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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Archer Farms Organic Wild Berry Fruit Strips

Old people might call this "fruit leather." But let's face it, that sounds about as appetizing as eating the belt around your pants. My generation might use the catch-all term "Fruit Roll-up," even though they're a different brand and they're not even wrapped or rolled up at all.

Archer Farms calls them "fruit strips," which is probably as accurate a name for these things as you'll ever see. This berry flavor is really good, if you're into berries and things. I am, fortunately, and I was really pleased with the taste. Definitely on the sweet side, but that's just fine by me.

Texture-wise, they're thicker than a fruit roll-up. They're soft and slightly chewy, and they stay nice and moist since each one is individually wrapped in its own plastic sleeve. It's a lot of packaging and probably isn't terribly eco-friendly, but I can't think of any other way they could have packaged them without a significant risk of having them dry out or by losing a great deal of convenience.

They're organic, they have fiber, they're low in calories and fat. Pretty darn healthy snacks. And reasonably priced, as well. This is the first Archer Farms product I've tried with the "Simply Balanced" name at the top. I guess that's a line of health-conscious products offered at Target. My first impressions are very good. I'll be looking for these "Simply Balanced" dealies on my next grocery trip. I might start heading back in the direction of a healthier diet, and I suppose these little guys would be more in the right direction than, say, the Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream.

That's not to say I won't be indulging here and there, but I could stand to lose a few pounds, and having delicious, healthy snacks like this around will certainly help with the cause.

I give this product 8 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Archer Farms Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream

It sure ain't Ben & Jerry's, but it's not the worst ice cream I've ever had either. Then again, it's pretty hard to put peanut butter and chocolate together and make something that isn't tasty.

The peanut butter itself tastes great. It...well...tastes like peanut butter, but frozen. There are ribbons of it throughout the chocolate ice cream, and there's plenty of it. Its consistency is a little stiff. Its a little plastic-ish. But not to the point that you'll want to stop eating it.

The chocolate ice cream tastes a little cheap to me. Like regular store brand chocolate. I've never been one for the plain chocolate or plain vanilla. They're both boring, and they need other ingredients to reach their full potential. I'm not sure that even with the ribbons of peanut butter that this so-called "fudge" reaches its full potential either.

For $4, with copious quantities of saturated fat and calories, I would certainly consider investing in more of a gourmet brand of ice cream if I were going to indulge in a chocolate peanut butter dessert. It might cost a buck or two more, but if you're gonna go off your diet, go off your diet.

Although it was no difficult task for my wife and I to polish off this half gallon of dessert, I don't think this flavor will find its way into our basket at Target again any time soon—and ice cream is one of my biggest weaknesses.

But if you're a peanut butter fudge kind of guy (or gal) this flavor might be right up your alley. It wasn't a product I would recommend, but I also wouldn't warn someone against it either.

I give this ice cream 6 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Archer Farms Honey Almond Yogurt

Of the three fat free Archer Farms yogurts that I've tasted so far, this one is hands down the best. Upon opening the container, I smelled an amaretto-esque sweetness. The taste was similar. It was surprisingly snacktacular.

In my review of AF's Blackberry yogurt, I theorized that Archer Farms couldn't make a delicious fat free yogurt, since their Strawberry Cheesecake had been the only successful effort that I had tried at that point. The Strawberry Cheesecake flavor only had a small amount of fat, but it was head and shoulders over the Blackberry and Banana Cream Pie, both of which are fat free. This flavor shoots holes in that theory.

So far, Honey Almond is a very close second-favorite, and the fact that it's fat free only makes it that much more impressive a product. If you like yogurt, honey, and the flavor of almonds, this is the snack for you. 

It's sweet and nutty, although there are no almond bits to crunch on. For some reason, the absence of extra-yogurt textures didn't bother me in this product. It's like it was meant to be completely smooth, unlike the other varieties, all of which were improved by the addition of solid ingredients. Banana cream didn't have any bits of banana, but it sure could have used them.

So far, AF is 2 for 4 with its yogurt flavors, and Honey Almond is one of the winners.

I give this product 8 out of 10 stars.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Archer Farms Bacon Carbonara Lunch Bowl

So far, AF is batting straight zeros on these lunch bowls. No wonder I see them on clearance every time I'm at Target. I was hoping that an Italian-inspired dish like this would turn out to be tastier than the Kung Pao Noodles or the Southwest Couscous, but unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

It took a great deal of stirring to completely dissolve the powder into the water. That combined with the six and a half minute heating time is a little lengthy if you happen to be in a breakroom at work where you might be sharing a microwave with a bunch of hungry co-workers who need to use it, too.

Even after stirring profusely and heating for nearly seven minutes, the pasta was still too firm, although once I let the bowl sit for four or five minutes after it was out of the microwave, the little penne noodles did soften up a tad.

The resulting entree was soupy, though I had used the indicated amount of water. The sauce was both too thin and a bit chalky. But the worst part of the product were the bacon bits.

At first, certain bites seemed worse than others, and I couldn't figure out what was causing the inconsistency. Soon, I realized that the bites with the most bacon bits were the worst ones of all. The bacon felt and tasted like cardboard, and it was almost bitter. Bitter bacon. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Terrible.

The product would have been edible if not for the bacon bits. If you happen to try this product, leave out the bacon, but sprinkle it on later just to confirm how awful it is. Without the bacon, I would have given this lunch bowl about 6 stars.

As it is, I give this product 4 out of 10 stars.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Archer Farms Kung Pao Noodles Lunch Bowl

I'll be blunt: these noodles taste cheap. And, well, they are cheap. Not quite as cheap as a $1 Bowl Noodles, but close. I paid $2 for this lunch, and well, you get what you pay for. 

They come with a separate package of peanuts that you add after everything else. I guess that helps prevent the peanuts from getting too soggy. There are whole dehydrated peas, some random vegetable bits, and a bunch of brown powder. It blends together ok with the noodles after heating in the microwave, but really, in the future, I think I'll steer clear of these $2 "international inspirations" and either do something like mac and cheese if I want to play it safe, or one of the $6 frozen dishes if I really want to splurge. 

The taste is a little spicy. The sauce isn't bad, but all of the other flavors just get lost in a soupy mush. Texture-wise, you can tell there's more than just noodles, but somehow I still found my mouth feeling bored. I think the peas help more than the peanuts with the overall feel of the dish, but neither one redeems it completely.

Since the $2 I spent didn't break the bank, I can't complain too much. But I also think there are better options for the money out there.

It's a noble effort in affordable foreign cuisine, but it falls a hair shy of the mark. Plus, it's got a ton of sodium. 

I give this product 6 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Archer Farms Pecan Sticky Bun Granola

If you happened to read my recent review of the AF Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti, you probably remember that it seemed little more than granola with chocolate chips to me. Similarly, this cereal appears to be just cleverly-packaged granola with a few pecan pieces thrown into the mix.

However, for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on, this cereal is one step closer to tasting like an actual sticky bun than the other cereal was to tasting like hazelnut biscotti. Maybe I'm just more familiar with the taste of a sticky bun. Or maybe it's the fact that I like pecans more than I like hazelnuts. Whatever the reason, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that this granola is a tad better than the one I reviewed last week.

It's crunchy, it's sweet, and it definitely has some nut bits present. I swear I tasted something bread-like, similar to the dough in a cinnamon bun—it was subtle, but there. It's got a bit of fat and calories, but that's kind of the point if you're eating granola, isn't it? You want energy to start your day. And it gave me that. YEEHAW! Can't you tell I'm energized!?

What's your favorite AF cereal? Throw me a bone and comment. We just had our first comment on this blog the other day, and we're excited to start getting feedback from readers and other AF fans.

At this point I feel that I have to reiterate that these $0.99 bags of granola are great for trying something new, but there's barely enough there for one bowl! Once I figure out which variety is best, I'll probably splurge and get an actual box.

I give this flavor 7 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Archer Farms Mango Peach Salsa

During my time in L.A., I became aware of sweet, fruit-based salsas. A local fish taco place offered a white fish taco with lettuce, cilantro, and a fruity salsa very similar to this product from AF. In both cases, the sauce is more delicious than I anticipated, and it blends really well with a host of southwestern foods, fish, and chicken dishes, too.

In this case, the salsa is also just fine for dipping with regular old tortilla chips. I used Archer Farms White Corn Tortilla Chips (review coming soon). The combination was perfect. The chips provided just enough crunchiness and saltiness, and the salsa supplied the body of the flavor, and plenty of texture. There really are huge chunks of mango and peaches. The product description mentions jalapenos. They're in there, but the jalapeno chunks are greatly overshadowed by the fruit pieces. Like the Corn and Black Bean Salsa, this product is marked as "medium," but I'd put it closer to "mild." There's a vague, warm tingle from the jalapenos, but it doesn't really compete with the sweetness of the fruit. It blends nicely, but if it's spice you're looking for, try something else. Likewise, if you're looking for a dessert food, this probably isn't what you're after.

Like all AF salsas, it's about $3 for a jar, which isn't cheap. But it's a high-quality product, and just a little bit goes a long way in terms of livening up an otherwise bland meal. This is definitely a product that will wind up on my shopping lists in the future. I'm a fan.

I give this product 8 out 10 stars.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Archer Farms Blackberry Yogurt

Recently, I've reviewed Archer Farms Banana Cream Pie and Strawberry Cheesecake yogurts. This will be the third and final installment of my initial Archer Farms Yogurt Trilogy. That's not to say I won't be checking out other yogurts in the future...I just might take a little break.

So far, only the strawberry cheesecake variety has impressed me. And the taste of this blackberry yogurt further supports my theory that Archer Farms' fat free yogurts are rubbish compared to those that contain just a gram and a half of fat.

This yogurt is quite bland, with only a fraction of the rich blackberry taste that I had hoped for. Although bananas and blackberries taste nothing like one another, the two yogurts come across the palate in a very similar manner. There's a decided lack of flavor, with only a hint of anything other than plain, fat free yogurt sourness coming through. They both also taste like they contain artificial sweeteners to me. That's not to say they actually do contain them, but my tongue swears that it detects aspartame or something along those lines.

The only thing that gives this flavor any advantage over the banana cream pie is the presence of little fruit bits. Whirled throughout the cup are tiny pieces of chopped, almost pureed, blackberries. They do very little in the taste department, except for possibly adding a hint of tartness, but they do improve the texture slightly. Banana got 4 stars. Strawberry cheesecake got 9 stars.

This cup of yogurt gets 5 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Archer Farms Strawberry Cheesecake Yogurt

A couple of posts back, I reviewed Archer Farms Banana Cream Pie Yogurt. It got a sub-par score, largely because it was fat-free.

But this strawberry cheesecake yogurt is proof that a very small amount of fat can turn a boring, healthy food into an indulgent, delicious treat. They not only got the flavor right, but they added bits of strawberry.

I pointed out that the banana cream pie lacked any fruit or cookie bits, and once again, this strawberry yogurt proves that one little bonus ingredient makes all the difference in the world.

All of Archer Farms yogurt is the same price. And I would say that the difference in fat and calories is negligible, especially in light of the vast difference in flavor. 2% of my overall daily fat for an incredibly satisfying dessert-like snack? Yes, please. I think I worked off the 1.5 grams of fat while running around the apartment screaming "Oooh, this is yummy!"

I think if I had to choose between an actual banana cream pie and a piece of real strawberry cheesecake, I would take the banana cream pie. But in this case, the strawberry cheesecake yogurt wins hands-down. No contest. My wife tried them both and she agrees, although, she would be far more inclined to a strawberry dessert over a banana dessert in the first place.

This stuff hit the spot...and then some.

I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Archer Farms Chocolate Chunk Hazelnut Biscotti

I'm not sure how this is "biscotti." I thought biscotti was a type of Italian cookie thing, rather than a granola-esque cereal food. But nonetheless, with such an exotic name, how could I resist trying this product?

I like biscotti. I like hazelnuts. And of course I like chocolate. It seems like a no-brainer. But in reality, it's more like a plain bowl of granola with some chocolate chips thrown in. I see "hazelnuts" on the ingredients list, but if they were there, they were far and few between.

But don't get me wrong, it's not bad. I'm also a fan of plain old granola in a bowl with milk. And adding chocolate to it only makes it better. I guess my main complaint is that the title seems to flaunt some kind of exotic Italian import with gourmet nuts and cookies and gorgeous globs of confection, but what I got was...granola with chocolate chips.

Those crafty Archer Farms marketers know what they're doing. They can take something painfully plain and make it seem like it came off the dessert menu at a Wolfgang Puck eatery.

But the good news is that if you want to try this or any of the other kinds of Archer Farms' unique cereals, they make both a big box size that retails for something like $4, but they also sell a 99 cent single serving variety just so you can sample it before you commit to multiple breakfasts. That's what I bought. Just a little plastic bag's worth of cereal. 2/3 cup. That's barely enough for a full bowl. But it was enough to give me an idea of what this stuff's all about: granola with chocolate chips, and not much more.

While the title of this product would suggest a score of 9 or 10, in reality, it only earns a 6 from me.

6 out of 10 stars.

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