Friday, April 11, 2014

Nature Valley Soft-Baked Oatmeal Squares

Last week, I reviewed Nature Valley's granola bar product line, including both chewy and crunchy granola bars, protein bars, and granola thins.  None were real winners.

So why did I try more products from Nature Valley?  Because I discovered their soft baked oatmeal squares.  I loved the sound of the soft baked oatmeal squares, basically like oatmeal cookies in a slightly different form factor, with a name that makes it seem totally acceptable for breakfast.  Cookies for breakfast?  Yes!  They even have a drizzle on top.  Come on, how could you not want to try them?

But, I still went in with fairly low expectations since I don't tend to really like bar-type snacks, which may be surprising given how many reviews of them I do.  Luckily for me, these are certainly not like granola bars, or sports bars.  They are their own thing.

The soft-baked squares are available in 4 varieties: banana bread and dark chocolate, cinnamon brown sugar, blueberry, and peanut butter.

And ... they are good!  Just as advertised, they are very soft.  I was most shocked by how much flavor each variety I tried had.  The heartiness of a nice bowl of oatmeal is there, just in a more convenient form.  While sweet, the sugar content isn't that high, making them totally reasonable choices for a quick grab and go breakfast.  (For real, I'm not just making up excuses for cookies for breakfast!)  If I need a breakfast on the run again, I'd certainly consider these.

Nature Valley also makes regular oatmeal in two forms: one where you add water to a traditional vessel and then top it was extra granola, and "Bistro Cups" that go with a Keurig.  I'm not exactly sure what it is you brew in the Keurig exactly, but this sounds potentially fascinating.  They aren't really just marketing this to have you warm the water in your Keurig, right?
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Square.
The peanut butter version is made from whole grain oats and peanut butter flavored chips with a peanut butter flavored drizzle on top.  Mmm, drizzle.

The peanut butter flavor was incredibly strong.  They weren't messing around here.  I really appreciated that.  The bar itself tasted like peanut butter, but it was the extra drizzle that pushed it over the top.  I let mine get a bit warm in the sun, and the drizzle turned sorta into a glaze.  You could almost say it was like an adult version of a toaster strudel :)

My favorite of the varieties I tried.
Cinnamon Brown Sugar.
I also tried the other variety, cinnamon brown sugar.  This one is made with the same oat base, with brown sugar and cinnamon mixed in, and topped with a molasses drizzle.

This one was also pretty good.  Again, nice and soft.  And very flavorful, just in a different way.

It tasted like a traditional bowl of oatmeal.  Or at least, how I always have my oatmeal, as I always add both brown sugar and cinnamon.   Those flavors came through loud and clear.  The molasses drizzle added a little extra touch of sweetness, and precisely mirrored the drizzle of maple syrup that I always put on top of my oatmeal.  Seriously, if you could transform my oatmeal into a bar, this would be it (although, I'd probably have some chopped up nuts and raisins too).

I preferred the peanut butter version, but I wouldn't say no to eating another one of these.

Update:  I got another.  The cinnamon flavor was good again, and I liked the sweetness from the brown sugar.  So, flavor-wise, it was a winner.  But it wasn't really "soft" this time.  Sure, it was softer than a standard granola bar, but it was very dry and crumbly.  I wanted it to be more like a muffin, or more like the soft-baked Belvita.  I did like the heartiness from the oats.
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