Chocolate and cherries and yogurt, oh my!

28 01 2011

When I’m scouting grocery stores looking for out-of-the-ordinary items, I rarely think to look in the dairy section. I mean, what is there to find? Skim milk? Cheddar cheese? I’ve always assumed the strangest thing there is goat’s milk, and that’s not strange enough at all.

But this time, just for kicks and giggles, I made a stop in the dairy section. I’d never realized before just how many flavors of Yoplait yogurt exist — but man, I could probably live on yogurt for a week and not get tired of it, since I’d be eating a different kind for every meal.

Speaking of yogurt flavors, some of them were a little abnormal. Strawberry cheesecake? Chocolate mousse? Weird, but not weird enough to blog on.

But two of them caught my eye: Boston creme pie and black forest cake.

My sister was with me as my shopping buddy (because I’m socially awkward and can’t shop alone, remember?), and she adamantly claimed the Boston creme pie yogurt. Apparently she’s had it before, and she says it’s incredible. I decided to take her word for it.

But we both had the same reaction to the black forest cake yogurt: What on earth? Why?

Obviously I bought it.

Not only was the yogurt cake-flavored, it was also light. Now, “light” things might be good for you, but in my experience (Diet Coke, low-fat cheesecake, Spam…), anything that’s either had most of the fat or most of the sugar taken out of it doesn’t taste half as good. (Clearly I’m not the most health-conscious eater. I like to enjoy my life sometimes.)

Now, about this crazy yogurt. Black forest cake is a chocolate cake made with Kirschwasser (cherry brandy) and filled with cherries. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten it — at least not that I can recall — but it sounds delicious.

But honestly, who makes yogurt that tastes like chocolate-cherry cake? I wasn’t sure how I felt about this.

Time to try it.

I peeled back the classic Yoplait foil lid and looked inside. The color — a gloomy grayish-pink — was definitely not appetizing. It reminded me of brains somehow.

And oh no, was that a chunk?

I can’t stand chunks in yogurt. I don’t know why, but I’ve always had texture issues with food. It’s not that I’m picky … just that I’m weird. Whenever I eat yogurt with fruit in it — even yogurt I love, like strawberry or raspberry — I have to either take the chunks out or eat around them. It’s kind of embarrassing.

But this time — just for you, dear reader — I scooped out a heaping spoonful of yogurt, with chunks. You should feel really special.

The yogurt was much more liquid than most other Yoplait yogurts I’ve eaten, but that might be because it was light … or because I normally get Whips, since they’re deliciously non-chunky.

At any rate, I lifted the quivering gray-pink (and chunky) mass to my mouth and ate it slowly, trying to savor it.

Conclusion? … I couldn’t decide what to think.

For one thing, the chunks weren’t really chunky, which was a nice relief for me (and my gag reflex). I’m pretty sure they were actually little pieces of cake … or low-fat imitation cake, or something.

But the yogurt didn’t taste like cake. In fact, it barely tasted like cherry.

If I hadn’t seen the label, I would’ve thought it was raspberry yogurt, with maybe a bit of cherry flavor mixed in. No chocolate, just fruit. And a not-so-pleasant sour aftertaste.

I made my mom try it, and her reaction was that it reminded her of cheesecake. I definitely didn’t get that impression, which makes me wonder if there’s something wrong with my mother’s taste buds (or mine). But the fact of the matter is, she liked it. She even volunteered to eat the rest.

But I wasn’t terribly impressed by it. There are better yogurt flavors out there, for sure. I was also disappointed because it didn’t taste as disgusting as I thought it would, so I don’t have much complaining to do today, which is a little sad for me.

Bottom line: If you like sour fruity yogurt with strange non-chunky chunks in it, pick this up. If you’re looking for yogurt that really tastes like chocolate-cherry cake, however, you’re better off baking a black forest cake and throwing it in a blender with some milk.

———

Ingredients: Cultured, pasteurized Grade-A nonfat milk; high fructose corn syrup; modified corn starch; cherries; nonfat milk; kosher gelatin; citric acid; malic acid; Aspartame; tricalcium phosphate; potassium sorbate added to maintain freshness; natural and artificial flavor; Red #40, vitamin A acetate; Blue #1, vitamin D.
Price: $0.50 at Wal-Mart
Pros:
Tastes like fruit. Always a good sign in yogurt that’s at least sort of meant to be fruit-flavored. Oh, and it’s pretty cheap.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like cake. Sad day.





Thanksgiving in January … for breakfast

20 01 2011

I was all set to go out searching today for the perfect food to blog about. Turns out I didn’t have to.

I was rummaging through the pantry in search of dinner when I came across a jumbo box of Pop-Tarts labeled “pumpkin pie.” Apparently my mom bought them earlier today for my sister, who begged and pleaded and gave her puppy-dog eyes.

Score.

So I didn’t even have to go shopping this time around — which makes it seem like I’m lazy or a recluse. Both are probably true.

It almost feels like a cop-out, since I love both pumpkin pie and Pop-Tarts, but hey, I started classes this week — it’s a wonder I’m taking the time away from my hated bio homework to blog at all.

Plus, pumpkin pie and Pop-Tarts, while they make for a great alliteration, don’t necessarily sound like the most delicious combination out there. Nor the most obvious combination — I mean, who eats pumpkin pie for breakfast?  Besides me, I mean.

Kellogg’s does a lot of strange things with their toaster pastries (e.g. flavoring them like strawberry milkshakes), but usually their efforts turn out well (e.g. strawberry-milkshake Pop-Tarts).

But “frosted pumpkin pie” is just a little strange.

Time to give it a try. I ripped open the foil package — which has always frustrated me because they put two pastries inside each package, like they automatically expect you to be a pig and eat both. And if you don’t eat both, you’re forced to find a little baggie to save the second one in, since now you’ve destroyed its packaging to get to the first one. I feel like Pop-Tarts need an announcement on the front of the boxes: “Individually wrapped … sort of.”

I pulled out one pastry (and found a little baggie for the other) and bit into it. Another pet peeve about Pop-Tarts (even though I love them anyway): The crusty edges are always so dry. They need to make crustless Pop-Tarts, like that crustless bread my mom always refused to buy me when I was a kid no matter how much I complained.

Once I found the actual filling, I was able to get a better idea of what the Pop-Tart was supposed to taste like. Well … sort of able to. For as strong as pumpkin-flavored things usually are, this was surprisingly weak. I could definitely taste the spices, but the pumpkin flavor was almost entirely in the aftertaste.

I don’t know why, but that made me kind of sad. Maybe it’s because I’m the kind of person who heaps extra frosting on my cake and prefers my Oreos double-stuffed. But whatever the case, the minuscule amount of filling in the PopTart was really disappointing. Especially because it was supposed to taste like pie. I like pie.

I finished the pastry — which I don’t always do with everything I try, so that’s an indication that it was at least OK. And that’s exactly what it was: not great, but good enough.

I would’ve liked to have seen a bit more filling in these, but maybe that’s just me being picky. If you’re a pumpkin liker and not a pumpkin lover, I’m sure these will work great for you. But if you eat pie for breakfast and you’re expecting these to be a perfect substitute, you should probably just stick to pie.

———

Ingredients: Enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate [Vitamin B1], riboflavin [Vitamin B2], folic acid), corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, soybean and palm oil (with TBHQ for freshness), dextrose, sugar, cracker meal, contains 2 percent or less of wheat starch, nonfat milk, salt, pumpkin, maltodextrin, cornstarch, corn cereal, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate), molasses, yellow corn flour, eggs, gelatin, cinnamon, vanilla extract, modified cornstarch, nutmeg, ginger, caramel color, sunflower lecithin, tricalcium phosphate, soy lecithin, cloves, Vitamin A palmate, niacinamide, reduced iron, Yellow #6, pyridoxine, hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Yellow #5, thiamin hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Red #40, folic acid and Blue #1.
Price: $3.42 at Wal-Mart (16 in box)
Pros:
Pumpkin pie … ish. Portable pie, in a way — if you’re a morning-pie person and you hate the fact that you always spill your pie all over yourself on your way to work, these are a good idea.
Cons: Doesn’t really taste like pie. So don’t expect a lot.





There are no Cheesecake Factories in space

12 01 2011

When I was little, I wanted to be an astronaut.

One reason for this was because I wanted to be the first person to walk on Mars. The other reason was because I really, really wanted to eat freeze-dried food in space.

Now, I know they sell freeze-dried ice cream sandwiches in just about every space-themed gift shop out there. I know this because I went to a lot of those back in the day. But for whatever reason, I never, ever bought one … or anything else freeze-dried, for that matter.

Earlier today, my boyfriend and I were shopping at Sportsman’s Warehouse for a backpacking trip we’re going on this weekend. Now I know that’s not really a grocery store, and they barely even have food, but they do have an entire freeze-dried section. The little kid in me was drawn to it like flies to honey. Or is it vinegar?

Anyway. They had everything, from mac ‘n cheese to vegetable lasagna — and they even sold ice cream sandwiches. But what really caught my eye was the blueberry cheesecake.

When someone says “blueberry cheesecake,” my first thought is not “a bag full of powdery stuff.” (And when someone says “a bag full of powdery stuff,” I generally take that as a drug reference. But I digress.)

Cheesecake is my weakness. I’d never tried freeze-dried food. This was a necessity.

Once I got home, making the cheesecake was an adventure in and of itself. (Maybe that’s the real reason campers eat it.) Inside the big bag were three smaller packets — one of cheesecake powder, one of blueberry-topping powder and one of graham-cracker crumblies. Yum, yum.

The only major step was adding water — one cup of cold water to the cheesecake, 1/4 cup of hot water to the blueberries. The big bag served as a bowl for the cheesecake mix, which is nice and innovative. The not-so-innovative part of the process was the fact that the little blueberries still needed a bowl (which resourceful campers would hopefully have anyway), and also the fact that the packets were impossible to rip open. So if you take this on a camping trip, bring a knife or something.

The cheesecake took 10 minutes to set, which was terrible for me because the stuff smelled so delicious.

When the suspenseful wait was over, I eagerly opened the bag. The contents looked nothing like cheesecake, except for the color. The stuff had the consistency of pudding.

But it definitely smelled like cheesecake, and that was all I cared about.

I spooned it out (note to campers: bring a spoon) onto a plate (oh yeah, and bring a plate), sprinkled the graham-cracker crumbs over it and heaped blueberry gunk on top.

It looked nothing like a cheesecake — in fact, it looked like someone plopped pudding onto a plate and decorated it — but it smelled heavenly. This was one food I was actually excited to eat. (And because of that, I ate it with my eyes open, of course.)

The taste didn’t disappoint.

I’ve had real cheesecake that wasn’t half as good as this. It was sweet, rich and bursting with flavor. (Literally bursting, in the case of the blueberries.)

The downside to the sweet richness was that I could barely eat four or five spoonfuls before it was just too much. Not that it was ever bad, but it’s one of those foods you nibble for awhile and then save for later. (Or, if you’re less selfish than I am, you share it — since, after all, it is supposed to feed four.)

Maybe it’s a good thing I never became an astronaut, because I don’t think I could eat this stuff in space. I think it would float around the room in giant globs that I would have to chase around like a demented fish, and that would just be bad. But I can definitely eat it here on earth, and I can definitely take it camping with me as long as I have the right utensils and dishes.

So freeze-dried cheesecake, while it doesn’t sound like it could possibly be as good as its “normal” counterpart, is actually surprisingly better-tasting than a lot of cheesecake I’ve tried — and it comes in a convenient little pouch that you can keep in your pantry or stuff under your pillow or something.

———

Ingredients: You know what? The ingredients list takes up half of the back of the package, so for your sake and the sake of my poor fingers, I’m going to link you. Here you go — just find the “nutrition and ingredients” link on that page.
Price: $5.99 at Sportsman’s Warehouse
Pros:
Rich, sugary, cheesecake-y goodness.
Cons: You can’t really eat it in space, which is kind of a bummer.





“Just add Spam!” … if you’re really desperate

5 01 2011

In sixth grade, I went on a field trip to some space center, and I had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.

Some kid sitting by me obviously had a loving mother (only not), because he reached into his lunchbox and pulled out a Spam sandwich, complete with Velveeta cheese.

He looked at me. “Wanna trade?”

“Um … no thanks. I’m good.”

Ever since then, the only contact I’ve had with Spam has been in my e-mail inbox and my Facebook wall (thanks to app-happy acquaintances — you know who you are).

I pass Spam frequently in the grocery store — emphasis on the word pass.

But then I came across Spam Singles.  Now, I wouldn’t date Spam either, so I’m not shocked that it’s single, but I did feel a little twinge of pity when I saw it on the shelf all by itself. So I picked it up.

This particular Spam Single also happened to be “lite.” Oh good, I thought, Spam is healthy now. (… Right.)

The front of the package shows it tossed in a leafy cucumber salad, which sounded tempting (well, for Spam), but I figured I’d better try it by itself. The back of the package suggested frying it, which didn’t actually sound too bad. But first, as always, I needed to try it raw.

I slid (yes, slid) it out of its package, and it flopped onto my plate in a sticky slab. Wonderful.

My dad, who was watching me for the entertainment value of my facial expressions, chose at that moment to inform me that he thinks Spam tastes like bologna.

I hate bologna.

His response was, “Tough; you’re about to eat that stuff anyway,” and it brought back memories of childhood dinners.

Cringing a little, I sliced off a corner of the cold slab and put it in my mouth.

Good news: It didn’t exactly taste like bologna.

Bad news: It tasted like several slices of bologna after being puréed by a food processor and molded into a slab, with some extra salt thrown in. Not good. Not at all.

I then made the mistake of asking my dad what was even in Spam.

“Pig parts,” he replied with a smug grin, obviously enjoying the facial expression that elicited from me.

As disgusted as I was already, I still needed to fry a piece of the stuff. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it were fried, I thought. In fact, it was thick enough that I could probably cook it medium-rare, like I eat my steak.

That’s actually what I did, though not exactly on purpose. I left it on the griddle for a good amount of time on moderate heat, and all that happened was the edges got really crispy and the inside just got warm.

It looked like a chunk of the aftermath of a pig stepping on a grenade, but I ate it anyway.

It tasted much less like bologna and a tiny bit more like ham … but really just like a butter-fried shell with something warm and gooey and vaguely meaty inside.

It was palatable. More so than raw Spam, at least.

If I were stuck in a bunker during a nuclear winter and I had no other choice, I’d eat a Spam Single.  But I’d fry it first.  And before it got to that point, I’d eat my dog.

Down, PETA, down.  I don’t even have a dog.

———

Ingredients: None listed, which is actually really disconcerting. I’m going to guess we’re all better off not knowing, though.
Price: $1.59 at Albertsons
Pros: Doesn’t need to be refrigerated, so it’s great if you’re stocking up for the zombie apocalypse and you don’t like Ramen noodles like normal people do. It’s also conveniently packaged to plop on top of a sandwich, if you hate your children. Oh yeah, and it’s gluten-free.
Cons: Spam. It’s single for a reason.








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