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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wondershop Gingerbread Village Indulgent Trail Mix

It's that time of year again. Snow shall fall. Presents shall be opened. Wondershop products shall grace the shelves of local Target stores and waistlines shall expand in gut-busting glory. We've seen a couple of other holiday-themed trail mixes in recent years and were neither greatly impressed nor disappointed with those. Let's see how this new concoction compares. We'll break it down by its constituent parts once again.

Gingersnap cookies: If any element is overrepresented in this mix, this is it. Decent gingersnap cookies, but way too many of them.

White chocolate gingersnap almonds: I love white chocolate. I love almonds. I love ginger. I love these. Why wouldn't I? I wish they sold a big jar of nothing but these.

Red spice drops: Cinnamon-flavored. Kinda works. Odd to include gumdrops in a trail mix. Christmassy, I guess.

Green spice drops: No, no, no, no, no. Disgusting. Like plowing through a bag of chocolates and cookies and inadvertently shoveling a wad of spearmint gum into your mouth and then being forced to swallow it. Just no. Leave those in the candy dish on Grandma's coffee table.

M&M's: No explanation needed. Actual M&M's. Not "chocolate buttons" or "chocolate gems" like other store brands may or may not use.

Roasted, salted peanuts: Again, no explanation necessary. I wish there were more of these in the mix. I wish they sold a big jar of nothing but these. Oh, wait. They do. <Adds roasted peanuts to shopping list.>

White chocolate peppermint marshmallow bits: Marshmallow bits? Marshmallow? Really? That's what you're going with for these little things? They're crunchy, for goodness sake. They do indeed taste like peppermint and they're sweet. I would have gone with "white chocolate candy cane bits" myself, but whatever. Other than the misnomer, these are okay. Like peppermint candy canes, I wouldn't eat them at any other time of year.

The ingredients are a little different, but overall, I'd put this indulgent snack on par with both Rudolph's Mix and the Jingle Blend from previous years. I'm tempted to snub this one just because of the green spice drop debacle, but since there weren't that many of them in the mix, I'll be nice. 'Tis the season and all.

I give this trail mix 7 out of 10 Christmas stars.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Archer Farms Pumpkin Cheesecake Creme Sandwich Cookies

I'm not tasting anything as specific as pumpkin cheesecake here. These are crispy cookies with a vaguely pumpkin-spice-esque creme filling. They taste as much like gingersnap sandwich cookies as they do pumpkin cheesecake cookies to me. Fortunately, I'm down with gingersnaps.

There's an odd tang to the creme. It's super sweet, but also a little tart. It leaves an unpleasant aftertaste.

There seems to be a hint of pumpkin spice in both the cookies and the creme, but as I've already hinted at, the cookies seem to flaunt ginger spice more than anything else. Looks like there is some actual "pumpkin powder" in the mix, but I assure you there's no detectable squash flavor in these cookies.

Real cream cheese was used, but it doesn't taste like it in my humble opinion. Also, I'm curious as to how they can make real cream cheese shelf stable at room temperature. I guess the secret is all the "spices," most of which aren't even listed in the ingredients.

I wish these cookies were chewy rather than crispy. I wish the creme actually tasted like what it is: cream cheese. I wish there were no aftertaste, and I wish I could taste cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove.

On a positive note, the gingery, crispy cookies aren't bad for what they are. If you like crispy cookies, you'll probably like these okay.

My wife loves pumpkin and pumpkin spice products this time of year. She was thoroughly impressed with these. I, personally, don't think they taste all that much like pumpkin spice or pumpkin cheesecake, but they're a big thumbs up in her book.

I would have naturally leaned toward a score of 6 or so, but since she loves them so much, I'll give 'em a little bump just in case there are others out there like her. $3.69 for about 18 cookies.

7 out of 10 stars it is.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Archer Farms Rustic Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix

Holy autumnal Archer Farms snacks, Batman! This is about as fall-ish as it gets, and I'm surprised they had this stuff in stock at Target. In years past, they were always sold out of most of their fall foods. Perhaps it's because the pumpkin spice craze is slowing down, or perhaps it's because we just arrived to the store on re-stocking day. I'm not sure, but we got our hands on this Rustic Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix, so let's dig in.

Pumpkin spice peanuts?? You mean they have a candy coating that tastes like pumpkin spice? Nope. They're just peanuts with a pumpkin spice flavored powder on them—similar to those spicy peanuts that simply have a dusting of chili powder. Interesting, I guess. Not my favorite. They're a little too dusty if you ask me. It's almost like they crushed up some autumn potpourri and then rolled peanuts in it. Makes me want to cough when I eat them.

Next up: cinnamon pretzel balls. We've seen those before. See this review of Maple Trail Mix from last fall. They work pretty well in this mix, too.

Yogurt-covered raisins. Self-explanatory. They function as the sweetest elements in the mix. I just wish there were more of them. Also, I'm not sure if yogurt-covered raisins can ever be called "rustic." 

"Pumpkin seed kernels." So...basically just pumpkin seeds, AKA pepitas. They're salty and crunchy and they congregate on the bottom of the bag. They might want to consider a "shake well" warning on the label, because as is, the second half of the bag will be significantly seedier and saltier than the first half. No biggie.

It's hard to get all of the constituent ingredients in one bite. When you do, it's definitely cinnamony, salty, and sweet—and vaguely pumpkin spice-esque. It's not bad, but it's not really one of my favorites, either. If we ever buy it again it'll be because the wife wants another bag next fall. 

The ingredients list for this product is a doozy. Here's a link in case you want read that or the nutrition info.

I give this trail mix 7 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Archer Farms Non-Dairy Vanilla Cake & Cookie Dough Frozen Dessert

Just as I suspected, THIS is a flavor I can get behind.

There's an airy, subtle quality to the almond milk that they use here that lends itself to lighter, vanilla-esque flavors, in my humble opinion. After trying the peanut butter & chocolate variety last month, I projected that I'd be far more into a vanilla cake type flavor than the peanut butter one, despite my affinity for most things peanut buttery. My suspicions were correct.

There's still a completely unnecessary "fudge swirl" element in this non-dairy frozen dessert that I find completely uncalled for and superfluous. I'd have given this product a near-perfect score if not for that particular ingredient.

I might also ask for even more cookie dough and cake pieces, because they worked beautifully in this mix. The "vanilla cake batter flavored" pseudo-ice cream was delish. It's like almond milk was invented just to be the base of this flavor. The cookie and cake pieces worked perfectly, too. They're just sweet and simple and slightly chewy.

Chocolate's great and all, and there are tons of desserts it should be included in, but this just isn't one of them if you ask me. The richness of chocolate just throws off the balance of all the lighter flavors. And there's just so much of it! You can see in the picture above how massive and thick the "ribbon" of fudge actually is. Perhaps a quarter that amount of chocolate would have sufficed.

But still, this non-dairy frozen dessert is scrumptious and worth a purchase or two even if you're not vegan or lactose intolerant. If you like ice cream—particularly vanilla-based ice creams with cookie dough—you're probably not gonna hate this. It's very refreshing, perfect for beating the heat on a hot summer day, and the sweetness is great for a pick-me-up. I will absolutely buy this flavor again, though perhaps after trying even more of these non-dairy ice cream flavors.

I give this non-dairy frozen dessert 8 out of 10 stars.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Archer Farms Non-Dairy Peanut Butter & Chocolate Frozen Dessert

"Best non dairy ice cream hands down." "Better than Ben & Jerry's." "Amazing." "The best vegan ice cream by far."

These are the kinds of things I've been hearing about these not-so-new-anymore non-dairy ice creams from Archer Farms...on social media, in reviews, and by word of mouth. To tell you the truth, I don't think I've heard a single negative thing about them. And I've been trying to procure a pint for quite while now, but we've either not been anywhere close to a Target during our travels, or the Target stores nearest to us were sold out of the products in question. After months of anticipation, I FINALLY found some at a Target store only 15 minutes away from our campground near Rapid City, SD. All that to hopes were exceedingly high going into this.

That's never a good thing—to have any expectations, let alone lofty ones that can never be met in real life.

Now don't get me wrong, this product isn't bad by any means. And I will be seeking out all of the other AF non-dairy flavors to review them individually. But as a non-vegan, I don't think this particular flavor works as well with almond milk as it does with dairy milk. The base of the ice cream here is significantly thinner than that of traditional ice cream. A bad thing? No, not necessarily. I just think both peanut butter and chocolate lend themselves to dairy milk, personally.

Note: this was the only flavor left at the Target I visited. Not a single pint of ANY of the other non-dairy flavors were left. Based on what I know now, I really think this almond milk base might lend itself to vanilla bean or vanilla cake and cookie dough a little better than something as rich as peanut butter and chocolate.

Again, I'm NOT hating here. This is some very good ice, sorry: frozen dessert. As far as this sort of thing goes, it doesn't get a whole lot better, although I would never declare this better than B&J's vegan offerings...not this flavor, anyway. We've even seen non-dairy ice cream from Trader Joe's that I'd prefer over this particular product.

Would I buy this flavor again? Sure, if it's the only one on the shelves again. But I'm gonna make every effort to try those other offerings before I come back to this one. $3.59 for the pint.

I give this flavor 7 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Simply Balanced Organic Vanilla Bean Granola

Kind. Quaker. Nature Valley. Bear Naked. Even Archer Farms. There are a lot of granola brands out there these days. So what sets this one apart from the pack, other than Target's "Simply Balanced" moniker?

Not much. The ingredients here are mostly organic, which can't hurt. But flavor-wise, there's not really anything to set this above and beyond the myriad choices of vanilla-flavored granola gracing the shelves of Target and every other department and grocery store in America.

In a blind taste test, I doubt I could tell this apart from any Archer Farms brand selection from the very same shelf at Target. If anything, I think I might prefer the AF flavors I've had. But again, that certified organic label counts for something.

My wife's preferred granola has been Bear Naked for a while. That particular brand, too, was available on the very same shelf as this product at the last Target we visited. Although it's non-GMO, Bear Naked's version isn't necessarily certified organic.

The wife definitely prefers the taste of Bear Naked to this product for reasons she can't quite put her finger on. At first she said there might be an aftertaste here, but immediately took that assertion back. Then she said there might be a hint of something chemical-tasting in here. Odd, considering there are only a few non-organic ingredients. Perhaps it's the "mixed tocopherols"? Who knows?

Personally, I just taste another random vanilla-esque granola product. They tell me it's organic, so I believe them. I won't score it much higher or lower than any other vanilla granola we've looked at here or anywhere else.

While Bear Naked might collectively get 8 stars from the wifey and me, this product will score just slightly lower.

I give this granola 7 out of 10 stars.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Simply Balanced Organic Nacho Flavored Corn Tortilla Chips

We're finally staying close enough to a Target that I'd be okay with purchasing the Archer Farms non-dairy ice cream people have been raving about without fear of it totally melting on the drive back to the campground, and wouldn't you know it: they're totally sold out. Every flavor! Tons of Ben & Jerry's non-dairy at this Target near Olympia, Washington—but not a single pint of the Archer Farms brand. The universe hates me.

Oh well. Looks like a review of Archer Farms Doritos are in order. Er, Simply Balanced Doritos. Wait. Aren't Simply Balanced products, like, healthier than Archer Farms?

Well, you know, even actual Doritos have an organic version now. Healthy Doritos. I'm actually a fan of them. That's I guess what these are: organic, non-GMO Doritos. But Target brand. There's still sodium and all that stuff, but I certainly feel better eating an organic high-sodium diet. Not really. But hey, we're all gonna die anyway. So much for reducing my salt intake.

They're nice and rigid. Thick. Crunchy. Great for dipping. Even the heartiest salsas won't compromise the structural integrity of these tortilla chips.

Flavor-wise, they're similar to Doritos or other nacho cheese-flavored tortilla chips, but I think these might be a little less heavy on the cheese in favor of a more corny taste. If you like the taste of corn like I do, then that's a good thing. There's still enough orange powder to stain your fingers, but that's to be expected. They're not very spicy at all, however, that can be remedied with the salsa of your choice...obviously.

$2.99 for the bag. Pretty decent purchase, although you can often find the organic Doritos on sale for less than $3 in typical grocery stores. Surprised this product didn't come with a resealable bag. I guess they expect you'll eat them all before they go stale. That's a reasonable assumption. 

I give these Simply Balanced Tortilla Chips 8 out of 10 stars.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Simply Balanced Cucumber Mint Sparkling Water

Water? Why in the world would I review water when I haven't even looked at those vegan ice creams from Archer Farms?

Oddly, we're never staying close enough to a Target store. I'm always afraid the ice cream will melt completely before we get back to our campground. Water is already melted. It might pick up a little plastic flavor from the bottle in the hot sun, but at least it won't leak out of its container.

Anyway, on to the review. Plenty of carbonation, no calories, no fat, no sodium...all things I love. When it's ice cold, cucumber water can be very refreshing. They serve it in fancy waiting rooms. Just a few slices of cucumber and a sprig or two of mint can turn boring old water into a gourmet affair.

That's what they're going for here. I'd say it's a moderate success IF you like the flavors of cucumber and mint. You can taste both, especially the mint. If anything, I would have erred the product toward less mint, more cucumber, but that's just me. Mint can be refreshing, but it can also be very annoying if you aren't wanting a bunch of it.

Some might think consuming this beverage is a bit like drinking mouthwash. It's definitely more subtle than an actual mouth rinse flavor, but if you're not craving a blast of mint, it could be a little off-putting. I'd be happy to drink this if I were super hot or thirsty, but in general, I'd prefer one of the fruit flavors.

Cucumber by itself might be a little better for general thirst quenching purposes.

I give this sparkling water 6 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Archer Farms Toasted Coconut Trail Mix

When you're hiking around in the desert, you're obviously going to crave one thing in particular: water. That goes for times when the desert isn't even that hot. It's just dry. Even when it rains, the air is drier than the climates that I'm used to.

But once that immediate need for water is met, I, personally, get a craving for some snacks. This trail mix really hits the spot. It's not super salty, which is good. I mean, I'm trying to cut back on salt since I might have high blood pressure and seeing some family members have strokes and other health concerns makes me want to avoid those trials later in life if I can.

That said, I must admit this trail mix isn't super healthy in the sugar department. There's a good bit of added sugar, and it's quite sweet.

For that reason, it doesn't take much to satisfy an immediate case of low blood sugar or a minor sweetness craving. Both the wife and I really enjoy this trail mix, but we've been nursing the bag for well over a week now. It just doesn't take much of it to satisfy our snacky sweet-tooths.

The coconut cashews are the base of the mix. They're sweet, coconutty, and have all the deliciousness of regular whole cashews. There are plenty of coconut chips and almonds, which help temper the sweetness of the mix. The dried fruit is also sweet, and it furthers the tropical vibe to the mix.

The overall flavor is very complex, but the main essence is, as the title would suggest, very reminiscent of toasted coconut. The nutty and fruity flavors give it something even more special. They actually import the coconut from Sri Lanka and the mango from Thailand. It makes the product all the more exotic, I suppose, though certain consumers might wonder why we couldn't source these fruits from our own continent for carbon footprint reasons, if not our own country, for "America first" type reasons. I won't get too political on this blog, since I don't in general, but seeing such notes on product packaging does make one raise an eyebrow once in a while.

Archer Farms/Target might have relied more on the natural sweetness of the fruits and coconut and added less sugar to this mix. I think it still would have been quite satisfying. As is, this is still a very tasty, if perhaps a bit desserty, trail mix.

Another winning snack from Archer Farms. $4.99 for the bag. We definitely would consider buying this one again.

I give this trail mix 8 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Archer Farms Bunny Kisses

I wasn't aware that bunnies gave kisses. 

I mean, dogs will lick your face, and we call them "dog kisses." I suppose bunnies might wiggle their noses next to your nose, akin to an "Eskimo kiss," but when done by a rabbit, we could call those "bunny kisses." 

Is "Eskimo kiss" considered culturally insensitive these days? If so, just pretend I said "Inuit kiss." If we're still not there, then let's go with "display of affection by indigenous northern circumpolar people."

Ahem, back to the bunnies. I absolutely love animals, but I must say, bunnies just don't do it for me. I mean, they're super cute, but when compared to a dog, or even a cat, there's a serious dearth of personality there, at least in my experience. Maybe I've just been around particularly vacuous bunnies in my life. Not sure.

Likewise, these bunny kisses are cute—or, well, perhaps "visually appealing" works better here—but the food inside is a little disappointing if you ask me. 

There's an allure to the packaging, for sure. It's Eastery. Laden with pastels, pretty fonts, and a resealable bag, the presentation game is well-played. The colorful candy bits are fun and I'm a big fan of white chocolate.

However, by the time I opened the bag, most of the candy bits had fallen from the corn and were swimming around at the bottom of the bag. I thought the white chocolate and caramel clashed with each other a bit. I got a second opinion from my wife, and she agreed. We both wish they'd been coated in caramel OR white chocolate, but not both. I would have gone with white chocolate myself, but Sonia said she'd happily take either. Together, they just don't work somehow.

It's still a sweet, salty vernal treat, and it doesn't taste terrible. It's fun to eat by virtue of its festive-ness and joviality factor. I would have simply left out the caramel and called it "candy corn." Oh wait. That's already a thing. "Candied corn"? "Popcorn candy"? Yeah, either of those would work.

These Bunny Kisses get 6 out of 10 stars from me.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Archer Farms Roasted Pepitas

Pepitas. Pumpkin seeds.

They're not much to look at. They're almost like little baby stinkbugs. But they don't taste half bad. And they're great for protein and fiber. Sure, they've got some fat, too. But it's that good fat that we've heard so much about.

These pepitas come in a handy resealable bag and they're covered in sea salt. They taste pretty fresh straight out of the bag, and they last a long time by virtue of the ziplock and the plentiful salt. Our bag has a freshness date of July 28, 2019. So we're still in the "best by" zone, even though we bought these during the fall—I wanna say October. They've been in our RV pantry drawer ever since, and probably opened for at least half of that time.

Apparently, these are just a seasonal item. They aren't available in stores or online at this point. So I guess this review will come in handy when you're shopping this coming fall in about seven or eight months. I'm assuming Target will bring them back.

If you've ever taken a pumpkin and tried to roast the seeds yourself, you'll know that they usually have a white-ish shell on the outside. It's perfectly edible, but the good part is the seed kernel, which is all you're getting here. I'm not sure if they have a machine that can take off those outer shells or what, but it's incredibly annoying to do it by hand. Yet more convenience with this product. Yay!

Not much to complain about here, but it's also not earth-shatteringly different for any reason, either. There's still some seeds in the bag after nearly 5 months, so this isn't my favorite snack of all time, but I'd consider buying them again if I ever got a hankering.

I give this bag o' seeds 7 out of 10 stars.

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