Monthly Archives

July 2020

Paqui Haunted Ghost Pepper Chips

Posted in Chips by

This is the part where I’m supposed to say hey, hello, hi. I introduce a thing with playful banter and we have a good time while I do my best to use my wordsmithing abilities and either make you laugh or make you… cry? I don’t… I— didn’t have a good time this go around, not with these chips, and I tried. I really, really tried. I slotted these into my calorie count for the day, and I finished the whole bag in an attempt to find something nice to say about them, and I came up with nil.

To preface, I’m a heatseeker, firecracker, tongue torturer kind of eater. If it’s hot, I want hotter. I use a habanero hot sauce with the pained expression of a man in a backwards hat on its label as sauce of choice. Tabasco is little more than a, “yeah that’ll do” sauce for homefries and eggs. I order Thai and Indian “hot” when I eat out. A packet of chips labelled Haunted Ghost Pepper seemed like I just had to eat them.

These chips aren’t good.

They take an odd amount of pressure to bite through and into, and the texture combined with the amount of spice mix on each chip makes them taste and feel like a harder, ground corn version of pork rinds. On the looks side, these could be cousins of the Dorito. They look like large, grown-up sized triangles of childhood favorites Cool Ranch and Nacho Cheese. But if the seasoning on those were made of salt, and fire.

Oh, I did come up with a positive. These are a sniffly, runny nose creeping heat, my favorite kind, and a sign of good flavor: but with that said, there’s so much spice mix coating each huge chip that that the amount of salt in my mouth at any one point made my tongue want to revolt. As a home cook, I do not regularly ingest large amounts of salt outside of deli meats, so everything is saltier to me. I looked at the back of the bag. 18% daily value or 420erryday mg of sodium in them. Big no.

Midway through eating these, I had to dust my body off. On top of that, the chips were so hard to break through, I started closing my eyes in fear of blasting myself in the ocular cavities with ghost pepper dust. I took precaution in eating them, using a pair of chopsticks to bring them to my face at the beginning and transitioning to using a paper towel when they proved too hard to steadily keep a grip on and bite at the same time. The plate I ate over was L I T T E R E D in spice mix.

These aren’t something I would have bought to satisfy a snack craving, and I bought them solely out of curiosity and had them with a meal. I would have bought my regular bag of salt and vinegar kettle cooked Lays for that.

Their only saving grace is their heat. Yes, the chips are hot, but not devastatingly so for somebody like me looking for that satisfaction. They’re enjoyable for what the give, but having to ingest that level of heat in this way? Let’s just say: it was an experience.

After noticing that these chips from Paqui are born and Austin, Texas-bred, I’m even more disappointed. These are a pretentious take on a spicy chip, with an overly hard, stale-tasting tortilla chip and salty, salty, dusty spice mix. They’re hot, yes, but like the ground corn tortilla chip that hot spice dust lays upon, a hard pass.

Found at Walgreens.

July 30, 2020
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KitKat Duos Mint + Dark Chocolate

Posted in Candy by

It seems like for the foreseeable future, my new lot in life is to peruse the candy aisle in various stores on different quick stops after work. This really isn’t any different than any other time in my life, but now, it has magical purpose. No longer am I just grabbing a Twix or Snickers and making my way to the front. No longer do I scoff at other choices and pursue what I feel are my favorites(I still do, so much candy feels so… boring). No longer do I avoid a simpler bar, because a simpler bar can still fill a specific niche. On my last venture, when I grabbed the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate and Reese’s Pieces Bar, these KitKat Duos were sitting next to them. I remember thinking I would pick them up next time.

Then came next time. I grabbed my usual stuff, I grabbed the KitKats, and I made my way home. I was so hungry(a reoccurring after work theme), that I set up and shot pictures for this and then chowed down. And let me first say, I have some questions, I may have some answers, but overall, I felt minty.

Mint is a strong flavor, a few drops of oil of peppermint can be enough to overwhelm the nostrils, and it seems like it hits me in my sinuses. I wouldn’t recommend this bar to the anybody who doesn’t like mint, and at the time of night I had it, this bar definitely woke me up. But in a good way. This KitKat bar feels like a late night road trip snack, something you have with a hot drip coffee. That mint and chocolate combo hits in a way that I think would pair well with a medium dark or dark roast.

My second concern is that with so much mint, I could hardly taste the chocolate, and with the mint creme being so sweet, it didn’t contrast in the way I thought dark chocolate would. Putting this bar up to my nose, I smelled only mint, even when I flipped it around in my fingers. This bar is so minty in fact, that with my stomach being a bit sensitive to creamy textures(eggy and mayo heavy things being the triggers) a full four KitKat servings was enough to make my stomach flop a bit. The minty creme flavor lingers too.

The wafer, however, the KitKat staple, is THE SAME™, something I very much value. After Cookies and Creme Twix and several oddly tasting mashups, the reliability of knowing that yes, that KitKat wafer is still that same KitKat wafer might make it the best part of the bar. I can say with confidence that Hershey/Nestle has some spot-on quality control within these confines.

Overall, were I a regular Kat enthusiast, this would be a go-to. The creme is flavorful, but engaging, and what would a twist be without the twist being noteworthy? I also would have preferred a darker chocolate to contrast, but in the grand scheme of things, this KitKat is a treat and an addition I welcome to my candy aisle.

And imagine, if you were a child and Hershey’s made minis of these for Halloween? I’d have to add a new favorite onto kid me’s list.

Found at Walgreens.

July 28, 2020
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Milky Way – Salted Caramel

Posted in Candy by

Is it care-ah-mel or car-mell? Either way you say it, this candy bar isn’t new – however it is new to me. Rarely do I fall for impulse buys at the register but something in my brain said “Erin, if you don’t get this candy bar, you will be very mad at yourself later.” At least, that’s how I remember it happening. I don’t frequently buy candy bars, because well, I eat them, and I am trying to cut back on the ole L Bs if you know what I mean.

If I had to choose a favorite candy bar, it would be a toss up between Milky Way and PayDay. Honestly, it would be Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups but are those really a candy bar? And if I really had my choice, I would go with a Milky Way Midnight – the perfect balance of bitter dark chocolate, sweet mallow and caramel. I have always said that I have a sweet tooth, but is it possible to have a salt… tooth too? Sweet and salty is a match made in heaven.

The familiar chocolate exterior of a regular Milky Way greets you when you bite into this bar, in addition to the soft but not messy caramel and nougat. I typically find things like salted caramel usually lacking when it comes to the salt department. The salt flavor is usually so faint that if you hadn’t told me it was there to begin with, I probably would not have noticed. This is not true for this candy bar. You actually get the crunch of the salt, however the bar is not gritty. Its salty, but not too salty.

The only way that I can see an improvement with these would be if they made a Midnight version. Dark chocolate plus a velvety salted caramel and nougat would be a match made in snack food paradise. If you spot these, definitely pick one up if sweet and salty is your jam.

Found at Walmart

July 27, 2020
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Trader Joe’s Sea Salted Saddle Potato Crisps

Posted in Chips by

A few summers ago, Trader Joe’s introduced a ton of mango-themed items into its repertoire, a trend that would continue for a few years until all that remains is Jerk Chicken Skewers with Mango Chutney. This post is not about Jerk Chicken Skewers with Mango Chutney. It is, however, about a new item that arrived this summer, this month, in fact, at Trader Joe’s. I’m sure we’ve all noticed that sometimes our beloved TJ’s gives things very goofy, but kinda accurate-in-that-same-goofy-way names.

This tube of knock-off Pringles is blindingly orange. You could use them as traffic cones.

Sea Salted Saddle Potato Crisps. They’re Pringles. Trader Joe’s own knock off Pringles, original flavor only, ten ingredients listed on the label. Of that ten, only two are things you might not be able to pronounce(corn maltodextrin and mono/digyclerides).

These come in a blindingly decorative tube with a green-skinned, mustachioed man in a flowered suit jacket and checked pant riding a horse, gripping its saddle. But there isn’t a horse, and the saddle is a Prin— potato crisp.

I haven’t had Pringles in a long, long time, so I’m not apt to compare how they stack up(and these are completely stackable, by the way), but their flavor is… well, it’s pretty good. You can smell the almost-potato(that’s dried potato) and rice flour(that’s rice flour) as they come to your mouth, and a hint of neutral oil hits the palate being barely noticeable and exquisitely tolerable. It’s sunflower oil, a neutral oil I like to cook with in place of canola and vegetable these days.

Delicious but pale in color, one might wonder if they're cooked thoroughly.

I will say, these look rough. Straight out of the tube, they look downright uncooked, and the subtle rocky texture scarring them from a hot sunflower oil bath looks a bit off putting. But then again… Pringles are like that too, yeah? But the original is more of a golden color, while these are an even tone of pale potato. These are so pale a relative of yours might be this color.

They’re definitely tasty though. For anybody into that not-quite chip but still fried potato feel, give these a shot. They’re almost McDonald’s fry-esque, as TJ’s Spud Crunchies before them were(though those felt a lot closer), so maybe its a Russet potato and oil taste. For somebody who doesn’t eat much snack food anymore, they’re salty. But each time I popped the lid on these, I did have to fight myself not to grab a few more; luckily they’re low on calories.

My verdict? Pick them up, pop them open, and maybe think about stopping. You won’t. But these don’t have a slogan, anyway, so you have nothing to feel bad about. Nobody’s teasing you for eating too many snacks here.

Also hey, those Jerk Chicken Skewers with Mango Chutney are seasonal, and they’re absolutely delicious.

Found at Trader Joe’s.

July 25, 2020
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Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Reese’s Pieces Candy

Posted in Candy by

Sometimes, but not all the time, okay, all the time, yes. I’m always hungry after work. I fast most of my day, and my lunch break is a combo breakfast/lunch thing. I don’t eat very heavily during that time, and most of my beverages are water or on the ten calorie side.

So sometimes, you get off work a little early, you stop somewhere on the way home, and from the brightly lit candy aisle, you make a choice. No, I will put back the Pop Tarts cereal(I should have bought it, but alas, no pantry space). Yes, I will go against my Twix and Snickers habit. Yes, I’ll buy a Hershey’s bar so I can cover it for the blog. Yes.

Yes.

HERSHEY’S Milk Chocolate infused with perfectly placed candy-coated REESE’S PIECES Candy in every bite makes life more delicious!

So I bought the Hershey’s bar. Yes. Okay, but let’s get down to it. It’s Hershey’s, yes, and I would never buy just a Hershey’s bar unless it was that coveted Cookies and Creme, but hello, they put Reese’s Pieces in this bar. I wanted it. I just, I wanted it.

This is one of Hershey’s thinner bars, lovingly laced with mini Reese’s Pieces. At first this troubled me, I wanted big pieces, in a big bar, for big boys. But more often than not, the hungry stomach makes deals our minds would not, and it ends up spoiling our dinner.

Unwrapped from its back seal, this bar shattered into pieces instead of breakable bricks.

But lo, this bar kept trying to disatisfy me. Upon opening it, the bar simply shattered. Morsels of secret-recipe-milk-chocolate crumbled into bits and Reese’s Pieces candy shell shards threatened to spill out onto my desk. It seemed like the thin chocolate bar was simply a means to hide and stuff Reese’s Pieces into it at this point, but everything checked out on the cross-section: the mini Pieces were allowed to sit and set into the chocolate and some of the candy coated shell sticks up under the Hershey’s stamp on the top. The bottoms aren’t uniform unlike a normal Hershey’s mold, the Pieces make cute bumps on the bottom, here and there.

For all of this bar’s splintering and snapping, it tastes like a Hershey bar should. Classically sweet, a little waxy like American chocolate(and admittedly, this very brand) tends to be, but the Reese’s? They elevate. The mini Pieces are the perfect bite-sized golden nugget of peanut buttery, fudge-like delight.

The classic Hershey's stamp is on each bar, with the orange, yellow and brown of Reese's Pieces showing through.

A word to the wise, be cautious of breakage and candy shell shards.

Overall, Hershey’s with Reese’s Pieces turned out to be satisfying team-up twist on two titans. Definitely try it if you haven’t, just maybe uh, don’t drive and snack with this one.

Found at Walgreens.

July 24, 2020
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Trader Joe’s Joe-Joe Slims

Posted in Cookies by

I don’t know when, but at some point in my recent life I swore off Oreos. Now, don’t get me wrong, Oreos are great, Oreos are life. But when you’re in your thirties and you need to make a decision between a couple of cookies for a big calorie count and maybe just not having them, we know what wins. …and then you’re eating half the pack of Double Stuf telling yourself “just this once” yet another time. No. Nope. Swore off Oreos.

But then, I was in Trader Joe’s, Land of the Snack, Home of the Mandarin Orange Chicken. At my local Joe’s, the cookies and candy are stocked above their frozen goods, except when the crackers used to be, but this year they extended the cookies on one side and the candy on the other. Over time, it seems like their Joe Joe Collection(the really delicious knock-off Oreos) have been gaining more and more flavors. They have vanilla, mango, neopolitan and even a gluten free version(NO. DO NOT. THEY ARE DISGUSTING.). And now. Now they have slims. Joe-Joe Slims.

The fun, white box of the Slims decorated with brown lettering.

…sometimes we crave things we shouldn’t have, and have told ourselves we weren’t going to eat anymore. Chocolate Coconut Almonds, Oreos, Coke. And it’s easy enough not to buy those items, but something about the time, the place, the white box and cute, fun– I bought them.

Trader Joe’s Joe-Joe Slims come in a fun white box with cute lettering and a plastic sleeve with two rows of cookies. They look delicious, and despite being stacked like maybe the crew member doing the work really wanted to empty that box, none were broken.

A stack of delicious Joe-Joe Slims.

The slims are majority chocolate cookie with a very thin layer of white creme in the middle. The chocolate cookie disks are so thin it seems like somebody took a normal Joe Joe, sliced it in two, squeezed the bare minimum of creme inside and slapped it back together. Kinda like filling your parent’s liquor back up with water when you were a teenager.

Unlike watered down vodka, these cookies taste great. Although light on creme, the chocolate cookies themselves are amazing. Good snap, minimal crumble. They feel almost yesterday-made and today-ready, with such a toothsome feel and response, it’s hard to say that maybe they weren’t. That maybe, just maybe, somebody made them, let them cool, and packed them up yesterday, just for me.

They’re magical.

Found at Trader Joe’s.

July 22, 2020
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Twix Cookies and Creme

Posted in Candy by

There’s something about a Twix, with its golden wrapper and brilliant red letters that has dazzled me since my youth. Not one, but two cookie and caramel wafers lovingly draped in milk chocolate. The imperfection of their smooth, softly-dried natural ridges and valleys a testament to taste. This is obviously my favorite candy bar, and over the years Twix has come in an assortment of various varieties including peanut butter, dark chocolate and white and even ice cream. Among those variants comes Cookies and Creme, a returning Twix flavor from the 90s.

Twix Cookies and Creme come in a dazzling electric blue wrapper, in regular, sharing size and mini-bar sharing size. They’re unmistakably eye-catching, and upon opening the package, you’ll be pleased to see two Twix essentially the same as usual. But they’re… they’re not. They’re a smidge darker, and one could very well mistake them for dark chocolate. Biting into one feels odd. Twix’s unmistakable snap and CRONCH are gone, with an odd hollowness taking it’s place.

The cookies and creme flavor feels lost, as the creme is light, but lacking in flavor and easily mashed into everything else to be forgotten. The cookie has a slight residual mouthfeel. Most disturbing of all, the outside chocolate, that I described on the original Twix as delightfully draped, drizzled and enrobing two cookie caramel bars? That chocolate is waxy, brittle and flakes off quite easily.

To the tooth, the bars break to the slightest pressure without a true, hard-earned snap. The creme feels like sticky tak and tastes vaguely better. It’s not sweet. They feel stale. They taste stale. And the sweetness that used to come from a mix of chocolate and caramel and smooth, harmless cookie is now carried on the back of the waxy, dollar store level chocolate it’s encased in.

Sadly, Twix Cookies and Creme are dissatisfying in a big way. I’d buy them once(I bought them twice, at two different stores), but wave the purchase off thereafter.

Worth a try, but for the Twix lover, these miss the mark.

Found at Walgreens.

July 17, 2020
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Taco Bell Menu Revamp

Posted in Fast Food, News by

To say that Taco Bell is a guilty pleasure would imply that I feel bad about eating it. Despite your feelings on Taco Bell, there is always a moment where that delicious faux-Mexican food just hits the spot. I don’t ever feel bad about eating it , though I DO feel bad after eating it, the shame is real, and my 30 something year old body is just not made for that type of food anymore.

Today, Taco Bell released that they will be removing approximately a dozen items from their menu August 13 and adding two new items. Admittedly my heart skipped a beat as I combed the list to see what was being removed. Was I going to have to say goodbye to Taco Bell forever if they removed my beloved Crunch Wrap? I let out a sigh of relief as I reached the bottom of the list, but does your favorite item make the cut?

Taco Bell is removing the following items:

  • Grilled Steak Soft Taco
  • 7-Layer Burrito
  • Quesarito
  • Nachos Supreme
  • Beefy Fritos Burrito
  • Spicy Tostada
  • Triple Layer Nachos
  • Spicy Potato Soft Taco
  • Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes
  • Loaded Grillers
  • Chips & Dips (WHAT!?)
  • Mini Skillet Bowls

They are adding a $5 Grande Nachos Box and a Beef Burrito (was this really not a thing?). Also recently they added the Grilled Cheese Burrito, which I will say I was VERY underwhelmed with. Check out the new menu board below.

I won’t lie, I wouldn’t be sad if they brought back the nacho fries and the naked chicken chips as full time participants – a girl can dream. Also can we talk about the Cinnabon Delights? Does anyone actually order those? Can we get a new dessert item, Taco Bell? Now THAT would be exciting, and I would be more than happy to help to workshop and taste test these ideas.

What is your favorite Taco Bell item? Let me know in the comments! Happy Friday y’all if that means something to you, live long and bring back Volcano Sauce.

July 17, 2020
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Trader Joes’s Buffalo Style Chicken Poppers

Posted in Appetizers by

Summer holds a particularly special place in my heart, and even though it’s sweltering, I hope you’re having a good one. Seasonally, it seems like Trader Joe’s changes things up more than any other store, and it’s true, ask them about Roasted Pecan Blue Cheese Dip now and a member of their crew will direct you to the later fall months. But that doesn’t mean the Joe doesn’t have a jam-packed summer selection of goodies.

Case in point: Trader Joe’s Buffalo Style Chicken Poppers. Frozen, and hopefully stocked somewhere you won’t have to ask a team member where they put them… and what else they’ve moved since you’ve last had a chance to visit. And you know, if they’re just out of Fried Rice today or if they’ll have more on the— oh, there it is, thank you.

These come in a rectangular box, glued at the ends(thankfully, because TJ’s has a problem with soft cardboard and easily opening flaps on frozen goods), laid out so that each individual popper looks like part of a triangle-only tessellation. Only delicious, and not math-based.

The instructions dictate 375F for about 20 minutes(I’ve done a perfect 20 and I’ve done 18, and like that better). The poppers take on a deep, dark golden brown coloring that makes them look like fried chicken skin paper footballs. Since they’re cheese based and hot cheese turns into hot grease, I chose to drain them on a paper towel for a couple of minutes. One of them popped, oozing buffalo chicken and cheese onto my baking sheet. No lie, they look good.

Flaky, crunchy, crusty chicken poppers plated with sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro.

On first bite, these are unbelievably flaky, extremely crunchy and delightfully crispy. Despite probably being fried and then flash frozen for at-home reheat, there’s very little grease absorption in what is offered. These are basically Trader Joe’s Buffalo Chicken Dip stuffed into beautifully crafted isosceles triangles of flaky delight. They have a kick, though, and if you aren’t a flamechaser, maybe sit these out. These are not a children’s party food, cute as they are. Do not let these bite back at you unaware. I’d rate them as a medium heat, on par with hatch chile or on the spicier side of vinegar based hot sauces.

Lastly, these aren’t a meal. Despite a high calorie count for a small portion(these friangles are big, two or three TJ’s samosas would rival them in size) the majority of their insides are air. Flaky, flaky, crispity-crunchity air. The phyllo puffs up in size, hiding a well-portioned amount of filling.

Enough to tease, enough to tantalize, but not enough to feed.

Found at Trader Joe’s.

July 15, 2020
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