Thursday, February 28, 2013

Arctic Zero Vanilla Maple (An "Ice Cream" Review)

So I had previously thought that there were only three flavors of Arctic Zero to be found in all of central Pennsylvania. The Giant that carries it only ever had Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Strawberry. Same deal with the Nature’s Pantry, which somewhat ironically puts their 150-calorie-per-pint, non-dairy frozen protein “ice cream” on the shelf next to super-rich Talenti gelato. (On subsequent investigation, I believe this is because Talenti is gluten-free--at least certain flavors). It’s like parking your 1990’s-model Ford Escort next to a limo.

But that’s beside the point, which is that I found Vanilla Maple Arctic Zero at Giant and got so excited I took the last two even though I didn’t know if I’d like it. I was so excited that I forgot to buy the caramel sauce I actually came for in the first place.

Ever since I learned about Arctic Zero, this has been one of the two flavors I most wanted to try (the other is Cookies & Cream, which I haven’t seen around here--although Mint Chocolate Cookie sounds good, too). I enjoyed Friendly’s Butter Crunch ice cream, which has a maple base, and I’ve been known to just dump a bunch of Walden Farms’ Pancake Syrup on a piece of bread, and I prefer vanilla ice cream over yeah, you can understand why I forgot the caramel.

Wow, it sure does smell like maple! Like the previous two flavors I reviewed, it has an icier look than real ice cream, but that’s to be expected. I let this pint sit out for about 8-10 minutes before digging in (you can also nuke for 10 seconds, but I’m slightly afraid of microwaving ice cream). It was much softer and creamier than the chocolate or the peanut butter flavors, and had more of a real ice cream taste and feel. Maybe I let it sit out longer, or maybe this flavor just works better with the ingredients.

I really, really enjoyed this flavor. It was primarily sweet maple syrup; the vanilla wasn’t very strong, but then again with vanilla it’s hard to tell it apart from the flavors it’s swirled with. But it’s my favorite so far, and I’m not regretting the second pint downstairs in the fact I had to stop myself from eating that one too! They have really outdone themselves here creating a healthy ice cream that isn’t really ice cream but makes you think it’s ice cream. I don’t even mind the price.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review: thinkThin Caramel Fudge High Protein Bar

OK, I know I’ve said it before, but now I think I really have exhausted all the thinkThin protein bar flavors in State College (I do see the occasional thinkThin Crunch bar, but have yet to buy one). The train ends here with the Caramel Fudge bar, which I found at Giant.

On the outside it looks just like all the others, but it already smells different--not like the chocolate coating, but sweeter and, well, like caramel. But it’s a very artificial smell, and actually reminds me of Walden Farms’ Caramel Syrup. It has me thinking of odd aftertastes rather than real caramel.

When I broke the bar, the coating gave an audible snap, but the base was very soft despite being chilled in the basement since I bought it (a few weeks). The fake-sweet-caramel smell was even stronger.

This bar tastes like it smells. It’s fake, yes, but not bad by any means--it’s sweet in a pleasant way, but also a little salty. This actually goes quite well with the whole caramel theme, which is probably why someone came up with the whole sea-salt caramel idea. The base is so different and engaging that there’s no odd protein stuff going on, but it also means that the coating isn’t very noticeable; I can still taste it, but it’s more of a textural aspect.

Which also works really well. The coating is like a crisp chocolate shell, encasing a soft, cookie-like base. I absolutely love the texture of this bar. It’s moist, with no leftover chalky feel. It’s super easy to eat; in fact, I think this might replace White Chocolate as my favorite flavor.

While the initial smell might be a little disconcerting, this bar far exceeds expectations. It’s the best of the thinkThin line so far in terms of texture and taste. I will definitely have to plan another trip to Giant to pick up some more of these!

Taste: 9--maybe not exactly caramel, but sweet and a bit salty, with no protein interference.
Texture: 10--the coating is crisp, the base just like a soft cookie.
Health: 9--these bars have no sugar and are gluten-free with 20 grams of protein. They do use sugar alcohols, however.
Eat Again? Yes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It's True, the Americone Dream Has Died (An Ice Cream Review)

I’m starting to wonder if Weis perhaps abuses its ice cream on the way to the freezer. Because I’ve now had three or four icy-gritty-textured experiences from them that I was certainly not expecting. A few of the Blue Bunny Duff Goodman pints suffered from this sad fate, as well as Turkey Hill’s Chocolate Marshmallow frozen yogurt, which I raved about when I bought it from Wegmans.

Granted, I have gotten some fine ice creams from there (Edy’s and Turkey Hill’s new Baklava Greek froyo), so maybe those texture issues really did reflect manufacturer quality. But Ben & Jerry’s? What happens when your Ben & Jerry’s is terrible?

That’s right. I had a bad Ben & Jerry’s experience, and this time it wasn’t my fault.

I picked up Americone Dream, which I’ve been ignoring for a while. Firstly, because I get it confused with Late Night Snack, whose fudge-covered potato chips sound repulsive. Actually, they’re basically the same flavor, except Americone Dream has waffle cones in place of chips and vanilla ice cream instead of vanilla bean. Good thing our celebrity hosts are so creative, otherwise they’d just copy off each other all the time. (That’s the second reason--celebrity hype and Stephen Colbert’s face on the pint don’t do much for me.)

So anyway, why was this so terrible? How can you possibly go wrong with “Vanilla Ice Cream with Fudge Covered Waffle Cone Pieces & a Caramel Swirl”?

The components are all there. There’s a decent caramel swirl visible as soon as you open the pint, and the waffle cone pieces are absolutely everywhere--almost annoyingly so. At first I thought they were the main reason I was having trouble scooping. But no one’s going to complain about getting too many mix-ins, so I forged ahead.

After a good fifteen minutes of grunting, my arms were sore and I’d only managed to extract half the pint. What’s more, my scoops weren’t scoops, they came out as smallish blocks of ice cream and teeny, tiny flakes of vanilla. Where was the creamy texture that I love B&J’s for?

Well, it simply didn’t exist in this pint. I spent the whole time trying to break the ice cream apart with my spoon and then chewing it--yes, chewing, even when there were no waffle cone pieces. I could tell the vanilla ice cream was supposed to have a nice, robust flavor, but here it just tasted stale and gritty.

I don’t think the grit was from the waffle cone pieces, either, although they did add an interesting texture. They weren’t really crunchy, more chewy. I think their texture would be really cool in a creamier ice cream (like I’m sure it’s supposed to be), but here they were actually about the same texture as the base (yes it was that bad!). Amidst the staleness of the base the fudge was almost entirely lost. A sad day indeed for chocolate lovers.

A sad day for caramel lovers, too. The swirl was there, yes, but not in all its usual gooey, thick B&J’s glory. It was frozen into the vanilla ice cream and suffered much like the waffle cones (and indeed the entire pint). Properly handled, it would have been rich and sweet, but not this time.

I gave up scooping after half a pint (usually I go for at least 3/4 if now the whole thing...). I put my bowl on top of our pellet stove. Then I held it in front of the stove, where the hot air blows out. It melted a little, but I still found myself exerting undue force to break off a spoonful. The melted areas were slightly creamier, as were the caramel-containing pockets. But overall this was a major disappointment. Even my Heath Bar Crunch from last summer was better than this. I may have to buy another pint from a different store, because I really don’t think this one was a fair representation. Sorry, Stephen Colbert.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Care Package Giveaway!

As we get busy planning for our spring break trip to North Carolina (only five more days!), I’m starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. There are so many condos, houses, and apartments to sort through and on top of that I really don’t have a clear idea in my head of where I want to live. On the other hand, I kind of like looking at pictures of beautiful nature trails and clear blue swimming pools and imagining myself living in a condo like the one we stay in at Virginia Beach...only this time it’s not a vacation!

But it’s nerve-wracking to think about trying to keep myself clothed and fed and still keep up with everything else that needs to get done like housework (oh yeah, and work). Always a big concern with me...will I have enough food? ;)

Yes, there is an ulterior motive to this post, and it’s the Redship care package giveaway over at SheScribes. With one of those things I know I’d never be short on food. Redship has care packages ranging from small to extra large, and there’s even a healthy option! These packages look pretty awesome, especially for a college student, so check them out. They come in a laundry bag, which I know I used plenty of times when I did my laundry in the dorms. Apparently the cylinder it ships in is a pretty big deal, too. But the sheer volume of goodies contained in the care package is enough to get anyone through the worst of their pre-exam (or job) stress-induced munching.

Anyway, it’s back to apartment hunting for me, and before I know it I’ll be basking in the sunshine...OK, maybe not this time of year, but sometime in the near future. Maybe this summer I’ll spend my free time lounging beside one of those pools.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Review: Kashi goLean Crisp! Cinnamon Coffee Cake

It’s been a while since I ate any Kashi products, mostly because it’s been a while since I’ve seen any Kashi products worth trying. After a couple disasters, I’ve steered clear of pretty much anything not labeled “goLean”, which leaves me with a fairly limited selection of new things to try.

But exploring a different Giant than normal led me to a few new discoveries, and one of them is the last of the goLean Crisp! (formerly Crunchy!) bars, which I had given up on ever finding in State College: Cinnamon Coffee Cake.

“An all natural vanilla coffee-cake flavored snack bar infused with the dreamy combination of cinnamon and roasted hazelnut chunks.”

It’s about what you’d expect from a cinnamon-flavored bar--caramel-colored crisp body and white icing. It smells like cinnamon, in that sweet, not-overly-strong cinnamon way you get with coffee cake as opposed to cinnamon rolls. There is a difference.

They tried to trick you by splashing icing up the side, but really it’s just a thin layer on the bottom. Which is a shame because I’m sure you know I’m going to say it’s the best part. It’s not quite cinnamon-roll icing, but it is sweet and adds a bit of a streusel taste. The base granola does taste like cinnamon, but you can also taste the oats or something else underneath and it’s a bit weird. It’s what keeps this from truly resembling cinnamon coffee cake.

That, combined with the texture, kept me from completely enjoying this bar as much as I expected when I read the words “Cinnamon Coffee Cake.” Keeping in mind that my basement (where I pulled this bar from) is chilly in the winter, I still have to say that the bar was hard. While I think it would soften up a bit if stored at room temperature, I still think it would be a bit too much work. It certainly doesn’t want to part with itself, so the initial bite takes some tooth strength. It’s an arm-workout to try to break it with your hands, and I’m not sure the resulting white smears on your fingers are worth it. I also think the name is a little deceptive--yeah, it’s crispy, but it’s a rather hard crisp, not as pleasantly crunchy as a Rice Krispies Treat. And its resistance to separation also qualifies it as chewy. So maybe Crisp! wasn’t the best rebranding strategy.

Still, this was a pretty good bar, and the crisps released a lot of sweet cinnamon flavor to distract me from the weird oaty taste for a while. It just didn’t quite justify my excitement level about finding this bar, that’s all.

Taste: 8--the frosting has a streusel taste, and the base is cinnamon, but there is a weird oat thing going on that interferes with the coffee cake experience.
Texture: 7--a little bit too much work, and more chewy than crispy, but not unbearable.
Health: 7--a fairly healthy snack, with 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. GoodGuide calls it out for high sugar, though, with an overall health score of 5.6.
Eat Again? Yeah.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Review: MET-Rx Big 100 Colossal Brownie Super Chocolate Fudge

** Sorry guys, lots of thesis-writing, calculus, and planning for our trip to North Carolina just another canned review. Just FYI, I have 18 more of these sitting in my Blogger dashboard as drafts and two more I need to write. Consider yourselves warned. **

I love brownies. Who doesn’t? Thick, fudgy,  gooey, warm-from-the-oven brownies...I guess they’re not exactly “homemade, because we usually just use Betty Crocker’s Low Fat mix, although on occasion we’ve done caramel brownies using cake mix or some of the awesome recipes from Herhsey’s.

But what if you could have your brownie and 30 grams of protein, too? Sounds too good to be true, right? But that’s what this baby promises:

This is the MET-Rx Big 100 Colossal Brownie Super Chocolate Fudge (talk about a mouthful, pun intended). It has 390 calories, 30 grams of protein, and 40 grams of carbs, almost half of which are sugar. It’s bigger than the recommended serving size for most brownies, and weighs 100 grams (3.52 oz.). So it’s a decent size.

The icing is a nice visual touch, and I imagine that in the microwave it would get gooey. Since the packaging says to heat it in the unopened wrapper, I didn’t try it (it was already open when I read that), but I would think that could get messy, smearing all over the inside. But that’s all just speculation. I guess I need to buy another one of these.

The first bite is the surprise. Just by squeezing, this bar (bar? brownie?) feels like it’s going to be your standard, chewy protein mix. But it’s not. It’s really soft, almost like cutting butter (though not quite that soft). I’d liken it to the texture of fudge--which is probably the intent, given the name. It’s thick and easy to chew. Of course it’s not really gooey like a brownie--again, more like fudge--but I’m OK with it because...well, because I think it’s awesome.

It also delivers the chocolate taste, though again you can’t expect it to be on par with a real brownie. That said, it’s still fudgy and chocolatey, again living up to its name. If you want to get really, really nitpicky, there’s a bit of a background taste, but you have to work to detect it. This is right on par with a store-bought prepackaged brownie, and in my opinion delicious!

Taste: 10--it’s just like a store-bought brownie, unless you’re super sensitive to the protein taste.
Texture: 8--thick and fudgy, and super easy to eat.
Health: 6--let’s be honest, it’s better for you than a brownie. But as a snack or meal replacement, it has a lot of fat and sugar, so watch out. GoodGuide gives it a 2.7.
Eat Again? Yes!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friendly's Fudge Swirl (An Ice Cream Review)

It’s pretty much a rule that if anyone brings home some sort of ice cream I’ve never had, I have to try at least a spoonful of it. For the purposes of exploring possible blog posts, of course. ;)

So when my dad brought home some Friendly’s Fudge Swirl ice cream, of course I dipped my spoon in to see if it was any good (don’t worry, it was a clean spoon).

The container claims it’s “Rich and Creamy,” which I certainly found to be true of the Butter Crunch ice cream, so I have no reason to doubt them this time.

Well, there you have it. Fudge swirls, what more can you ask for in an ice cream called “Fudge Swirl”? It’s quality vanilla ice cream, and it certainly is very rich and creamy. The vanilla is pretty mild and harmless, basically just a vehicle for the fudge. It’s certainly nothing spectacular. The fudge is pretty well distributed, and the ribbons are thick in places. I think it could be better if they were just a little bit thicker, without the fudge taking over the ice cream too much.

Of course, I also think it could be better with a real mix-in, because anybody can drizzle chocolate sauce over vanilla ice cream and get pretty much the same effect. It would be different if something about the ice cream or fudge stood out, but both are standard household ingredients (at least in my house). This was a little too simple for me to really consider buying, but if it floats my dad’s boat...hey, I’m not going to complain that it’s in the freezer.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Funfetti Greek Yogurt!

I’ve been at a loss lately for sweet evening treats. I guess I burned myself out on ice cream, proven by the fact that I actually returned an open pint to the freezer, which is a first. Usually I have to scoop from pint to bowl because when I sit down with a pint and a spoon, there’s no point saving the lid “just in case.” (Luckily, this time I did!)

I looked back through some recipes I’d found, but they all took too much time and effort for a Wednesday night (it was past 8 o’clock, so baking was pretty much out). Pudding has to set for a while or else it’s runny...and eating a protein bar for “dessert” just didn’t feel right at the moment. So I opened the fridge and out came something I haven’t eaten in a while now: Greek yogurt.

I originally meant to make a healthier cake with it, but since I don’t know when I’ll find the time, I just decided to use it before it goes bad. But, I kept with the cake theme and I wasn’t sorry. So here we are with last night’s great “recipe”: Funfetti Cake Batter Greek Yogurt!

I started out with one single-serving (6 oz) container of nonfat plain Greek yogurt--mine is the generic Giant brand--and 1 tablespoon of Funfetti cake mix.

After mixing it all up, it still had that sour tang from the yogurt. If you like  it that way, fine. But for me it just didn’t sit well with the Funfetti. I’d recommend adding sweetener to taste. For me, one packet of Truvia was plenty.

It’s not quite as sweet and battery as the cake batter pudding I made before, but it’s great on a different level. I love the thick texture of Greek yogurt as opposed to the thinner goopiness of pudding (don’t get me wrong, I still love pudding!), and the sprinkles in the Funfetti mix added a really awesome crunch. Plus, every once in a while I’d hit an unmixed hunk of cake mix--cake batter explosion!! With 18 grams of protein and around than 150 calories!

Of course, you could add more cake mix...but mix the first tablespoon thoroughly first. As it was, I had some trouble with it spilling over the sides of the yogurt container. But it was an awesome quick treat and definitely a good one for those of us who love to lick the bowl. ;)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review: Detour Lower Sugar Chocolate Chip Caramel

Detour returns today with another lower sugar option, the Lower Sugar Chocolate Chip Caramel. Unlike the first Lower Sugar bar I reviewed, this one is the big size, so hopefully it will help me get a better feel for these slightly more carb-friendly bars.

Upon opening it up, I discovered that some gooey caramel had burst through the top, leaving it a little sticky but also getting me excited for what’s inside...

But breaking it was a bit of a disappointment visually.

The caramel layer is so thin it’s almost invisible. It still has that stringy stretchy consistency that makes caramel so awesome, though, so there’s still hope! Other than that, it looks just like the picture on the wrapper.

This is a funny bar. It has so much potential, and it is pretty tasty, but at the same time it’s lacking. For one thing, the base carries the same funky background taste that I picked up with the Lower Sugar Peanut Caramel bar. So I guess I know it wasn’t the flavor mix messing things up for me in that review. Again, I don’t really know how to describe this taste, just that it’s not natural and I know it doesn’t belong. The good news is that this weirdness is subtle and, as I progressed through the bar it actually seemed to disappear. I don’t know if I just got used to it or what. But taking bigger bites seems to help mitigate it.

While this bar definitely carries a hint of sweetness from the caramel, it’s only that--a hint. I guess you can’t expect too much from that thin little layer, but still...some more caramel would be appreciated (and would probably bust that weird taste in the base)! On the plus side, the coating is milk chocolatey and there are real, decent-sized chocolate chips inside. They’re about the size of Hershey’s mini chocolate chips, which is refreshing when so many protein bars use chocolate specks or dots instead of chips.

The base is gummy and chewy and could get difficult to handle if you were in a hurry, but I think it’s more satisfying that way. There are little rice crisps in there, but they don’t add much. They’re non-eventful and, combined with the base texture, come across as more of a soggy crisp than what you’d expect from a Rice Krispies Treat. Still, I have to appreciate the effort on Detour’s part.

Taste: 7.5--chocolate-ish, but there is still a funny taste to these Lower Sugar bars. I also wish the caramel had more of a presence.
Texture: 9--pretty much what you’d expect--gummy and chewy, a bit of a workout but very satisfying. The crisps were a little silly, but good for variety.
Health: 8--whey protein, and about half the sugar of the original line. Probably a good idea to watch the sugar alcohols, though.
Eat Again? Yes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Review: Balance Bar Bare Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter

** So, apparently it’s Chocolate Mint Day, and to help celebrate, Balance Bar is giving away one 10-bar box of Chocolate Mint bars over at She Scribes. Make sure to enter the contest in honor of! **

Sometimes in life, less is more.

That’s the premise behind this Balance Bar Bare Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter bar. Bare is Balance’s line of trail mix bars, and, like their name indicates, they’re naked--no coating. Well, half-naked; there’s coating on the bottom.

“Real roasted peanuts and creamy peanut butter flavor combine with the whole grain goodness of rolled oats to provide a perfectly balanced sweet and salty Balance Bar snack, with energy to spare.”
Now, since usually the coating is the best part about any protein bar, I’m a little sad about losing half of it. What will cover up the taste of 15 grams of protein crammed into this little guy?

The real chopped peanuts on top are a nice touch, and peanuts are a really strong-tasting nut, so maybe this will work after all. Another encouraging observation: I smell peanut butter! ALWAYS a good sign. :)

Ohh my, this bar is definitely, undoubtedly peanut butter. I needn’t have worried about tasting protein, because that bitter note just isn’t there. It’s peanut butter through and through, so robust in its flavor that I can’t even taste those peanuts! The coating has the most flavor, but the entire base is infused with legitimate peanut butter, and the result is a Jif-lover’s heaven.

The granola (rolled oats, whatever) is chewy and juicy, releasing peanut butter goodness to the very end. It’s not crispy, and maybe a little bit of a workout. But it’s not annoying...let’s just say it’ll keep you satisfyingly busy. But given the portable size of this bar, you would have no trouble making a quick snack of it on the go.

I’ve had issues with the Original and Gold Balance Bars tasting like protein, but this was awesome. Go figure, take away the coating and you’re golden. Whatever they changed here, it worked. This is one of the few peanut butter protein/nutrition bars that’s peanut buttery enough for me, which is saying something! It was definitely worth the purchase.

Taste: 9.5--peanut butter to the core!
Texture: 9--chewy like a granola bar, and not too much work; also juicy.
Health: 8--there’s a lot of sugar, but it also has 15 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and “19 vitamins and minerals,” according to the website.
Eat Again? Yes.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mark Your Calendars, I Put a Pint of Ice Cream Back in the Freezer...

Sometimes simple is better. Less is more. In the world of ice cream, there are so many exotic flavors and mix-in combinations that it can be overwhelming. But Mars, being first and foremost a candy company, goes the opposite route and keeps it to a minimum.

For example, this “Chocolate Ice Cream with M&M’s”:

The only thing simpler would be just plain chocolate ice cream, right?

Oops, I guess they failed to mention the chocolate swirl. Still, I’m excited about that because it looks just like the one in their Twix ice cream, which was excellent. But I’m not sure what possessed them to add sprinkles.

Anyway, there is a limit to how much something like this is going to impress me. I happen to enjoy all those crazy flavors and mix-ins, so unless this is some seriously amazing chocolate ice cream, it might be a little too simple.

Yep...too simple. The chocolate ice cream isn’t very creamy, and the mini M&M’s are frozen and so quite crunchy. I prefer my chocolate soft (I’m weird and actually like to suck on candy bars rather than just chewing them), so right off the bat this wasn’t working for me.

The sprinkles are purely aesthetic and add nothing but calories...although admittedly not very many. I guess they make it less boring to look at, but certainly not less boring to eat. The only part I really truly savored was the chocolate swirl, which is like a slightly gritty, deep ganache; but there wasn’t enough of it to satisfy me. In fact, even though I was spooning straight from the pint, I actually ended up putting it back in the freezer--a first for me! That’s when you know it wasn’t stellar.

Don’t get me wrong--if you like M&M’s and chocolate ice cream, this is certainly a respectable ice cream. But the combination just didn’t sit well with me, and after passing up Phish Food Froyo for the second night in a row, I wish I’d made a different choice.

Mars Caramel Ice Cream With Twix (An Ice Cream Review)

I have this fascination with ice cream that comes in pints. I think it’s because the portion size is easier to get right, plus there’s a limit to how much you can serve yourself...I tend to get carried away when faced with a big tub of ice cream. Pints keep me under control.

Which is fine, except that for the most part the only ice cream I buy in pints is Ben & Jerry’s, and eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s, while perhaps less volume, is not necessarily better than losing control with a large carton of lighter ice cream. Which is why I like these pints Mars came up with. Well, I didn’t like the first one so much, but I also picked up a pint of Twix ice cream when I stopped on campus to use up the money on my student id card. I bought it at the end of last year, too, and managed to get a few spoonfuls before everyone else destroyed it, and I remember liking it. So this time I hid my pint (under the Ben & Jerry’s, of course ;)) until the mood struck and I grabbed a spoon.

OK, I guess the official name is Caramel Ice Cream with Twix, which totally fails to incorporate the fact that this ice cream also has a fudge swirl.

The caramel flavor ice cream definitely isn’t short on flavor. Unlike Ben & Jerry’s Dulce Delish, it does not taste just like a caramel swirl, but has a slight light, milder caramel flavor that works well with both the Twix and the swirl. It’s not boring, but also not overwhelming.
The Twix seem to come in two varieties: there are crunchy ones, like the cookie in your average Twix bar, and there are some pieces that seem to be lacking the cookie part and are just the coating. I also spotted a one or two strings of caramel, though I’m not sure if they were part of the Twix bars or intended to be a separate swirl. While the chopped-up Twix still made the ice cream taste like the candy bar, I do wish they had been bigger chunks. Or maybe that would just result in rock-hard frozen Twix, I really don’t know.

The swirl is pretty consistent, and very rich. A strange thing happened only a few spoonfuls into this pint...

The swirl revolted! So instead of eating that piece of swirl with a scoop of ice cream like I had intended, I just ate it plain. It is without a doubt very chocolatey, and has an awesome gritty texture. Some people might not like it, but I think it adds a whole new dimension to the ice cream, and is much more substantial than your usual, gooey fudge swirl.
While Milky Way wasn’t a success, this certainly is. I attribute it mostly to the great base flavor, but the crunchy Twix and chocolate swirl were also excellent additions. And, now that I’ve seen this stuff at Giant recently, I’ll probably be buying it again.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ben & Jerry's Triple Caramel Chunk (An Ice Cream Review)

It’s been a fun journey going back through Ben & Jerry’s flavors that I ate last year in the process of using up my excess meal points. I’ve found that I can appreciate them more when I’m thinking about how to describe them, and it makes me slow down rather than just blowing through an entire pint mindlessly.

It’s been a while since I’ve had Triple Caramel Chunk, but it’s basically the Chocolate Therapy of caramel ice creams: “Caramel Ice Cream with a Swirl of Caramel & Fudge Covered Caramel Chunks.”

Yum. But despite that tantalizing description, I still had a major dilemma deciding whether I wanted this or my beloved Phish Food Froyo, because I was craving something chocolate. But in the interest of this blog (and knowing I would probably eat the whole pint of Phish Food), I went for caramel overload, after staring at them both for a long while.

Well, not the most promising shot. There’s a bit of caramel swirl poking through, along with what look like chocolate flecks. But those flecks are actually full-fledged caramel cups, and they are everywhere!

Some of the caramel you see above is the swirl, and some (on the left) is from the caramel cups that my amateurish scooping crushed. Actually, for a B&J’s caramel swirl, this seemed a little sparse. When you look at Dulce Delish or Karamel Sutra, it’s like the forgotten little brother. Still, there’s enough of it that parts of the ice cream get that sticky, chewy, heavenly texture, and I needed a napkin to wipe caramel strings off my chin. It is super sweet and super delicious!

Then there are the cups...quite a few of mine got crushed in the scooping process, which is easy to do because they maintain a soft and creamy texture instead of getting rock-hard frozen. They have a burnt-caramel taste, in contrast to the extra-sweet swirl, which mixes nicely with the milk chocolate. And there were about five of these in every spoonful. OK, slight exaggeration...but you get my point, they don’t mess around with their caramel cups!

On to the base: it’s a mild caramel, but you can still tell it’s caramel. Nowhere near the strength of the Dulce Delish base, but I don’t think it needs to be. The caramel cups take care of that deeper, darker caramel taste. This ice cream was also soooo creamy...but then again, I let it sit out for longer than usual while I debated which pint to open. :)

In the end, I was pleased with my decision. There were more than enough caramel cups to at least take the edge off my chocolate craving (with the rest helped along by the discounted Valentine’s Day chocolate I bought yesterday--turns out chocolate-drizzled cherry Peeps aren’t bad). Anyway, while  it’s not my favorite, it’s certainly a worthy addition to the Ben & Jerry’s lineup.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Oh, Life...

I’ve had a bit of a stressful week. Well, OK, mostly just a stressful Friday, but it was enough stress for several weeks’ worth.

It started with my horse bucking off an innocent little girl (and trying to buck off her twin, too). All I was trying to do was find him a great home with people I trust while I get myself settled in North Carolina. But now I feel responsible for traumatizing two awesome girls for life. (Anybody looking for a fat bucking bronco?) The worst part is, he was an absolute angel walk/trot. But what kid wants a horse they can’t canter? Anyway, Zoe rode him today and says she beat up on him a bit, which makes me feel...slightly better.

Then I got an email from the Schreyer Honors College informing me that I do not have enough honors credits to graduate. Apparently, by taking three credits of thesis work in the fall and six this spring, I have “exceeded the maximum allowable credits for a repeatable course” (according to my audit). I had originally only scheduled three thesis credits this spring, but after having to drop an honors course earlier, my advisor told me to sign up for three more. So of course I immediately sent that email off to him and am waiting until he can look into it next week.

So, yeah. Sometimes life is just too much, you know? And then you’re walking through the grocery store and you see something that just looks totally awesome, and you can’t help but get way too excited and giddy and you end up buying it even though it’s totally bad for you. Case in point:

Cinnamon Bun Bites and Cookies & Cream Bites. I can’t even figure out what the name of the company is that makes them, but the original product was Cookie Dough Bites. As far as I’ve been able to figure, that may just be the company name as well. They also have Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough Bites, Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites, Cupcake Bites, Red Velvet Bites, and a dark chocolate cookie dough version. My Giant doesn’t carry any other than these two, though, so that’s what I ended up with.

Sorry for the terrible picture. Basically they’re little balls like the cookie dough balls you get in ice cream (well, most cookie dough ice cream, anyway). They’ve nailed the gritty cookie dough texture, too, and both of these flavors are a hit with me because they are coated in WHITE chocolate! The cinnamon ones definitely taste like cinnamon, but I don’t know about “oven fresh”...and they kind of have a weird aftertaste that just makes me shove more in my mouth to put of the aftertaste moment. The Cookies & Cream Bites are better, but honestly they could have just been chocolate centers and I wouldn’t have can you really tell the difference with a product like this? Anyway, they’re both extremely addicting and for that reason I did not buy either one when I went back to Giant today. :)

And another find...well, my mom bought them at Walmart, but only because I told her they were supposedly out in stores now:

Yep, for a limited time only Apple Jacks now come with marshmallows. When we went to Virginia Beach I got myself addicted to Froot Loops with marshmallows (which aren
’t limited edition), but I’m not a huge fan of fruity cereal (but for those crunchy little marshmallows I’ll do anything). So Apple Jacks seem like the perfect solution because I’m totally a cinnamon person (see above). Just FYI, Kellogg’s also just released Cinnamon Jacks, which in my opinion completely trounce Apple Jacks, but as yet they don’t come with marshmallows.

Admittedly, I’m a little disappointed that the marshmallows are white and not funky rainbow colors like the Froot Loops, but oh well. They still taste awesome and tooth-achingly sugary.

And--I promise this is the last anecdote for today--sometimes misfortune becomes fortune. This morning I found a rock-like something in my Apple Pie Quest bar. So I posted to the Facebook page, was directed to email customer service, and received a reply this afternoon. On a Saturday! Wow, I love Quest. Anyway, I now have a free box of Chocolate Peanut Butter bars on the way from California...they even let me pick a flavor!

Also, I ran again today and feel fine!! I’m hoping this is a sign that the tides are shifting...