04/8/14

Hanging with my Peeps (and other Easter candy)

If I ever need to remember that I lived outside of the United States for a long time,I just need to take a trip down the candy aisle. Many of the basic candy brands that were around when I moved to the United Kingdom are still on the shelves.  The varieties in which they are available,however, is often much different.

No time of year is that more evident than during the Easter candy sales season. Take Peeps as an example. When I left the States they were available in a couple of colors. Fast forward fifteen years and there is a veritable rainbow of Peeps available as Easter candy.

IMG_8598

It isn’t just the colors of the Peeps that have changed. Apparently, the Peeps flavor profile has also expanded.  Birthday Cake Peeps? I am imagining they have a more vanilla taste than the normal Peeps.

Birthday Cake Peeps

From fully chocolate covered to merely having their bird bums dipped in either milk chocolate or dark chocolate, chocolate has also become a feature of the Peeps Easter candy lineup.

Milk Chocolate Peeps Dark Chocolate Peeps

Of course, Peeps aren’t the only candies that take on unusual forms during the Easter candy season. Some brands such as Lifesavers, Nerds and Swedish Fish take on new shapes for the season.

Easter Lifesavers Easter Swedish Fish Easter Nerds Easter Jolly Ranchers

Others such as Kit-Kat and M&Ms simply jazz up the existing product to make it suitable for inclusions in Easter baskets across the country.

Easter Kit-Kat

Easter M&Ms

I may be new to all of these variations of classic American candy brands but for the most part I can understand the appeal of each variation.

However,could somebody kindly tell me what the point of Sugar-Free Peeps?

Sugar Free Peeps

 

03/20/14

Mountain Dew Cheetos & 7 other crazy junk food flavors

What is more American than Coke and Oreos? Some brands of junk food have been around so long that life wouldn’t be quite the same without them on the shelves.

What are those brands like outside of the United States though? Here are eight crazy but real flavors of iconic brands from around the world.

Mountain Dew Cheetos

cheetos_mountain_dew

As is the case with so many of these unusual flavors, the Mountain Dew Cheetos are a Japanese product. Apparently, the Cheetos are dusted with a Mountain Dew powder that gives them a fizzy lemon lime taste.

 

Pepsi Cheetos

pepsi_cheetos

While we are on the subject of Japanese Cheetos, it would be foolish to leave out Pepsi Cheetos. Apparently, there isn’t any cheese flavor involved with these Cheetos. Which, I suppose is a bit of a blessing.  From what I have heard, they also have a pop rocks sort of effect that creates a popping in your mouth.

 

Blueberry Ice Cream Oreos

blueberry_ice_cream_oreos

American Oreo fans are no strangers to limited edition Oreo flavors these days but it looks like we have only just chipped away at the Oreo flavors that have been seen around the world.  For example, Oreos with a blueberry ice cream filling have been available in Singapore and Indonesia.

 

 Strawberry Ritz Bits

strawberrry_ritz_bits

None of that cheddar and peanut butter stuff for these Ritz Bits. In Japan, they served up a bright pink stuffed variety of Ritz Bits.  By some reports it is simply a strawberry filling and by others it is strawberry cheesecake. Either way, it is bright pink. Like the Hello Kitty of Ritz crackers.

 

Ginger Ale Kit Kats

ginger_ale_kitkats

Now these I have actually tried. When I lived in London, I would occasionally go to a shop that imported American candy. They also had a Japanese section and that was how I was able to try the Ginger Ale Kit Kats. It sounds horrible but they were actually pretty good.  The chocolate part of the Kit Kat is a white chocolate that contrasts nicely with the lightly gingered citrus taste.

 

Ice Cucumber Pepsi

ice_cucumber_pepsi

You guessed it. Japan strikes again! This time with an Ice Cucumber Pepsi. For me, this is an example of fundamental difference in the sort of flavors a culture enjoys. I have no desire to drink a cucumber in any form. Much less in a carbonated Pepsi variation.

 

Orange Coke

orange_coke

Orange Coke is another one that I have had the chance to try. It was introduced into the United Kingdom market when I lived there. It was a companion to the lemon and lime varieties. I enjoyed those but I really disliked the Orange Coke.

The orange mix gave the drink a bitter taste. Perhaps if the sweetness of the Coke had been able to come through more it would have worked but they way they put it out resulted in a big nope from me.  When traveling in Germany, I would often seen colas mixed with orange drinks so maybe it did better on the European mainland.

 

Clam Chowder Doritos

clam_chowder_dorito

I would totally try these Clam Chowder Doritos from Japan. Partially because I don’t think I have seen anybody try to create an artificial clam chowder flavor. Mostly though because it sounds like it could be really good.

So, what flavors of beloved American brands have you seen around the world? I’d love to know!

 

 

03/12/14

Birthday Cake M&M’s Review

Apparently,Mars wasn’t discouraged by the lackluster response to White Chocolate Carrot Cake M&Ms’. They are back with another cake based M&M’s flavor. This time around, it is a Birthday Cake M&M’s being introduced as a limited edition.

When I saw the Birthday Cake M&M’ on the shelves of my local CVS, I wasn’t immediately sure that I wanted to try them.  When I see ‘birthday cake’ as a flavor my mind goes right to a vanilla flavoring. The sort that tastes oddly sweet and not particularly like like actual vanilla.  Has anybody else noticed that all those girlie vodka versions from cotton candy to (of course) birthday cake are all just variations of vanilla?  Serious, the vanilla thing has been overplayed.

birthday cake m&m's

Eventually though, my curiosity got the better of me and I picked up a pack to take home for a taste test. The first thing I noticed when opening the pack of Birthday Cake M&Ms was that the actual M&Ms were bigger than normal. Not the size of the the new Mega M&Ms but more like they had been overstuffed enough that they began to bulge and the seams.

When I started to eat them, I couldn’t help but notice that the chocolate filling had a different texture than normal M&M’s.  In particular, there is a creamier feel to it. Not at all unpleasant but different enough to notice.

So, how did the Birthday Cake M&M’s taste? It turns out that they are pretty dang good.

What I didn’t anticipate was that the birthday cake was a chocolate cake. I’m not sure why I didn’t figure that out before tasting. It isn’t like they show a big slice of chocolate cake on front of the packaging or anything, right? They are successful in creating a flavor profiles that is a chocolate cake batter taste with a hint of vanilla frosting. I’ll give them slack for the vanilla since it really is just a note and it compliments the chocolate.

So, thumbs up to the Birthday Cake M&M’s. They might not be quite the caliber of the dark chocolate peanut M&M’s (which are amazing!) but they are well above most of the limited edition M&M’s flavors of recent times.

02/28/14

3 Gen X snack foods that should make a comeback

Social media was buzzing a couple weeks ago with rumors that Crystal Pepsi was making a comeback. Sadly for those looking  forward to a moment of junk food nostalgia, it appears that the rumors were falsely started on a satirical news site.

Though, if anybody at Pepsi has any sense, they should be taking advantage of the buzz and bring Crystal Pepsi back for real.

Crystal Pepsi

The product may have be considered a flop but whoever created the Crystal Pepsi commercials knew what they were doing. They were so epic that, even 20 years later, most folks of a certain age can’t help but hear  Sammy Hagar in their heads at the mere mention of Crystal Pepsi.

Crystal Pepsi might not becoming back anytime soon but it did get me thinking about other lost Generation X food products that I would like to see return.

First choice has to go to Apple Slice soda. Also from Pepsi Co, Apple Slice was part of a range of fruit flavored Slice branded sodas that were out in the mid 1980s.

Grape, pineapple, peach, strawberry and, the fairly progressive for the time, passion fruit were just some of the other varieties of slice soda. I can’t say that I remember the taste of any of them other than Apple Slice soda.

My mother was pretty into it at the time, especially the Diet Apple Slice. I can’t blame her because it was a flavor unlike any other soda of the time. Tart and crisp a bit like a sharp cider taste.

The nearest I have gotten to it since was in the UK with Apple Tango soda but it wasn’t as full bodied as I remember Apple Slice tasting.

Around about the same time period as Slice, there was a potato chip offering from Keebler called Tato Skins. There was a bunch of Tato Skins flavors such as cheddar and bacon, sour cream and onion, and steak and potato but my favorite was the basic baked potato flavor.

I’ve heard from several people that T.G.I. Friday’s Potato Skins is the same product as Keebler’s Tato Skins just under a different name.  Has anybody that remembers Tato Skins tried them? What is the verdict?

Why did Jello-O Pudding Pops get taken off the market in the first place?  Perhaps my home wasn’t representative of the nation at large (in OH so many ways) but we almost always had them in the freezer.

Jell-O put out both gelatine and pudding pops. I would eat the gelatine ones if they were around but they have a slightly odd texture. The pudding pops, on the other hand, were great. Especially the chocolate and vanilla swirl pudding pop variety.

I was the fat kid that was always on one diet or another. In addition to the the taste, the pops were on the lower end of the calorie spectrum from most of the snacks I enjoyed. The Jell-O Gelatine pops were a mere 35 calories each and the Jell-O Pudding Pops came in at 90 calories each.

Plus, Bill ‘The Cos’ Cosby was on TV every day pushing them too us. Any friend of Mortimer Ichabod Marker had to be taken seriously.

P.S.  Was there a butterscotch flavor of Jell-O Pudding Pops or am I just dreaming it into existence?

02/15/14

Cookie Dough and Marshmallow Crispy Oreo Reviews

Today, Chris and I kicked off our Valentine’s Day festivities by going out for a meat-filled lunch at Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills. Every piece of meat we ate was better than the one before. I’m nuts for lamb. So, I was particularly happy to find lamb chops amongst the selection.

As good as that was, later in the evening a very ‘Chris and Sarah’ sort of celebration took place. Both of us have been intrigued by the new Cookie Dough and Marshmallow Krispy Oreo flavors. We read good reviews but couldn’t bring ourselves to buy a whole package on our own.  When I saw them in the supermarket, I decided to grab one of each and save for us to try together over our Valentine’s Day weekend.  It didn’t sound any worse than munching through a box of chocolates.

Of the two new Oreo flavors, the Cookie Dough Oreo has had the most media attention. Consequentially, our expectations were fairly high.

Sadly, neither of us really enjoyed the Cookie Dough Oreos all that much.  The flavor of the filling had a coffee sort of taste that didn’t remind us at all of cookie dough. If anything, it brought Tia Maria to mind. It would have been more accurate if they had been called tiramisu Oreos. I’ve never really enjoyed tiramisu.

cookie dough oreos cookie dough oreo

Neither of us knew what to expect from the Marshmallow Crispy Oreo flavor. We couldn’t conceptualize how the crispy part would be integrated. I was worried that the cream part would be overly sweet. I never tried the Candy Corn Oreos because my teeth hurt just thinking about them. So, with trepidation, we opened the pack and gave the Marshmallow Crispy Oreos a shot.

Woah! We loved them!

Marshmallow Crispy OreosMarshmallow krispy oreo

Rather than be silly sweet, the Oreo filling has a toasted marshmallow flavor. There are just enough crispies added to the mixture to give it an interesting and pleasant crunchy texture. The sweetness that there is in the Marshmallow Crispy Oreo is brought from the golden Oreo cookie itself.

Now, we just have to forget we ever tried them or we may end up having to head to Oreo rehab.

 

 

 

 

 

02/2/14

Drunken Sloppy Joe Nachos

Was there a game or something today? Ha.

The years that I was living in the UK, I became a bit disconnected from the Super Bowl hype. The game is on tv in the UK but it is on in the wee hours of the morning and we didn’t get the commercials. As we all know, they are the real reason for watching the game. I would still stay up and watch it, sometimes with a bewildered British friend, and the junk food portion of the tradition alive.

This year, I watched the game alone. Chris was down visiting me this weekend but he had to start his journey home before the game started.  I wanted to get some junk food time in but I didn’t want to cook a bunch of stuff just for me. Nachos came to mind but it was Super Bowl day and I didn’t want to do a normal nachos.

Somehow, my drunken sloppy Joes recipe came to mind.  Years ago, they came out of a drunken meatballs recipes that I used to make. On a particularly lazy day, I couldn’t be bothered to make meatballs and it became a sloppy joe recipe instead. It became a go-to recipe for whenever I had friends over to my London apartment.

I thought it would probably taste good on top of tortilla chips and smothered with cheese and so the Drunken Sloppy Joe Nachos were born today. Really, it is a non-recipe, other than the sloppy Joes nothing is cooked or has to be measured. You pile chip on a plate and put the toppings on.

For the chips, I went with the Homeboy Industries tortilla strips.  They are a charity that teaches former gang members culinary skills and gives them the hope of a productive and honest work life.  Their bread is really good and can be found at most Los Angeles area farmers markets.  My supermarket carries their tortilla chips and salsas. Not only do they taste good but I feel like I am giving a bit back to an organization that is working to make my city a better place.

Homeboy Tortilla

For the cheese, I just went for a jarred nacho cheese sauce. Meh, I just didn’t feel like going fancy. At the last moment, I threw some pickle slices on top. The acid actually worked against the salty aspect of the chips and cheese.

Drunken Sloppy Joes

drunken sloppy joes

Ingredients:

Tortilla chips
Drunken sloppy Joes (recipe bellow)
Nacho cheese sauce
Pickle slices (optional)

Directions:

Put the chips on a place. Spoon the drunken sloppy Joe mixture on top of the chips. Smother with cheese and throw on the pickle slices. Eat.

Drunken Sloppy Joes

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, very finely chopped (I used my mini chopper)
2 lbs extra lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups ketchup (I recommend using Heinz)
1 cup Jack Daniels or Southern Comfort
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I’ve used brown deli mustard too)
Directions:
Heat the olive oil in a large and deep pan.
Add the onions and fry gently until they have started to go tender. This takes about 5 minutes, stirring often.
Crumble in the ground beef and cook, stirring when needed, until all of the meat is browned. This took me about 8 minutes.Add the ketchup, Southern Comfort and brown sugar and stir until everything is combined with the meat.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then.
Stir in the Dijon mustard and then let simmer for another 15 minutes or until the sauce is the thickness you like with a sloppy joe.