REVIEW: Healthy Choice Vanilla Bean Greek Frozen Yogurt

Healthy Choice Vanilla Bean Greek Frozen Yogurt

Winter is coming.

And now is the time to prepare.

Because, alongside the vanishing flip-flops, shorter days, and temporary extinction of Super Soakers comes the Annual Freezer Hibernation, that distressing time of year when the ice cream companies swipe the shelves of their limited-time summer bounties, taking with them their Samoas and S’mores as the Good Humor Trucks mosey out into the weary horizon with the anticipation of a predicted dip in ice cream consumption.

However, I also know that, within this magnificent world, there exists a league of talented individuals: the few, the proud, the bat-crazy, dairy-lovin’, cream-o-vore daredevils who dive into the comforting frozen dairy treat smack in the middle of a snowstorm February.

If you happen to look like a forlorn bulldog on the night of the winter solstice as you press your face to the glass in the frozen dessert aisle, fear not, oh wonderful cream-lovin’ crazy! Hope may just be on the horizon! For it seems that those Healthy Choice humans are setting aside their microwave ways and diving into the world of frozen yogurt.

In my domineering obsessions for chocolate and peanut butter, seldom do I gush about the glories of vanilla, and yet vanilla has a certain flexibility and persistence that allows it to transcend the average, holding strong as the backdrop to a barrage of toppings. Fudge, fruit, cones, cups, cookies, and cravings of all sorts can meander their way into vanilla and create a brand new concoction and transform the simple, delicate flavor of vanilla into a new creation.

Healthy Choice Vanilla Bean Greek Frozen Yogurt Cup

As a result, I’m guilty of plundering the humble vanilla bean with an abundance of other toppings, mixing and melding and masking away at the taste of the gentle black flower. I decided last week that it has been for too long that I have swept vanilla into the passenger seat. For my first tasting, I am going to let the yogurt stand alone, void of decoration or ornaments.

Healthy Choice Vanilla Bean Greek Frozen Yogurt Warning

Come with me, little non-microwavable vanilla ice cream cup, and let us see if the world will smile.

First off, my freezer is so cold it could freeze a bottle of vodka into a stone, so I’m going to set this first cup out for about 15 minutes so as to allow the ice cream melt into the “semi-melt” stage, which might be described as “gloopy” if gloopy were a word. But feel free to defrost to your own liking due to the strength of your freezer and the breadth of your inner ice cream patience (mine happens to be a very short).

(And she dives in with the multi-colored spoon)

Whoa.

My past experience with vanilla ice cream tends to put my taste buds into a state of melancholy despair, leaving my mouth coated in a film of milky vanilla water, but this! This tastes of hope! Hope with hints of honey and caramel! And it even holds a tang that tinges on…is that cheesecake?? Because, if it is, he’s welcome to the join the parade.

With the addition of Greek yogurt, I feared this tang would snake its way into the realm of sour, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it’s quite a diplomatic tang: neither too strong nor too soft. Thank you, dear vanilla bean, for resolving your flavor contrasts in such a peaceful and delicious manner.

A main kick that knocks me off the ice cream cart is the presence of freezer burn as it invades across the spine of an overly whipped and/or overly watery ice cream landscape. Not so for these little cups. They’re dad-gum creamy. Daisy, the happy Healthy Choice cow, should be pleased with her work here.

Healthy Choice Vanilla Bean Greek Frozen Yogurt Closeup

Look at that creamy goodness (yup, those are little bitty vanilla bean specks).

Some ice creams make you feel sad, frumpy, and powerless, but not these bounties. Standing at 100 calories per cup, each vanilla-studded miracle has four grams of protein, and even have 10 percent calcium, thus giving you the right to celebrate with flips on the monkey bars with your calcium-fortified bones. What’s more, you’re equipped with three bowls of that empowerment to charge you forth during the rest of your day, and, indeed, you should eat all three: recent studies show that eating Greek frozen yogurt will make you a movie star, which may or may not be something I just made up. I’ll let you decide…

One of the elements that distinguishes the human being from the platypus is the human’s ability to undergo the artist’s cycle of the creation and destruction, and, while I sometimes wish I were a semi-aquatic mammal, I could not be more grateful for this ability as I decided to exploit that human skill on a second tasting. I went with a cone option and melted a little chocolate inside the cone to create a candy shell. I then emptied out the Healthy choice ice cream on that sucker and crunched in. It was divine. Of course, the possibilities don’t stop at cones. You could add some toasted hazelnuts and fudge or strawberries and balsamic vinegar. Or make an ice cream sandwich. Or an affogato. Add ginger cookies. Rainbow chip cookies. Relish in your creative capacity! For three whole cups! Create! Destroy! Repeat!

Since it was hanging around before the Aztecs, I imagine the vanilla bean to be a flower of great wisdom, and the benevolence of the simple flavor present in this frozen yogurt spreads that wisdom, reminding me that nothing need be pushy or aggressive to be strong. With the outgoing supply of summer ice creams, I’m relieved to know that I don’t have to wait for vanilla to come into season as this curiously wonderful little cup, indeed, has crept its non-microwave-safe way into my life and made me smile. Keep up the good work, vanilla.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cup – 100 calories, 15 calories from fat, 2 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 135 milligrams of potassium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugars, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Healthy Choice Vanilla Bean Greek Frozen Yogurt
Purchased Price: $2.99 (with a coupon)
Size: 3 4-ounce cups/box
Purchased at: Food Emporium
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Vanilla. Creamy. The taste of hope. Cheesecake. Calcium. Single-serving cups. Peaceful diplomacy. Multi-colored spoons. Gloopy. Bat-crazy cream-o-vores. Create! Destroy! Repeat!
Cons: Absence of chocolate option. Ice cream truck hibernation. Forlorn bulldogs. I’m not a platypus.

REVIEW: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice VIA Ready Brew

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Pumpkin Spice

I always feel a little depressed once Labor Day passes, as I can’t wear white pants anymore. But other people generally have a lot to rejoice over: there’s football and tailgates, every food and drink gets flavored with pumpkin, and I can’t wear white pants anymore.

Right on cue, Starbucks has re-released their seasonal Pumpkin Spice Lattes. This year, they’re providing an extra treat in the form of the new limited edition Pumpkin Spice VIA Ready Brew. I love the Pumpkin Spiced Lattes (PSLs for those of us who really love Starbucks and also really love obnoxious acronyms), but have never tried any other VIA flavors before, so I’m in pretty much the exact demographic Starbucks is hoping will try their new Pumpkin Spice VIA and get hooked on their instant coffee offerings.

We’re approaching the section of my reviews where I like to offer an explanation of the preparation process. Not that this ever gets too complicated (“Step 1, buy ice cream. Step 2, eat ice cream. Step 3… um, go slow or you might get a headache”), but explaining the steps for preparing instant coffee feels particularly silly when Starbucks dedicates precisely 15 words to explaining it. I heated 8 fluid ounces of 1% milk. I poured packet into cup. I added hot milk. I stirred and enjoyed.

Here’s the precisely 15-word version of my review: for instant coffee, it was perfectly fine, but it just didn’t have enough pumpkin flavor.

There was just a slight whiff of pumpkin scent, both when I had only the content of the packet in the cup and after I stirred in the milk. Instant coffee always tastes indescribable, but noticeably off, and the Pumpkin Spice VIA offering was no different. In a blind taste test, I could have guessed that this was meant to be pumpkin-flavored coffee, but it definitely didn’t compare to the rich, distinctive flavor of a PSL. On the plus side, I thought the amount of sugar in the VIA packet was appropriate; I often find real PSLs to be too sweet.

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Pumpkin Spice Closeup

Again, I’ve never sampled any other VIA flavors, but from reading our past reviews I gleaned that the instructions on other varieties recommend mixing with water, so I tried it that way, too. I actually found that adding mostly hot water and just an ounce or so of milk allowed the zest of the spices to shine through better.

Compared to other instant coffee, these Starbucks Pumpkin Spice VIA Ready Brew packets are good, but they don’t compare to actual Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Also, at more than one dollar per packet, they’re kind of pricey for instant coffee. Still, in hopes of drinking pumpkin spice beverages and wearing white pants at the same time, I’ll stock up on a couple boxes and stash them away for those long months between Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 packet/unprepared – 60 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice VIA Ready Brew
Purchased Price: $6.95
Size: 5 packets
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Easy to prepare. Does smell and taste of pumpkin. Appropriately sweet. Tastes better with mostly water. Real Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Football and tailgates. Pumpkin flavors are back.
Cons: Pumpkin flavor not strong enough. Instant coffee always tastes a little off. Kind of pricey. Unnecessary acronyms. I can’t wear white pants anymore.

REVIEW: Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster Box

“Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.”

Well, maybe, not as much.

Beef prices have skyrocketed due to this year’s drought causing food companies to adjust their sizes and prices accordingly. For example, there’s Burger King who downsized to burger peasant with value menu attempts like the Bacon Burger. That, at least, is one way of trying to solve the problem of how to keep consumers interested in a changing supply landscape. The other is a lot more simple; just kill more turkeys.

I don’t mind too much. Not that I’ve ever seriously entertained the notion of hosting barnyard animals at social gatherings, but, if pressed as to which mammal I’d prefer to own should I ever come into possession of a working farm, I’d likely pick the gentle bovine over the gobbling Thanksgiving centerpiece. No offense to turkeys, but they’re just ugly to begin with.

They don’t taste that bad either, at least not in deli meat form. Given that fact, as well as their “healthy” reputation, we really should have seen Arby’s new Turkey Roasters coming sooner. No, not that kind of Roaster. More like this:

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club “Roaster” is one of three new turkey-centric sandwiches from the chain, pairing the usual suspects of Swiss cheese, bacon, and mayonnaise with thinly sliced oven roasted turkey.

According to Arby’s, it’s a sandwich so good, it actually “tastes like it’s more than a sandwich. We like to think of it as a savory, taste bud tingling masterpiece.”

It certainly passes the eye test, although the box language shows about as much humility as Terrell Owens in the prime of his career. The actual sandwich doesn’t exactly match up to the photo, but a heaping and hot (so hot, it’s even smokin’) portion of turkey shows up under a restrained glob of mayonnaise and thick, black-pepper bacon.

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster Mayo

There’s more than enough fresh leaf lettuce and juicy red tomatoes to let you know there was some effort put into making the sandwich, while another layer of mayo anchors the the insides to the Harvest Wheat bun. Only problem? That would be the Swiss Cheese. As in, where the heck is it?
 

After some poking around I noticed a not-really-melted slice of (unfortunately) hole-less Swiss was under the shaved Turkey breast. It’s an interesting construct that allows some of the cheese to melt (eventually) but the portion seemed rather skimpy to me. All can be forgiven with taste, however, and at nearly the price of a $5 footlong, you can bet it ought to be.

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster Bacon 2

The thing is, it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to like about the sandwich. The bacon and Swiss cheese both contribute a mild smoke flavor, with the former adding a peppery kick and subtle crunch, while the latter contributing a milky taste and bit of needed fat. I really like Arby’s bacon, which contains the perfect ratio of meaty crunch and chewy fat to be the end-all, be-all of what you want from a pig.

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster Turkey Closeup

But the turkey, moist as it was, is singularly salty. How salty, exactly? Tough to say knowing we all perceive sodium differently, but I estimate it about halfway between raising your blood pressure and adding to the physical properties of the Dead Sea. I was hoping the Harvest Wheat roll would add a nice and wholesome sweet balance along with the tomatoes and lettuce, but they all seemed drowned out by the salty flavor. The mayo helps add a little tang to balance things out, but it too seems bland and just serves to tack on calories.
 
There are other missteps, as well. The roll has good flavor on its own, but it comes off as stale, while the subtle honey sweetness isn’t discernible when taking a complete bite. The toasting seems awkward in this application. While the cheese, unevenly melted, plays an odd and unwelcome second fiddle to the watery crunch of the lettuce.

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster Bun

Taking a look at Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Roaster is like taking a look at a masterpiece of taste but eating the watercolor portrait I painted of myself in second year high school art. Structurally, it’s more than sound, but it’s not going to make any one’s regular lunch rotation any more than that painting of smiling Adam will ever find its way out of my grandparents’ house. It’s just too salty and too bland to warrant the high price, failing to deliver a complete taste for what are individually tasty ingredients. Lacking that “X factor” so many of the best fast food sandwiches seem to have, it’s hardly the greatest thing since sliced beef, and no match for Arby’s much better Angus sandwiches.
 

(Nutrition Facts – 490 calories, 220 calories from fat, 24 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 75 milligrams cholesterol, 1440 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 8 grams sugar, and 29 grams of protein.)

Item: Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster
Purchased Price: $4.75
Size: 233 grams
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Better than Buddig quality roast turkey.  Bacon is meaty, smoky, and black peppery. Swiss cheese and mild smoke flavor and milky richness. Harvest wheat bun has good flavor. Fresh vegetables. Getting your roaster fix on without burning out your eyeballs.
Cons: Salty and bland. Lacking an “X factor” of flavor. Bun was stale. Mayo just adds fat and calories. Unevenly melted Swiss cheese. Needs wider bacon coverage. A bit on the pricey side.

SPOTTED ON SHELVES – 9/5/2012

Here are some new products found on store shelves by us and your fellow readers. We may or may not review them, but we’d like to let you know what new items are popping up. We’ll also occasionally throw in an unusual product.

KettleRedChiliFront

To celebrate their 30th birthday, Kettle Brand brought back four of their retired flavors for a limited time — Red Chili, Jalapeño Jack, Salsa with Mesquite, and Cheddar Beer. The only flavor I tried before it was retired was Cheddar Beer, and now my taste buds get to relive them again. (Found at the Kingsbury Whole Foods in Chicago. Thanks for the photo, Ben!)

Pillsbury Chocolate Strawberry Toaster Strudel

Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t the Toaster Strudel on the box look like it’s a sacrifice for some ancient demonic religion. The strawberry filling looks like blood and the symbol drawn in chocolate frosting looks not only like a rocket going into space, but also a one-eyed demon with three hairs on its head. Or maybe I’ve seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom too many times. (Thanks for the photo, Adam!)

Lay's Stax

There’s also a Lay’s Stax All-American Cheeseburger. So if happen to get your hands on all three flavors, you can enjoy a complete Hooters meal in potato crisp form. (Thanks for the photo, Adam!)

Whole Grain Corn Dogs

Whole grain is taking over the whole grocery store. It’s making it easy to get our daily fill of whole grain from junk food. If only junk food companies could figure out a way to sneak vegetables into our food. (Thanks for the photo, Adam!)

20120821_134611

Larry the Cable Guy isn’t the only Blue Collar comic with a line of chips. Jeff Foxworthy also has one. But I’m disappointed Bill Engvall’s Dill Pickalls and Ron White Scotch don’t exist. (Found in the Georgetown, Texas area. Thanks for the photo, Brian!)

If you’re out shopping and see a new product on the shelf (or really unusual), snap a picture of it, email it to us at theimpulsivebuy@gmail.com with “Spotted” in the subject line, and you might see it in our next Spotted on Shelves post.

NEWS: KFC Brings Back Chicken Littles, But No Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Drakey Lakey, Goosey Loosey, Gander Lander, Turkey Lurkey, or Foxy Loxy

KFC

A long time ago KFC offered a chicken sandwich called Chicken Littles at all their locations. Then only a few restaurants offered them. Then they disappeared. Before they disappeared, KFC Chicken Littles fans got mad and started petitions and Facebook fan pages to get KFC to bring them back.

Well, all their petitioning and Facebook liking paid off because KFC has brought back the Chicken Littles…sort of.

Actually, the new Chicken Littles aren’t like the old Chicken Littles, and that has people upset. Instead they’re more like KFC Snackers. So I expect more petitioning and Facebook fan page making to bring back the original Chicken Littles.

These updated Chicken Littles have an Extra Crispy Strip, pickle slices, KFC’s signature Colonel’s Mayo (Wait, KFC has signature mayo?), and a sweet bun. The chicken strip is made of 100 percent all-white breast meat chicken. Yes, the sandwich is small, but it’s got a price to match at $1.29.

Grub Grade has a review.