REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Target Exclusive Flavors (Berry Voluntary & Brownie Chew Gooder)

Target’s exclusive Ben & Jerry’s flavors — Berry Voluntary and Brownie Chew Gooder — are supposed to promote volunteerism. But the only things Ben & Jerry’s ice cream has encouraged me to do are: buy more of it, exercise so that I don’t get fat from eating it and not let the dishes pile up in the sink so that I will always have a clean spoon handy to eat their ice cream.

Now I don’t have time to volunteer because my Hulu and Netflix Instant Watch queues are extremely long. Seriously, this season of ABC’s Wipeout isn’t going to watch itself. It’s also going to take time away from the 12 hours a day I spend in front of a computer, writing reviews and watching cat videos on YouTube. However, because I was on my computer while eating both of these flavors, I visited the volunteering website printed on each of the one pint tubs:

When I searched for volunteer opportunities on my rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I mostly found posts about hosting exchange students from other countries, which I am even less inclined to do because that means I would not only have to give up time, but also space. And I have no space to give because my rental agreement says I can’t have the following things in my apartment that start with the letter P: pets, plants and phoreign exchange students.

I guess I just don’t have the heart for volunteering. Or maybe the saturated fat in all the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream I eat is clogging my heart, which is preventing me from volunteering.

Now I feel bad about it. But do you know what makes me feel better?

Ice cream.

But the only ice cream I have are the Berry Voluntary and Brownie Chew Gooder, and if I eat them I’ll feel good for a little while, but then feel bad because they remind me that I’m not volunteering. It’s a vicious cycle of yum and guilt.

Of course, to get rid of the guilt, I could just sign up to volunteer for something, like help clean a beach or work at a soup kitchen. Or I could blame Target and Ben & Jerry’s for not giving a portion of the profits from each ice cream sold to a worthy cause, which would allow me to make a difference by eating their ice cream in front of my computer in only my boxer briefs.

If that were the case, it would encourage me to buy more of both flavors. But just promoting volunteerism doesn’t cut it because I think both flavors are two of the least exciting Ben & Jerry’s flavors I’ve tasted.

Berry Voluntary consists of raspberry cheesecake ice cream with white chocolatey chunks and raspberry swirls. There’s definitely a tart cheesecake flavor to it, but at times I swear it tastes like a milder version of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. The white chocolatey chunks don’t do much to enhance the ice cream’s flavor. All they seem to do is get in the way of my spoon, like big rocks do when serial killers bury bodies in their backyard. It’s a good flavor, but not good enough to encourage me to buy it again, if I have the option of choosing between it and Cherry Garcia.

As for Brownie Chew Gooder, it’s made up of vanilla caramel ice cream with fudge brownies and a caramel swirl. It’s also good, but not one of Ben & Jerry’s best. Some of the brownie pieces in the ice cream were frickin’ big one inch squares, and they were chewy, but not the good kind of chewy you’d expect in an ice cream. They’re a little grainy and tough to bite through. The caramel ice cream and caramel swirls make the whole thing taste a little cloying. With all of that caramel, perhaps Brownie Chew Gooder should be renamed to Goody Too Much Caramel.

Get it? Goody Two Shoes…Goody Too Much Caramel.

Oh my goodness, I’ve had too much sugar.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – Berry Voluntary – 250 calories, 12 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 27 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, 10% vitamin A, 10% calcium and 6% vitamin C. Brownie Chew Gooder – 250 calories, 11 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 100 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 24 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, 10% vitamin A, 10% calcium and 4% iron.)

Item: Ben & Jerry’s Target Exclusive Flavors (Berry Voluntary & Brownie Chew Gooder)
Price: $4.14 each
Size: One pint
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Berry Voluntary)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Brownie Chew Gooder)
Pros: Both are good, but not Ben & Jerry’s best. Berry Voluntary at times tastes like Cherry Garcia, but also has a nice, slightly tart cheesecake flavor. Brownie pieces in Brownie Chew Gooder are frickin’ big. Hulu and Netflix Instant Watch. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream encouraging me to exercise and wash dishes.
Cons: Two of the least exciting Ben & Jerry flavors I’ve tasted. Brownie Chew Gooder can be a little cloying due to caramel ice cream and caramel swirls. Brownie chunks in the Brownie Chew Gooder were a little tough. White chocolatey chunks in Berry Voluntary did little to enhance flavor. My ability to come up with Ben & Jerry flavor names. My unwillingness to volunteer.

REVIEW: Chips Ahoy! Made With Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Combining Chips Ahoy! chocolate chips cookies with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups sounds like the kind of trickery that only magical asexual elves living in the Hollow Tree Factory could come up with. But, of course, due to patents and trademarks owned by Nabisco, the magical asexual elves who get off on baking packaged treats, instead of woodland creatures, couldn’t have made the Chips Ahoy! Made With Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups cookies.

Through my decades of eating Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I know fusing peanut butter with chocolate makes an excellent combination, much like bringing together five crazy bitches from New Jersey makes for an entertaining train wreck on The Real Housewives of New Jersey. But merging that awesome combination of peanut butter and chocolate with the equally awesome Chips Ahoy! cookie has the potential to be mind-blowing and belt-busting.

But mostly belt-busting.

The merging of the two makes sense, much like a dinner between the women from The Real Housewives of New Jersey and the cast from The Real Housewives of Atlanta makes sense for the Bravo Network. It would be the Big Bang of Bitchiness, and I believe ratings would go through the roof because hair weaves would be pulled out left and right, police officers would get involved and profanity would be spewed out as verbs, nouns, adjectives and pronouns.

While the Chips Ahoy! Made With Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups cookies don’t make me want to pull out someone’s hair extensions, they do make me want to spurt out profanity in the form of verbs, nouns, adjectives, and pronouns. However, I would be cursing with delight and a smile on my face, and not in anger with crazy eyes, because the Chips Ahoy! Made With Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are the muthafuckin’ shit.

Actually, let me take that back. Not the profanity, but how much I enjoyed these cookies.

I’m downgrading how much of the shit it is because it’s hard to detect the unique flavor of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup’s peanut butter in the cookie. There’s definitely a pleasant peanut butter flavor, which is nicely balanced with the chocolate and the rest of the crunchy cookie, but it’s not what I expected. I can see chunks of peanut butter cups in each cookie, but it’s hard for me to believe they’re actual pieces of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Thankfully there’s an ingredients list, which tells me that there are actual Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup pieces. But it’s near the bottom of the list, which tells me there isn’t much. However, there are other ingredients ahead of it on the list that relate to peanut butter cups: peanut butter baking cups, peanut flavored chips, and something called Reese’s Peanut Butter Drops. Since there are more of these ingredients, they might be the cause of the cookie’s unexpected flavor.

Although I’m disappointed Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups aren’t noticeable in the cookies, I do think they’re really good. They’ve got the same crunch as regular Chips Ahoy! cookies and are also hard to put down. While I don’t think they’re the muthafuckin’ shit, I do think they are the shit.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 160 calories, 9 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat*, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 3 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 35 milligrams of potassium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 9 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein and 4% iron.)

*may contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat due to use of partially hydrogenated oils

(NOTE: Thanks to TIB reader Alex for letting us know about these cookies.)

Item: Chips Ahoy! Made With Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Price: $3.00 (on sale)
Size: 9.5 ounces
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: It is the shit. Really good. Nice balance of chocolate and peanut butter. Crunchy like regular Chips Ahoy! Being able to use profanity as verbs, nouns, adjectives and pronouns.
Cons: The unique flavor of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup isn’t noticeable. Getting caught in the middle of a fight between the casts of Real Housewives shows. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup pieces is listed near the bottom of the ingredients list. Getting hair weaves pulled out. Not the muthafuckin’ shit.

REVIEW: Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar Soup

I feel like I’ve been stuck in a rut lately. I’ve dubbed it the “4 out of 10” rut. It seems like everything I review is either spectacularly underwhelming or just plain blech. Which is why I was so glad to see Stouffer’s new Stuffed Melt and Soup. It’s an ingenious idea with three available combinations that all sound like they could be really tasty. I chose the Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar Soup over the Three Cheese & Ham Stuffed Melt with Creamy Tomato Bisque because I can’t seem to find a tomato soup I like, so I wanted to give Stouffer’s the best chance possible to succeed in making my taste buds give them a round of applause.

Apparently there’s also a Chicken Bacon Ranch Stuffed Melt with Baked Potato Soup available, but they didn’t have it at my store. If it had been there, I would have had some tough decisions to make. Actually, I probably would have just bought them both, after standing in front of the frozen food section for 15 minutes, paralyzed by my inability to make a quick trip to the grocery store last less than half an hour. I really shouldn’t be left unsupervised.

As a brief side note, food manufacturers really need to start cutting down on their product names. Seriously, “Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar Soup?” Is the Stouffer’s marketing team working on the Dickensian pay scale? Can’t we trim it down a little? Also, who uses the term “stuffed melt?” It’s a fucking sandwich. Treat it as such. Or at least be less fucking redundant.

The entire description of the SCBSMSSSSMBCS on the front of the box is as follows: “Herb-topped focaccia bread filled with beef steak, onions and mushrooms in a swiss cheese sauce paired with creamy broccoli and cheddar cheese soup.”

Whew! Thank God they specified beef steaks. I thought I was in for some crazy fish steak and swiss cheese adventure.

There are no conventional oven cooking instructions, only microwave. That’s how fucking serious Stouffer’s is about giving you a bakery fresh taste in minutes. You are strictly not allowed to take your time. The top of the box tears away, leaving you with a handy little tray to hold your soup and sandwi…stuffed melt. You pop the soup in by itself for a minute thirty, then you add the melt with its convenient crisping sleeve for another three and a quarter minutes. Voila!

And yes, I spilled some of the soup into the tray by accident. Don’t worry, I scraped most of it off the cardboard with my spoon and ate it. No stone left unturned for you TIB readers! And also, no dignity for me.

I’m really sad to say that the finished product fell well short of my expectations. Let’s start with the soup. The broccoli bits were small but actually had a nice, crunchy texture, whereas you might expect them to be soggy, so that was nice. There wasn’t a whole lot of them, but then again, the soup was pretty small to begin with, so I guess ratio-wise they were on target. The cheese part of the soup was really disappointing.

The flavor was pretty much on par with Campbell’s broccoli and cheese soup, which I actually enjoy, but it was just so watery. It was like cheese water, which is a phrase that actually makes me a little nauseous. The little orange things as pictured on the box were also present. I guess they were supposed to be carrots? They were minuscule and tasted like nothing, but their shape did make me wish I was eating some sort of awesome Tetris soup, except all the pieces were the long, straight pieces that never dropped when I had that giant, gaping, straight chasm that was just begging for that piece. Now I’m mad at Stouffer’s AND Tetris. And I’m still thinking about cheese water, which is just…ugh.

I knew going into this that the “stuffed melt” portion of the meal was probably going to be nothing more than a glorified Hot Pocket, especially after I saw the crisping sleeve. And I was generally right, except Hot Pockets have about 50 percent more filling than this stuffed melt had. It was woefully under-stuffed.

The molten lava cheese, when you could actually find some, was pretty tasty, but the “steak” consisted of largely flavorless tiny pieces, and while I could taste a hint of onion, good luck finding any mushrooms. Who knows, I could have been eating mushrooms that I thought were steak the whole time. I wouldn’t be surprised. Also, they can call the shell herb-topped foccacia bread until they’re blue in the face, but seriously, once again…Hot Pockets. The bread was nicely chewy and texturally acceptable, but it was no artisanal masterpiece.

It’s pretty sad when what seems to be a really great concept fails so badly at execution. It’s also pretty sad when I can tell Stouffer’s that Campbell’s makes a concentrated broccoli and cheese soup that costs 99 cents per can and tastes better than their soup, and that a Hot Pocket has more plentiful and flavorful filling than their stuffed melt. Furthermore, I have a pretty dainty appetite, and after finishing off the Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar Soup, I was actually still a little hungry. This could have been a great five-minute, stomach-warming lunch to take to work on a rainy day, but instead it just makes you wish you’d rushed to the bakery down the street and ordered their half-sandwich and soup lunch special.

Looking back on this review, I’m making it sound like Stouffer’s killed my whole family, when what they really did was just offer up a mediocre frozen meal. I guess I just really wanted them to win with such a great concept, which made my disappointment all the more tangible. In all fairness, it’s edible, it’s convenient and probably tastes better than whatever horror show sits in your break area’s vending machine. It just wasn’t the comfort-food-in-a-box that I was hoping it would be.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 stuffed melt and soup (283 grams) — 400 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of total fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 880 milligrams of sodium, , 41 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugars, 17 grams of protein, 15% vitamin A, 40% calcium, 15% vitamin C and 10% iron.)

Item: Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Price: $2.99 (on sale; original $3.89)

Size: 1 stuffed melt and soup (283 grams)

Purchased at: Safeway

Rating: 5 out of 10

Pros: Broccoli bits were crisp and tasty. No fish steaks involved. Easy to prepare. Fun carrying tray. Swiss cheese was tasty. Stouffer’s did not kill my whole family.

Cons: Under-stuffed stuffed melt. Cheese water. Good concept, bad execution. Incredibly long food product names. Steak bits too small. Made me want Tetris soup, which does not exist.

ANNOUNCEMENT: AXE Twist Travel Pack Winners!!!

Here are the five AXE Twist Travel Pack winners and where they would like to go on their next vacation:

1. Anna who “would LOVE to go to Phuket, Thailand!”

2. Tyler who “would like to smell all AXE-like in the land of England, where they call it Lynx.”

3. Adam G who is “thinking somewhere in the South Pacific region all the way up to Japan area.”

4. Chuck who “may try and head to California.”

5. Andrew who would “love to visit Louisiana, mostly New Orleans and the beaches that now are safe and the cleanest they’ve been in years!”

The winners have been emailed and they will soon be enveloping themselves in the scent of AXE.

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to everyone who entered.

REVIEW: Nature Valley Granola Thins (Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter)

The square-shaped Granola Thins by Nature Valley makes the company look like it has become bored with producing long rectangle granola bars.


Because I’m bored with eating long rectangle granola bars.

As a matter of fact, screw eating quadrilaterals! How about an enneadecagon granola snack? Or if Nature Valley has the nuts, and the ability to channel the spirit of M.C. Escher, a dodecahedron or apeirogon granola snack.

But I guess until then, I’m stuck with quadrilaterals.

The Nature Valley Granola Thins come in two flavors; they are either partially dipped in peanut butter or dark chocolate, which I’m not 100 percent sure is actual dark chocolate because of the words “naturally flavored” printed on the front of the box.

The folks at Nature Valley describe the snack as, “The uniquely delicate crunch of crispy, toasted granola paired with an irresistible, melt-in-your-mouth taste.”

Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced that “melt-in-your-mouth taste” very often because I live on a tropical rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the first couple of individually wrapped Granola Thins I opened encountered a phenomenon I like to call “melt-in-its-own-packaging-because-the-temperature-rarely-drops-below-80-degrees.” It causes most of the dark chocolate and peanut butter to stick to the cardboard that’s included in each wrapper.

To overcome this, I suggest sticking a Granola Thins in the refrigerator for a few minutes before opening.

Can’t wait a few minutes? Oh, I think you can, because while the Granola Thins are good, they’re not irresistible like the marketing copy on the box claims. How do I know? Both boxes have been sitting on my desk for the past two weeks. If they’re “irresistible,” why have I consumed only two of the ten 2.5-inch Granola Thins from each box?

But, again, I did enjoy both flavors. The peanut butter one reminds me of a Nutter Butter in flavor and in the fact that the peanut butter doesn’t taste like any peanut butter I’ve ever had. As for the dark chocolate version, the crispy granola is a bit more noticeable than the chocolate. Strangely, the combination of granola with the chocolate makes it taste like a graham cracker. Maybe the fact that the chocolate is “naturally flavored” might have something to do with the light flavor.

As good as they are, the Nature Valley Granola Thins aren’t as satisfying as their long rectangle granola brethren. It would take three or four of these to equal the hunger-crushing power of Nature Valley’s regular granola bars, which come with two per wrapper. Also, I wish the peanut butter and chocolate were baked into the crispy squares, like Nature Valley does with their regular granola bars, so that they wouldn’t be so messy to eat on this rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pouch/17 grams – Dark Chocolate – 80 calories, 4 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 6 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein and 2% iron. Peanut Butter – 90 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 10 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein and 2% iron.)

Item: Nature Valley Granola Thins (Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter)
Price: $3.49
Size: 10 pack
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Dark Chocolate)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Peanut Butter)
Pros: Enjoyable. Crispy. Peanut butter one tastes like a Nutter Butter. Dark chocolate one tastes like a graham cracker. Looking at M.C. Escher pieces. Looking at M.C. Escher pieces while on an illegal substance.
Cons: Seems pricey for what you get. “Naturally flavored” dark chocolate has a weak flavor. Not irresistible to me. Messy if you’re eating it on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. No enneadecagon granola snacks.