REVIEW: Jif Cookies ‘n Cream Hazelnut Spread

Jif Cookies ‘n Cream Hazelnut Spread

Hybrids are all the rage right now. Half-electric/half-gasoline cars are zipping around our roads, bakeries are selling Cronuts by the dozen, and scientists have successfully merged blobfish DNA with the human genome to create a hybrid known as “Kim Kardashian.”

It was only a matter of time before mankind witnessed a fusion of two of the most delicious foods: cookies and butter.

Okay, okay. Cookie butter isn’t technically a hybrid of cookies and butter, but it’s close enough. If you believe otherwise, I encourage you to watch the forthcoming televised debate on the topic between Paula Deen and Cookie Monster: Speculoos Exposed.

Strangely, Jif’s new Cookies ‘n Cream Hazelnut Spread doesn’t actually label itself a cookie butter, even though “cocoa cookies” are one of its main ingredients. It seems similar to Trader Joe’s Cookies & Creme cookie butter, which I shamelessly ate straight from the jar. This Jif spread needs to be just as delicious if it’s going to be worth my time.

Jif Cookies ‘n Cream Hazelnut Spread 2

Cracking open the lid reveals a swirl of cookies ‘n cream and hazelnut spreads, with a scent evoking Oreo cookies and Nutella — a good sign, for sure. Texturally, it’s not as thick as Nutella, or even peanut butter, but the consistency is standard for a cookie butter.

I held myself back from voraciously attacking the jar and tasted the two spreads individually.

Jif Cookies ‘n Cream Hazelnut Spread 3

Light gray and speckled with little black bits of cookie, the cookies ‘n cream spread is incredible for one reason alone — it tastes like melted Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme candy bars. Jif really nailed this flavor. The cookie bits mixed throughout provide a satisfying crunch without feeling too gritty, complementing the spread’s blend of chocolate flavor and sweet creaminess.

Sadly, the hazelnut spread is a disappointment. In comparison to Nutella, the gold standard of all hazelnut spreads, it feels too oily. Though hazelnut can be detected in its flavor, the cocoa flavor is stressed and reminds of cheap chocolate. In addition, as the hazelnut spread is swallowed, it lingers in the back of the throat, resulting in a mild stinging sensation that’s more unsettling than that song Hulk Hogan wrote for a dying child.

Jif Cookies ‘n Cream Hazelnut Spread 4

I tried the spread on a waffle, fresh from the toaster. As the hazelnut and cookies ‘n cream parts of the spread mixed together, the flavors merged, making it hard to notice the hazelnut spread’s undesirable qualities. Sadly, the creamy aspects of the cookies ‘n cream component were also drowned out, resulting in an uninspired cocoa flavor. I don’t think I would be able to identify the blended spread as cookies ‘n cream in a blind taste test, as it’s closer to a cheap Nutella knockoff with a heavier chocolate flavor.

That dang hazelnut swirl ruined everything. Jif really would have been better off marketing an entire jar of the cookies ‘n cream spread by itself.

I guess I’ll have to get my fix of cookies and butter somewhere else. Ya know, I’ve been meaning to try out a recipe I found in an early copy of Paula Deen’s next cookbook: “Southern-style frozen butter patties dipped in Oreo cookie crumbs.” Mmm, I can taste my arteries clogging.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 Tbsp. – 210 calories, 120 calories from fat, 13 grams of total fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 21 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Jif Cookies ‘n Cream Hazelnut Spread
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 13 oz.
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Cookies ‘n cream component tastes like the Hershey’s candy bar. Spread has a satisfying crunch from cookie bits. Paula Deen debating a Muppet.
Cons: Spread feels oily. Hazelnut component tastes cheap, leaves stinging sensation in back of throat. Hazelnut ruins the cookies ‘n cream flavor when they combine. The fact that Hulk Hogan’s music album never went platinum.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Chicken Pot Pie Hot Pockets

Limited Edition Chicken Pot Pie Hot Pockets

When I was a kid, my mom chose not to feed us Hot Pockets. With tears in my eyes and hunger in my stomach, I spent many lunchtimes watching my classmates shove pepperoni-filled pastries into their pudgy little faces.

But now I’m an adult, and I’ve sworn to eat as many Hot Pockets as I want. This is America, dammit. As a citizen of this beautiful country, it is my duty to engorge myself with meat-filled freezer pies to my heart’s content. Don’t believe me? Go read the Bill of Rights. Freedom of Meats, y’all.

Exercising my rights as an American citizen, I decided to visit my local Hot Pocket Palace, known more colloquially as Walmart. I soon realized I was unsure of where to find Hot Pockets in this supermarket. To my surprise, they were not located in the same aisle as diapers. (Jim Gaffigan, eat your heart out.)

I eventually made it home with a package of Hot Pockets Limited Edition Chicken Pot Pie. According the front of the box, each Hot Pocket contains white meat chicken, carrots, peas, onions, and celery. According to the back of the box, it also contains many complex-sounding ingredients that could easily trip up the finalists in a second grade spelling bee: “Timmy, your word is sodium stearoyl lactylate. What’s that? Use it in a sentence? My Hot Pocket contains sodium stearoyl lactylate.”

Limited Edition Chicken Pot Pie Hot Pockets 2

Even after using the included crisping sleeve, the Hot Pocket emerged from the microwave with a slightly rubbery, chewy crust. It tasted blandly of flour, with not enough buttery flavor. The oven provided better results, yielding a more flaky, crispy crust that drew attention away from these flaws.

I must admit, I had pretty high expectations for this crust after hearing Snoop Dogg sing its praises in that bizarre Hot Pockets commercial from a few years back. That video deserved a Grammy, or at least a Nobel Peace Prize. I even keep the MP3 on my iPod for when I work out at the gym. Ever try getting your swole on while Snoop busts a rhyme about beef and cheese? That shit’s a natural muscle enhancer.

Breathing in the unmistakable scent of freshly-baked chicken pot pie, I was eager to take my first bite. After repeatedly scorching the roof of my mouth on the Hot Pocket’s superheated innards, I was finally able to taste the filling.

Limited Edition Chicken Pot Pie Hot Pockets 4

Compared to the filling in frozen pot pies I’ve tasted in the past, the Hot Pocket’s filling seems less creamy. Its flavor comes primarily from the chicken, which doesn’t feel rubbery or unnatural in texture, but tastes over-seasoned with a pre-packaged meat vibe. Every once in a while, I experienced a burst of pea flavor, but the carrots, onions, and celery seemed lost in the sea of pie filling. In addition, several spots inside the pocket were emptier than expected; the pastry could have used a bit more filling.

This Chicken Pot Pie Hot Pocket leaves something to be desired, and feels more like a savory pie-flavored Toaster Strudel than a bonafide pot pie. At only a few cents over two dollars, they seem like a steal, but I have no desire to purchase another box.

Well, at least I can cross something off my bucket list:

1. Write 500 words about a Hot Pocket
2. Eat a Hot Pocket with Kate Upton
3. Watch Harry and the Hendersons without crying
4. Finish writing my bucket list

Kate, if you’re reading this, I’ve got a box of pepperoni Hot Pockets with your name on it.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Hot Pocket – 240 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of total fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 480 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein..)

Item: Limited Edition Chicken Pot Pie Hot Pockets
Purchased Price: $2.18
Size: 2 sandwiches
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Crust is flaky, crispy when cooked in oven. Chicken doesn’t feel rubbery. Strong chicken flavor. Freedom of Meats. The twisted satisfaction I feel when sabotaging second grade spelling bees.
Cons: Crust is bland, rubbery when cooked in microwave. Chicken feels over-seasoned. Chicken and peas are the only noticeable fillings. Emptier than expected. The looks people give me when I’m jamming out to Snoop Dogg’s song about Hot Pockets.

REVIEW: Honey Maid Birthday Cake Teddy Grahams

Honey Maid Birthday Cake Teddy Grahams

Bears and birthday cakes do not mix.

At least that’s what the security guards told me when I tried to feed Greg the Grizzly a slice of red velvet with cream cheese frosting. Those misinformed fuddy-duddies. If bears don’t actually want to eat cake, then why are they always stealing picnic baskets? Who are we to say no to bears?

In spite of these warnings, Honey Maid has defied zoo security and mixed bears with birthday cake as part of their newly released Birthday Cake Teddy Grahams.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve never tasted a bear before — Greg’s guards told me no nibbling allowed. I have tasted Teddy Grahams, though, and I consider myself a fan of those teeny-tiny ursine cookies.

If you’ve never tried Teddy Grahams, they’re nothing more than little crackers that resemble happy cartoon bears. Each of these bears has either both its arms up, or both its arms down. The result is one of the lamest attempts to dance to “Y.M.C.A.” that the world has ever seen.

Honey Maid Birthday Cake Teddy Grahams 2

Because these particular Teddy Grahams are birthday cake-flavored, each cracker is speckled with rainbow color, as if it has contracted a fabulous version of measles. Discomeasles, anyone?

Their scent is somewhere between Nilla wafers and cupcakes. Their flavor is…not what I was expecting.

When I think of “birthday cake,” I imagine strong flavors alluding to vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles. These Teddy Grahams are heavy on the graham flavor with merely a faint hint of birthday cake sweetness. It’s an accurate imitation of cake batter, but it only shows up after the graham flavor begins to dissipate.

At first, I was a bit disappointed the birthday cake flavor was this mellow, but these Teddy Grahams have quickly grown on me. Because they’re so plain, they’re very easy to eat in large amounts. I no longer have the sweet tooth of an 8-year-old child, and these Teddy Grahams allow me to snack without feeling like I’m injecting sugar directly into my bloodstream. I honestly prefer them over the other Teddy Graham flavors: honey, cinnamon, chocolate, grizzly, panda, polar, etc.

Though different from what I had anticipated, these Birthday Cake Teddy Grahams have earned my approval. I’m glad Honey Maid chose “birthday cake” as their new Teddy Graham variety, and not another trendy flavor. I can just imagine sea salt caramel, coffee, and sriracha Teddy Grahams. Those would have been unbearable. (Stop complaining. I had to fit in a bear pun somewhere, okay?)

(Nutrition Facts – 24 pieces (30 grams) – 140 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 2.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1 gram of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 55 milligrams of potassium, 22 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Honey Maid Birthday Cake Teddy Grahams
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 10 oz. box
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Not overwhelmingly sweet. Super snackable. Discomeasles…? Bear puns.
Cons: Primarily graham-flavored. Zoo security. Bear puns.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Oreo Cheesecake Square Donut

Dunkin’ Donuts Oreo Cheesecake Square Donut

When it comes to cheese and desserts, I have mixed feelings.

Cheese and pie? No thanks. The last time I tried a slice of apple pie topped with cheddar cheese, I began gagging like my neighbor’s cat when it swallowed a whole hot dog. (Come to think of it, we never did figure out how poor ol’ Sassy Boots fit that 6-inch frankfurter down his esophagus, but damn, that’s one talented cat.)

Cheese and cake? Cheesecake!? Yes, please! I love cheesecake, so when I heard about the new Oreo Cheesecake Square at Dunkin’ Donuts, I began drooling more than my neighbor’s cat does whenever someone starts grilling a pack of Oscar Mayer Wieners. (Sassy Boots really, really likes hot dogs. Don’t judge.)

Available through April, the Oreo Cheesecake Square donut is frosted with white icing, topped with Oreo cookie crumbles, and filled with a creamy cheesecake filling. To be clear, Dunkin’ Donuts products and Oreos have mingled in the past, and Dunkin’ certainly isn’t doing anything radical or original here. Both Oreo and cheesecake flavors are hard to dislike, making the Oreo Cheesecake Square an easy shot at a crowd-pleaser.

Like most filled donuts sold at Dunkin’ Donuts, the Oreo Cheesecake Square suffers from PCD: poor cream distribution. With the filling concentrated entirely in the middle of the donut, all four corners of my Oreo Cheesecake Square were as empty as a mosh pit at a Bee Gees concert. (Ever try thrashing to “How Deep Is Your Love?” Yeah, not possible.) These first few creamless bites melded the sugary white frosting with the chocolate Oreo crumbles into a traditional cookies ‘n cream flavor.

Frankly, I’m surprised a cookies ‘n cream donut has yet to join the regular menu at Dunkin’, and this donut presents a glimpse of what we’ve been missing. The duo of white frosting and Oreo crumbles seems a perfect fit for the fluffy yeast donut base.

Dunkin’ Donuts Oreo Cheesecake Square Donut 2

As I reached the center of the donut, I encountered the cheesecake cream. The filling’s most apparent trait is its cream cheese-like tang, which pushes to the forefront of each bite. The creamy, dairy flavor is more mild than in an actual cheesecake — this could be why the filling also feels less dense than an actual cheesecake. At times, the cream’s lukewarm temperature made me uncomfortable; I’m used to eating my cheesecake chilled, and I can’t help but feel this donut would be better after an hour in the refrigerator.

Though the filling inside of the Dunkin’ Donuts Oreo Cheesecake Square isn’t a perfect replication of cheesecake flavor, I enjoyed the creamy, chocolatey, and tangy characteristics of this donut. It’s just as tasty as the other donuts on the Dunkin’ menu, but because there’s nothing groundbreaking here, I can’t call it spectacular. In other words, it’s not worth a special trip to your local Dunkin’, but it certainly deserves a spot in your next dozen.

Ya know, maybe a little cheese in desserts isn’t so bad after all.

But definitely not with my Grandma Nadezhda’s Chocolate Head Cheese Surprise. Blech.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Donut – 370 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of total fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 400 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Item: Dunkin’ Donuts Oreo Cheesecake Square Donut
Purchased Price: $1.04
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Dunkin’ Donuts
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Frosting and Oreo crumbles blend into Cookies ‘n Cream flavor. Tangy cheesecake filling. Feels less dense than actual cheesecake. Thrashing at Bee Gees concerts.
Cons: Lukewarm cream makes me uncomfortable. Not tastier than other Dunkin’ donuts. Cats obsessed with hot dogs.

REVIEW: Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato

Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato

Few people recognize cookie dough’s versatility.

Your kids ate all the Play-Doh? Give those rascals some cookie dough. Out of plumber’s putty? Use a bit of cookie dough to fix that leaky faucet. Need a quick stuffing for your Thanksgiving turkey? Shove some cookie dough up its poultry-hole and call it a day.

Maybe none of those are good ideas. Maybe Google Image searching “poultry-hole” wasn’t a good idea either. Maybe I’m unsure how to transition from talking about turkey orifices to gelato, so I’m just going to pretend I never wrote these first two paragraphs and start over. Were you expecting Pulitzer Prize writing here? Because I’m pretty sure any writer who uses the word “poultry-hole” more than twice is instantly disqualified, and I just hit number three.

One of seven new Talenti flavors for 2015, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough seduced me with visions of a cookie dough gelato base speckled with plenty of chocolate chips. Due to the container’s lack of a description aside from the flavor’s title and ingredients list, this is what I was expecting.

I was wrong.

Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato 2

Instead, this flavor features a vanilla bean gelato with swirls of dark butter fudge, mixed with bits of chocolate chip cookie dough.

Sugary sweet in scent, the vanilla gelato base possesses the strong vanilla flavor and subtle bitterness of a vanilla extract — different, but not undesirable. The fudge swirls’ sharp cocoa flavor alludes to watered-down chocolate syrup, but winds up choked by the potent vanilla gelato.

Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato 3

Worst of all, the cookie dough bits are the Waldo of this flavor; I’m looking, but I just can’t seem to find ‘em. After consuming more than half the pint, I had encountered around five chunks of cookie dough. Their chocolatey, brown sugar flavor suggests a spot-on rendition of cookie dough, but what’s the point if they’re barely present?

At least I can say one good thing about this gelato: according to the Talenti website, the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavor is both kosher and vegetarian. Rest assured, people. You will find no meats inside this pint. You won’t find very much cookie dough either. Hrmph.

Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato 4

For a flavor titled “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough,” the cookie dough really seems to take a backseat here. This flavor needs at least twice as much cookie dough to live up to its name. Frankly, Talenti’s new Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough gelato feels more like a pint of glorified vanilla ice cream.

This is one dessert I’ll be keeping out of my poultry-hole, I mean, mouth-hole.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 210 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein..)

Item: Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato
Purchased Price: $4.69
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Gelato flavor is similar to vanilla extract. Kosher and vegetarian. No meat inside here.
Cons: Fudge swirls are choked by vanilla flavor. Very few cookie dough bits. Excessive use of poultry-hole.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Boom Chocolatta Cookie Core Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's Boom Chocolatta Cookie Core Ice Cream

Coffee is a wonderful thing. It makes mornings tolerable, goes great with donuts, and gives kopi luwak farmers a reason to sift through civet poop.

It’s also incredibly addictive. Sure, coffee might provide you with a much-needed energy boost, but before you know it, you’ll be poppin’ caffeine pills and belting out songs by The Pointer Sisters.

Nevertheless, I’m so excited to see what coffee can do when partnered with chocolate and caramel in Ben & Jerry’s Boom Chocolatta. Part of the new line of Cookie Core ice creams, this flavor features a chocolate cookie butter core surrounded by mocha and caramel ice creams, sprinkled with chocolate cookie bits and fudge flakes.

When I first heard the name “Boom Chocolatta,” I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, it sounds a lot like an awful catchphrase I would have shamelessly overused in high school. I can just imagine signing everyone’s yearbooks with it. “Yo Derrick. Give ‘em hell at DeVry University. BOOM CHOCOLATTA.”

Ben & Jerry's Boom Chocolatta Cookie Core Ice Cream Top

Peeling back the lid reveals the two ice cream flavors conjoined by a precious cookie core. The mocha half possesses a bold coffee flavor with a more subtle hint of chocolate. In comparison, the caramel ice cream tastes tame. I had to really focus to detect its highly understated caramel flavor. When paired with the mocha, the caramel’s more reserved flavor brings balance to each spoonful.

The fudge flakes and chocolate cookie pieces mixed throughout add an occasional smidgen of chocolate flavor, but are negligible alongside the real star of the show: the chocolate cookie core.

Ben & Jerry's Boom Chocolatta Cookie Core Ice Cream Core

Lightly crunchy and deeply rich, the core offers a chocolate sweetness akin to finely crushed Oreo cookies, but with a darker chocolate flavor. In fact, when the core is eaten alone, it seems too rich, but this flaw fades beside the mocha and caramel ice creams. Texturally, the cookie core is far more solid than a jarred cookie butter and has a grainy consistency. It’s not as spreadable as a cookie butter, but it’s scoopable — even straight from the freezer. And trust me, you’ll be scooping this cookie butter harder than Scoop Doggy Dogg himself. He’s a rapper, right?

As I dug deeper and deeper into the carton, I was dismayed to discover the pint contained less cookie core than I had hoped. And why was it sitting at an awkward angle, offset from the center of the carton? My cookie core was nowhere near as glorious as the illustrations had implied. I’m sure Ben and Jerry could have been a little more generous with their cookie butter.

Ben & Jerry's Boom Chocolatta Cookie Core Ice Cream Spoon

Still, Boom Chocolatta is a favorable addition to Ben & Jerry’s line of Core ice creams. Sometimes, an entire pint of coffee ice cream is just too much coffee flavor, and that’s exactly why Boom Chocolatta excels: the caramel ice cream and cookie core add enough variety to keep things interesting down to the last spoonful, and no single bite feels repetitive. I just wish Ben & Jerry’s hadn’t been so stingy with the cookie core. It was a bit of a letdown — just like when I found out Sir Mix-a-Lot was never actually knighted.

I dunno, I thought Queen Elizabeth just really liked his song about butts. Gimme a break, okay?

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 290 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Ben & Jerry’s Boom Chocolatta! Cookie Core Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Strongly flavored mocha ice cream. Rich cookie core complements both ice cream flavors. Saved By The Bell references.
Cons: Weakly flavored caramel ice cream. Not enough core. The fact that I mentioned Sir Mix-a-Lot in this review.