Sunbutter Crunch, Cocoa Loco, Caramel Apple, and Very Berry.  I actually use the Cocoa Loco bars as part of my recovery from long runs, they aren’t energy bars or anything (I wish Enjoy Life would make an energy bar, actually) but often I just need to eat something fast and I’m not a breakfast person so they work for me.  They also remind me of brownies which is always a good thing.  Those of us that eat gluten and allergen free on a regular basis seem to prefer the chocolate variants of “safe” foods because the chocolate seems to cover up a bit of the rice flour aftertaste that you get otherwise.  That isn’t to say that we don’t enjoy all the flavors pictured below, but when I order them in bulk I choose the Sunbutter Crunch and Cocoa Loco bars over the Caramel Apple or Very Berry varieties.  All are top 8 free, though since the Sunbutter Crunch contains honey it is the only one not officially labeled “vegan” on the box.

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I will warn you that these are pretty pricey, but having convenient throw-in-the-diaper-bag snacks is something I used to take for granted before our food allergy diagnosis so you are paying for convenience on the one hand but on the other you’re also paying for ingredients that you know are costly to begin with.  What I mean to say is that I’m finding that the time, effort, and ingredient cost of making our own treats (and I’ve yet to be able to adapt my own chewy bar recipe, actually) is outweighed by the convenience of having some of these on hand for the kids.  What I need to do is stop eating them and then they’ll last a little longer!  I’m glad to know from a fellow food allergy parent on twitter, however, that I’m not the only parent eating these along with their kids:

I would never have purchased these without having tried a sample at our first FAAN walk, however, because of some scathing Amazon reviews.  There are positive ones in the mix, but I wanted to address some of the negative ones because when you’re going to indulge in a treat and pay about a dollar per one ounce bar, you want it to be worth it.  (Here’s an Amazon affiliate link to their Enjoy Life Chewy Bar listings, the Subscribe and Save deal is pretty good by the way but do check Vitacost – in fact as of writing this post they’re running a “BOGO” sale on my son’s favorite flavor: Sunbutter Crunch bars.)

Portion size – a number of reviews complain that the bars are too small and too small for the money.  I’ve weighed bars that appear to be slightly different in size and they’re always an ounce as indicated on the package though I’ve run twice (in the whole year we’ve been buying these) across bars that must have been cut too short by the machine and then include a little end piece of another bar (so still an ounce, just in two pieces).  Now that I’ve been counting calories for a while I think our idea of portion sizes has changed.  A “king sized” candy bar looks more like the norm but these really are more of a treat and especially with my 2 and 4-year-old eating them I wouldn’t want the portions to be too big though of course I’d love to spend less on buying them.

Taste – I’ve mentioned already that I really enjoy the flavor of the Cocoa Loco bars and the Sunbutter Crunch bars.  While I love the hint of caramel in the Caramel Apple bars, they’re a little too sweet for me and the Very Berry bars are just the last ones I pick out of the pantry but they’re also good, just not my favorite.  If you are just trying these out for the first time, go with the chocolate and see how you fare.  Allergy friendly foods take some getting used to but my husband likes the flavor and he can eat regular granola bars at work and when he’s biking a trail so that is telling.  Definitely don’t buy a case to start if you’re hesitant at all, my mother in law has been finding the old box design for $2 a box at clearance stores so that is worth a try if you don’t want to wait for a sale at Whole Foods or the like.  I genuinely like these but it is really a matter of personal taste.

If you have questions I’m happy to answer them.  I am a big fan of the company and I appreciate getting these four boxes for free but purchase these regularly anyway so I think I can give a fair opinion.

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Also: Happy 2013!  I have some more park write-ups as well as cookbook reviews, meal planning ideas, and some running updates in the works if I can find the time to share them.  I’m in the middle of a couple big projects but hope to check in at least once a month, if not more often.  It is hard to know who is out there reading so if you’ve got requests for topics please let me know in the comments.  May this year bring good things to you and yours!

Food Find: Enjoy Life Not Nuts! Seed and Fruit Mix

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We are such big fans of the Not Nuts mix from Enjoy Life that we had a pretty regular Amazon.com Subscribe & Save order (amazon affiliate link) going for a while – well, until the weather warmed up and it wasn’t a good idea to get anything that could melt in the mail (amazon affiliate link).  The company recently changed their packaging (how adorable are the UPC codes pictured below?) and wanted to send me these samples to review and spread the word about the new look.  I received the samples for free but my opinions, as always, are my own.

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Mountain Mambo is our family favorite, it contains sunflower kernels, pumpkin seeds, raisins, dried applies, chocolate chips, and dried cranberries.  As a kid I’d avoid the raisins in trail mix and go for the chocolate but this mix is great and doesn’t leave me picking through for favorites.  The raisins are juicy which helps a lot.  I think R tends to go for the raisins and cranberries first and E loves the chocolate chips and sunflower kernels.  A 1/4 cup serving doesn’t seem like much just looking at it but the little protein boost from the pumpkin seeds and sunflower kernels make this a good snack choice for me when dinner seems too far off.

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The other variety is called Beach Bash and it doesn’t include chocolate which would make it a summer choice for us if it weren’t for the apricots.  R is still avoiding apricots after a bad run in as a baby (I suspect an allergy but have never tried it again to confirm it) but it is still a yummy combination featuring: sunflower kernels, pineapple, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and dried apricots.

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The first time we spied these mixes at our local Whole Foods I was so excited – I think we take snack options for granted until we are faced with multiple food allergies.  I’ve raved before about Enjoy Life products also being oat free and I hope they stay that way because too often the answer to the top 8 allergens for food companies involves oats.  These are just the right mix of sweet, salty, crunchy, and chewy – which combination of flavors sounds best to you?  I think the chocolate makes Mountain Mambo the winner for me!