Product Review: LUNA Protein Bar (and GIVEAWAY!)

It’s interesting when you take a sabbatical from anything. For me, this nine-month sabbatical from my blog started with exhaustion and health issues, then went to that Point-Of-View crisis with “what do I REALLY want this blog to be about????!!!!”  Finally, it crossed into realm of not knowing how to start up again. I’ve written a new blog post in my head every day for the last 9 months, but I either wasn’t ready to “tell THAT story,” or was still wrestling with my point of view.

Recently it occurred to me that we’ve entered our fourth year gluten-free and with Celiac Awareness day, I figured now is the perfect time to dive back in. How about a product review on something we buy often and a giveaway!

LUNA bars- I’m a protein bar, meal bar gal. When I was pregnant with my kids, they kept me sane. When we are darting off in the morning, late for school, I love having a bar to grab if my blood sugar is too low. I’m not much of a snacker, but when I am, I tend to go for the sweets, so a sweet tasting protein bar is a win-win for me. I’m eating protein for my body; I’m getting something sweet for that psychological need.

One of my favorite brands before I went gluten-free four-years ago was LUNA. I still remember the taste of their Lemon Zest Bar. Ooooh, that white coating with the lemon zing. Yum! I loved the Smores as well. Of course when King Soopers had the 10 for $10, i grabbed a several boxes of them. LUNA Bars were definitely one of my favorite treats. When I went gluten-free, I was stuck with protein bars that only medical professionals could buy because of the high vitamin content; the only one I could stomach was a chocolate mint.

So, in 2011 when LUNA changed their protein Bars to a gluten-free product, I was ecstatic. Where I live in New Mexico, we are two to three months/years behind the rest of the country. Things come in slow, so I had to wait a few months before I had the chance to try the bars, but as soon as I saw them, I bought one of each flavor. LUNA Protein Bars come in 5 flavors–Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Cookie Dough, Chocolate Cherry Almond, Mint Chocolate Chip. YES, I had to do a double check the label on the “cookie dough” flavor, but yes, it’s gluten free!

The Chocolate Peanut butter reminds me of a rich peanut butter fudge enrobed in chocolate. I’d say it’s one of their more rich and indulgent flavors. The Chocolate Bar is chocolate all the way and  definitely will give a chocolate fix in the afternoon. The Cookie Dough is a fun escape from the gluten-free mindset. It’s not wet like cookie dough, (and luckily you don’t have the raw egg issue either), but it’s got that fun cookie dough taste, and a thick chewy texture that is reminiscent of cookie dough. Before I opened the packaging, I pleaded with the bar that it would somehow really taste like cookie dough, and that first bite shocked my taste buds and my brain. “I’m eating cookie dough!”

Chocolate Cherries for a Lucky Gal

I’m a Chocolate Cherry covered kinda gal too. Chocolate and cherries, those will win me over. It’s not quite like chocolate covered cherries, but it’s an indulgent treat with a hint of marzipan flavor (tho less sweet and sticky) with cherries rolled in and coated in chocolate. It’s one of those divine flavor combinations. Unfortunately, this flavor has been very difficult to find in New Mexico. Our stores are only carrying the Mint, the Cookie Dough, and sometimes the Peanut Butter. However, every once in a while, I get to enjoy the Chocolate Cherry Almond. While I’m happy to share any of the other flavors with my family, if I end up with a Chocolate Cherry Almond bar, It’s mine! I hide it. I hoard it. Don’t touch my Chocolate Cherry Almond Protein bar!

And then, you have Mint Chocolate Chip. It might be the closest thing a person eating gluten-free can get to a Girl Scout Mint thin that you can buy, if you aren’t in the mood to bake. And you can get that taste year round! You won’t get the addictive crunch (which is good right, because the crunch is part of the addiction, so it’s a calorie saver), but you get that chocolate-cookie-mint taste that helps your mind escape back to pre-gluten free indulgence of those delightful cookies. I did accidentally squish one once….and it tasted even more like a Thin-Mint. So you could try that if you really want a Thin-Mint fix.

The bars contain whey and soy proteins. They seem to have struck a good balance between the two proteins. I tend to have tummy trouble with too much whey or soy protein. And I’m extremely grateful they use ONLY NON-GMO ingredients. The Parent company is CLIFF, and they were also a favorite of mine before I went gluten-free because they source quality ingredients, and they have fun unique flavors like Carrot Cake for protein bars. My kids love the CLIFF fruit ropes and a few other goodies that are gluten-free. I usually try to steer away from Soy Protein because most soy is GMO, so I’m thrilled that LUNA Protein Bars don’t use GMO soy. LUNA has a great FAQ on their site which explains more about these bars, including allergy info, quality, ingredients, etc.

Beautifully packaged treat from Luna

Last year, I received a surprise package on Sept 13, with three LUNA Protein Bars in it. On the Package, it said, “Happy Celiac Awareness Day!” That was a really fun moment to help pause a crazy day. With all the companies jumping on the “gluten-free trend” without understanding why gluten-free needs to mean gluten-free,  I greatly appreciate that LUNA is stepping to the forefront with Celiac Awareness and promoting a product they have designed that tastes good, has nutritional benefits, and helps spread Celiac Awareness because it can be a very devastating disease when it goes undiagnosed. So, when they sent me the “Happy Celiac Awareness Day” box in August this year, with a note that offered to contact them if we were interested in doing a review or giveaway for September 13, I did. This is a product I buy often, so I was excited to be able to do a review with a giveaway attached.

The bars themselves are fairly small. They are not made to be a meal replacement like other brands are. They are a tad smaller than some of the other protein bars out there. The calories are 170, but the 12 grams of protein are a great way to help have a snack that will sustain you. You don’t want to grab one of these bars when you are starving though. It’s better as a snack before your are starving….once you hit the starving mode, you’ll want two or three. (Yeah, I’ve had two or three). That’s probably fine if you are using it for a meal replacement (just remember these are protein bars -don’t want too much whey- and they also have vitamins as well). However, if you don’t want to have excessive calories, I’d suggest timing your snack before being super hungry.

I’ve seen some stores carry them for $1.19 to $1.69. For the size, I find that upper price frustrating, but that’s not LUNA’s price, it’s the stores. I do my best to grab them on either 10 for $10 sales or at the $1.19 price point. Albertsons’ seems to sell them for around the $1.19. They seem most expensive at Sunflower Market and Target, if I remember. (I don’t shop Whole Foods, so I can’t say what they cost there.) As I said before, I do have a tough time finding all five flavors in New Mexico. However, Amazon carries them for various prices, includes them in the Subscribe and Save. A few of the flavors are actually a little higher price on Amazon than I like to pay, but I can’t find the Chocolate Cherry anywhere, so I consider it an option, especially since I have Prime and don’t pay shipping. While I was looking up a few things about the bars, I also discovered LUNA has an online store as well, so you can purchase directly from their parent company Cliff. They are 14.95, which makes the bars come out to $1.24 before shipping. One of my biggest disappointments is that the stores don’t carry all the flavors. So, I’ll be bugging my stores a bit more for some of the other flavors and keeping an eye out for those 10 for $10 sale, which I think is the best price for their size.

Our family enjoys them a great deal. I do give them to my children, especially my son because it’s difficult to get him to eat and the protein is helpful. LUNA’s official statement is that the bars are more for adults, but both my kids also are deficient in some vitamins, so I’m personally comfortable with the ratios of vitamins, protein and minerals for them. We also don’t have them every day- they are a treat. My children both LOVE the Mint Chocolate Chip and the Cookie Dough.

Here, I took a picture of the Cookie Dough Protein bar. You can see the texture looks like cookie dough a bit. They are small, but tasty. If I could change two things about these bars, I’d make them bigger and have more flavors. I like them that much, I want just one or two more bites in the bar. And Luna has such amazing flavor profiles in their regular bars, I’d love to see them add some of those or expand more amazing combinations into the LUNA Protein Bar line- especially for those of us who are limited in our flavor and company choices.

Cookie Dough LUNA Bar- YUM

I hope that LUNA will consider adding more flavors, especially a Chocolate Coconut- reminiscent of a mounds bar, a Lemon Meringue Pie. and maybe something akin to Snickers Bars too since Snickers adds barley to their caramel. I would definitely enjoy those flavor escapes.

To celebrate Celiac Awareness Day and my return to blogging, Luna is graciously giving away a box of bars to two of my readers. Please read below for details. Since September 13 is Celiac Awareness day, I also thought I’d mention that LUNA is hosting a gluten free webcast with LUNA’s in–house nutritionist Tara DelloIacono Thies, and Delight Gluten Free magazine’s executive editor, Vanessa Maltin Weisbrod on Tuesday, 9/18 at 9:30 am PST – it will be all about living a gluten free lifestyle and nutrition tips. If we are going to inform and educate people about celiac, they will need a starting place if gluten-free becomes their life too! You or your friends you’ve make aware can RSVP to LUNAWebcast@accesspr.com.

Thank you as always for reading. I appreciate you greatly, and thank you to those who have followed my blog and been patient while I’ve been away.

How to enter
LUNA is giving away a full box of bars to two different people.
required entry:: leave a comment below telling me how long you’ve been gluten-free and what LUNA Protein Bar flavor you’d like to try or that’s your favorite.
optional second (appreciated) entry:Tweet this giveaway with my Twitter name @GFAdvocate, then add a comment that you did (comment must be added to qualify the tweet)
Optional third entry: Share the giveaway (marked public) on Facebook, come back and add a comment on this blog that you did to qualify the share.
Bonus entry: Share what you are doing to help spread Celiac Awareness in the comments below. Legitimate links to blog sites welcome. (I’ll figure how to get Comment Luv enabled soon, I hope).

The giveaway will close Sunday Sept 16 at 11:59 MST. I will email and announce the winners on Monday using a randomizer picker. Each winner will be emailed on Monday with a request for their flavor and their shipping information. I will use a random generator to pick the winner. There will be two separate winners. The winner will have until Wed the 19th to send me their information or I will email a new winner on Thursday and the prize for the original winner will be forfeit. Neither I nor LUNA are responsible for issues with shipping.

Disclaimer LUNA did provide me with samples and is sponsoring this giveaway. They also provided me with some photos for the post. However, I purchase LUNA bars often and am honored they invited me host a giveaway for my readers. Thank you for reading, and good luck!

Please do NOT add your email address to the comment. When you fill out the form, you include your email, which I can use to contact you. YOu don’t need to put your email in the comment. YOu can keep that private. 😀 thanks

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Review: Katz Gluten Free and 2 Giveaways!

Recently, “Katz Gluten Free invited me and to participate in their Summer Blogging Spectacular.” Of course jumped at the chance! Katz GlutenFree invited gluten-free bloggers from around the web to review a few Katz products, including a few new ones, and help participate in a giveaway of their products. I figure we have three wins already– I’m always happy to try Katz products, especially for free, loved that I’d get help give away some Katz to one of my lucky readers, and the Grand Giveaway is pretty fantastic (all 40 of their products)!

In my sample box, I received their new Gluten-free Apple Pie (which can be found under Cakes on Katz site), their Gluten-free Coffee Bundt Cake, and some Sugared Snack Poppers.

In the past, I’ve also enjoyed the Katz Gluten Free Sliced Challah Bread and Chocolate Frosted Cupcakes, which I try to keep in the freezer for “emergency” kid events or parties.

Overall, there are some wonderful things about the Katz company and their gluten-free line. I greatly appreciate that they produce all their products in a “dairy free, nut free, and gluten-free” facility. Although we eat a lot of nuts in our family due to school functions and so many children with nut allergies, I appreciate great nut free products for my kids functions. Katz also takes the extra step to certify the products “Gluten-free” even though they are produced in a dedicated facility. (You never know when your sources ingredients might be contaminated!) One of the initial drawbacks I had with Katz, when I first tried their products was the amount of eggs and soy flours in their products. Although I’m not allergic to egg, it does sometimes upset my stomach. I try to avoid soy flour and products with a lot of added soy because of the amount of GMO soy used because it’s a thyroid inhibitor.

However, while preparing for this review and giving the website a good tour, I noticed Katz has an Allergy Info link and sorter. If I don’t want a product with soy flour, I simply choose “soy free” and the site sorts which products don’t contain soy. (Unfortunately, one of my favorite products the chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles do get sorted out). I noticed the pie says “dairy free, nut free, soy free” on the label and actually, all three products sent for review are dairy, nut and soy free!

Another fantastic thing about Katz is their customer service. I had an issue with an order back in May, and when I called with it they were kind, responsive, and immediately rectified it. I don’t even think I had to wait on hold or wade through the IVR systems. Customer service, especially when you are getting something off the web, is crucial. Katz was also extremely helpful when I placed the order to make sure it was shipped quickly because I had a bit of an emergency need for some of the Katz products (a wedding and need of cupcakes for dessert for a little flower girl and ring bearer).

Enough about Katz, how are the products??? Let’s start with the three I received:

Apple Pie: I live in New Mexico and I got my package in 100 degree heat. The cool bag and icepack were no match for New Mexico in mid-July. From what I can tell, Katz ships their foods that have been frozen already. My packaged had completely defrosted. My kids saw the pie, and immediately wanted a piece. I was so excited, I decided to try it right after putting away the rest of the foods. The combination of the heat and defrosting made the pie crust less flaky than I expected. However, I haven’t had a pie in three years, so i wasn’t too disappointed. The inside of the apple pie had that sweet, cinnamon spice flavor that is classic about apple pie and was definitely a delightful treat.

So, why mention the shipping issue? Well, I happened upon solution and figured my readers might want it if they encounter the same issue. So, here is the fantastic thing that happened with the pie: I left in the clamshell on the counter over night, and the next day plopped a piece of the pie in the microwave on the “reheat muffin” setting. (about 9 seconds). Clamshells aren’t great at keeping moisture in, and the combo was just enough to allow the crust to become a bit more dry and FLAKY! In this case, it might be helpful to leave the pie out for a day in the clamshell so you get the classic apple pie taste AND a flaky crust.

When Katz got word that my box got damaged and some of the taste might not have been compromised with shipping, and they resent part of the package. I received the replacement shipment after writing the main draft of the review. However, it’s worth mentioning that I got a cherry pie in this shipment. This time, no icepack or “keep cool bag,” which meant that the products hopefully didn’t sweat as much. I defrosted the cherry pie overnight and had some this afternoon. Again, the crust wasn’t flaky, but my husband describes it as “light and airy.” He also said it’s a fantastic pie, and would never have known it was gluten-free. He’s the gluten eater in the house when he can, so I make him try all my review stuff to see if it will hold up to a gluten palate. It did, he enjoyed it! Next time, I will remove the shrink-wrap from the pie before defrosting. Again, the pie was more flaky after it was left out for a bit. The conclusion for me is let the pie air out a bit before serving and you’ll get a bit more flaky crust.

It’s also worth mentioning that I love cherry pie. It’s been one of my favorite pies my entire life, and I’ve never been partial to apple. There are some that are okay, but I’ll take cherry any time over apple. So, it came as a shock as I ate my cherry pie, which is an amazing pie, that I realized if I only one I could order one, that I’d probably order the apple pie if I wanted a very special taste. Now, of course I’d want them both because I still love cherry pie, but if I could only order one for a crazy reason, it just might be the apple.

Value: The pie is small about 4 servings and is between $7.49 and $7.99 for the pie. At quick glance, this seems high because it’s a small pie, not normal size we were used to before going gluten-free, however, it ends up about $2 a slice. When I got it, I tried to cut it into tiny slices. Finally,I looked at the serving size and saw you have 4. So, 4 decent slices of a GLUTEN FREE pie- that’s actually a fantastic value! I just bought a piece of cheesecake to try which cost $4.99 for one smaller slice. I say the pie is a great deal. At the moment, Katz is offering an incredible coupon on their pies: “SummerPie1” will give you $4 off the apple; “SummerPie2” will give you $4 off the cherry and “SummerPie3” will give you $4 off the blueberry. That makes it $3.49 for a pie!

Sugared Snack Poppers

Sugared Snack Poppers: The taste of these came as a surprise to me. initially, I expected a sweet cookie. They are airy, crunchy, a dry cookie, and not extremely sweet. The sugared snack poppers have just a touch of sugar and I can tell it’s just a touch. I’m not familiar with Egg Kichel and didn’t know these are Egg Kichel until trying to figure out what they were for the review. They weren’t our favorite thing, however, upon a second or third try, I’m finding myself wanting more. When I asked my husband to taste it, he said it sort of tastes like a cookie and he’d like a cup of coffee to go with a few. The closest thing they remind him of is biscotti. Actually, they are dry and airy like biscotti, without the teeth breaking hardness that is often part of biscotti. I think by the time we finish off the package, they might become one of those addictive, good to keep around for a snack, type items. And I’ll probably be thankful you keep them in the freezer too.
Value: $4.99 for a full clamshell. Great value.

Katz GlutenFree Coffee Cake with Coffee Glaze Drizzle

Coffee Cake: this was by far my kids and my favorite treat. When Katz says Coffee Cake, they mean a coffee-flavored bundt cake, not just a special cake to go with coffee. Nonetheless, is a very special cake. First, Katz does a great job with packaging. Like many of their products, including the cupcakes and other sweets, they actually shrink-wrap the clamshell.

Snack Poppers in clamshell; Bundt Cake in clamshell and shrink wrap protection

I believe this helps with moisture retention (crucial in gluten-free cake!), shipping issues (the snack poppers were not shrink wrapped and burst open) as well as helping a bit more with freezer burn and freshness. The cake is a moist dense chocolate-coffee bundt cake and in the middle is a delicious coffee glaze. Furthermore, the cake held up the best for shipping as well as storage.

Because everything had defrosted, I didn’t want to freeze the products like the box instructs. I was concerned it would cause them to dry out. However, because I was enjoying that apple pie, I didn’t try the cake for an extra two days and once I opened it, it was perfectly moist, soft etc. I also was able to keep in and enjoy it in my fridge for almost a week! For me, I cut a piece of cake, put a good spoonful of glaze on and used my magic “reheat muffin” setting in my microwave. It was just enough to make the glaze run down the cake and soften it that last day or two. For a gluten-free item to last more than two or three days is fantastic, some might say miraculous.

Value: The first time I saw the coffee bundt cake on the website, I thought, $10, hmm, maybe not. Honestly, though I’m not sure why I thought that because $10 for a gluten-free cake already prepared is a fantastic price. Besides, I’m happy to pay $5.49 for 4 cupcakes. The $5.49 still ends up a great deal because I recently went to a cupcake boutique in town and her gluten-free cupcakes are $3.49 a cupcake which ended up close to $15 for four of us for one serving. I think I got about 8-10 slices of the coffee cake for $10. If you do a per-serving-analysis, you end up with an awesome deal for a very special cake that will impress anyone.

Bottomline: I think Katz makes fantastic products and am thrilled to see them expanding their line. They have some unique products as well as some wonderful quality products and dedication to keep the product gluten-free. I would love to see them either use dry-ice for shipping the products or NOT freeze them prior to shipping. I think the freezing and shipping causes problems with some of the products, especially in warm areas or months.

Another fantastic thing about Katz is that they offer FREE SHIPPING with orders over $30. A lot of places require a much higher minimum and shipping is often the determining factor between my being able to buy something and not. It’s pretty easy to hit the $30 mark with Katz, especially if you add a Coffee Cake to your order.
Now the really fun part! Katz is offering a giveaway of their products. Actually, they are offering 2 giveaways! First, Katz is giving away a five-product pack to each blogger’s readers. When you like Katz on Facebook for an entry in my giveaway, you’ll see some other fantastic blogs to read and enter for giveaways. Next, Katz is giving away a huge GRAND GIVEAWAY – a box filled with all 40 Katz products!

So, to enter the give away on my site for 5 products of your choice please do the one or all of the following: Make sure to leave a SEPARATE comment for each entry
1) **MANDATORY*** enter a comment telling which products you want to try or your favorite Katz products
2) follow me @GlutenFreeFinds on Twitter (leave a comment that you did)
3) follow @katzglutenfree on twitter (then leave a comment that you did, or do)
4) like KatzGlutenfree Bakery on Facebook (leave a comment that you did or do and remember you’ll have access to other blogs that are participating!)
5) enter the Katz Grand Give Away (and leave a comment on my site that you did)
6) Tweet the following: #Win 5 products of your choice from @KatzGlutenFree Via @GlutenFreeFinds http://wp.me/p10fnB-6C #Giveaway Ends 8/15

I will use a random generator to choose a winner.
RULES: Giveaway is open to US Residents only. Giveaway ends Wednesday August 17, 2011 11:59 PM EST. Winner will be chosen via Random.org. Must have valid email in blog profile or leave email in comments otherwise you will be disqualified. Winner will have 48 hrs. to confirm by email, If no confirmation in that time frame a new winner will be chosen. Please note, there might be a delay in coordinating between the winner, myself and Katz to receive the product.

I discovered Katz last fall through a similar giveaway. It’s a lot of fun and it’s always great to support a GlutenFree company, especially one that seems to care about their customers and ensure we are truly getting a gluten-free product. I think my 5 products I’d choose would be: Cherry Pie, Chocolate Cupcakes, the Apricot or Raspberry Hamantaschen, the Coffee Cake, and perhaps the Pizza Crust.

Now, I need to go enter that Grand Give away myself! Thanks, as always, for reading!

Disclaimer Katz GlutenFree provided the samples for me to review and will provide the giveaway for the 5 products of choice to one of my readers.