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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Simply Balanced Sun-Dried Tomato Popcorn Chips

At last! The newly-repackaged Simpy Balanced line showed up at my local Target, though there wasn't exactly a plethora of choices. It was mostly little snacky things like this, and it appeared that virtually all of the current Simply Balanced line is simply repackaged offerings from Archer Farms. But, apparently, they're only the healthiest choices from Archer Farms' foods.

So I figured it was high time to bust out a review or two of these Simply Balanced products. Let's start with these Sun-Dried Tomato Popcorn Chips...

What struck me about these chips initially was the decided lack of flavor, sun-dried tomato or otherwise. Fortunately, I had been in the mood for something very light and airy when I tried them. They really are low-fat, and miraculously, they've only got 4% of your RDA for sodium. In a way, salt is the dominant flavor of these chips.

I'm really not a fan of raw, fresh tomatoes, but I often find tomato-flavored things palatable. However, I barely taste the tomato flavor of these chips. I really wouldn't have minded them being twice as pungent as they were.

They are made with popcorn, but they taste and feel like old-school Quaker rice cakes to me. I've tried other brands of popcorn chips that taste and feel a little more exciting than these things.

The texture is nice...if you like the texture of rice cakes. They're a good size for snacking and the bag is a decent value, especially for something so relatively not-bad-for-you. I personally would have appreciated a little more flavor, a little more zest...a little more kick, if you will.

But I'll just chalk that up to me picking the wrong flavor.

I give this product 7 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Archer Farms Sunny Cranberry Trail Mix

I think this is the first trail mix we've reviewed with nothing but fruit, seeds, and nuts. No chocolate, no yogurt chips, no weird little crunchy sweet things. Just the good stuff...or at least, the stuff that's good for you.

The cranberries and raisins were plentiful and well-balanced. They were really moist, but they didn't leave a whole lot of residue on your hands. And there were plenty of sunflower seeds.

I think the only thing I'd change about this mix would be to throw in a few more almonds. I don't mind sunflower seeds or pepitas (pumpkin seeds), but I think almonds work a little better with dried fruit. They blend well with sweetness. That's why chocolate almond candy is popular, but you don't often hear about chocolate pepita candy.

Also, the pepitas and sunflower seeds had a tendency to sink straight to the bottom of the bag, so they were slightly overrepresented toward the end of the trail mix. Yes, I am the king of nitpicking, but it's true. It's like a different trail mix by the time you get to the end of the bag. It's also possible
that I was subconsciously zeroing in on the almonds and eating them first since I like them so much, but I'm pretty sure that if you put a big vat of this trail mix in a centrifuge, the pepitas and sunflower seeds would sink to the bottom since they're tiny and dense.

But again, I'm getting off the subject.

As far as a "healthy" trail mix goes, I think this one's the best one we've reviewed so far. It would be a great energy supply for an actual hiker. If you're looking for a dessert-ish trail mix, my pick would be the Cinnamon Raisin Mix, and my wife would take the PB&J Mix.

I give this product 8 out of 10 stars.

Happy trails!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Archer Farms Petite Quiche Pastry Collection

I rarely find myself in the mood for eggs, but I'm running out of appetizers to review at our local Target store. I think I've tried everything in their freezer at this point, but I'm sure they'll go ahead and usher in some new items very soon just to please me.

Or not.

It's not that I don't like eggs. If I'm in the mood for them, they can really hit the spot. And when I say "eggs," I really mean eggs and all egg-based products, like omelettes or quiches. They tend to be very filling and sit heavily in my stomach.

But nonetheless, I took one for the team and ate these little quiches so you'll know what to expect.

The pastry part is pretty much the same among all three varieties. It's like a pie crust. It's nothing ultra-special, but it'll brown nicely if you cook it long enough, it's very pastry-like, and it's good and flaky. I found the baking instructions to be spot on with this product, and in my experience, that's seldom the case.

The spinach Florentine kind is good, well...if you like spinach. It's kinda like a baked spinach dip with eggs.

On the Lorraine quiches, the cheese stands out the most. It's akin to a delicious egg and cheese omelette squeezed onto a tiny pastry crust. Lorraine is one sexy lady.

Before I even tasted the third variety, I smelled a beautiful campfire in the woods, complete with a skillet full of crispy bacon and egg-filled breakfast sandwich mountain pies. Just a little applewood-smoked bacon goes a long way. I think this one was my favorite.

Unlike other AF hors d'doeuvres, this product comes with two separately packaged cases of 12 quiches a piece. Each one is enough to entertain a small gathering by itself. Or you can do like me, and make each package a fattening, calorific meal for one.

I give this product 7 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Archer Farms White Chocolate Coconut Mini Waffle Cookies

These are weird little munch 'ems. Sweet, tasty, addictive...and weird.

They're very small, somewhere between the size of a quarter and a Sacagawea dollar. They're waffley, they have a layer of sweet white chocolate, and there are shreds of coconut scattered on them. Don't get me wrong, they taste good, but they're kind of unusual, especially for a store brand. Usually stores are only making their own versions of extraordinarily popular chips, yogurt, ice cream, or pizza.

But this is the kind of inventiveness I might expect from Trader Joe's. Way to go, Target.

They're just a little on the fattening side. I know, I know. They're cookies. They're not supposed to be good-for-you. But something with this much fat has to really blow me away to get a perfect score from me. Oh, and by the way, it's gonna be real easy to accidentally go over their recommended serving size, eat half the box in one sitting, and have 70% of your RDA of saturated fat. Ahem, not that I'd know because that's what I did...or anything like that...

There's a very subtle aftertaste with these. It's not bad. It's not a deal-breaker, but it's definitely there. Also, the texture of the cookies could have been a bit softer OR a bit crunchier. As it stands, the waffle part of the cookies is sort of in-between, like a waffle cone that's had ice cream sitting on it for a bit. Again, it's not just adds to the weirdness of the product.

But hey, I'm a sucker for white chocolate.

I give this product 7 out of 10 stars.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Archer Farms Chocolate & Strawberry Dessert Flatbread

I've heard a lot of people complain that some of Archer Farms dinner pizzas don't have enough toppings. I've never really felt that way. I always thought my toppings were plentiful enough, and even if there was a patch of my pizza that seemed a little bare, the crust was tasty enough that I didn't really care all that much.

But with this dessert flatbread, that's definitely my main complaint. Not enough of the toppings. The crust is still good, but it's really a pizza crust. And to me, for some reason, that doughy, crispy bread doesn't quite work as a dessert by itself in the same way that it goes with dinner by itself. It's like one bite is a delicious, creamy, warm strawberry pastry, and the next is just...a plain old breadstick.

Again, I don't mind breadsticks, especially with a traditional pizza. But if you yanked an amazing strawberry chocolate dessert out of my hand and replaced it with a dull, boring slab of baked dough, I'd be upset.

That's kind of what we have here. It tastes great. At least the bites that had some toppings on them. But there were plenty of bites that didn't have any toppings at all.

That could be an issue that varies from flatbread to flatbread, and I just happened to get one of the more sparsely-topped specimens. But I have to score the item I actually got to eat.

Well, I suppose this item was tasty enough, even considering the lack of toppings, that I'd tell you to try it anyway. The chocolate and strawberry flavors aren't overbearing at all. In fact, I think I detected the sweet ricotta and amaretto crumbles just as much as the strawberry and chocolate. That's just fine with me. The bites that contained all the ingredients were balanced and delicious.

This one is more dessert-ish than the Pear & Gorgonzola Flatbread. It's definitely sweeter. I'm a fan. It's great either piping hot out of the oven or chilled in the fridge. Try it both ways.

I give this product 8 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Archer Farms Cinnamon Raisin Nut Trail Mix

When I first saw this on the rack there in my Target, I wondered if it favored a snacky, savory, salty, nutty flavor, or whether it was a desserty, sugary, sexy, sweet mix.

It's the latter. With just a hint of the former. It's quite cinnamony, but it's equally sugary. But I've got no complaints. This is a tie for the best Archer Farms trail mix ever. At least out of the ones I've tried.

I love almonds. And there are boatloads of whole almonds in this trail mix. There's a huge amount of cinnamon flavor, and there are weird soft and crunchy sweet things.

It is reminiscent of a traditional trail mix in that some of the main ingredients are almonds, walnuts,
and raisins. But it's improved. It's like a regular trail mix with superpowers.

It's unlike the Peanut Butter and Jelly Trail Mix in that regard, because in some ways, the PB&J mix is a reinvention of the wheel. While this cinnamon blend tastes and feels like a classic with just a few tweaks here and there, namely: the addition of cinnamon and extra sugar.

It's got a good bit of fat, as many of these mixtures do, but nut fat is "good fat" so you've got plenty of fuel for hiking or biking or climbing or whatever it is you do. I'm totally happy with this trail mix. If you like cinnamon toast and traditional trail mix, this stuff will be right up your alley.

I give this trail mix 8 out of 10 stars.

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