Friday, October 13, 2017

Cosmos Creations

Update Review, October 2017

Several years ago, I tried several varieties of Cosmo's Creations, sorta like puffier popcorn (one of my favorite snack foods), and I enjoyed the unique, very munchable, form factor.  I intended to try more flavors, but, uh, seem to have forgotten about them.  Until now.
Peanut Butter.
"If there’s a hall of fame for flavors, crowd-pleasing peanut butter surely holds a place of honor. This irresistibly good recipe is a blend of sweet and savory, all-natural peanut butter atop a crunchy, corn puff. It’s a simple snack to satisfy your craving on the go. Packed with dreamy peanut butter flavor, we’ve baked up another bite-sized snack that is deliciously addictive."

This was an impulse buy.  Not a standard move for me, as I'm usually quite calculated in my purchases.  But I was at the grocery store with my mom, and saw that her local grocery store carried Cosmos Creations, and remembered really liking the fascinating form factor.  And then I saw they had a peanut butter flavor, and, well, into the shopping cart it went.  (They also had maple pecan, and I also almost grabbed that one ...)

I'm glad I went out on a limb and got these.  The form factor was the same as the other flavors I've tried, a bit strange, hard to wrap your head around, somewhere between popcorn and popped corn cereal, very light, very snackable.

And the peanut butter coating?  Yup, exactly what I was hoping for.  Nicely coated, good peanut butter flavor.  And shockingly?  I didn't feel the need to freeze these, which is saying something.

Original Review, April 2014

In my world, there are certainly not only three meals in a day, and snack foods are a particular weakness of mine.  I love to munch on things.  Even better if they are sweet things.  Even better if they are some form of popcorn.

I was delighted to discover Cosmos Creations, aka, "Heavenly Morsels of Baked Corn Creations".  Not popcorn exactly, because there are no kernels or hulls involved.  Instead they are made from cornmeal that is extruded and then baked, more like a corn puff.  Like any good snack food these days, they are also gluten-free, non GMO.  I'm still not sure why I should be happy to avoid kernels and hulls though, but their marketing certainly drives this point home.

Cosmos Creations come in both sweet and savory varieties.  I did not try the savory flavors, but I could imagine them being like cheese puffs.  I also wasn't able to try their original sweet flavor, caramel, but instead got to try the rest of the sweet product line.

The satisfied my munchy cravings, and I'd happily try out more varieties.
Salted Caramel.
I know they said that it wasn't popcorn, but I somehow still expected something more popcorn-like.  As you can see in the photo, the pieces were about the size of popcorn, and at a first glance almost look like popcorn, but ... they aren't.

Since they are a puff, they are lighter and not as crispy as popcorn.  I like the crunch of popcorn more.  I do see some appeal of not ever having unpopped kernels though.  But overall, the form factor wasn't great.

But my real problem was the flavor.  Caramel can often have a bitter taste, in a good way, but this was a bit bitter in a bad way.  I didn't really taste salt, which should be a distinguishing feature of a salted caramel flavor.

Other samplers said, "these are like cereal, but better!"  Others said they couldn't quite decide if they liked them, but they had to keep eating them because they were so "intriguing".  We were interested enough to try another flavor, but wouldn't purchase this flavor again.
Cinnamon Crunch.
Next, I tried the cinnamon crunch.  I expected the pieces to just be coated in cinnamon, perhaps cinnamon and sugar, but instead they were covered in cinnamon caramel.  Much better.  The pieces were very, very, well coated, resulting in an incredibly crunchy exterior.  They seriously met my munchy desires.

The cinnamon caramel was sweet, but the cinnamon flavor was quite intense, so they were more spicy than sweet.  Really quite good.

I gladly shared the Salted Caramel flavor with others, but these I kept all for myself.  I intended to save a few to try with coffee, which I think would have been fabulous.  Black coffee paired with cinnamon and sweets?  Yes!  But ... alas, the bag was gone before I knew it.  I also intended to save a few to heat up in the toaster oven, because they actually recommend this on their web site.  But ... alas, I devoured my bag in record time.  Whoops.

I'd certainly eat these again.
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mac's Maple, New Hampshire

Bear with me for some story time.

I grew up in New Hampshire, in a fairly rural area.  There was a dairy in town, that still sold milk in glass bottles at the supermarkets.  But it was far more expensive than the regular milk, so it was something we only splurged on from time to time.  Like when my mom REALLY wanted the chocolate milk, or eggnog, both which are amazing.  And then we had to deal with bottle returns, which always seemed complicated.  Those are my memories from childhood of the dairy.

Anyway, that dairy, McNamara Dairy, is a place I've been aware of most of my life, really.  It is located on the outskirts of town, down the street from the farm where we always went strawberry picking.  I've mentioned it before, like when I had eggnog whipped cream on my bread pudding at Lou's one time and it was made with McNamara Dairy eggnog, or when I reviewed my amazing experience at Home Hill Inn, which was located right down the street as well, and sourced all their dairy there as well.  But it wasn't a staple of my life.

Associated with the dairy is a sugarhouse, Mac's Maple.  My godfather makes his own syrup, so, we never got maple syrup from elsewhere, although I tried the syrup from Mac's Maple when I went to brunch at Home Hill Inn as well.  They also make maple sugar candy, so I'm pretty sure some of that must have shown up in my Christmas stocking at some point, I just don't recall.

So where is this all going?  To a great discovery I made in July 2017.  The maple creamee.

I'll back up a bit to admit that I did not know what a creamee was.  Urban Dictionary tells me this is what Vermonters call their soft serve ice cream.  I grew up in New Hampshire, not Vermont, but we are *right* on the state line.  I spent a lot of time in Vermont.  I've eaten an insane amount of soft serve ice cream.  I had never heard this term until about a year or so ago.

A maple creamee, then, is a soft serve ice cream, made with maple syrup instead of sugar.  And during the summer, McNamara Dairy and Mac's Maple combine forces to make it.  Yes, soft serve, made with local premium dairy and maple syrup.
Maple Creamee Experience!
As a soft serve lover, this sounded, well, amazing.  I honestly do not understand how it had not crossed my radar before.

The soft serve is sold at the dairy farm on weekends only, at a little stand they run, from 10am-5pm on Saturday, 12pm-5pm on Sunday.  My mother, who loves ice cream perhaps even more than me, did not know this.  She says they really have not publicized it at all.  I have no idea how long they have been offering it.  The stand also offers many other maple products, including the syrup of course.

Once I discovered the existence of this amazing creation, I had to seek it out.  The only problem?  I couldn't go during those limited hours on weekends.  I reached out to Mac's Maple on Facebook (not *really* expecting a response), to find out that they also have a mobile ice cream trailer that they bring to local baseball games.  And there was one that night.  Bingo.

I immediately told my mom we needed to go.  To White River Junction Vermont, to, uh, go see our local baseball team play.  It would cost $5 to get in, but, maybe we could tell them we were just there for ice cream?

We ate a rushed dinner, hoped in the car, and headed to the game.  We didn't regret a thing.
Side of the Ice Cream Trailer.
I spotted the ice cream trailer the moment we pulled into the parking lot.  It was adorable.  It looked like a mini maple sugar shack!  It had signs for both Mac's Maple and McNamara Dairy painted on, and beautiful artwork on the back side.

They even had little trees set up around the trailer hitch.
Ice Cream Trailer!
The front side featured the ordering window and pick-up window.

Seriously, how cute is this thing?  Look at the roof!  It has a smokestack!

The menu is pretty simple: all the maple products!  The only variety of soft serve ice cream, er, creamee, that they sell is maple.  They also sell maple candy, maple kettle corn (!), and maple cotton candy, plus that aforementioned amazing chocolate milk.
Maple Creamee + Maple Candy "Sprinkles".  $3.00 + $0.50.
Soft serve is available in a cup, cone, or sugar cone.  I went for regular cone, as I have a very strong belief that soft serve should basically only be eaten from a cone.  My mom choose a dish.

The ice cream comes in one size only.  It was ... really quite generous.  It was more than I wanted actually, I would have loved a half-size, kiddie cone, whatever you want to call it, but, alas, no choices.  It was large, but very well twirled.  There was absolutely no hollow part in the center.

The soft serve was great.  Very creamy, very smooth.  It melted perfectly in the setting sun.  The maple flavor was intense, certainly sweet, but not too overpowering.  Far better than any other maple flavor ice cream I've ever had, which makes sense, as this was real syrup, and normally they use flavored stuff.

You can add what they dub "maple sugar sprinkles" to your creamee, which I did, mostly out of curiosity.  I love sprinkles, so, why not maple sugar ones?  I didn't quite know what to expect.

The answer was little bits of maple sugar candy.  Now, these were good.  Intensely sweet maple candy.  And this is a fun idea.  But ... it was way too sweet for me with the maple ice cream.  I sadly ended up knocking them off my cone.  I think these would be incredible with vanilla ice cream.

Overall, this was wonderful.  High quality soft serve, perfectly creamy and melty, great flavor, generous size.  It was fine without the maple candy sprinkles, but I think it would have been awesome with bits of walnuts instead (hello, Maple Walnut is a popular flavor for a reason!)

I'd gladly get it again, although I'd like to split with someone, and, uh, bring my own nuts?

(Suggestions to business owner: offer walnuts as a topping! And maybe vanilla, I really think it would be amazing with the maple candy sprinkles, or for those who want something a bit less sweet and want a swirl ...)
Maple Kettle Corn (small).
"Beautiful maple kettle corn, made fresh for you!"

It is no secret that I'm obsessed with popcorn.  There is a reason, just like ice cream, I have a whole label on my blog devoted to it.  I eat more of this than ice cream, probably.  Some kind of popcorn, sweet or savory, is part of my daily snack line up.  I have opinions on popcorn.

I couldn't resist grabbing a bag of the maple kettle corn alongside my ice cream.  I *did* manage to make it all the way home before opening the (sealed) bag, which is probably a good thing, because I would have turned right back around and grabbed the family size bag too.

This was very good popcorn.

The popcorn itself was light, airy, well popped.  No duds in the bag (although, to be honest, I do like the duds too!).  The kernels were well coated.  There was some variation in the coating levels, just enough to make it impossible to stop eating, in the "oh, i just want one more perfectly coated one" sense, but all had plenty of coating.

That coating was maple flavored, sweet, beautiful flavor.  Such an extra dimension over regular kettle corn made with white sugar.  I imagine they make this with their maple sugar.  There was a slight saltiness to offset it.  Personally, I prefer a bit more salt, but, still, this was great.

Overall, wonderful, and one of very few popcorns I enjoyed just eating out of the bag at room temperature ... normally I freeze my popcorn to make it extra crunchy, and that was not needed here at all.

I'll clearly gladly consume more of this!
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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Waffling Leftovers: Stuffing

Update Review, October 2017

This is an update of the exact same stuffing I previous reviewed, except, this time it started plucked from the freezer, rather than regular leftovers, because I had so much extra, I froze a bunch too.
Leftover Challah Herb Stuffing.
It transformed in exactly the same way as the original leftovers, much better than simply reheating frozen leftover stuffing.
The Original: Thawed, Previously Frozen, Leftover Stuffing.
The original was more of the same stuffing I loved before, but this time, it came from the freezer.  I had tons left over when it was fresh, and froze some immediately then, knowing that I loved it, but there was no way I'd eat it all over the subsequent few days.

I eagerly pulled it out once I was ready for stuffing again, and let it thaw in the fridge for a day.  I heated some up in the toaster oven, and was pretty sadden by the result.  It was just too soggy.  Somehow, it wouldn't crisp up, even in a hot oven.  It was mushy.  The flavor was still there, but, the freezer had done some serious damage (which actually really surprised me, I freeze bread pudding, baked goods, breads, all the time with no problems, but this just really didn't hold up).

I decided to throw the final portion into the waffle iron instead of heating traditionally, as it simply just wasn't good that way, and I figured it wouldn't hurt to try.
Waffling ...
I didn't do anything to it, just put it in, 350 degrees, let it go for a bit.

Since it was so moist, there was lots of steam escaping from the waffle iron, which concerned me slightly, but I didn't really care.  I was going to throw it out otherwise anyway.

I let it go for about 5 minutes, and then took a peek.
Waffled Leftover Frozen Stuffing.
And ... it turned into a waffle!  It got crispy!  The mushy, sogginess was gone!

This salvaged the leftovers that would have been trash otherwise.  I liked the crispy bits, and still loved the flavors.

I have one more container full in the freezer, and there is no question how I'll be preparing the rest of it.

Original Review, January 2017

I don't know how I've failed to write this one up before.  Stuffing was one of the first things I waffled.  I really must have written this, but somehow lost it?  I have no other explanation of how I've never told you about waffling stuffing before.  I promise you, I was doing it *before* it was trendy!

(Side bar: yes, I made a Thanksgiving meal one year entirely out of waffled items.  And another year I made it look like an ice cream sundae, with a stuffing waffle as the base, and ice cream scoop of mashed potatoes on top, drizzled of gravy and cranberry sauce, etc).

Anyway, if this is your first time reading about my waffling adventures, go ahead at start with the master post.

I probably don't need to say it, but, Leftover Stuffing: Will it waffle?  YES!
The Original: Leftover Herbed Challah Stuffing.
The original was herbed challah stuffing, made with a base of challah, celery/onions/leeks/mushrooms/garlic, tons of herbs, and plenty of butter and white wine.

It was great stuffing, and I was more than happy to eat leftovers traditionally.  But on my third day of Thanksgiving leftovers, I finally waffled it ...
Midway Through Cooking.
I scooped in a big pile, and closed the lid, set to 350 degrees, and walked away for a few minutes.

I returned to find a bit of a mess.  A little stuck on top, one corner burning, and nothing really holding together.

Ooops.  I think this is likely just because the stuffing was sooo moist.
Extracted Version.
I let it go a bit longer to try to get it to hold its form better, but it just got crispier, almost burnt.  It was impossible to extract in one chunk.

It it was still tasty.  Crispy outside, moist inside, and fun to dunk into gravy.

I wish I had my photos of the better versions I've made though, because stuffing, or savory bread pudding, really do waffle wonderfully!
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Monday, October 09, 2017

McDonald's

Update Review, October 2016


This is a tale of an unexpected order.
Not a Rolo McFlurry.
McDonald's had 3 McFlurries on the menu: Oreo and M&M (which are the regular offerings) and a limited addition Rolo McFlurry.

The Oreo and M&M McFlurry both are simple: vanilla ice cream base with candy blended in.  The Rolo one however is more complex.  It doesn't actually blend in chopped Rolos.  Instead, it blends in caramel sauce and chopped Rolo shells (the chocolate part only).  I imagine this is because the regular Rolos caramel doesn't deal well with freezing?

I wasn't necessarily excited about the Rolos, but, the caramel sounded great, so I opted for that one, really, just for the caramel.

At least, that is what I ordered.

What I received was something else ... entirely.
"Rolo McFlurry", Snack Size. $2.69. Top View.
"Dig into spoonful after spoonful of vanilla soft serve packed with ribbons of caramel and chunks of creamy, milk chocolate."

I was confused when I got my McFlurry.  There was tons of visible caramel on top.  That was surprising, as I thought the caramel was supposed to be blended in.  I assumed it was just "bonus" caramel, and pressed on.

And then I got more confused.  There was some of the expected chopped chocolate shells on top, but once I got into the blended part, there was ... Oreo.  Lots of Oreo.  And no caramel.  And no Rolos shells.

Uh, what?

It was like the person making it realized they made an Oreo McFlurry by accident, and "fixed" it by dumping the other toppings on top.
"Rolo McFlurry", Snack Size. $2.69. Side View.
"NEW Chocolately, caramel-y, awesomeness."

The side view isn't much clearer, and I was so confused I didn't take a good photo of just the layer beneath the caramel, but, there is no doubt, it was an Oreo McFlurry.

Which makes this review a bit odd, as I'm no longer reviewing a real product.

The ice cream was actually quite good.  Creamy, standard McDonald's soft serve (the new, fewer chemicals recipe!).  It melted nicely.

The caramel was thick and sweet, and actually kinda nice to have on top, it made it more like a sundae.  I still prefer McDonald's hot fudge though.

The chopped Rolos shells on top I didn't really care for actually, they were just mediocre milk chocolate, not particularly good.

The Oreo McFlurry ... that was actually good too.  I think I liked it more than I would have liked the Rolos one, to be honest.  It was loaded with plentiful bits of Oreo, and was well blended.  I'm not a big Oreo or cookies and cream fan in general, but, this was very good for what it was.

I wish McDonald's would bring back the Butterfinger one, or Reece's, those are my favorites ...

Original Review, March 2016

Somehow, I haven't ever published my review of regular old McDonald's. Sure, I've reviewed the slew of ridiculously sweet beverages from McCafe, and the decent holiday McFlurry, but somehow, I haven't ever told you what I think of McDonald's staples, aka, burgers and fries!

I ate my share of McDonald's growing up, but it certainly wasn't a regular thing. Mostly my memories are of birthday parties held in the placespace at the McDonald's, where they served that crazy orange drink. I remember collecting the toys from Happy Meals. But, I don't think I was ever a really huge McDonald's fan.

Then, in high school, I played field hockey. Our bus often stopped at McDonald's on the way home from away games. I recall really loving the fries then, when dipped in sweet and sour, bbq, and honey (yes, usually all three, often combined). I also liked the sundaes.

And then I didn't really go to McDonald's again for years. Even when on road trips (or, driving to and from college), I always just went to Dunkin' Donuts and got a muffin, no matter what time of day.

So now, McDonald's is a novelty to me. It is a place I go very rarely, and usually only when travelling (which, is even more fun when out of the country, because foreign McDonald's have some really unique menu items! Stay tuned!). Even then, it is never on the top of my list, but Ojan does sometimes get a craving for chicken McNuggets or a Big Mac, and thus, I go too, hoping to again enjoy it as much as I used to, but never succeeding.
 Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
"A quarter pound of 100% pure beef simply seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper, two slices of melty cheese, slivered onions and tangy pickles all on a sesame seed bun. "

To ensure I got a fresh burger, I ordered mine with extra pickles (and, because I love pickles!) and only one slice of cheese (for some reason, two seemed like too much).

I was really surprised with my first bite.  The beef was … seasoned.  It had some pepper and salt, just as described.  Sure, it was a thin patty, with no actual beefy flavor and a mealy texture, more akin to cardboard than beef but, someone did season the thing.  Points for that.

The patty, as always, was very well done, as in, cooked through.  Even though a quarter pound, it was quite thin.

The onions were sharp and there were too many, but they combined well with the mustard.  I did really like the mustard and onion flavors.

My extra pickles translated into two pickles … is normal just one?  I liked my pickles, and wanted more.

The cheese was nicely melted but pretty standard fake american cheese.

The bun was a little soggy, boring, and about as generic as could be.

This was a quinesential generic McDonald’s burger, pretty much exactly as I remembered.  I have no desire to have another.
10 Piece Chicken McNuggets. $4.59. Small French Fries. $1.39.
"Our tender, juicy, Chicken McNuggets are made with USDA-inspected white meat. They're tempura battered and cooked to golden perfection."

The nuggets were Ojan's, but of course I had one, mostly out of curiosity.  I don't like chicken, and I did not ever get nuggets as a kid, but Ojan was so excited by these, I had to try.  They had a great crispy breading, but the chicken was soo fake and ground up and just strange to me.  Meh.

"Golden on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. Made with quality potatoes and cooked in our Canola oil blend for zero grams of trans fat per serving."

Who doesn't love McDonald's fries?  (Or, at least, who didn't at some point in their lives?)

The fries were thin and crispy.  I didn't love them, nor hate them.  They were just ... fries, very fried, and clearly not fresh.  These have definitely lost their magic on me.

But you know I'm a sauce girl, so, what about those sauces?

The sweet and sour sauce always looks so horrible.  It is goopy.  Thick.  Nasty looking really.  But I still really like the taste, as unsightly as it is, and it is my preferred McDonald's dipping sauce for my fries.

The bbq looks a little better, but is always my second choice.  Really, the best is mostly sweet and sour, with a touch of bbq.  I dip first in the sweet and sour, and then do a quick dunk in the bbq afterwards.  My magic combo.  I've done it for as long as I can remember.

I enjoyed some fries, with my sauces, but I can't say I have any craving or desire to have them again.

A few months later, we went back to McDonald's, another time when traveling.  I again noted that the bbq sauce was only ok, but I loved the sweet and sour.  I found the fries flavorless and again not what I remembered.
Big Mac.
"A double layer of sear-sizzled 100% pure beef mingled with special sauce on a sesame seed bun and topped with melty American cheese, crisp lettuce, minced onions and tangy pickles"

If I thought the patty in the quarter pounder was thin, that was nothing compared to the Big Mac. Seriously, seriously thin patties. They were completely flavorless.

The lettuce is just standard shredded iceberg, but it really has its place on the big mac. But of course, the best thing going for it is the Big Mac sauce. Creamy, mayo-y, delicious.

I don’t particularly want another one, but for what it is, it was good.

[ No Photo ]
Hot Fudge Sundae with Nuts

"Reduced fat soft serve vanilla ice cream, smothered in chocolatey fudge sauce."

I love soft serve ice cream, and I don't get it often, as silly froyo has taken over.  Also, I kinda think soft serve ice cream just isn't as much of a thing on the West Coast, even before the whole froyo invasion?

Anyway, not that McDonald's is where I'd go for great ice cream, I wanted soft serve, and I know theirs is decent.  And it was.  It was perfectly creamy, although it didn't have much flavor to it.  The fudge was hot, thick, and pretty tasty.  I liked the crunch from the peanuts, but they were just generic peanuts.

Was this an awesome sundae?  Of course not.  But it hit the spot.
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