Bonnie: I'm a pretzel lover, usually reaching for them instead of a cracker to have with cheese. These new Flipsides provide another option, as one side's a pretzel, the other a Town House cracker. Innovative, I'd say.I like the way these blend the taste of pretzels and Town House crackers. What I like even more is that Flipsides have 1 fewer gram of fat and 10 fewer calories than a serving of regular Town House crackers. That's still 70 calories and 3.5 grams fat per half-ounce portion of five crackers, which means I'll reach for them only occasionally in place of fat-free pretzels.
Carolyn: Pretzels taste good but aren't as sinful as other salty snacks or crackers. So I've been wondering how long it would take for a big company to copy the Snack Factory's idea of turning pretzels into a dippable, spreadable, flat-surfaced cracker it calls Pretzel Crisps.
A little while longer, it seems. Because Keebler's new Town House Flipsides Pretzel Crackers are not cracker-shaped pretzels (like Pretzel Crisps), but are thin, flat pretzels and rich butter crackers stuck together. The result has a richer texture but less distinct flavor than either a Town House butter cracker or a pretzel. And the addition of cheese in the cheddar flavor muddles that snack almost beyond taste recognition.Sometimes simpler is better, Keebler.
Celestial Seasonings Organic Whole Bean Coffee. Morning Thunder, Decaf Morning Thunder, French Roastaroma, Caramel Mocha and Vanilla Hazelnut. $9.99 per 12-ounce resealable bag.
Bonnie: I do love my coffee strong coffee and each morning I fresh-grind beans just before brewing. So I looked forward to testing these new organic, fair trade-certified, whole-bean coffees from tea-maven Celestial Seasonings.
Each variety is packed in a resealable zipper-locked bag to keep the beans fresh. I like that. I also liked all the unflavored varieties. I found the flavored coffees overwhelming in "flavor," even though when testing them I added less than a tablespoon of flavored beans to the unflavored ones I ground to brew a pot.I do, though, highly recommend Morning Thunder, Decaf Morning Thunder and French Roastaroma coffee beans to coffee lovers like me.
Carolyn: Tastewise, I don't usually expect much from organic, fair-trade coffee. Like socially responsible mutual funds, fair-trade, organic coffees have agendas beyond the usual good performance that are noble enough to be worth the sacrifice, at least for their denizens.
But I'm happy to report that these new Celestial Seasonings coffees sacrifice nothing in either strength or taste on the way toward helping the environment and coffee farmers. The Morning Thunder and French Roastaroma varieties, in particular, are as flavorful and robust as Starbucks (but without the burnt taste of Starbucks).
I was less enamored of the Caramel Mocha and Vanilla Hazelnut varieties. Although the underlying coffee flavor was just as strong, the other flavors seemed forced and fake. While Celestial made its name on imaginatively flavored teas, I suspect organic coffee buyers would also prefer subtler flavors that naturally emerge from coffee beans.These Celestial coffees continue the company's tradition of distinctive packaging by putting the beans in resealable snack-chip-type pouches. While this will make them stand out on the supermarket shelf, it also makes them take up more cupboard space at home.
The Skinny Cow Skinny Dippers. Vanilla, Caramel, and Mint. $4.99 per box of twelve 1.65-ounce bars.
Bonnie: After testing and liking Skinny Cow's Low Fat Ice Cream Cones, I was looking forward to testing these new Skinny Dippers bars. But I found these a lot less satisfying.
A box-defined serving of two Popsicle-shaped, chocolate-dipped bars contains only 160 calories but a considerable 6 grams of fat (of which 3.5 are saturated). They also contain 3 grams fiber from the in-vogue fiber additive inulin.But since Skinny Cow's Low Fat Chocolate With Fudge ice cream cones have similar calories, some fiber and 3 grams less fat, those are what I'd recommend.
Carolyn: Skinny Cow makes skinny yet tasty versions of popular ice cream novelties. At least, it used to. These new chocolate-covered ice cream bars aren't in the same league as its ice cream sandwiches, cones and fudge bars.
For one thing, these are only half-covered in chocolate. This may save on calories, but it leaves half of the ice cream exposed for the anemic sweet it is.I recommend buying generic, store-brand chocolate-covered ice cream bars instead. They won't taste better, but the calories are about the same and you'll save several dollars.
Bonnie Tandy Leblang is a registered dietitian and professional speaker. Carolyn Wyman is a junk-food fanatic and author of "Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed the Way We Eat" (Quirk). Each week they critique three new food items. For previous columns, visit www.supermarketsampler.com, and for more food info and chances to win free products, visit www.biteofthebest.com. © Universal Press Syndicate