REVIEW: Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Creme Pudding

Hershey s Cookies  N Creme Pudding

If there was a Nobel Prize for food flavors, whoever invented Cookies & Crème (Cream if you prefer) should’ve been awarded one.

Sometime in the early/mid 80s, my mother and young self slid into a booth at Friendly’s for our weekly lunch and ice cream out. I spied a new flavor: Cookies & Creme. “What’s that?” I asked the waitress. “Vanilla and Oreos” she said. EXCUSE ME? OREO ICE CREAM? My tiny cookie-obsessed mind was blown. “This is the best thing ever!” I chanted after every spoonful. Ever since, it’s been my flavor magnetic north.

As fan of Jell-O Oreo Cookies ‘n Creme pudding mix, Jell-O Oreo Pudding cups, and Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme candy bars, it was a no-brainer that I would try Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme pudding cups.

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The appearance wasn’t exactly exciting for a cookie fanatic. All I saw were microscopic specks mixed into the white pudding. Maybe all the cookie bits were inside. Way inside.

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Under the foil, there was a faint whiff of cookies, but still no bits. What the hells bells was going on here? I dug around with a spoon, hoping to rile up some hidden chunks. Didn’t happen. C&C fans know that the enjoyment of any given product is dependent on the mass of cookie in relation to the overall mass. See chart 1:

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(Note this chart only goes to 70% – beyond that you risk under-creaming.)

Taste-wise, this pudding wasn’t bad. It’s reminiscent of Hershey’s candy bar of the same name – heavy sweet vanilla with a shadow of cookie. But it was missing something – cookie balls!

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The greatest part of the candy bars are the little crunchy balls. They goose the flavor and impart much-needed texture. They’re completely absent in the pudding, and it’s a real shame. It needs them. It’s just a smooth white mass that left a slightly greasy film on my tongue.

I liked this pudding, but not enough to buy again. Jell-O’s Oreo puddings were closer to the mark for me – less sweetness, less vanilla, more cookie.

This under-cookied pudding was screaming to be repurposed, so I made mini-icebox cakes out of it. Drop dollops of pudding between Oreo cookies. (I ate the fillings out of mine!) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

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The moisture from the pudding soaks into the cookies, making something like a cold cakey milk-dunked Oreo.

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(Nutrition Facts – 1 cup – 110 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 4-pack
Purchased at: Key Food
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Like a melted version of its namesake candy bar (If you like that candy bar).
Cons: A severe, drought-like lack of cookie bits or varied texture of any kind. Greasy tongue slime trail.

REVIEW: Haagen-Dazs Trio Salted Caramel & Chocolate Ice Cream

Haagen-Dazs Trio Salted Caramel & Chocolate Ice Cream

Ketchup, mustard, and mayo.

Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman.

Destiny’s Child.

Nirvana.

The Marx Brothers.

Our society is made up of so many good trios, why not shove that logic into a container of ice cream? The master-churners at Haagen-Dazs have our backs with their new line of creamy crack simply dubbed “Trio.” The Salted Caramel Chocolate version combines layers of crispy Belgian chocolate with salted caramel ice cream and chocolate ice cream. Let’s triple dip.

Digging into the psuedo-pint makes a distinctly unique crunching sound as my spoon breaks through the layers of chocolate inside. The ice cream is of typical Haagen-Dazs high quality – the mellow chocolate and subdued salted caramel make sense to combine in a flavor like this, but they ultimately kind of cancel each other out.

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It’s always a risk to mix two ice cream bases, and here some of the subtle nuances of the caramel get washed over by the chocolate; which is a shame, because when you isolate the caramel on its own it’s a pretty tasty flavor.

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The star of the show, the Belgian chocolate, is kind of thin; actually thinner than a lot of chocolate chunks or Ben & Jerry’s “fudge flakes,” and doesn’t add as much of a thick texture as I would like. The effect is much more similar to just a standard chocolate mix-in than a thick layer of chocolate, and in that regard the taste is much less impressive than the visual.

Haagen-Dazs Trio Salted Caramel & Chocolate Ice Cream 4

It actually tastes a lot like one of Haagen-Dazs’ ice cream bars got smashed up and squeezed into a carton, without that disgusting wooden stick that makes my teeth cringe.

The flavor combo between the two ice creams and layers of milky chocolate is a lot like eating a Rolo, but less sweet and grainy. I like Rolo’s, but I’m not usually interested in more than two or three, and that’s the same way I feel about this Trio. The flavors are good but lose their intrigue quickly and become a pretty single noted experience with the caramel nearly disappearing against all of the chocolate.

Haagen-Dazs Trio Salted Caramel & Chocolate Ice Cream 5

Overall, it eats much more like a chocolate chocolate chip than an ice cream with salted caramel, and the flavor would have been much more effective with a vanilla ice cream to let the caramel actually come through and have any real impact. It’s a well made product but the flavor distribution and execution could use some work.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup (104g) – 300 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 14 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Exciting crunch sound effects. Good quality ice cream. Shoving a Haagen-Dazs bar into a pint.
Cons: Flavors get muddled. Caramel gets lost. Chocolate layers should be thicker. Concept better than execution.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Almond Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Almond Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Almond is an exclusive Safeway flavor (plus its sister stores) and, to be honest, it’s not a particularly exciting exclusive flavor.

While Walmart gets Cotton Candy, Confetti Cake, and another flavor that probably starts with the letter C, and Target gets Blonde Ambition, Berry Voluntary, and another flavor that probably starts with the letter B, Safeway stores get a safe flavor with a safe name, which I guess is appropriate for a chain called Safeway.

The safe flavor features safe vanilla bean ice cream with safe roasted almond slivers, safe fudge flakes, and a safe salted caramel swirl.

The vanilla bean ice cream is a solid base, it’s creamy, has a pleasant vanilla flavor, and there are vanilla bean specks. Although those could be tiny bits of the fudge flakes, which taste like the fudge flakes we all know and love from the dozen or so other flavors that have them.

As for the roasted almond slivers, they’re less like whole cross-sections of the nut and more like whole cross-section of the nut smashed into pieces by a hammer. Their flavor isn’t too noticeable while eating the ice cream, but very noticeable as they stick to the nooks and crannies of your molars after the rest of the ice cream has gone down your esophagus. The salted caramel swirl has a saltiness that’s stronger when I lick my lips while eating the ice cream than when the ice cream is in my mouth.

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There’s almost enough of each ingredient that you can get a bit of everything in every spoonful. With each scoop it’s a textural orchestra of gooey, creamy, snappy, and crunchy and a flavor orchestra of buttery, sweet, salty, and nutty. It’s like eating the top of a Nestle Drumstick beaten with a better ingredient stick.

It’s hard to go wrong with the combination of vanilla ice cream, chocolate, caramel, and nuts. It’s like combining rainbows, glitter, and a unicorn. With either of those combos, you know you’re going to have a good time. And while I had fun with Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Almond Ice Cream, it wasn’t too exciting and tasted like something I’ve had before.

It was a safe fun, like hitting a piñata with a foam bat, without a blindfold, and doing it in the virtual world with VR goggles.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 290 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 26 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: It’s like eating the top of a Nestle Drumstick that’s been beaten with a better ingredient stick. Safe flavor; it’s not weird or offensive. Lots of different flavors and textures.
Cons: Safe flavor; not as exciting as exclusive flavors at Walmart and Target. Almond slivers are almond bits. Fudge flakes seem to be in EVERYTHING.

REVIEW: Peeps Mystery Flavors (2017)

Peeps Mystery Flavors (2017)

I remember stumbling upon last year’s Peeps Mystery Flavors and I was very much caught off guard.

Not one, not two, but three new flavors that I get to try and guess?! COUNT ME IN. I fell in love with the buttered popcorn one and so this makes me very excited to see what Peeps has in store this year. What would be the new buttered popcorn for me?

There are again three flavors to guess and while the packaging has stayed similar the Peeps are now speckled with bright color flakes. This adds a whole another layer of complexity as it ties the colors directly to the peeps giving you another reference point to lead you to the correct flavor or just throw you off completely.

First up is my favorite, Mystery Flavor #1 of 3.

On first whiff, there is a predominately maple kind of scent like straight maple syrup, perhaps even a hint of caramel as well. Biting into the Peeps, I love how the sugar and flakes on the outside mix together with the squishy marshmallow inside.

However, the flavor doesn’t get any stronger, which is disappointing. I still taste maple but then also think these could be coffee too, but definitely with some creaminess. I really enjoyed these but am completely stumped by the flavor. They could be waffles or pancakes or cappuccino or latte but what I keep coming back to is maple syrup.

Peeps Mystery Flavors (2017) 2

Next up is my least favorite, Mystery Flavor #2 of 3.

After opening it I got a serious blast of fruitiness, but not sure which one yet. Eating the Peeps, made me think instantly of orange. These had a lot of flavor and were sweet, but also tart. There may be another flavor in there but these tasted exactly like those orange fruit slice candies. It can’t be THAT simple, though, can it? Maybe these are blood orange or something. Plain old orange would be a serious missed opportunity.

Finally, Mystery Flavor #3 of 3.

Smelling these I got fruitiness again but distinctly a lemon-lime scent. Eating them, yep, lemon-lime was coming in very strong with sour notes, too. However, the flakes are yellow and green, which seems way too easy, unless that was on purpose to trick us? Brand mashups are all the rage recently, so maybe these are in fact sour Sprite flavored. Let’s go with that!

(Nutrition Facts – 5 chicks – 140 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 32 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.19 each
Size: 3 oz./10 chicks
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 7 out of 10 (#1 of 3)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (#2 of 3)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (#3 of 3)
Pros: The fun that mystery flavors bring. Colored flakes upping the confusion factor. Sugary outsides and marshmallow insides joining together in perfect harmony.
Cons: Two-thirds of the flavors seem to be fruit based. Not finding my buttered popcorn successor. The agony that will take place until the flavors are officially revealed.

QUICK REVIEW: Pure Leaf Tea House Collection Organic Green Tea with a Hint of Fuji Apple & Ginger

Pure Leaf's Tea House Collection Organic Green Tea with a Hint of Fuji Apple & Ginger

Pure Leaf’s Tea House Collection Organic Green Tea with a Hint of Fuji Apple & Ginger has an aroma that makes me think the ginger is going to burn and a name that’s so long it makes me parched.

But thankfully the ginger was mild enough that it didn’t burn and I could take a sip of the tea that made my mouth dry after saying its name.

The ginger flavor is front and center with every sip. The apple gets lost with the ginger, but it does seem to give the tea a sweetness. Perhaps the apple is there to tone down the ginger, which itself isn’t potent flavor wise. All I could think of while gulping it down after every time I said Pure Leaf’s Tea House Collection Organic Green Tea with a Hint of Fuji Apple & Ginger was how it just tastes like a sweetened ginger green tea.

I’m disappointed the apple doesn’t stand out, but it’s still a tasty and refreshing tea. Although, maybe after saying its full name, any liquid would be refreshing to my mouth.

Purchased Price: $2.59
Size: 14 fl oz.
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 10 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 20 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.