Tag Archives: autumn

31 Days of Junk: Peanut Butter Kisses (#18)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

Sadly, when the Necco candy company shuttered its doors earlier this year (don’t worry: it’s apparently coming back soon), one of the casualties—besides Necco Wafers and Valentine’s Day staples, Sweethearts—were “Mary Janes”. (No, not that, you stoney-baloney goofballs.) And with it went its classic old-timey bag art.

Thankfully, the instantly recognizable black and orange wax wrappers remain—and while the name has changed (to “peanut butter kisses”), the concept has not: chewy, peanut butter taffy with a bit of real peanut butter in the center. In other words: mother’s milk. (No, not the Red Hot Chili Peppers album, you stoney-baloney goofballs.)

Earlier this month I reviewed what I considered the be the quintessential fall candy: Hershey’s Miniatures. But really, nothing says HALLOWEEN! more than these little black and orange-wrapped goodies. They’re so simple and old-fashioned, but they’re timeless. They might not be the candy you want to see at the bottom of your bag or bucket on Halloween night—they’ll never be on the same level as finding a full Snickers or Butterfinger bar. But if you didn’t find one or two of these suckers in the pile you dumped on your floor, would it really feel like Halloween? I think not.

Thankfully, they’re a shareable candy—the kind your parents, or old uncle, or elderly neighbor would be happy to take off your hands. (Think of Halloween as like a cooler, edgier Christmas—the theme of giving and sharing remains, but you get to dress like a demon hellspawn while doing it.)

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31 Days of Junk: Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s (#17)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

I’m a chewy chocolate chip type of cookie guy more than anything, but offer me the right kind of sandwich cookie and I might indulge. Hit, Milano, E.L. Fudge. Basically anything with a nice chocolate filling squeezed between the two cookies. Those I will gladly accept.

While I’m not big on original Oreos, I am a sucker for their limited time/seasonal varieties they offer–even though I often think these variations still taste exactly like plain ol’ Oreos. (Well, the cookie portion does.) Just a few years ago, Oreo released a Pumpkin Spice flavor, which I found to be their most enjoyable–and least “Oreo-flavored”–release yet. Still, if you’re looking for a seasonal sandwich cookie, you don’t have many options (if any, really) other than Oreo.

Enter into the arena Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s, the seasonal sandwich cookie to beat all others.

Now here is a sandwich cookie that brings some nuance and flavor to the table. Not only is the filling pumpkin-flavored, but the cookie is as well, ensuring that you get the most bang for your frugal, Trader Joe’s-shopping-ass buck.

But first, let’s clear something up: when anything is labeled “pumpkin” flavored, what they really mean is “pumpkin spice” flavored. But the funny thing is, “pumpkin spice” isn’t even a real thing. It’s like “blue raspberry”–an unnatural flavor that exists only in the junkfoodiverse. “Pumpkin spice” is a bit of a misnomer, as it doesn’t even contain any pumpkin. Secondly “pumpkin spice” flavoring is really just allspice. That’s it. Allspice is composed of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Boom. I will concede that “allspice flavored cookies” doesn’t have the zip of “PUMPKIN SPICE FLAVORED EVERYTHING!” Okay, now that we got that out of the way.

As I was saying: these Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s are really quite delicious. The cookie itself is flavorful, enough so that you could eat it on its own without the filling. It’s also a bit softer, a bit more crumbly than your average sandwich cookie, which I can appreciate (gives it somewhat of a “homemade” vibe). And the filling is actually creamy, as opposed to Oreo’s familiar semi-solid slab of frosting. When you bite into these Joe-Joe’s, the filling squeezes out a bit, giving even more of a homemade feel.

The flavor is tops. From the smell, the second you open the bag, to the first bite, these cookies are pure pumpkin spice (er, sorry, “allspice”). But, surprisingly, there is a bit of earthy, gourdy, vegetal flavoring somewhere in there. It’s not overpowering or gross, but close your eyes and smack your lips a bit, and you’ll be able to spot the pumpkin puree flavor. (Which is an actual ingredient!)

Overall, I’d say if you were going to try one pumpkin spice goody this year, try these. They’re inexpensive and delicious–which are the two most important criteria when it comes to food, for me.

31 Days of Junk: Candy Corn-Flavored Pez (#15)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

Vern Tessio was onto something when he said, “If I could only have one food for the rest of my life? That’s easy: Pez. Cherry-flavored Pez. No question about it.” I share his opinion on the brick-shaped candies. Pez would definitely be a desert island snack for me.

What’s not to love? They’re tiny, they’re tangy, they’re tasty. Indeed, they taste like the flavors they purport to be, and they’re totally fun to eat! A candy dispenser—a different candy dispenser—with each purchase of Pez? Are you kidding? That’s like the perfect candy scenario for a kid. A dream come true.

Plus, to me, it always felt like I was eating an actual toy, like a Lego, and that stroked those innate, forbidden feelings that children have deep down—of wanting to eat a toy, but not have it do any major damage to your internal organs. Such a satisfying feeling.

If I had my pick, I’d say I’m a lemon Pez kinda guy, which is interesting as lemon is usually my last choice for candies that come in various flavors (Warheads, Sour Patch Kids, Mike and Ike, Skittles, et. al.). It just goes to show you the power of Pez. But really, all flavors of Pez are great, and I would take any one of them, any time.

The Candy Corn Pez have a strong maple scent right out of the package. Butterscotch, maybe. Definitely buttery. Waffles and syrup? Candy corn is buttery, for sure, but it has almost a marshmallow smell out of the bag.

Flavor-wise, they do a decent job of replicating the taste of candy corn, while still maintaining that signature Pez “tang”. Mostly maple, but again, heavy butter flavor, too. If you close your eyes and imagine candy corn, they do the trick. They also taste like another candy I’ve eaten before, but I cannot figure out what it is for the life of me. It’s driving me nuts! It’s particularly noticeable when I toss more than a couple Pez in the ol’ maw at one time (which is every time).

When Halloween rolls around when I’m stuck on my desert island, I’ll break out the Candy Corn Pez, for sure.

31 Days of Junk: Brach’s Mellowcreme Pumpkins (#14)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

To me, the Mellowcreme® Pumpkin may be the quintessential Halloween candy. I’ll go as far as to say it’s even more iconic than *gasp* candy corn. I’ve always considered candy corn to be a blanket fall confection—covering Halloween and Thanksgiving. But these little stubby pumps, thems all Halloween, baby.

The funny thing is: they taste exactly like candy corn. Perhaps a bit more buttery, but almost no other difference whatsoever. The two candies are made using an identical process, but the pumpkins have the honor of being distinguished as “Mellowcreme”—a term reflecting the candy’s mellow, creamy texture.

I wouldn’t describe these pumpkins (or candy corn for that matter) as mellow or creamy, necessarily. “Breathtakingly sugary” and “I can only eat about 5 before my mouth files a restraining order against me” are descriptors that come to mind before “mellow” or “creamy”.

The Mellowcreme family has extended to two offshoots: the Halloween-specific “Scary Shapes“, and the less creatively-named “Assorted Mix” (not to be confused with the totally different “Autumn Mix“). I’ve found that the flavors of the shapes from those mixes—such as banana and chocolate—actually taste like they’re supposed to. Those chocolate Mellowcremes happen to be some of my favorite fall candies.

These little pumpkins also happen to be hugely important to not only to other Halloween candies but to the holiday itself. Check out this blurb of info from Wikipedia:

As of 1988, most big confectionery companies, including Mars Inc., did not market special Halloween candies. The one exception was Brach’s Confections, which made candy pumpkins among other seasonal products. In 1992, Brach’s Confections expected to sell more than 30 million pounds of mellowcreme candy during the fall season, which included its seasonal mellowcreme pumpkins.

By the late 1990s, competitors of Brach’s realized that the market for the special Halloween candy pumpkin was expanding. For example, in 1997, candy pumpkins and other mellowcreme candies helped push annual spending on Halloween candy in the United States to an estimated $950 million a year. In response, Mars, Inc. came out with Snickers Creme Pumpkin in 1998. Two years later, Frankford Candy & Chocolate Company cross-licensed with ConAgra Foods to produce Peter Pan Peanut Butter Pumpkins. Also in 2000, Zachary Confections expanded its product line to include candy pumpkins.

In addition to helping characterize Halloween, candy pumpkins played a role in the current U.S. implementation of daylight saving time. Since the 1960s, candy makers had wanted to get the trick-or-treat period covered by Daylight Saving, reasoning that if children have an extra hour of daylight, they would collect more candy. During the 1985 U.S Congressional hearings on Daylight Saving, the industry went so far as to put candy pumpkins on the seat of every senator, hoping to win a little favor. In 2005, daylight saving time was extended to the first Sunday in November—just long enough to include Halloween.

How wild is that?! The candy pumpkin inspired other candy companies to start making Halloween-themed treats for October and they were used to sway Members of Congress!

Candy corn, a Halloween treat? Don’t insult the Mellowcreme® Pumpkins.

31 Days of Junk: Pumpkin Patch Orange Pop Rocks (#11)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

I was on my third glass of wine (2014 Syrah, Gainey Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley) when I remembered I hadn’t eaten my #31DaysOfJunk candy for the day. Suddenly, I was struck with a bit of a dilemma: what candy would pair well with a wine that features flavors like dark fruit, chocolate, and black pepper?

I would have gone with some Hershey’s Miniatures—they probably would’ve been pretty perfect, in fact—but I’ll be danged if I didn’t already review them earlier in the week. My other options included sour things, marshmallowy things, and a few candy corn/mellowcreme style treats—none of which really called out to me and my purple tongue.

I eventually decided on Pumpkin Patch Orange Pop Rocks. For whatever reason, I felt the zip and effervescence of the ‘rocks would pair nicely with the juicy, big flavor of this delicious goddamn wine I’m currently in the middle of drinking.

And pair well I think they did. Look, you can never really go wrong with Pop Rocks. Their packaging is great (gotta love bright colors on a black background) and the product itself is pure magic: it feels like you’re eating carbonated moon dust or something.

The flavor here isn’t anything out of the ordinary—straight-up orange. And the thing about Pop Rocks is the flavor is never overpowering. It’s present, but the main draw is the popping action. That’s what you come from, that’s what takes center stage. So the subtle flavoring made it a good choice to pair with this wine. Have I mentioned how delicious it is? Seriously, if you ever find yourself in Santa Barbara County along the 1, I highly recommend stopping by one of their many wineries. So many great wines out there!

31 Days of Junk: Trader Joe’s Candy Corn Popcorn (#9)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

Quick: what does candy corn taste like? Tastes like…candy corn, right?

To me, candy corn isn’t a flavor but an experience. What candy corn is supposed to taste like is secondary to the actual act of eating the candy corn.

The semi-gloss surface giving way to a soft, waxy body with each tiny bite–starting with the white tip, or perhaps from the other end. Or by the palmful, letting the little triangular pieces sit in your mouth, your tongue examining the smoothness of each side, over and over.

Candy corn is seasonal, so just seeing them–before you even eat them–can illicit feelings of fall. Images of grey afternoons and wet sidewalks, red and yellow leaves, comfy sweaters and gathered family, all are conjured up just by looking at the little tri-colored candies.

Or how a freshly opened bag simply smells of confection, sweet and soft, unspecific–but somehow specific to candy corn.

So to say something is “candy corn-flavored” is to take away the aspects of what makes candy corn candy corn. Because really, candy corn doesn’t have a unique flavor. Jelly Belly has said that the flavor is “a blend of creamy fondant, rich marshmallow and warm vanilla notes”. So essentially, birthday cake. Candy corn tastes like birthday cake.

And it’s true: Trader Joe’s Candy Corn Popcorn tastes exactly like yummy, buttery birthday cake. The colored corn helps sell the idea, but ultimately, nothing can replicate the experience of eating actual candy corn.

Still, the popcorn is delicious, and this little bag didn’t stand a chance. If you like kettle corn, or caramel corn, or any sort of shellacked popped corn, you will love this.