Cascadian Farm Dark Chocolate Almond Granola

Doesn’t the name “Dark Chocolate Almond Granola” just naturally appeal? Not least because I’m a chocolate lover (and President of the Oxford Chocolate Enthusiast Club – check us out on groupspaces.co.uk/oxfordchocolate), but also by the sheer rich yet healthy thought of antioxidant-rich cocoa with the unsaturated fats in almonds.

So once again, we have with us some cereal that you can’t get in the UK, and which I had obtained via iHerb (quote QID159 for a 5-dollar discount).


The box is simple – just the cereal. No mascots, no lies. Just some crunchy looking cereal, overflowing – in a bowl. I like the colour scheme. It screams ADULT, mature flavours; and does not prey on the sugar-fuelled young ones (or… Sugar fuelled adults among us).

Oooh. Glorious chunks. Large chunks. Big ones. “Hao Da!” (How large- in Chinese). These aren’t your teeny little bits which some budget cereals call “granola”. This are generous, well-distrbuted (size-wise) chunks. You can tell how large our specimen is, from below. Akin to a large piece of caramel popcorn.


Of course, this size gives us some problems.

1) Little mouths won’t like this cereal. Mummies will have to crush these for them to enjoy (which might not work either, as we shall soon see)

2) You’ll only be able to pick up a chunk or two (depending on the size of your spoon) with each “arm-raising” movement.

Then again, this heft makes you WANT to devour the cereal, to take it in you; it serves some practical function as well as it allows the inner core to stay dry and oh-so-crunchy. Ultimately crunchy; one of the most “naturally crunchy” cereals I’ve tasted so far (as opposed to Special K granola – goodness.)

So that’s the bad part – the crunchy pieces could scratch the insides of soft tender gums – which effectively removes this cereal from the possibility of consumption by our little ones. Ah well. That might be a good thing though.. As..

The granola isn’t outrightly sweet. Kids might not like this. I wouldn’t say “for mature audiences only”, but I’d say this is less sweet than your usual sinful granolas.

The sweetness is fairly conventional though – cane sugar hits which stay fairly long on the tongue. Some odd sweetness is also derived from the oats (don’t ask me how, but I CONSIDER it as some characteristic oat taste)

My one complaint is that the chocolate element isn’t very apparent – on your first bite or two, you wouldn’t have known that this was a chocolate granola. The chocolate bits are sparse too. I’d say one every 8 to 10 chunks. The picture below should prove this – in that one glance, how many dark bits do you see, in that sea of light brown?

 

The almond element is satisfied quite easily – slivers of almond add flavour and texture. Nothing sophisticated here – I’d say the easiest way to impart an element, is to put bits of it in. Needless to say, the almonds were well-roasted, and crunchy.

With the restrained sweetness, comes benefits. 220kcal for a 3/4 cup portion. That’s pretty flaming impressive. Most granolas hit you for 130 – 150 kcal in a 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup serving. This one’s effectively 30% less calorific than the competition, packing (some) protein as well, at 5g.

Conclusion? Get this if you’ve got a minor sweet tooth, and some calories to spare, and if you like it… BIG, CHUNKY, and CRUNCHy in your milk.

-The Exercising Male

Alpen Raspberry, Apple & Raisin Porridge

Alpen is long known for its various varieties of muesli; however with the popularity of instant quick easy on the go porridge it seems they have branched out to take on Quaker in the instant oatmeal/porridge sector of the cereal aisle. Although I love porridge I have never found an instant oatmeal that I really enjoy, other than a Dorset Cereal Limited Edition Gingerbread variety that I found in London at Christmas time, I never find them as fulfilling or as wholesome as making my own bowl of porridge with big juicy thick oats.

Nevertheless I loved the Raspberry & Apple Alpen Muesli variety, so I thought, hey-ho, why not give it a shot, it was only £1 on special offer in my local supermarket anyway, what could I have to lose?

Alpen Raspberry, Apple & Raisin Porridge<

Opening the box the sachets are the standard instant oatmeal size, and pouring the oats out into the bowl I must say I felt slightly dissatisfied with the amount of oats that seemed to be making up my portion. It looked almost dust like rather than the good wholesome bowl of oats I am used to, I persevered however and decided to add my recommended amount of milk and heat it up in the microwave.

As the microwave dinged and I took out my warm bowl of porridge it did look slightly more satisfying than it did dry, and did fill the bowl to a satisfactory level, my positive feelings changed slightly as I dipped my spoon into the warm oaty breakfast offering, this didn’t taste particularly amazing..I would say..distinctly average.

Alpen Raspberry, Apple & Raisin Porridge

There aren’t many juicy raisins, the raspberry flavour isn’t particularly strong, neither is the apple, and it certainly doesn’t taste anywhere near as good as the muesli. The oats aren’t thick and chewy and satisfying, but weak and mush like, I don’t know whether this is just me, and my dislike for instant oatmeal..but no one seems to be able to do it particularly well yet. This may be a quick and easy option for people in a rush on the go who want to try something a bit different but if you’re a real wholesome oatmeal/porridge lover then I would stick to your normal home cooked offering!

Dairy-free Alternatives – Kara Dairy Free Coconut

We shall embark on a “milk series”, which will detail dairy alternatives, discussing their nutritional value, taste, and compatibility with cereals.

Today we start with Kara Dairy Free Coconut drink. It’s sold for 1 to 1.39 GBP, depending on where you buy it from, and may be found in the ambient dairy-free section, or in the coolers along with the rest of the “odd dairy products / dairy-free milks” – i.e. Jersey Milk, Lactofree, Soy, etc.

I’ve read lots of reviews of Kara’s, particularly bloggers who are lactose-intolerant, or who generally believe in eating / drinking on the healthy side.

I have to say though, I am perfectly capable of handling lactose in my system, in fact, my habit of a litre of milk a day with my cereal has been carried out with both dairy and non-dairy milks – and in all honesty, I have noticed no change, whatsoever, in my state of physical well-being. Financially, however, that might be questioned, as dairy-free products tend to cost 30% more than dairy products.

On to the milk. It is difficult to illustrate the colour of it here. Afterall, a phone camera can only get you so far. It might be of relevance though, if I put up a picture of some of the milk with cereal in it, serving what function? I do not know. Eye candy, perhaps.

The milk is runny. Runny in the skimmed milk way, runny in the “Value” range soy milk way. Imagine a flat white coffee made with normal milk (not cream) and you should get the appropriate runniness of Kara’s.

I think the runny character of the milk will only really affect those who drink this milk STRAIGHT UP, without any complementing cereal, or without mixing it in a smoothie

Taste-wise. I was disappointed. Not as coconutty as hoped. Not like coconut cream from the same brand, or like the coconut curries I’m used to back home in Singapore. It was FRESH though, it didn’t have any sour tang to it, it wasn’t off-putting; it was MILD, perhaps good for those who really do like a “light” coconut kick.

Redeeming though, are the nutritionals. 27kcal / 100ml is respectable. You don’t even get one gram of protein here – but that’s similar to Hazelnut, or Almond milk. (Just eat some Beans or meat to make up for it later, or some High fibre cereal with it)

(http://www.karadairyfree.com/product_specifications/original_calcium_long_life_-_now_with_added_vitamins/)

You also get all the benefits of the fats in coconut milk, an added benefit of taking this in your daily bowl.

An aside – I’d only recently gfound out from Kara’s website that Kara’s was started in Singapore! So I’ve technically grown up with this stuff in curries, etc., as they are the leading brand of coconut cream sellers back home!

Stupid, but meaningful reasons to be proud of my little sunny Singapore, even when I’m far from it here in Oxford.

-The Exercising Male

(I paid for this carton of milk on my own. )

Food For Life : Ezekiel Cinnamon & Raisin

A cereal named after a biblical book/prophet in the Hebrew Bible; that certainly is a new one! With a quote taken from the book itself this is a cereal that certainly markets itself as a virtuous delicious healthy product, good for not only the  body but also the soul : all natural, no preservatives and 100% flourless it is made with organic sprouted whole wheat, malted barley, millet, lentils, soy beans, spelt..and in this particular variety cinnamon, sea salt and raisins.

Ezekiel Cinnamon & Raisin

But what is all of this if the cereal itself doesn’t taste good? For all of those health conscious people out there, myself being one of them, this would certainly be a cereal that I would pick up to at least try due to the nature of it, but if a cereal’s not good I won’t go back to it, no no,…good job this one is delicious!

Ezekiel Cinnamon & Raisin

For any of you that have had Grape Nuts before, the crunchy consistency of it is certainly prevalent here in this cereal from Ezekiel, the same almost tooth breaking crunch that stays ridiculously crunchy even when soaked in milk for what seems like an eternity! However..me being me..I eat this warm! I did try it cold just for reviewing purposes and I can assure you that its delicious, especially with a good splash of creamy soy/almond milk; alas in my opinion its best eaten warmed so the grains absorb all the delicious milk to create an almost chewy grainy bowl of goodness with scrumptious juicy raisins.

Ezekiel Cinnamon & Raisin

The best thing about this though is how good you feel after eating it; it sets you up perfectly for the day without the need for huge quantities of added sugar; infact there is no added sugar in this product at all; so if you’re sick of all the added stuff that seems to be getting shoved into your cereals nowadays and you want to take it back to the pure basics but don’t want to compromise on flavour this is certainly one to go for.

Ezekiel Cinnamon & Raisin

I’m not sure how easily available this is in the US but I got mine from iherb.com  where a wide selection of Ezekiel’s products are available.

Mother’s – Peanut Butter Bumpers

Yet another Peanut Butter cereal review.

Note how I do not use the term “peanut-butter-flavoured” here, but I use “peanut-butter” alone. For this cereal is, like the previous Panda Puffs, flavoured with some REAL Peanut Butter which uses just peanuts and salt (as the Ingredients List tells me)

These are called Peanut Butter Bumpers, and are made by Mother’s in the United States. I have yet to find any stockists in the UK, so as usual I had to have these shipped in, via iHerb (use code QID159 for 5 bucks off your first order!).

The box art isn’t particularly kid-attractive: no cute-sey animals here, no nifty mascots to catch your eye. What is used, however, are baby fonts, and a depiction of the delicious cereal in milk, with some splashes here and there.

I have no idea why these are called “Bumpers“. I have 2 theories, to do with their physical characteristics:

1) Size. These are HUGE little buggers. A side-by-side comparison with the previously reviewed Panda Puffs shows you how much larger these are. They’ll still fit in a young child’s mouth – sure they will. Thing is, not as many will fit onto a spoon, and a mouthful will have significantly fewer cereal pieces to play with. (and they simply don’t look as cute as the small Panda Puffs)

2) Shell. Hard = Good for bumping???  You can’t quite tell from the photos, but these Bumpers have a semi-caramelized shell around it; as if it was some harder Peanut butter coating (imagine the harder, drier, external character of stale bread). These impart quite a crunch when you bite into them to yield the porous interior. They also seem to prevent sogginess, which will be discussed next.

On to the porous character of this cereal. My-oh-my these have huge pores within them. Look at the comparison photo with Panda Puffs (ok fine the photo’s grainy; but I did my best with what I have on me – a pathetic phone camera)

Notice how the pores are larger, bigger air bubbles which make this cereal like a large sponge, less dense than milk (hence floating to the top in your bowl of cereal) some may like that, some may not. (Note that in this picture, the cereal was not floating by virtue of the other ones pushing it up)

I don’t think these air bubbles contribute to the flavour in any way, and only bear a textural significance, making the cereal almost like a puff, albeit with a crunch that is imparted by the shell, mentioned above.

They’re big on taste too. These are DEEP. Punchy peanut butter. These are ADULT peanut butter balls, and are not subtle like Panda Puffs. They are sweet, yet with that depth of flavour akin to comparing peanut butter made from freshly ground peanuts, and the likes of Skippy’s or other sugar-laden nut butters.

If Panda Puffs are Milk Chocolate (albeit high quality ones), then Peanut Butter Bumpers are the Dark Chocolates of the Peanut Butter Cereals. (Not single-origin dark; naa the flavours aren’t THAT deep, if you get my drift.

If only I had some Cap’n Crunch to do a side by side test with, I’d be able to paint a clearer depiction of the depth of flavour in this cereal. For Cap’ Crunch Peanut Butter seems to be the most common iteration of that sort of cereal. Ah well. Therefore, for lack of suitable cereal comparison, I had to resort to comparing with Skippy. I hope you understand.

One final quaff – discolouration. In the picture below, see how the cereal LOSES colour after 5 minutes in milk. It’s quite a distinct difference from the piece next to it, which was fresh frfom the box. An odd thing is that the milk wasn’t coloured in that way though (in the same way that coco krispies colour milk to give you chocolate cereal milk).

What a great, way to end this post – Peanut Butter Bumpers do NOT yield peanut butter cereal milk. They just… Lose their colour after a soaking.

I liked Peanut Butter Bumpers for its hard shell, and deep flavour, but didn’t like its size and (minor point) discolouration.

-The Exercising Male

Nature’s Path – EnviroKidz Panda Puffs (Peanut Butter)

A cereal with a dual-pronged marketing fork of a strategy:

1) Towards those who care for the environment, with proceeds going towards wildlife conservation

2) Towards kids (with the pictures of cute animals)


I guess that means this cereal is, or has, a “1-up” over your conventional cereals then, and I shouldn’t poke fun at the pictures of cutesy animals on the box, similar to how I made fun of those utilised by Kellogg’s.

I got these shipped in from the States through iHerb (use code QID159 for USD5 off your first purchase!) As they’re pretty difficult to find here in the UK, even in the larger Health Foods shops (let alone Oxford).


As you can see, these puffs are small, ball-bearing-like things. Smaller than a thumbnail. That makes them perfect for little mouths (I.e. Kids), and perhaps good also for topping other sweet desserts.

They aren’t light and puffy, mind you. They pack quite a dense wallop, in two ways:

1) Nutritionally:  at 120kcal for a 3/4cup serving – putting it on par with the major sugary cereals. It’s not as if those calories come from protein like those in Kashi GoLean, or even All-Bran. These are NOT “healthy” cereal puffs in anyway, not like puffed rice or puffed wheats or puffed what-have-you.

2) Texturally: the crunch is phenomenal. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything stay so crunchy for so long in milk before. I can’t quite quantify the time here; but let’s just say that these cereals aren’t as porous as Honey Loops (reviewed previously) or Cheerios. These are similar to those baked  crisps (if you’ve had those before) that are all the rage nowadays.


I guess, on physical characteristics alone, this cereal was made for kids: mouth-size-perfect, and crunchy in milk for a long time-perfect for those fussy children (or us slow cereal eaters!) Who take a loong time to eat our lovely bowl of goodness.

Now – Flavour-wise. The ingredients list mentions that ORGANIC peanut butter is used. So I guess one could expect a proper peanut kick from this. I was rather disappointed though; the peanut kick wasn’t as intense as I’d hoped, nor was it as sweet. Usually, when peanut butter cereals lack in sweetness, they make up with some strong taste of roasted nuts. Not here though – the flavour was hard to detect, subtle, “light”; and wasn’t indulgent in the usual expected way.

People who find the other peanut butter cereals such as Cap’n Crunch PB or Peanut Butter Bumpers or even Barbara’s Puffin Puffs to be too sweet will love this cereal. It scores way above the competition for texture, staying crunchy through-and-through, and has a light taste to it. 

This cereal is a must-eat with milk – then you can appreciate its structural brilliance as it stands up against your teeth in all the creamy milky goodness.

A thumbs up!

-The Exercising Male

Nature’s Path Love Crunch Carrot Cake Granola

Despite there being quite a large selection of granolas available in the UK, they all seem to be fairly un-inventive, oat clusters with raisins, or some other sort of dried fruit/nuts is normally about as far as it gets, so when I went on a visit to NY and popped into their Wholefoods I was taken aback at the sheer quantity of all these new and exciting products that were tempting my fancy! I pondered and pondered, walking up and down the cereal aisle, taking  boxes, putting them back, trying to work out how possible it would be in me fitting virtually every box of cereal on offer into my case to take back home.

Nature's Path Love Crunch Carrot Cake Granola

In the end I opted that about 6 would be a reasonable amount, this Nature’s Path Love Crunch Carrot Cake Granola was one of them, to be honest, I don’t normally opt for granola that often, unless its something really special, I find that tipping the scale at 400-500kcal per 100g they have to pretty special for me to choose them for breakfast and all I can say is that was most definitely worth the calories!

Consisting of rolled oats and spelt clusters, raisins, pecans, yoghurt chips, dried carrots, freeze dried pineapple and cinnamon; based on ingredients this should, on paper, be everything that a good carrot cake tastes of.  Even typing this review out I can still smell the strongly spiced aroma that is so wonderfully dispersed on opening the packaging; pouring myself a bowl it’s great to see that Nature’s Path haven’t been scrooges when it comes to adding the “different” elements of the granola, with a good amount of raisins, pecans and yogurt pieces (my favourite bit, yum).

Nature's Path Love Crunch Carrot Cake Granola

The likeness to actual carrot cake is superb..infact I would say this is even better than the real thing, I know I would choose a bowlful of this over a slice of carrot cake, any day..anytime! The sweetly spiced crunchy granola, the chewy raisins, the crunchy pecans and the tartness provided by the yoghurt chips in a wonderful likeness to cream cheese frosting just made it superb on every level.

And the milk? Well the milk was turned a flavourful mixture of sweet spices with a tart undertone where the yoghurt pieces had managed to seep some of their flavour out. And the granola? The granola stayed delightfully crunchy throughout with a good exterior give where the clusters had started to soften slightly. A big big thumbs up and a huge smiley face for this delicious cereal..now if only they would bring something out like this onto the cereal aisles back home!

Nature's Path Love Crunch Carrot Cake Granola

Kellogg’s Honey Loops

Here’s a warning. This is going to be a short post.

Kellogg’s Honey Loops is nothing.

It’s:
1) a cereal, granted by the fact that it’s on the aisle where those are found

2) a collation of loops, granted by… It’s name / label

3) A sweet cereal, granted by the word “honey”.

4) It’s cheap, granted by its pricing along the lines of Coco Pops and Cornflakes.

That’s it. Nothing else. Nada.

That’s what disappoints me here (I seem to be disappointed quite a lot, don’t I?). As you can see from the photos, even the colour of Honey Loops is terribly plain: akin to a worn out piece of linen that is discarded after use by a wealthy merchant, and perhaps pulverised and added as colouring to this cereal. Even the TEXTURE was akin to linen – porous, with actual visible holes in each piece.


No doubt this serves as a sponge to suck up milk; but it’s nothing more than how Cheerios, Sugar Puffs, or any other porous cereal does it. Simply by virtue of its holes. Nothing new, nothing surprising.
I would say it had a moderate level of crunch to it, when added with or without milk.
A) With milk – it gets soggy after a good 5 to 6 minutes; afterwhich even its “core” becomes soft and uninteresting.
B) without milk – its crunchy, but not in the “croquant” or hard candy manner, but in the manner of a thick toasted bread crust. If you get my drift.

It even resembled a Cheerio. Look at this.


Now on to the “honey” part of this. I suppose it’s what draws people to the cereal, anyhow. I doubt the shape of it would be substantial enough a reason for anyone (who is old enough to read this blog) to reach for this cereal on the shelf.

I didn’t detect a bit of “honey” in this. Not even the artificial sweet tones you get from Nestle’s “Honey Stars” – whom I applaud for the effort to do justice to their name. Kellogg’s has totally failed here. If only I could depict all this in a picture – alas I can’t. Maybe I could describe this sweetness as simply lacking in basal character – it isn’t even “sweet”, it doesn’t feel kiddish. It tastes healthy, and has a similar sweetness to Cheerios.

Totally unsatisfying, Kellogg’s. Even the nutritionals are bad – you’re as calorific as Frosties ( 377kcal / 100g vs. 375kcal / 100g). Ok you have 5 grams more protein than the latter; but you contain a mere 3 grams less sugar than the latter (34g vs. 37g).

Quite honestly – i wouldn’t buy Honey Loops by virtue of its protein content – that paltry 5g works out to 1g per serving. One gulp of milk would give you that much protein. It’s taste was disappointing too.

Oh Kellogg’s; why do you continue with this cereal? Nostalgia? Maybe your buyers love the Bee on the front of the Box. Hmm.

-The Exercising Male

Weetabix Strawberry Crispy Minis

I’m loving going into the supermarket aisles at the minute and finding a whole load of new cereal for me to try out; every since I was young I’ve always loved the various different Minibix products that Weetabix have brought out; Fruit & Nut and Banana were always my favourite until they disappointingly stopped making my beloved Banana-bix. However I am pleased to say that a new fruit edition has been brought out in the form of a Strawberry variety.

Weetabix Strawberry Crispy Minis

First things first I wanted to check on the packaging to see how the strawberry flavour was achieved, was it natural, what exactly was this achieved by, apparently the little red flecks in the mini Weetabix are “Strawberry flavoured fruity pieces” made up of fruit purees of Apple and..wait for it..Strawberry at 0.3%!!  Ah yes a strawberry flavoured breakfast cereal..with it being made up of 0.3% strawberry..because that makes perfect sense..

Weetabix Strawberry Crispy Minis

The Minibixes are a nice small size and are much easier to snack on, if you wish, than the regular large Weetabix; pouring myself a large bowlful I decided to set a couple aside to try cold for reviewing purposes. I only ever usually eat my Weetabix warmed up; its certainly tastier and extremely comforting on a morning..if you haven’t tried it warm yet I strongly recommend that you do! Whilst mine were heating in the microwave I let my “off casts” sit in their milk for a little while to see how they held up; nice, still slightly crunchy on the inside with a nicer soft exterior to sink your teeth into and a good refreshing strawberry flavour.

Weetabix Strawberry Crispy Minis

Of course for me, the real deal was trying them as I normally would, warm and slightly mushy with the top ones still having a bit of crispiness to them, the thing I love about heating these little babies up is that as you slowly eat them the Minibixes in the bottom of the bowl start to absorb any excess milk and create a delightful Weetabix paste, flecked with what every addition has been added to them, in this instance, strawberry pieces.

Weetabix Strawberry Crispy Minis

Surprisingly despite only being 0.3% strawberry these do actually taste pretty good; the strawberry flavours taste pretty natural and they are sweet, but no where near as sweet as other breakfast cereals and is pleasantly offset with the classic Weetabix flavour, I would say a successful addition to the Weetabix range, I would come back for more!