Monday, June 4th, 2012

Reviews: Core Foods, Living Nutz, Essential Living Foods, and Love Bean

by Kristen Suzanne in review

Hello everyone!

Can I just say HALLELUJAH for all of the great raw, vegan, organic options we have available to us these days? Every where I turn, there are new products sprouting up and it sure makes living this awesome lifestyle THAT much easier. Whether you’re all raw, mostly raw, partly raw, or barely raw… there are some kick ass options available for healthy snacking or for the busy mama, like myself who needs all the help I can get. I’m grateful.

Kamea... ready to play, no time for mama to make breakfast (she already had hers in bed because she nursed). Hmmm, this mama needs something easy cuz I'm hungry! Read on...

Today, I’m reviewing four companies and sharing with you how I use them in my life. Core Foods, Living Nutz, Essential Living Foods, and Love Bean. Let’s begin!

Core Foods

 

2 of 3 Defender (Raw, Vegan, Organic) bars offered by Core. They also offer a Banana Nut option that I've tried but it didn't make it to the photo.

Although I wish all of Core Foods products were vegan(!!!), I’m giving them props for their raw vegan organic Defender Meal Bars. These bars are basically oats, nuts, and a few other choice goodies depending on the one you choose.

For starters, they get thumbs up from me for being organic. You all know I’m huge on organics. If I have to sacrifice buying that sexy little tshirt or those groovy shoes, I will if it means saving money to eat organically. It’s VERY important.

Secondly, I love that these bars have minimal ingredients in them. There’s no fluff here or loaded sweetness. They’re just simple, straightforward, healthy snack bars (or great as a breakfast or part of your next lunch) – they run about 350 calories which is good snack for a breastfeeding mama, athlete, active parent, growing kid, etc. If I’m having one for breakfast, I like to eat it alongside a protein shake of water and Sun Warrior protein powder.

Thirdly, they are easy. I tell ya, I have many days where Kamea doesn’t even want me making a smoothie in the morning unless I’m doing it one-armed (carrying her), which isn’t always possible. She has other ideas as to how she wants to start the day and since we live in a house where we take turns on what we do, I have many days where it’s straight from bed to the play area, bypassing the kitchen. So, it’s vital that I have plenty of options for healthy food that I can just grab and unwrap… enter: Core Defender Meal Bars. I love the convenience. (Apples, bananas, and nuts are my other go-to options because they need minimal prep before reaching my mouth).

Core Foods did not send me samples or freebies for this review. I simply stumbled upon these at Whole Foods awhile back and their packaging intrigued me. The weird thing is that my first bite was not OMG! MUST EAT ALL THE TIME. Instead, I was like… hmmm… pretty darn good, minimal ingredients, good company, organic, convenient… take another bite… hmmm… I like it bit more… another bite… yum yum … okay, I’m getting hooked. They grew on me fast. That being said, Greg dug them immediately and wanted me to have them on hand at all times.

Now, I buy them online where they offer wholesale pricing if you buy in bulk. I stick them in the freezer to preserve them (they stay fresh up to 6-months in the freezer, although between Greg and myself, they don’t last that long because we each eat one every couple of days if not every day).

There are three flavors: Almond Raisin, Walnut Banana, Cashew Cacao. My favorite is the one with cacao because, well, hello(!) cacao! But, actually it’s more than that. I love the texture. Chewy oats and nuts with crunchy cacao chunks. I damn near get weak in the knees nowadays when I have it. When I’m at the last bite I’m actually a bit sad, wishing I could tear into another one, but I resist. I also like the other flavors and I like that they put different nuts in each (but I get the most excited when I’m tearing the Cashew Cacao open). One has almonds, the other walnuts, and third, you know by now, has cashews. Variety is healthy. Greg’s favorite is the Almond Raisin.

They’re seriously dense in texture and can even stick to your teeth a bit, so they recommend consuming with a couple of glasses of water. Smart! It’s also a great way to stay filled up if you have this for breakfast or lunch and are trying to lose weight and still feel full. Kamea likes them, too, but I’m sure to give her tiny bites and plenty of liquids and supervision while eating it.

Last, but not least, it’s pretty cool that they’re a Certified B Corporation, which according to their packaging means…

Not-for-profit, 0% Financial return. 
Employees earn a living wage.
Executive salaries are capped.
Reduce and offset all carbon.

 

Living Nutz

 

The three flavors they sent to me for review. I would love to try all of their vegan flavors. They all sound amazing!

I don’t know where to begin. Oh yeah, I do.

WOWZA DOWZA #*&@! These nuts are delicious. Full on flavor… seriously… full on. When Living Nutz offered to send me a sample pack, I was not prepared to have my socks knocked off, but they were. It’s actually not fair that they taste so yummy because it’s impossible to only eat a few. I want to polish off a whole bag in one sitting.

It’s hard to say which flavor I liked the most because it depends on whether you’re in the mood for savory or sweet. I know my mother-in-law would be gaga over the cinna-pecan flavor (she’s getting some of these for her stocking at xmas time). It you’re a banana nut bread person… then you gotta go for that flavor. When in the mood for savory salty yumminess… the Cheezy Almonds are perfect (Kamea loves these).

Living Nutz are just so darn good! They’re perfect for snacking, adding to your kiddo’s lunch for some healthy fats and protein (although they’ll be regarded as a treat because the flavors are so popping), and topping your next salad. That’s probably my favorite way to enjoy them! Now that I think about it… here’s another way they’d be awesome… used in your next raw nut pate recipe. Ooooh! That’d be fun. Oh! And, you could chop them up to put on top of ice cream. I’m a texture gal so having creamy smooth plant based ice cream with crunchy nuts sends me straight to the moon.

But not only that, if you’re looking for a gift, then look no more. Living Nutz make a great gift for friends, family, the next party you attend (buy some for the host), etc. It’s a brilliant way to show how delicious raw vegan snacks can be. And, of course, they get extra points for being organic.

I wish I had more.

Essential Living Foods

 

Olive fan? This brand makes some of the best.

This company has a plethora of raw organic foods from which to choose, but today we’re focusing on olives. My history with this company goes back to when I first came upon their Botija Olives (pictured above, the purple jar) at Whole Foods. This was at least a couple of years ago and I’ve since made sure to always have a jar in both my fridge with a back up in my pantry. Their black (in brine) botija olives are salty, plump, and delicious. I snack on them plain, use them in raw dips, and on top of salads or in dressings. They’re Greg’s favorite, too. I honestly can’t imagine buying any other olives.

When they offered to send me some olives for review, I was happy because I thought, YAY Free Olives (knowing that I liked them already). However, they didn’t send me my favorite (brine) botija olives. They sent me two of their dried olives (plain and spiced). I have to say that, for me, these don’t hold a candle to the brine-y olives. They’re not something I would snack on plain. However, I imagine these would be nice (pitted and chopped) added to a raw (or cooked) marinara or topping a raw or cooked vegan pizza. They would also probably do well in a pesto recipe. For me though, I’ll keep buying the brine option. I can’t get enough of them.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, they have a lot of foods in their line that aren’t olives. I suspect they have a bunch of other goodies, I just haven’t tried any yet.

Love Bean

Raw Organic Vegan Fudge Cream

 

Kamea licking Love Bean's Organic Raw Vegan Fudge Cream off a piece of ezekial bread. To say she's a fan is an understatement.

Love Bean, a chocolate company I had not heard of, offered to send me a jar of their raw (organic vegan) fudge cream. I thought to myself, “Does a cat have an ass?” (an old saying my step-dad is fond of saying) I mean, a day is just not a day without chocolate. I love it and if you offer it, I’ll take you up on it.

Ok, moderation and all… I don’t really consume it daily but it’s safe to say that I think about it daily and consume it a lot. Anyway… I was more than happy to be on the receiving end of this chocolate, but I was concerned the timing was off. Knowing it’s raw and has coconut oil in it, Arizona’s heat is cranking up and I thought it might be a mess upon arrival. Fortunately, because it’s in a jar, it’s not a big deal if it melts and goes liquid. As I thought, once I opened up the package it was liquid and a little of the oil seeped out, but no biggie. I washed the jar. Stirred the chocolate fudge cream and placed it in the refrigerator to solidify a bit. I was tempted to stick a straw in it and just drink some because it smelled so rich, velvety, and full of chocolate-ness. But. I resisted.

This product has four simple ingredients (organic, raw, vegan): cacao, coconut oil, low-glycemic coconut nectar, and vanilla. Can’t go wrong with that combo.

The result? Wonderful fudge cream as you’d suspect (I mean… HELLO! IT’S FUDGE CREAM!). Mmmm. This stuff is truly wonderful, and while I have only tried it by the spoon, I imagine it’s great with everything from crepes to fresh fruit to smoothies to coffee to nut milks to mixing with nut butters to being spread on bread as you see Kamea enjoying in the picture above. This is another product that would make great gifts for everyone… hair dresser, postal worker, UPS or FedEx delivery persons, parents, siblings, friends, and boss (in fact, give your boss a jar before your next performance appraisal). Plus, they offer free shipping when you buy 4 or more jars. Gotta love that.

Tell me… do you like any of these brands? What in particular do you like?

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