Category Archives: Junk Food

Cheez-It Pepper Jack Baked Snack Crackers

Cheez-It Pepper Jack Box

The box of my Cheez-It Pepper Jack crackers claims to be new, but according to my somewhat dubious research, it’s been out since the beginning of this year. No matter, they’re new to me! Besides that, I’m inclined to believe anything that snack product packaging tells me. So, let’s check out some NEW! Cheez-It Pepper Jack Baked Snack Crackers.

Cheez-Its are one of the world’s greatest snacks. Cheesy and salty, you can take them anywhere. You can eat them while driving on a long road trip and not get greasy fingers. They are the perfect size and always the same shape, and the box keeps most of them from being broken. What more can you ask for?

I have not yet tried the Pepper Jack Cheez-Its, but I am predicting that this review will be pretty short, because really, how much can you say about Cheez-Its?  Even the pepper jack ones. How bad can they be? I’ve tried the Hot & Spicy and the White Cheddar varieties, and I found them both to be satisfactory, although their flavorings come in the form of a powder on the cracker, so I’d stick with the original if you’re driving, or if you’re on a date and don’t want your potential new lover to see you sucking a thick layer of seasoning off your fingers. Of course, if you’re on a date and you’re eating Cheez-Its, something has already gone very wrong.

Well, let’s crack this puppy open and get started!

Cheez-It Pepper Jack Crackers

Upon opening the bag inside the box, I’m greeted with that familiar Cheez-It smell. Nothing smells spicy, but I attributed that to an initial characteristic which surprised me: instead of the pepper jack flavoring being delivered via a powder resting on the surface of the Cheez-It, the flavor had instead been baked into the cracker. Score one for keeping a box of these in the car, if you are the type of person who feels they need to have snack food in their car at all times.  Don’t laugh; these people exist.

Cheez-It Pepper Jack Close-Up

You can see the little pieces of pepper inside the cracker. It does seem to look a bit like a little square of pepper jack cheese, with the bits of green and red peppers spread throughout, although some of the crackers had barely any visible peppers. They seem to be paler than normal Cheez-Its. I also noticed that these Cheez-Its had less salt on them. On regular Cheez-Its, you can see little crystals of salt covering the cracker, but those were mostly absent here.

I was really disappointed by the first few Pepper Jack Cheez-Its I ate. They tasted just like regular Cheez-Its, except blander, and you could definitely notice the lack of salt. I kept eating them, because hey, bland Cheez-Its are better than no Cheez-Its, and that’s when the pepper flavor hit. The more I ate, the more it built up, until I had a nice spicy heat sensation in my mouth. These guys really do taste a lot like pepper jack cheese. I can see now why they went easy on the salt – by making them less salty and toning down the cheese flavor, the peppery heat is really allowed to shine. My one complaint is that they might have toned down the cheese flavor a little too much – I think a little more cheesiness could have stood up to the heat, and been a nice compliment.

Of course, I’m just being a dick about that point – real pepper jack cheese is made with Monterey Jack, which is traditionally mild in flavor. And, true to its namesake, Pepper Jack Cheez-Its do contain Monterey Jack, although it seems the main cheese used to flavor these crackers is white cheddar. Perhaps I should be thankful – without the cheddar, there might not have been any cheese flavor coming through. Red bell peppers, green bell peppers, natural jalapeño flavor and red pepper are also listed as ingredients. Sounds pretty on par, if you ask me.

Well, looks like I managed to pull a pretty decent-sized review out of this box, after all. Cheez-It Pepper Jack Baked Snack Crackers are a-ok in my book. Will they be replacing regular Cheez-Its as the cheesy cracker staple in my household? Probably not. Regular Cheez-Its are tasty but largely inoffensive; these crackers pack a bit of a punch, enough that anyone with a palate sensitive to capsaicin-related heat might actually find themselves reaching for a glass of milk. These people are pussies. However, I think if I’m sitting on the couch, watching a nine-hour marathon of Law & Order in my pajamas, I’d prefer the cheesy saltiness of regular Cheez-Its over the spicy, but more mild and less salty flavor of Pepper Jack Cheez-Its.

  • Score: 4 out of 5 burgers
  • Price: $4.59
  • Size: 13.7 oz.
  • Purchased at: Albertson’s #980
  • Nutritional Quirks: Real cheese and real peppers, even if they were listed in the “contains less than 2% of” section.

José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas

The simplest explanation of the second law of thermodynamics describes the fact that heat, of its own volition, always flows into cold. This tendency has been observed and expanded over the years by science, leading to a much more profound truth: nature tends toward higher levels of uniformity, or entropy. Simply put, the Universe is constantly striving for mediocrity.

This brings me to José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas.

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Packaging: Right out of the gate, José Olé starts writing checks his empanadas can’t cash, and it all begins with the ingredient list. There are a total of 87 ingredients in the list, which sprawls across one side of the box like a mural of the periodic table of elements, and I’m beginning to doubt the bold claim of “Authentic Flavor” emblazoned on the front. This feeling of grave concern was immediately compounded by the appearance of American Process Cheese Product nestled among the assorted dubious quackery and unrequested (but ultimately insightful) diarrhea treatments.

The reflex reaction of any sane man would be to immediately set fire to the entire grocer’s freezer containing José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas, as an act of simultaneous protest and purification. However, there were two mitigating factors that resulted in another evening spent comfortably at home, rather than enjoying the austere hospitality of the Maricopa County criminal justice system. First, the proprietors of Junk Food Betty are not what you’d call “together”, in the psychological sense. Second, there is an inviting visage smiling warmly from the box.

The Face of Flavor
The Face of Flavor

I can only assume that this handsome, distinguished gentleman is the eponymous Señor Olé, beaming powerful waves of avuncular sincerity directly to my father-figure cortex. Here, I thought to myself, is a man who is to be trusted and respected. Here is a man who will deliver Authentic Flavor at a reasonable price, because he is a man of strong moral integrity. From under the soaring brim of his majestic hat, he commands one to “Taste the Fiesta!” Very well, José Olé, you pillar of convenient ethnic cuisine, I will taste your fiesta.

Preparation: There are three proffered preparation procedures present on the package. I chose the mean method in terms of labor – baking – though the paths of microwaving and pan-frying are also available to the discriminating consumer (who, incidentally, will not be purchasing José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas). After twenty minutes in a preheated 375 °F oven, I was ready to open my mouth and my heart to receive La Fiesta. I was feeling optimistic because, unlike other pre-fried products that bake, I did not have to flip the empanadas halfway through cooking. This is because José Olé knows what a hassle it is to heave my decaying corpus off the couch twice in twenty minutes.

Dining Experience: I can only assume it’s due to the highly ferrous nature of the product, but José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas manage to maintain a steady 10,000 °F internal temperature for like twenty goddamned minutes. It’s as if the act of heating them ignited a self-sustaining fusion reaction deep within their chickeny cores.

Once the product had cooled, and been sifted out of the smoking rubble of my once-palatial residence, I noted with appreciation that the empanadas looked, on the outside, strikingly identical to those depicted in the packaging. With trembling hands and a grumbling stomach, I bisected the golden brown pastry and peered into the transcendent face of Authentic Flavor:

empanadacrosssection

You wound me, José Olé.

Elevated to astronomical heights of ecstatic anticipation, the first bite flooded my mouth with a blandness almost intimidating in its aggression. The experience was something like eating a tight bundle of Kraft Singles deep-fried in a wonton wrapper. The aftertaste of the product creates a wave of salty regret. I continued to eat, desperately chasing the fleeting dream of La Fiesta.

To be honest, there are moments when the empanada isn’t offensive. Here and there, you’ll experience a bite where the chicken and chilis do come through. Unfortunately, this is interspersed with intervals of American Process Cheese Product Purgatory, and long, harrowing moments of introspection. The final result is a confusing, bitter dining experience, which wasn’t made any better by the laughing mug of José Olé staring me down with a mirth I now understand to be the savage joy of the betrayer.

On the bright side, I was reasonably full after the whole ordeal was over. The empanadas are filling enough that you won’t be hungry for the hours-long bout of ennui that follows eating them. Furthermore, none of the 87 ingredients were immediately lethal. Overall, however, oral consumption of José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas is tantamount to yelling “fuck you, mouth!” and then punching yourself in the teeth with a salt lick.

  • Score: Dos sándwiches de carne de vacuno infeliz.
  • Price: $6.39, $5.59 on sale
  • Size: 1 lb.
  • Purchased at: Albertson’s #980
  • Nutritional Quirks: 87 ingredients, some of which are magnetic

Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M’s

SPBMM Package

Defying all stereotypes of what it means to be a woman, I’m not one of those people who runs around craving chocolate like a vampire coming off a two-week blood fast.  I’ll rock a Heath bar a few times a year, but other than that, I’m more of a savory type than a sweet tooth.  That said, I will admit that Peanut Butter M&M’s hold a special place in my heart.  Other M&M’s aren’t terrible; I grew up in a house where there was always a bowl of them on the coffee table, whether it be regular, peanut, or mint at Christmastime, and I wasn’t adverse to grabbing a handful occasionally.  But for me, peanut butter is the M&M of my heart.

Which is why I was mildly mortified when I saw the limited edition Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M’s popping up on store shelves back in May.  I avoided them for as long as I could, pretending that such an atrocity didn’t exist, but now that I have this place where I write about junk food, I figured it was my duty as a citizen of the Internet to try them.

As you can see by the packaging, Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M’s were launched as a tie-in with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  Upon first glance, the two orange Ms appear to be dressed up as Mudflap and Skidz, two new Autobots introduced in the movie.  They are labeled as “The Twins”, they’re wearing the same colors as the bots in the movie, and the guy in green has a gold tooth, which they apparently had in the movie.  While I haven’t actually seen the movie, there has been some controversy over these two characters – I’ve read several articles that accuse them of being racist.  Gold teeth, illiterate, from the ghetto…draw your own conclusions, I’m not here to discuss cinema.  Either way, probably a poor decision to have the most controversial characters in the movie representing your wholesome snack.

Seems pretty conclusive, right?  Well, then I read the official Mars press release and got a little confused.

“The limited-edition flavor along with traditional M&M’S® Chocolate Candies are available in seven limited-edition collector packs featuring “Red,” “Blue,” “Yellow” and “Orange” M&M’S® characters, transformed into CHOCL-O-BOTS™ and DELECT-O-CONS™ alongside images of the dynamic “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” characters.”

So they’re not Autobots, they’re…CHOCL-O-BOTS?  And where are these Transformers that they are supposed to be standing alongside?  It seems that the official Transformer guys appear on other M&M’s packages, but not the limited edition ones.  Why?  Furthermore, what seizure-addled brain came up with the names Chocl-O-Bots and Delect-O-Cons?

Okay, I have to admit, Delect-O-Cons is a pretty clever play on Decepticons.  But still.

So what does strawberry have to do with all this?  Oh, sorry, I meant “strawberried”.  I guess if you’ve already come up with shit like Chocl-O-bot and Delect-O-Con, you might as well go all the way and start bastardizing words that already exist in the English language.  I guess they’re trying to say that peanut butter M&Ms have been transformed by strawberry.  Get it?  Huh?  Yeah, that’s pretty weak.

Crimes against grammar aside, I suppose I should actually eat the things at some point.  I wasn’t really looking forward to this – the idea of strawberry and peanut butter together in one M&M frankly disgusted me.  Upon further thought, however, I realized that I ate peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches almost every day as a kid.  That injected just enough optimism in my mind to go through with it.

WherestheBlue

Paying over a buck for 22 M&M’s seems a little steep, but hey, check out that snazzy faux-metal packaging up there.  Giving the candies a quick sniff, I was greeted with the smell of Nestle Nesquik strawberry milk.  I’m not sure if that’s a good sign or not.  And, hey, where did all my colors go?  Brown, red, and…baby diarrhea with red speckles?  I was immediately reminded of…

Peach Jelly Belly

Peach Jelly Bellies?!  The Mars Corporation has gone mad.

The flavor is a little confusing.  Upon first bite, your mouth is flooded with the exact Nesquik artificial strawberry taste that I had initially smelled.  The creaminess of the peanut butter was there, but the strawberry was overwhelming.  As the candy shell melted away, that familiar peanut butter M&M flavor started coming through.  However, after you’ve swallowed it all, your mouth is left with the memory of strawberry.  It’s all very discordant.  It’s as if strawberry and peanut butter were engaged in the classic comedy bit where strawberry goes out one door just as peanut butter enters through another, so peanut butter leaves just as strawberry goes back in, repeat ad nauseam.  They just never manage to meet up.

I tried sucking the candy shell off first instead of biting right into it, and had better results with that.  The strawberry essence in the shell is powerful and blatantly artificial, but I’ve always enjoyed that flavor.  Sucking the shell off gives time for it to fade before peanut butter steps up to the plate, wherein you’re basically left enjoying a peanut butter M&M without the chocolate component; the smoothness and flavor are basically identical.  It seems that letting the shell melt off first results in a finish of peanut butter, instead of strawberry muscling its way back into the picture when you chew the candy up straight away.

All in all, I felt like I was eating two different candies – one sweet, fast-melting strawberry hard candy and one creamy inside of a traditional Peanut Butter M&M.  It was bizarre, but I have to say overall it wasn’t the gastronomical nightmare I thought it was going to be.  The strawberry flavor is powerful and very sweet; if you don’t like the transparently artificial character of strawberry milk, you’re not going to like these M&M’s, and if you don’t like Peanut Butter M&M’s, then why the hell would you bother buying Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M’s, you freak.  In conclusion, I liked them – as two separate candies.  Combined, it’s a candy that’s jarring and inharmonious.

  • Score: 2 out of 5 burgers for the actual M&M’s; 4 out of 5 cans of Nesquik for the imaginary strawberry candy; 5 out of 5 Peanut Butter M&M’s for the imaginary Peanut Butter M&M candy
  • Price: $1.19
  • Size: 1.40 oz.
  • Purchased at: Circle K
  • Nutritional Quirks: 22 pieces of candy, 40% of your daily recommended allowance of saturated fat.  And there’s not even any chocolate.

Bug Juice

PICT0938

Bug Juice – is it truly a junk food, you ask? Maybe not per se, but as I examined this little gem in the beverage section of my local convenience store, I just couldn’t resist its charms. On first glance, it seems to be nothing more than a novelty kid’s drink, no more original than those little plastic baby bottles filled with candy that make me vaguely uncomfortable for some reason. Maybe that’s true, but hey – it was 8am, I was hungover, and I bought it. So now we’re going to look at it.

PICT0949

The label is adorable – there’s a polka-dotted bee…thing, a vampire-fanged spider (obviously the villain in the cartoon tie-in – I mean look at those eyebrows), a humble ladybug that may or may not have been poisoned by Fangs Eyebrow, and that obviously drunk guy at the bottom that my Internet research tells me must be some sort of centipede/millipede hybrid. There’s also some sort of scared worm, but he seems to be more of a bit player. What a cast of characters! Who knows what kinds of wacky adventures they’ll get into next? We don’t know a whole lot about their backgrounds, but I did find this:

bugjuicepromo

Let’s ignore the “especially for kids” part and get to the real meat: FROM THE JUNGLES OF THE GREAT NORTH COAST! Which coast? What continent? These guys are getting more interesting all the time!

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There’s also a giant American flag, which I didn’t immediately notice in the store, being all absorbed in the potential mishaps of the Bug Brigade. I have several questions about that flag. Most obviously, what is it doing there? It has nothing to do with my interesting insect friends. Why is it so prominent? Do they really think I’m going to care that my Bug Juice is made in the U.S.A., when there’s so much more going on here?

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, so let’s move on to the drink itself. As you can see, the liquid is colored neon blue, and is described as “Berry Raspberry”. I would think this to be an unlikely flavor for actual bug juice, but who am I to question? I also find the term “berry raspeberry” to be a bit redundant; I suppose it could be taken to mean “raspberry and also some other random berries you may have heard of”, but since the ingredient list predictably only lists “natural and artificial flavors”, we’ll never know.

But how does it taste? If you’re like me, you’re a sucker for all things that are both blue and ingestible. The fact that most blue foods are also raspberry flavored (way to take up the red market, cherry) is just an added bonus. So, as you might imagine, it tastes like most other blue raspberry things – sweet, but also with a nice kick of sour that leaves your lips all puckery and the back of your throat slightly angry at you. Just harken back to Kool-Aid’s Berry Blue, which I consider to be the grandfather of all blue foods, whether or not that is actually true, and you’ll get the idea of how this Bug Juice tastes. The biggest difference is that Bug Juice really amps up the sour – after drinking half of the kid-sized 10 oz. bottle, I felt like I needed to coat the inside of my mouth with a Lip Smacker.

An inexplicably award-shaped ribbon urges me to meet the bugs at www.drinkbugjuice.com. I wanted to, I really did. I was dying to know more about my new friends. However, going to that URL results in a holding page, informing me that the website is in development and will be online soon. Imagine my crushing disappointment. Bug Juice, you are a tease in every way.

Bug Juice definitely delivers on the packaging, from the cute critters to the petite size to the mysterious patriotism. Honestly, it could have tasted like Windex and I still wouldn’t have had any hard feelings for Fangs Eyebrow. The truth is, this drink is marketed just for kids, and the taste is something only a kid would really want to drink. As an adult, I’m probably not supposed to like blue raspberry as much as I do, but even I can’t get down with drinking a whole bottle of what is essentially the outer coating on a blue Warhead candy. If you’re under the age of twelve, you’ll probably like Bug Juice, and if you’re an adult who eats lemons for fun, you’ll probably like Bug Juice, too. Outside of those demographics, you’ll probably find your face turning inside out after the first swallow.

  • Score: 3.5 out of 5 hamburgers
  • Price: $1.09
  • Size: 10 oz. bottle
  • Purchased at: Circle K
  • Nutritional Quirks: One bottle contains 125% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C, which I suppose explains the extreme sourness.

Doritos Nacho Cheese Flavor Shots Atomic Chile Limon

Doritos Flavor Shots Chile Limon

Doritos has been going off the rails for years now, from their “X-13D Flavor Experiment” to “The Quest” to their recent “Late Night” line.  The Flavor Department (I’d like to think such a thing exists) has been given carte blanche to create whatever gimmick they conjure up in their fevered delusions, and that is why we have things like Doritos Flavor Shots.

I have chosen Atomic Chile Limon, but you can also treat your taste buds to Blazin’ Buffalo Rush.  The complicated process, as illustrated on the back of the bag, is as follows:

  1. Open the bag.
  2. Take out the “flavor shot”, which is a little packet that looks just like the packet on the front of the bag, except it comes in a little clear wrapper that makes you think you’re pulling a toy out of a cereal box, except instead of being covered in sugar, it’s covered in nacho cheese flavoring, and instead of being a toy, it’s a packet of atomic flavor.
  3. Open the packet (the clear packet protecting the flavor packet actually opens quite easily, which I found surprising; I expected an epic five-minute battle culminating in a pair of scissors) and sprinkle the impossibly neon orange powder inside into your bag of chips.  This is described on the bag as “unleashing flavor”.
  4. Experience the “FULL FLAVOR FORCE!”

The base chips, as proclaimed on the bag, are indeed identical to Doritos’s nacho cheese flavored chips, so if you drop the flavor packet on the floor of your car, at least you’ve got nacho cheese as a backup.  I unleashed the flavor and shook the bag for a few seconds to ensure as even a distribution of the powder as possible.  I then made the mistake of opening the bag and sticking my nose in it, which was kind of like snorting a line of chili powder.  After I could think again, I figured this was a positive sign; at least the chile part of the chile limon was present.

The first chip I picked looked like it had about half the powder from the flavor packet on it, which I had figured would happen, seeing as how I am a human being lazily shaking a bag of chips for a few seconds and not a giant metal cylinder constantly rotating a batch of corn chips while a line of nozzles evenly sprays flavoring on them for what I’m sure is a well-researched period of time.  Which started to get me kind of irritated.  You know, Doritos, I’m not paying you for atomic chips so that I can then do all the work.  I don’t go to a restaurant so that I then have to cook my own food, and I don’t buy a bag of chips so that I have to add my own flavoring.  I buy a bag of chips because I’m a lazy fuck who can barely muster up the strength to open the bag itself, let alone struggle with a double-wrapped packet of neon orange powder.

Inappropriate anger over chip gimmicks aside, the first chip’s flavor was actually rather mild.  Between the blast of pain my nose received and the thick coating of powder on the chip, I was expecting the FULL FLAVOR FORCE! that was promised to me on the bag.  Instead, I got the flavor of a nacho cheese Dorito, with a hint of chile flavor and some spice on the back end.  Not very atomic.  However, I ate a few more to give them a chance and finally came upon one that delivered.  The only hint of limon I detected in the first couple of chips was probably only in my imagination, but this was was fairly bursting with what I can only describe as artificially flavored margarita mix with some chili powder mixed in.  The lime-ish flavor recedes, but as you eat more chips, the spice starts to build in your mouth not unpleasantly.  I wouldn’t call it fiery hot, but if you’re a giant sissy, you might find yourself fanning your own mouth and reaching for a glass of milk.

Resentment over having to do all the flavor work aside, I probably won’t be buying another bag of Doritos Nacho Cheese Flavor Shots Atomic Chile Limon chips again.  I’m just not that fond of chips that taste like a non-alcoholic, spicy margarita.  It almost makes me think of lime Lifesavers, which I believe no longer exist, which makes me feel old.  Not to mention, I do not believe chips should taste like fruit-flavored candy.  The strikes are piling up against you, Doritos.

In conclusion, if you like fruity chips, or you like the idea of violently shaking a bag of chips until it is nothing but crumbs, these Flavor Shots may be for you.  If you like the latter but aren’t too crazy about the former, you could always try the other Flavor Shots flavor, Blazin’ Buffalo Rush.  I will say this for them, though – out of all the Doritos flavors I’ve tried over the years, I’ve never encountered any that taste like a spicy margarita.  Points for uniqueness.  Well, maybe not points.  Point.  Half a point.

  • Score: 2 out of 5 hamburgers
  • Price: $1.29
  • Size: 2 1/5 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Circle K
  • Nutritional Quirks: The flavor packet adds 25% more sodium to the chips.