December 2010

Last Minute Superstar: Jell-O No Bake Cheesecake

You know the scenario all too well.  For whatever reason, you need to pull a dessert out of your - ahem - "pantry" - at the last minute.  But you have neither the interest, nor the time, nor the inclination to make it yourself.  Maybe it's too late to go buy a proper bakery dessert; maybe that would be an inappropriate contribution; or maybe you just don't care.

Enter the Jell-O No Bake Cheesecake.

For the princely sum of about $4 plus 2 T sugar, 5 T margarine, and 1.5 C milk, you can have "homemade" cheesecake ready to go.  It takes about five minutes to assemble.  Maybe 10 if you spend a lot of time huffing and sighing in an exasperated fashion and rolling your eyes at how annoying it is to be tapped for a last-minute dessert.

Pop-Tarts: The Least Healthy Breakfast

Why are Pop-Tarts even considered a breakfast in the first place?  Everything about this says it's a dessert.  But you heat them in the toaster, the way you do for toast, and you eat toast for breakfast.  Apparently food is commutative, so if A = B and B = C then A = C as well.  Who knew?

Pop-Tarts are a real guilty pleasure.  At 180 calories per tart (and only one tart per serving… but two tarts per foil packet) calorically these pack a real punch. 

I find that most people prefer either the fruit Pop-Tarts or the spicy/chocolate-y ones.  Few people prefer both.  And everyone has their favorite flavor, reluctant though they may be to admit it in public.


Pocky may well be one of the world's favorite candies, if measured by enthusiasm.  It's probably also the #1 most-recognized non-American food in America. 

Americans (you may have noticed) tend to be a little bit blind to the rest of the world.  But everyone loves Pocky!  Even the Safeway grocery stores in my rural county carry Pocky in their "Asian food" section.  And if that isn't a sign that a food has become thoroughly absorbed by American culture, I don't know what is.

Marzipan Pig

I first heard about the "marzipan pig" in James Blaylock's novel "The Last Coin," which has a funny pig theme running through it.  I can't even remember the context, but the deal was that a marzipan pig was a special Christmas treat.

Marzipan is considered a Christmas treat, although at the time I read "The Last Coin" in 1990 or so, I'm not sure I had ever had marzipan.  I may not even have really known what it was.  But I managed to track it down, and every year since then I have bought myself a marzipan pig every Christmas season. 

Brach's Christmas Nougats Mix

Surprise!  It's a Christmas candy that looks pretty, but tastes terrible! 

I'm coming to understand that Christmas is not, despite what I have always believed, a great holiday for candy.  This is most likely a hold-over from childhood, when Christmas could mean anything from a "Life Savers book" to a giant plastic candy cane filled with Sixlets.

I always thought of these particular candies as taffy.  So I was a little surprised to see that the bag calls it "nougats."  I have to confess, I have only the flimsiest grasp on what "nougat" is.  Despite being (as you might have noticed) kind of "into" candy.  (Can I use more "scare quotes" in one "paragraph"?  Let's see!)

ACTUAL Earthworm Cake

Earlier this week I went to a holiday party where we ended up discussing old family cookbooks.  The woman sitting next to me mentioned that her grandmother's cookbook from the 1920s contained a recipe for "Earthworm Cake." 

Not the popular kid's confection of today, which is made with crushed Oreos and gummy worms.  We're talking about a cake recipe which contains (as she recalled) a cup of fresh earthworms, purged and pulverized.

I'm sorry.

New "All Natural" Necco Wafers

The New England Candy Company (NECCO) recently introduced an all-natural version of their classic Necco wafers.  (If I had been clever, I would have driven around town until I found a store selling the original version, so that I could compare the two versions.)

Fellow blogger msarko once described Necco wafers as "a candy that tastes like laundry detergent."  Honestly… he's not wrong.  Although I have always thought of them as tasting like Tums.  (Or maybe it's Tums that taste like Necco wafers?  Chicken; egg.  A puzzle for the ages.)

All-natural Necco wafers are made without the artificial colors and flavorings of the original.  When I tore open the package, I found the first problem with all-natural Neccos: their colors are almost indistinguishable from each other.  Say what you will about the dusty hockey pucks of original Neccos; at least you can tell black from orange. 

Figgy Pudding

Before I went to England the first time, my entire knowledge of Figgy Pudding was based on the Christmas carol:

We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin;
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some, so bring some out here