Here are the two lucky winners of our $10 Jack Ca$h Card Giveaway:
Thank you everyone for commenting! You all made me hungry! Winners, expect an email soon!
Here are the two lucky winners of our $10 Jack Ca$h Card Giveaway:
Thank you everyone for commenting! You all made me hungry! Winners, expect an email soon!
Jack in the Box kindly sent me two $10 Ca$h Cards to give away to two lucky readers! That’s 20 tacos before taxes!
If you want in on this action, just leave a comment on this post and make sure to put your email address in the email field so that I can contact you if you’re a winner. How would you spend your $10 at Jack in the Box?
Giveaway ends Saturday, January 16, 2016 at midnight PST. Winners are chosen at random. Good luck!
Fine printy stuff: Junk Food Betty will not use your email address for anything other than to contact you for your shipping address if you’re a winner. We also will not use your shipping address for anything other than delivering these gift cards that will put free food in your mouth.
Terribly sorry for the delay, something went haywire with my blog comments, but it seems all sorted out now. We have winners! Congratulations, and thanks to all who commented.
Here are the winners:
Sorry again for the delay, I’ll be mailing out the cards ASAP.
Hope everyone had a great Christmas!
Amidst all the candy canes and peppermint bark, a surprising new trend has emerged this Christmas as the frontrunner for this season’s flavor du jour: hot cocoa. Here are some of the things I’ve seen new this year that purport to have the flavor of that delicious beverage:
Hubba Bubba Hot Cocoa Bubble Gum
YoCrunch Marshmallow Hot Cocoa Yogurt
Angie’s Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn
Herr’s Crunchy Cocoa & Marshmallow Corn Snacks
Hot Chocolate M&Ms
Way to buck the trend there at the end going with hot chocolate, M&Ms.
While I’d like to be reviewing some of these items instead of just listing them, I’ve had a shortage of time and availability. I did manage to review Pizza Hut’s Hot Chocolate Brownie over at The Impulsive Buy, however.
When I found these Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy! Cookies, I was stoked, because I’ve always liked Chips Ahoy. (I’m dropping the exclamation point from here on out because it just makes things confusing.)
I was even more stoked when I saw the suggestion that I heat for a treat. I’ve never been explicitly told by a cookie package to warm them up before. Besides, it’s cold outside (baby), so I could use a warm, chocolate treat to enjoy along with my vintage icicle Christmas lights.
If you look carefully on the package, these cookies actually have gooey innards that I assumed would melt once heated. I didn’t even notice that when I bought them. More anticipation!
The side of the package instructed me to microwave two cookies on a paper towel for 6-7 seconds on high. Being a good junk food follower, I did just that. My cookies came out barely warm but smelling deliciously chocolately.
But my innards were far from gooey. Ignoring all precautions, I put the next cookies in for a whopping 20 seconds. I watched it from the side of my microwave, half expecting it to explode. It was actually sizzling when I took it out. And yet, pretty much the only thing that hadn’t melted was the filling. It did, however, leave an oily spot on the paper towel.
As with many chocolate things that are trying to taste like hot cocoa, these cookies did not taste like hot cocoa. They tasted like chewy chocolate cookies. But there was a distinct marshmallow flavor in there that I think came more from the creamy filling than the little white chips on top.
Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies taste just fine straight out of the package, but warming them up goes a long way towards making you believe they actually taste like hot cocoa. While the inside didn’t melt even at high temperatures, it added a creamy dimension to the already chewy cookie as well as some marshmallow flavor. I’d recommend 9-10 seconds in the microwave for optimal cookie warmth.
These are a limited edition flavor, so I don’t know how long they’ll be around, but I suggest picking some up if you see them. I can definitely see munching on these with a mug of real hot cocoa while I open presents on Christmas morning.
Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies
Merry Christmas, readers! Del Taco has gifted me with three $5 gift cards to give out to three lucky readers. Would you like one? Just leave a comment on this post, and make sure to include your email address so that I can contact you for your shipping address if you’re a winner.
Don’t know what to leave as a comment? How about what you want the most for Christmas this year?
This giveaway ends on December 22, 2015 at midnight PST. Winners will be chosen at random. Happy munching!
[Your email address will not be used for any purpose other than to contact you for your shipping address, should you be a winner. Your shipping address will only be used to send you the gift card. I promise not to use your email or shipping address for any other purpose.]
I can’t tell you how excited I was when Mountain America Jerky asked if I’d like to try their products. Not because they sent me samples for free and I thus feel obligated to say that (I think the record will show I hold no such obligations), but because I looked at their product list and went holy shit.
Sorry, Mountain America. I cussed in the first paragraph of your review.
But seriously, look at these flavors. Alligator?! Kangaroo?! I’d have to travel across the country for the former and to another continent for the latter just to see these animals! And now I get to eat them! (Well, I guess I could just go to a zoo, but that’s not the same. And I’m pretty sure they don’t let you eat the animals.)
I want to get right to it, since there’s so much to cover.
I have to start with Mountain America’s Beef Jerky, of course, because it will be the baseline for all other flavors. It’s the only type of jerky here that I’ve ever had before, so I can at least compare it to other brands.
Mountain America’s is on the dry side of the jerky spectrum. It’s a little tough, but not gum-stabbingly tough like some other brands out there, and has a nice chew to it. It also has a great peppery spice that’s not too overwhelming.
I’ve had a lot of jerky in my time, including some straight from the butcher around the corner from my parents’ house, and Mountain America’s is closer to that in taste and texture than most of the mass-marketed brands out there. It didn’t completely blow me away, but it’s a good, solid jerky.
Sweet and Spicy Beef
[I swore I took a picture of this, but I couldn’t find it when I was assembling this review. And by then, it was all gone. Which says something in and of itself. Just imagine it looks a lot like the beef.]
Mountain America also included their Sweet and Spicy version in my sample pack, which I didn’t think I would like as much, since I prefer pepper seasoning over sweet and spicy. However, I found that I liked this one just as much as the original, mostly because it was very, very light on the sweet and heavy on the spicy. This jerky has a serious kick to it.
Now, on to some much less familiar territory.
I know boar mostly for looking like tough-ass pigs with giant tusks that just so happen to have adorable babies. So this will be my first time eating boar. Wild boar is pretty exotic, but its close relative, the pig, obviously isn’t. So I started wondering why I haven’t seen pig jerky on store shelves, until I realized I had – it’s just called bacon jerky, because bacon bacon bacon blah blah blah.
Knowing that I was going into my boar experience basically eating pig, I wasn’t all that intimidated. This jerky was greasier than the beef; it was chewier, but also more moist. Mountain America describes it as “nutty”, but I didn’t get any of that flavor. They did spice it nicely, however, and there was just a hint of sweetness to the meat.
I actually liked Wild Boar Jerky better than Mountain America’s Beef Jerky, both in taste and texture. Perhaps it’s the baconesque quality that the jerky possessed – bitch and moan about bacon memes all you want, it’s still delicious. I could eat boar all day long, while looking at pictures of their cute babies.
Alligator Jerky was the animal that left me with the biggest feeling of trepidation. It’s not that I’m unaware that people eat alligators, it’s just that that doesn’t mean they’re good.
It was really the color that got me. Most of the jerkies were different shades of “beef”, but alligator had a distinctly pink-ish tone to it that I found unsettling. Plus, it seemed like alligator would have a distinctly gamey taste. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure what makes things taste “gamey”, but I figured “kills its prey, including humans, using a ‘death roll’” made it qualify.
Fortunately for me, I was either wrong, or Mountain America really knows how to jerky their gator. I have a feeling it might have been the latter, because alligator jerky honestly didn’t taste like anything but yummy jerky spices. It was very heavily spiced and peppered, leaving me unable to taste the meat.
As for the texture, it was much chewier than the beef jerky and slightly more moist, but didn’t have an oily feel to it that I suspected it might. I thought I tasted a slight gaminess upon exhalation after chewing, but that could have just been my brain thinking it should have been there. Really, it just tasted like pepper and spices.
Venison is the food word for deer, in case you weren’t aware. People eat deer all the time, so I wasn’t at all intimidated by this jerky. I mean, there’s a bunch of shitty video games called “Deer Hunter” and hordes of men inexplicably wearing camouflage and bright orange vests at the same time routinely shoot them every year.
Plus, deer are totally dicks. Ask anyone that lives in the countryside. Or listen to Louis CK talk about what dicks they are, he’s way funnier than I am.
After finding out alligator jerky isn’t so bad, I was straight-up looking forward to venison jerky. I found myself disappointed. It was very tough and very dry, the kind of jerky I described earlier that stabs your gums like a meaty, pointy knife.
Also, for some reason, Mountain America chose this flavor to absolutely coat with pepper. It didn’t say it on the label of my package, but I noticed on their website it’s described as “covered with coarse, cracked black pepper for the optimal medium spice.” I would instead describe it as “way too peppery; what are they hiding?” It was a disappointment because I’m well familiar with what peppered jerky tastes like, but I didn’t really get to taste what venison jerky tastes like.
I feel like kangaroo jerky is the most exotic and the most controversial jerky of the bunch. Maybe I’m wrong on that last part; maybe nobody gives a shit that I’m consuming the flesh of a bouncy, cute Australian marsupial that has babies called joeys that hang out in their pouches.
Gosh, even I feel a little bad after writing that last sentence. However, some do consider it environmentally beneficial to hunt kangaroo to prevent overgrazing. Oh, and like deer, they will totally run (well, hop) out in the road and completely fuck up your car and possibly your body.
That said, the kangaroo jerky was both the softest and the chewiest of the bunch, which was a nice contrast to the tough dryness of the venison. It also seemed to be the least heavily spiced of all the jerkies. I didn’t feel like the meat was being overwhelmed by seasoning.
Mountain America agrees, saying on their website, “This Kangaroo Jerky is flavored with a simple black pepper marinade for a mild, non-gamey taste.”
And here’s where I disagree, saying, “Sorry son, but this jerky be gamey.”
I lamented the amount of seasoning on previous jerky flavors covering up the taste of the meat, so I was glad I could taste the true ‘roo here, even if it turned out to be gamey. Having never tasted kangaroo before, it’s hard to say exactly what it tastes like; it’s not like beef, it’s not like chicken (since apparently every meat that’s not beef or pork supposedly tastes like chicken), it’s just what it is. High marks for texture, but it was my least favorite in terms of flavor.
So there you have it. Many words about many flavors of jerky. I’ve decided not to number-score them, but will instead give a quick summary: Mountain America’s Beef is a solid gourmet jerky; Sweet and Spicy Beef has an excellent kick; Wild Boar was my favorite, with a lovely texture and baconesque flavor; Alligator scared me, but it wound up just tasting like yummy jerky seasoning; Venison was disappointing because it was stabby and too heavily peppered, not allowing the meat to come through; Kangaroo was lightly spiced, allowing me to experience the meat, which was quite gamey, but it was interesting to try.
What a fun trip through the world of jerky! I mean, how many people can say they’ve eaten kangaroo! Oh, probably a lot of Australians. But still, I feel so cultured now. And have a craving for moar boar.
[Disclaimer: I received these products for free from Mountain America Jerky, but that in no way colors the objectivity of my review, and proves beyond a doubt that I am not a vegetarian.]
Mountain America Jerky: Beef, Sweet and Spicy Beef, Wild Boar, Alligator, Venison, Kangaroo
I’ve long lamented that I missed the halcyon days of Jones holiday sodas, which was back in the early 2000s when they sold their absolutely amazing-looking Thanksgiving packs that contained such flavors as Green Bean Casserole.
This year’s Halloween grab is Pumpkin Pie Soda, which Jones claims is new but was previously offered in one of their Thanksgiving packs. Perhaps they’ve tweaked the formula?
Along with Pumpkin Pie, this year they’re offering Blood Orange and Lemon Drop Dead, which have been offered in previous years, but I wanted to include them because they’ve departed from the usual picture labels to offer some pretty gruesome mummy and zombie guys.
Their labels also claim that “It will haunt you forever!” I find this very funny, because out of all of Jones’s limited edition flavors, these are two that will not haunt you. Blood Orange basically tastes like a better version of orange Fanta, because Jones uses cane sugar, and Lemon Drop Dead is a surprisingly refreshing mix of sour and sweet lemon soda.
But we’re really here for the Pumpkin Pie Soda. Because who wants to read about something that might actually taste good?
My four-pack of Pumpkin Soda bottles came with two harmless autumn-themed labels, but I chose the one where four people cover their faces with pumpkins, which could be a fun family photo but to me comes off as quietly ominous.
Jones describes this soda as “the perfect mix of pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, with a hint of creamy, buttery crust flavor”.
Here we are again, with the pumpkin and the spices. But at least this one makes flat-out claims of tasting like pumpkin! On the other hand, they have to follow it up with the words “creamy” and “buttery”. Two things I’m always looking for in a soda.
Like an idiot, I’m always smelling these sodas before I taste them. The aroma wafting out of my cup was both strong and incredibly genuine – it really was like I was smelling pumpkin pie in a glass. I feel like this should have been off-putting, but instead it was inviting.
Tasting it was an entire grab bag of flavors and emotions. The nutmeg jumped to the forefront, which was bizarre when paired with a cold, carbonated beverage. The cinnamon was subtle, and, dare I say, overshadowed by the flavor of pumpkin. Actual pumpkin flavor! …In my soda.
Jones rarely lies, and true to form, there was indeed a hint of creaminess and a little bit of butter on the finish. It did give the impression of pie crust, and even evoked memories of the Cool Whip that was always present on top of pumpkin pies at my family’s Thanksgiving dinners.
What does all of this add up to? Again, my brain and my mouth are so confused. If I was judging Jones Pumpkin Pie Soda on flavor alone, it’s aces. By far the most authentic-tasting pumpkin item I’ve had this season, and probably in years past.
But the fact of the matter is that I’m also drinking a soda. It’s cold, it’s carbonated, and it’s everything that a pumpkin pie isn’t supposed to be. Did I finish the cup? I did, but I’m still not entirely sure why. Will I be cracking the other three in my possession? I’m pretty sure they’ll sit in the pantry until I run out of room and am forced to throw them away.
If you have the opportunity to try it, I urge you to do so, just to experience the weird authenticity. Especially if you live in Canada, where it’s available for a limited time at all Smoke’s Poutinerie locations. Screw you guys for having Poutineries.
Jones Soda Pumpkin Pie
I’m trying to stay away from the omnipresent pumpkin spice this year, but I just had to pick up some Hostess Pumpkin Spice Twinkies. The first reason being that it’s incredibly rare to find a new variety of Twinkie filling. Oh, sure, banana was the original, and they’ve had some one-off fruit flavors, but for the most part, a Twinkie is a Twinkie, unlike an Oreo, which I’m pretty sure will have been every single flavor on the planet soon.
The second reason is that I just couldn’t resist the picture on the package. That’s supposed to be the beauty shot, and instead it looks like a Twinkie extruding…I’m not sure what, but it looks gross. I feel like the cream goop shouldn’t look any worse than regular Twinkie goop, but somehow, it does.
I wish Hostess had given me more to work with on this packaging, but it’s pretty minimalist. A slice of pumpkin pie and some cinnamon sticks. Not even any autumn leaves. At least let Twinkie the Kid dress up as a vampire or something to make it a Halloween tie-in.
Do they even use Twinkie the Kid anymore? I’m already too bored to bother going to look, so let’s just get to the snack.
“Pumpkin spice” is such a vague term. Usually it just means “cinnamon with some other underlying spices”, sometimes there’s more nutmeg, and rarely is there actually any pumpkin flavor.
This time, there was a sweet, cinnamon smell that greeted me. It was quite welcoming, and evoked feelings of warmth on a chilly autumn day.
The cream filling actually looked better in real life than it did on the box, until suddenly I realized it kind of looked like tuna mixed with mayo ready to be put between two slices of bread, and that sort of killed the vibe.
Evicting all thoughts of tuna from my mind, I took a bite and, while not surprised, was not entirely displeased, either. The traditional golden sponge cake of a Twinkie mixed well with the cream, that tasted exactly as it smelled – sweet and cinnamon, with a hint of pumpkin that was probably only there because I imagined it.
And there you have it. Hostess Pumpkin Spice Twinkies in no way taste original or complex, but I feel like it’s their simplicity that gives them a little bit of charm. Use them to add a little fall flair to your child’s lunches, or grab a few for your snack station at work. Your palate won’t be challenged, but it won’t be offended, either.
As a weird side note, these Twinkies are only available at Kroger stores (known as Fry’s Foods in my neck of the woods), which seems like an odd place for an exclusive food. Target or Walmart I understand, but Kroger?
Hostess Pumpkin Spice Twinkies Limited Edition
Burger King, YOU ARE THE BEST.
This is a sentence I have never said before, and possibly will never say again. Burger King has been soooo boring for years now, minus their Chicken Fries (which I inexplicably like) and their recent Red Velvet Oreo Shake (notable only for the amount of people who said “I thought I was going to die” after drinking it).
But for the next month, Burger King has won my heart. And all it took was some food coloring and a new wrapper.
In case you haven’t been following along, Halloween is my favorite holiday. And I happen to like junk food. So my demand for Halloween-themed food has always been high. For the most part, however, fast food keeps out of the Halloween biz, minus the occasional pumpkin pie milkshake or whatever.
The one exception was Taco Bell’s Black Jack Taco, released way back in 2009. And even then, they pretty much refused to associate it with Halloween, even though it was so obviously a Halloween taco.
Burger King isn’t trying to be sneaky with this one. They’ve embraced the darkness, literally, with their A.1. Halloween Whopper. Which they also call the HA.1.loween Whopper, a much more creative name that they seem to have stepped away from, possibly because nobody could pronounce it.
Look at that packaging. LOOK AT IT. It’s a burger wrapper made to look like mummy wrappings. Such a simple design, but so effective at making my heart explode with joy. You can tell the employees were instructed to wrap the Whoppers just so, so that you could see the mummy’s eyes staring out at you at just the right angle. I want to buy a bunch of them and use them as window decorations instead of store-bought clings.
Of course, the real draw here is the burger itself. Look at that burger. LOOK AT IT. I’d seen a million pictures of the HA.1.loween Whopper online, but nothing quite prepares you for having it right in front of you, knowing that you’re going to be putting that evil darkness into your own mouth.
As a fun aside, I asked for apple slices instead of fries with my burger and the person thought I wanted the apple slices on the burger. I hurriedly assured her that I did not. But it does prove that at Burger King, they really will make it your way.
They claim that A.1. Sauce is baked right into the bun, but I took several bites of the bun alone and if there was any taste at all, it was merely the ghost of A.1. It tasted a little bitter to me, but I couldn’t tell if that was real or if it was because I was eating black bread.
Speaking of what’s in the bun, here’s a highlight reel from the laundry list of ingredients: FD&C Red #40, FD&C Blue #1, Raisin Juice Concentrate, Worcerstershire Sauce, and FD&C Yellow #6. You know what’s not listed? A.1. Sauce.
As for the burger…I mean, do you really care about the rest of the burger? It’s a goddamn Whopper with A.1. Sauce on it. I guess the most interesting part was that they claim to use the Thick and Hearty version, but the sauce on the burger was anything but. In fact, the whole thing was messy as fuck, and it seemed like the Thin and Regular A.1. mixed with the mayo, resulting in watered-down flavor.
But at least as the mixed-up condiments ran down my hands, they looked kind of like blood. This is the kind of Halloweeny thinking you’ve got tap into to get that holiday spirit going while you eat a black burger in a mummy wrapper.
Oh, and the black bun had one last parting gift: I checked my mouth in the mirror right after eating the HA.1.loween Whopper, and my tongue was bright blue! I mean bright blue. Neon.
Actually, it might have one more parting gift – one similar to the Red Velvet Oreo Shake. But after looking at the bun and reading the list of food colorings in it, I’m prepared to not freak out if my Whopper says its final goodbye in a neon-colored way.
Burger King A.1. Halloween Whopper (aka HA.1.loween Whopper)
If you’ve girded your loins for an avalanche of pumpkin spice reviews here on Junk Food Betty, prepare to ungird. I just can’t deal with the sheer amount of pumpkin spice that is out there on store shelves and in fast food restaurants.
That said, between the time I purchased these M&Ms and me actually getting around to writing this, I’ve already bought two more pumpkin-flavored items to review. Fuck me.
If that makes it sound like a lot of time has passed between purchase and review, it hasn’t really. It’s just that I have to buy pumpkin spice-flavored items or I will starve to death. And, admittedly, a little time has passed.
Why? Because these M&Ms are such a snooze-fest to me. The only reason I got them at all is because M&Ms got clever and tacked “Latte” on to the end of the flavor name. “Pumpkin Spice? Fuck ’em. Pumpkin Spice Latte? Well in that case…”
I don’t pay a lot of attention to M&Ms, but am I the only one who didn’t notice they added a second sexy female M&M? When did that happen? Last I knew, there was only one female M&M, Green, and she always creeped me out.
I just did some research, and apparently she was added in 2012. And is called Ms. Brown. And is voiced by Vanessa Williams. I’d like to thank my DVR for allowing me to skip over commercials and never notice she existed, until now. Damn you, Pumpkin Spice Latte M&Ms! Now I’m aware that there’s more than one creepy lady M&M out there.
Ms. Brown does look appropriately comfy in her scarf, though. And don’t think I missed that hipster-barista pumpkin design in the latte foam, either. I will give M&Ms props for that little touch.
As you can see, the candies are appropriately orange, dark brown and cream colored. As you can also see, I had a little fun. This is obviously an iced latte because there’s a straw.
The candies are larger and fatter than regular milk chocolate M&Ms. They’re closer in shape and size to Peanut Butter M&Ms, I think.
I never tried Pumpkin Spice M&Ms, but I can tell you one thing – Pumpkin Spice Latte M&Ms nailed it. At first, all I got was chocolate, but then that familiar taste of pumpkin spice invaded. It didn’t come on too strong though, just a light cinnamon and pumpkin flavor that really went great with the chocolate.
Just when I thought I’d gotten all I was going to get out of it, the aftertaste left me with the distinct impression of a latte. Like a real latte, it was heavy on the cream and sugar and light on the coffee, but that taste was definitely there.
While I spent the first part of this review shitting all over pumpkin spice products, I now have to come to you and say that Pumpkin Spice Latte is the best M&Ms flavor I’ve had in a long time, and possibly my favorite holiday M&M flavor of all time. Whaaaat? I know it’s crazy, but the pumpkin spice was subtle and warm instead of pungent and cloying, it worked great with the milk chocolate, and they even managed to hit that latte flavor. It was a little faint, but it was a tall order for M&Ms and they completely pulled it off.
Now I want M&Ms to come out with a whole line of coffee-flavored candies. I also have a stomachache due to eating more M&Ms than I should have.
Pumpkin Spice Latte Milk Chocolate M&Ms