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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Wondershop Peppermint Hot Cocoa Indulgent Trail Mix

It must be Christmas time, because we have yet another indulgent trail mix from the Wondershop at Target. This time it's peppermint hot cocoa flavored. Oddly enough, it actually tastes like hot cocoa. Well, some pieces do, anyway—particularly the "cocoa dusted almonds." 

Let's break this mix down like we do here, piece by piece, ingredient by ingredient.

I've already mentioned the cocoa dusted almonds, so let's start there. The flavor of almonds with a little cocoa is a winning combo. The cocoa powder isn't chalky or overbearing. It doesn't make me want to cough, as other "dusting" powders have in the past. They're just nice whole almonds of a pretty good size, and they bring a hot cocoa vibe courtesy of the tasty coating on their outsides.

There are also "sweet creme almonds." That's one of the best things about this mix: it's chock full o' almonds. If the cocoa almonds represent the hot cocoa powder, then these are the "milk." They are indeed sweet and creamy, and they balance out the richness of the cocoa elements.

"White chocolate peppermint pretzel balls." If you're down with white chocolate and peppermint, in the manner of peppermint bark, then you'll probably like these minty, sweet, salty little spheres. They didn't go over the top with peppermint flavor, which I'm thankful for. The good news for mint-haters is that these are the only elements in the mixture that taste like peppermint, and they're pretty easy to avoid if you're not into them. If you do like them, they blend very well with all the other ingredients.

The "chocolate chunks" are tasty little morsels of dark chocolate. They're not too bitter, but they add a bit of complexity to the overall chocolatey essence of the trail mix.

The "white chocolate marshmallow bits" are sweet and crunchy. We saw a peppermint version in the gingerbread village trail mix, but these are just sugary, not minty. I still don't understand why something named after marshmallows would be crunchy, but I like these particular elements better without the mint flavor.

All in all, this Wondershop Peppermint Hot Cocoa Indulgent Trail Mix is one of the strongest holiday mixes I've seen, from Target or anywhere else. People who absolutely love peppermint might be a tad disappointed that it's not more pepperminty, but I think it's got a great balance of flavors.

I give this trail mix 8 out of 10 stars.

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.

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