REVIEW: Halo Top Peanut Butter & Jelly Ice Cream

Halo Top Peanut Butter  Jelly Ice Cream

The existence of high-protein, low-calorie ice cream is a point of dispute in my family. I mean, no one thinks that the pint sitting in the freezer is a mere illusion, only that it shouldn’t exist.

The entire point of ice cream is that it’s an indulgent calorie-bomb. The most thought one should give to an ice cream’s caloric content is to purposefully turn the nutrition facts away as you scoop out a second serving, some say.

Back when these healthy ice creams more resembled frozen protein shakes than real ice cream, I tended to agree. Then Halo Top came along and introduced a product that made me say, “Hey, this isn’t that bad.” That may seem like faint praise, but Halo Top has been a regular part of my diet ever since, so I was excited to taste the new Peanut Butter & Jelly flavor.

The people at Halo Top recommend letting the pint soften a bit by letting it sit out a few minutes before eating. As a practiced hand at eating these pints, I can confirm these instructions should be followed; otherwise you’ll need an ice pick. By which I mean you should toss it in the microwave for a few seconds (remove the foil top first). I’m hungry now, and if I had any self-control I wouldn’t need to stock my freezer with this stuff!

Halo Top Peanut Butter  Jelly Ice Cream 2

A fairly uniform white surface presents itself upon uncovering. I was hoping for some distinct ribbons of peanut butter and jelly to swirl themselves throughout the pint, but at most there are some vaguely brownish areas. This is disappointing, and it doesn’t get any better as I dig through the container. I’m willing to forgive this and still have high hopes. Some may eat with their eyes first, but I mostly eat with my mouth. How does it taste?

Halo Top Peanut Butter  Jelly Ice Cream 3

I scoop a measured, sensible portion into a bowl, cover the rest, and place it back in the freezer for a later time.

This is a lie.

I ate the entire pint! That’s the entire point of Halo Top. Remember: no self-control.

Readers shouldn’t take my weakness of character as a statement of unrestrained endorsement. I like it because there’s a strong peanut flavor, and the jelly has enough tartness to make it interesting.

Halo Top Peanut Butter  Jelly Ice Cream 4

There are some shortcomings, however. The flavor immediately reminds me of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but in an indistinct way. There’s jelly, but I have no idea what kind. There’s not really peanut butter in it, but more of a peanut butter essence throughout. It’s peanutbutterandjelly flavored. The gritty texture is an issue as well, and it doesn’t go away no matter how soft it gets.

Is Halo Top as good as Haagen-Dazs? No, of course not. It’s as good as that ice cream that comes in the giant gallon bucket. Generally speaking, that’s good enough for me. This flavor succeeds by tasting as it should but is one of Halo Top’s lesser attempts. Try it if you’re already a fan, but it won’t change anyone’s mind.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 90 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, 4 grams of sugar alcohol, and 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.59
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at:
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like a peanut and butter sandwich.
Cons: Indistinct flavor. Gritty texture.

REVIEW: Oreo Chocolate Crunch State Fair Cookies

Oreo Chocolate Crunch State Fair Cookie

I was watching the Food Network recently, and one of the dozens of “Best of…” programs was featuring State Fair food. I hadn’t been to so much as a county fair in a long time, so I was not mentally prepared for the monuments to gluttony that I saw.

The last time I checked, funnel cake with powdered sugar or maybe an extra long churro was peak-indulgence. I’m not complaining, but we’re living in a world with fried cheesecake hot fudge sundaes topped with caramel, pralines, brownie pieces, and whipped cream, so I needed to reorient my worldview.

When I saw Oreo’s new Chocolate Crunch State Fair Cookies at Walmart, I knew I had to try to try them. Can the State Fair experience be recreated at home?

Oreo Chocolate Crunch State Fair Cookie 2

There are two cooking instructions on the box, conventional and microwave oven, so in the interest of experiencing everything these cookies had to offer, I tried both methods. The conventional oven preparation is pictured on the left and microwave on the right. I’m pleased that neither preparation has resulted in Oreo Crème leaking out the sides. I get inordinately angry at burst filling.

Right out of the oven, the scent immediately reminds me of french toast sticks. That’s a bit…strange, but not too off-putting. As I bite into it, my first impression is of chicken nuggets.

What?

No, the sharp chocolaty sweetness is quickly apparent, followed by the filling’s mild creaminess. So, they taste like Oreo cookies, but what’s going on here? Both the conventional and microwave oven samples share the same aroma, and I realize that what I’m detecting the ubiquitous essence that all deep fried and frozen snacks share, like fryer oil that should’ve been changed sooner. These also have the soggy breading that is the fate of so many other freezer-to-oven items.

Oreo Chocolate Crunch State Fair Cookie 3

These are not the little morsels of bliss that I was hoping for, so I decide to deconstruct them in an effort to see where everything went wrong. The crème is ordinary Oreo filling that thankfully never gets too hot or melty. (Imagine burning your tongue on molten crème filling.) The Oreo cookie is plain Oreo cookie that’s a bit soggy. The breading is plain breading that, despite the name, doesn’t taste like chocolate and never gets very crunchy. Combine all this and you get something that’s edible, but doesn’t even surpass common Oreo cookies, much less something you could get at a State Fair.

In the end, these State Fair Oreo Cookies are a bit disappointing. Perhaps Food Network programming has set my expectations for decadence too high. Will normal deserts now turn to ash in my mouth, forcing me to seek ever-loftier sensual delights until the line between pleasure and pain, virtue and vice are blurred? I dunno, but normal Oreo still taste pretty good, so I’m probably safe.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cookies – 130 calories, 6 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 10 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Warm Oreo Crème doesn’t leak out the sides and is very tasty.
Cons: Odd-yet-familiar deep-fried frozen item scent and flavor. Doesn’t get very crisp even in a very hot oven.

REVIEW: Pillsbury Donut Shop Glazed Donut Toaster Strudel

Pillsbury Donut Shop Glazed Donut Toaster Strudel

There are a few childhood joys that I vividly remember: snow days, skipping math class, faking a sick day, etc.

You get the idea.

Almost nothing could make me happier as a child than neglecting my education. The only thing that came close was seeing that mom had decided to splurge on Toaster Strudels instead of the unfrosted store brand Pop-Tart knock-offs that she usually bought. You got to frost them yourself! They were virtually fine dining in a toastable format.

It’s been years since I’ve eaten a Toaster Strudel, so I was excited to try Pillsbury’s new Donut Shop Glazed Donut Toaster Strudels. The box promises that they’re “Like a donut, but even better!” That’s a strong statement, but given my childhood affection for the pastries, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, even if it does come from a piece a sentient dough like the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Toasting the strudels for the manufacturer’s recommended 1 to 2 cycles at low to medium heat results nicely browned pastry. Even better is the sizzling sound they make while toasting. I don’t know if these can replicate a true donut flavor, but a little bit of fried taste would go a long way towards convincing me.

Pillsbury Donut Shop Glazed Donut Toaster Strudel 2

I tried to recreate the frosting face from the box, but it got just as messy and disfigured as one might expect. It always frustrated me as a kid that I couldn’t get the frosting to look as lovely as on the box. It’s why I eventually just began to eat the frosting separately… Ok, that’s a lie. I ate the frosting separately because I couldn’t wait for the toaster to pop up. I would’ve failed the marshmallow test.

The first bite doesn’t disappoint. The crust is flaky and crisp, and there is indeed a flavor that’s reminiscent of a donut fresh out of the fryer. There’s a whiff of that weird artificial pastry flavor that frozen baked goods often have, but it’s not overpowering. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Go smell a partially defrosted pot pie sometime.)

Pillsbury Donut Shop Glazed Donut Toaster Strudel 3

The filling is strange. It’s plain. I was expecting the filling to deliver the glazed donut flavor if glazed donuts have a flavor besides “sweet,” but it doesn’t. It tastes like a simple vanilla filling. It’s not bad, but it means that these come much closer to replicating a Bavarian cream filled donut than a glazed. I guess I was hoping that Pillsbury food scientists would have somehow distilled the essence of the glazed donut and injected it into the pastry, but I’ll choose a filled over glazed donut any time.

Pillsbury Donut Shop Glazed Donut Toaster Strudel 4

As a child, I ate childish things. When I became a man… I still eat childish things, but now I have to buy them myself instead of having mom do it. These are worth price even if they don’t live up to the promise of providing glazed donut flavor.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pastry – 170 calories, 6 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 mg milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.59
Size: 6-pack
Purchased at:
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crisp and flaky crust that gets a bit of fried flavor from the toaster.
Cons: It doesn’t really replicate the flavor of a glazed doughnut. It’s just a Toaster Strudel with vanilla filling.

REVIEW: KFC Pickle Fried Chicken

KFC Pickle Fried Chicken

KFC’s Pickle Fried Chicken is the latest addition to their lineup of southern-inspired sauced chicken options. Described as “crunchy fried chicken covered in a delicious dill pickle sauce,” at first glance KFC’s Pickle Fried Chicken appears to veer closer to a Double Down-style stunt offering than the Nashville Hot, Georgia Gold, or BBQ Smoky Mountain varieties.

As a Yankee from the Midwest who’s only occasionally traveled below the Mason-Dixon line, even I’m aware that the South can do some pretty creative things with pickles. Don’t misunderstand me, as a fan of all things salty, sour, sweet, and weird in various combinations, I wholeheartedly approve.

I’ll try your Kool-Aid pickles, pickled watermelon rind, and pickled pig’s feet. I can’t guarantee I’ll try them twice, but I’ll certainly give them the benefit of the doubt. It turns out Kool-Aid pickles don’t deserve that benefit, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

KFC Pickle Fried Chicken 2

So, if I’ll eat a koolickle, why am I skeptical of this chicken? It must be because my only experience with the chicken+pickle flavor combination is Chick-fil-A’s namesake sandwich, whose only adornment is dill pickle slices. It’s always left me a bit underwhelmed with its plainness.

I know. Boo! Hiss! Thrown Tomato! But pickles don’t seem like a substantial enough addition to elevate a fast food item.

I ordered a Pickle Fried Chicken Tender Basket, which comes with mashed potatoes, gravy, and a biscuit. I also got a Pickle Fried Chicken Little. (The mashed potatoes and gravy is school cafeteria-level, but the biscuit is fantastic.)

KFC Pickle Fried Chicken 3

Despite my skepticism, these tenders are very impressive. They’re juicy, and I’m pleased that the extra crispy chicken remained so after the 20-minute drive home. These aren’t heavily sauced, but the dill pickle flavor asserts itself well. It’s not a novelty flavor like I initially suspected.

Instead, the dill compliments the chicken and a slight vinegar tang cuts through the grease. Make no mistake, these are greasy, but when it comes to fried chicken, I consider that a feature and not a bug. Taking a bite with the accompanying pickles is peak-dill, and good enough that I wish KFC had given me more of them.

KFC Pickle Fried Chicken 4

The Chicken Little is good, but a bit less impressive. The addition of bread and mayonnaise serves to mute the dill pickle flavor of which I’m a newly converted fan. By the way, why doesn’t KFC serve sandwiches on their biscuits? Their current biscuit would be perfect for a slider, and a more massive biscuit sandwich would be a real winner. I’ll take my royalty fee in coleslaw, Colonel.

After tasting KFC’s Pickle Fried Chicken Tenders and Chicken Little, the problem with Chick-fil-A’s sandwich becomes clear: not enough pickle. This is a limited time offer, so I recommend trying it before it’s gone.

(Nutrition Facts – Unavailable on KFC’s website.)

Purchased Price: $5.59 (Chicken Tenders Basket/$1.39 Chicken Little Sandwich
Size: N/A
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Chicken Littles Sandwich)
Pros: Well balanced dill pickle flavor. Crisp coating with juicy chicken.
Cons: Perhaps too greasy for some. Pickle flavor can get overwhelmed by bun and mayo.

QUICK REVIEW: Milka Double Chocolate Oreo Candy Bar

Milka Double Chocolate Oreo Chocolate Candy Bar

What is it?

The Milka Double Chocolate Oreo Candy Bar features bits of Oreo cookies in chocolate crème and covered in European Milka chocolate.

So, it’s chocolate inside of chocolate covered in even more chocolate. I’m guessing a person’s opinion on the bar will depend on two things: do they believe there is such a thing as “too chocolatey” and just how fancy in this European candy anyway?

How is it?

Milka Double Chocolate Oreo Chocolate Candy Bar 2

As expected, this bar is very chocolate-forward. There’s a surprisingly sharp dark chocolate bite, but as a fan of the stuff, it isn’t unwelcome. The crème adds to the choco-overload nature of the bar, with a pleasing smooth texture. At least, it would be smooth if not for the Oreo bits. They’re too small to add any real textural interest, instead contributing a gritty mouthfeel. If there’s anything special about the Milka chocolate, it’s lost in the other elements.

This bar is missing balance. The other Oreo candy bars, cookies & crème and mint, succeed because the flavored crème balance the chocolate. Oreo cookies work for the same reason (Keep your Double Stuf. I need the perfect cookie-to-crème ratio of the original). The crème here doesn’t offer any complimentary flavor, so I’m left thinking I’d be better off just eating a plain chocolate bar for my fix. Or an Oreo.

Is there anything else I need to know?

Milka Double Chocolate Oreo Chocolate Candy Bar 4

How do you like to eat your chocolate? Do you chomp down on it with wild abandon, munching it in an attempt to shove as much of it in your face in as short a time as possible? Or do you like to let it slowly melt in your mouth, luxuriating in the silken texture as your body heat slowly releases the subtle flavors and aromas of your single source free trade organic bar?

I tried both ways, and this is a bar made for munching. The problem is that single note chocolate flavor doesn’t offer enough excitement as compared to other candy bars.

Conclusion:

The Milka Double Chocolate Oreo Candy Bar is missing the balance of the other Oreo candy bars, and of the Oreo cookie itself. It’s a decent product that won’t totally satisfy anyone.

Purchased Price: $1.50
Size: 3.52 oz. bar
Purchased at:
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (5 pieces) 190 calories, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 mg milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

QUICK REVIEW: Great Value Associates Choice Apple Pie Ice Cream

Great Value Associates Choice Apple Pie Ice Cream

What is it?

Great Value Associates Choice Apple Pie Ice Cream features vanilla custard flavored ice cream with an apple butter ribbon and cinnamon sugar shortbread pieces.

You know that small diner down the street? The one that will totally blend up a piece of their apple pie in a milkshake if you ask? Ideally, that’s what this is, just in your grocer’s freezer instead.

How is it?

I’m not sure what the difference between vanilla ice cream, frozen vanilla custard, and “vanilla custard flavored ice cream” is, but this tastes like plain vanilla ice cream to me. It’s good ice cream with a mild cinnamon spice flavor, but vanilla ice cream nonetheless. After it gets a bit melty, a very subtle apple flavor appears and completes the pie flavor.

Great Value Associates Choice Apple Pie Ice Cream 2

The shortbread pieces have a 50/50 shot of being either impressively crispy or as soggy as you’d expect. Their flavor contribution is modest in either case.

Is there anything else I need to know?

The apple butter ribbon is almost completely absent, which is a shame because it’s an unconventional ice cream inclusion that could’ve elevated it above other store brand ice creams.

Great Value Associates Choice Apple Pie Ice Cream 3

Plus, I really like apple butter, so I was looking for it. Believe me, I dug as greedily and fervently as the Dwarves of Moria. If I had delved any deeper into that carton, a Balrog of Morgoth may have been awakened. Then my ice cream would’ve melted.

Conclusion:

Great Values Associates should be a bit choosier. It’s not a bad product, but some shortcomings keep it from achieving its full potential.

Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 48 fl. oz.
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (68 grams) 150 calories, 7 grams grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.