Tag Archives: october

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.

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31 Days of Junk: Skeleteens Brain Wash (#16)

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.

Last week I wrote about another Skeleteens soda, “Black Lemonade”. I’d tried it once in my youth, and now, over 20 years later, I was able to track it down for this #31DaysOfJunk thing I’m currently in the midst of. In fact, I tracked down all of the Skeleteens sodas I owned back then, including “Love Potion #69” and “Brain Wash”, which I’m drinking as I type this.

I wouldn’t say I’m a “craft soda” kind of person, but I wouldn’t say I’m not, either. I just don’t drink soda, so I’m sort of out of my element when it comes to fancy, micro-operation sodas. I am, however, into microbrews and craft beers so I understand the “appreciation of the product”, which I think is probably a similar approach to both craft soda and craft brews.

To me, a soda should be refreshing, thirst-quenching, and able to be slugged down in three massive gulps. I assume this is probably how most non-craft beer drinkers approach craft beer: how cheap is it, how fast can I drink it, and how drunk will it get me?

So when I try “Brain Wash”, and find it strange and spicy on my palate, and can’t immediately guzzle it down, and have to sip it, I just apply my microbrew-appreciator logic to the situation; I realize that this soda wasn’t meant to be quickly consumed or have recognizable flavors. It’s meant to be admired, enjoyed, valued—the same way I would enjoy a craft beer.

At least, I think that’s what is going on. To be honest, these sodas are way too spicy for my sensitive lil’ tum. Even sipping them leaves me with brief heartburn. After all, Brain Wash contains jalapeno oil. (No, really.) There’s a whole bunch of other herbs in the soda, most of which I’ve never heard of. What they’re supposed to do, I’m not sure. Wash my brain, apparently.

This drink comes in both a red and a blue version, and while I’m not entirely sure what the difference is, I happened to have the red version, and it’s a lovely ruby color that I’ve never seen in a soda before. I like colorful sodas; brown and clear are so boring. Gimme blue, pink, yellow, ruby. If I’m going to destroy my teeth and my pancreas, at least let me marvel at some beautiful hues while doing so!

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: Boo Berry Fruit Roll-Ups (#13)

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 have this theory that all Fruit Roll-Ups taste the same.

I think our ability to discern the flavors is mostly visual; we see that they’re called “strawberry”, so we believe they taste like strawberry. And like candy corn (another snack which I believe plays tricks with our tastebuds) Fruit Roll-Ups are a package deal: flavor, smell, texture. You can close your eyes and realize you’re eating a Fruit Roll-Up because of the plastic wrap you must unfurl it from, and that slick, stippled, chewy texture that the Roll-Ups are known for. But can you close your eyes and tell what flavor you’re eating?

This is a long way to say that these Boo Berry Fruit Roll-Ups (“Razzle Boo Blitz” flavored) just taste like, well, Fruit Roll-Ups. Kinda like how all Oreos—no matter the limited time flavor—just taste like Oreos.

Don’t get me wrong: they’re yummy and tangy and blue, and they make me feel like I’m 8-years-old again, in the school cafeteria, eating my PB&J (where the J has sorta bled through the bread a bit). But it feels like they dropped the ball with the Boo Berry crossover. For a cereal that is supposedly the first blueberry-flavored cereal, you think they might’ve pulled out all the stops for this Roll-Up. Instead, they’ve just delivered the generic “tangy blue” flavor that so many fruit snacks already have in their arsenal.

But then, I’m a 30-something debating the flavor profiles of a fruit snack marketed for children, so who’s really won and who’s lost here? If you need me, I’ll be drowning my sorrows in a carton of Juicy Juice apple juice. Can someone help me with the straw?

31 Days of Junk: Spooky Junior Mints (#12)

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.

It’s taken me years to warm up to the alien combination of mint and chocolate. Mint and chocolate? Who came up with that, man? That’s like saying “lemon and chocolate”. It’s a forbidden dance. Such different flavor combinations were never meant to mingle. Chocolate is meant to be paired with other sweet flavors. (Okay, and occasionally ‘sea salt’, you snobs.) Sure, mint and lemon come in sweet variations in the candy world, but neither are, by their nature, sweet.

I think I first flirted with the odd couple when I tried mint chocolate chip ice cream for the first time. The mint was more of a muted background flavor; an afterthought. A brief cooling sensation that cleared the way for the main attraction: the chocolate flakes. Plus, I’m always down to eat green ice cream, no matter what the flavor it.

But I never got into York Peppermint Patties, though my dad swore by them. I did appreciate that they were enrobed in dark chocolate—that’s always a good thing. But let’s be honest: because of its gooey filling, it’s basically like eating chocolate-covered toothpaste.

This is the same reason I can’t get down with Junior Mints. The soft, paste-like center makes me think I’m eating Colgate, man! How can you not think you’re eating toothpaste when it’s the exact same flavor and consistency? Yuck.

However, these Spooky Junior Mints get major bonus points for switching up the color of the filling. Not only do we get orange, but we also get black! How cool is that! Sometimes that’s all you gotta do: switch up the color. The orange filling is noticeably oozier than the black filling. In fact, the black filling is downright solid. Maybe it’s just the batch I got. But if both fillings were equally as runny, it could make for a fun game of biting into one and blindly trying to guess which color you got.

Charming, yes. But you haven’t yet completely swayed me, “mint and chocolate”. Yuck.