REVIEW: Halo Top’s Pumpkin Pie

A trend in the food world begins to transcend trendiness and become solidified when it grows beyond a core set of styles, flavors, or offerings, and transitions into limited time seasonal versions of their product. Unleashing smaller scale season-based varieties displays confidence in a brand and a trust that consumers will flock to something that may not have as much mass appeal as a standard. Welcome to the upper-echelon of the grocery ice cream game, Halo Top. While many of the company’s most recent flavors have yet to make it to the Bay Area, Halo’s first limited time flavor popped up at Target just to keep my protein hungry basic tastebuds entertained, with Pumpkin Pie.

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As is the case with all high protein light ice cream’s, this stuff freezes hard and needs a good amount of time to temper on the counter, but this one tempered faster than almost every other Halo flavor I’ve had (nearly all of them). Once the ice cream gets appropriately soft it is very impressive how smooth, creamy, and “real” ice cream-like it is. In fact, the texture is so on point that I would have never guessed it to be a light ice cream, as the essence is much truer to the real deal than many gummy slow churned products.

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The flavor is equally impressive, with a very yammy pumpkin-forward profile that tastes closer to actual pumpkin pie filling than most pumpkin ice cream’s on the market. The sweetness is also perfectly on point. It’s sharp and sugary but not so much that it washes away the authentic pumpkin flavor, and is accented nicely by soft hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. As a whole the taste is more of a vegetal vanilla than it is spicy, but there’s enough spice there to keep it interesting and elevate the natural notes of the squash.

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Mix-in-wise this is also one of Halo’s more legit releases, with an impressively ample amount of pie crust throughout the entire pint. The pieces are small but aplenty, with a soft, bready, slightly buttery flavor that 100% register pie crust. The most intriguing part of Halo’s execution here is that nearly every bite tastes like a good forkful of pumpkin pie being equally represented by pumpkin, mellow spice, crust, and creamy vanilla undertones to mimic the role of whipped cream.

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This flavor is not only good for Halo Top or light protein ice creams, but for all pumpkin pie ice creams in general. No, it doesn’t have the rich fatty depth of Graeter’s or Ben & Jerrys, or the big spicy pop of Talenti, but it has an incredibly accurate and delicious pumpkin flavor that nails the nostalgic taste of diggin’ in on Thanksgiving day, and I enjoyed every bite.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: Target ($5.99)
Quick Nutrition: 1/2 cup (70g) – 90 cal – 3g fat – 1g sat fat – 40mg cholesterol – 130mg sodium – 3g fiber – 7g sugar – 5g sugar alcohol – 5g protein

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REVIEW: Little Debbie Pumpkin Spice Rolls

Yule logs are a traditional Christmas time dessert made of rolled up cake and icing, popular in Switzerland, Belgium, France, and you guessed it – in mini junk food size at gas stations all across America. The most common junky American version is the Ho Ho, and not far behind are Little Debbie’s smaller, and in my opinion slightly less delicious, Swiss Rolls. But unlike Hostess, Miss Debbie is a rather creative gal when it comes to her cellophane logs, and beefs them up in larger size for Zebra Rolls and regular seasonal themed editions. Although it’s not quite Christmas time yet, in fact it isn’t even officially autumn, I can’t think of many better additions to the scrumptious cake logs than a little spice, and I’ve got just that with Little Debbie’s Pumpkin Spice Rolls.

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Off the jump these plump pumpkin rolls are positively bursting with cream filling. It might be because there’s no outer coating to conceal what awaits when normally biting in, but just removing the roll from its wrapper the cream is begging to be devoured. The smell is only subtly spicy, with just some soft cinnamon and vanilla enticing my nostrils, but they look real pretty with their best soft  orange glow and a swirly drizzled top for bedazzlement.

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There’s not a whole lot of pumpkin flair in the actual flavor of the roll, but there’s much more depth than what Debbie usually offers, and a whole lot more balance than what you typically get with quick-fix baked goods. The normally painfully sweet cream filling, which, as it looked, is incredibly ample, is given its chance to shine admirably against the soft cinnamon in the batter. The absence of coating also let’s the cream feel more impactful, as the soft cake isn’t hindered by a waxy layer and the cream brings all the squishy-ness I want from such a confection.

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While I’m generally a fan of more aggressively spiced things, I actually appreciate the softness of the cinnamon flavor in these rolls. Sure, there are some better iterations of cheap pumpkin cakes, but the massive amount of cream and super soft moist-ness reeled me in and kept me excited enough to want to eat more. They remind me more of a mellow Thanksgiving afternoon than a spooky October evening, and surprisingly, I’m quite okay with that.

Rating: 8.5/10
Found at: Target ($1.99)
Quick Nutrition: 1 roll – 260 cal – 11g fat – 5g sat fat – 130mg sodium – 39g carb – 26g sugar – 1g protein

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REVIEW: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios

There are some companies that beat around the pumpkin plant when it comes to their spicy autumn products, but let me assure you, Pumpkin Spice Cheerios is not one of them. Picking them up in the store I could smell the cloves through the box, and at the cash register I had to check myself to see if I was buying a box of cereal or a box of cigarettes. For the spicy earthy aroma of cloves to permeate not only the plastic bag, but the cardboard, and then float the three feet from my hand to nose, is insanely impressive, and General Mills deserves a resounding slow clap for their pumpkin prowess.

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It’s no surprise that opening the actual bag reveals a wash of fragrant spicy autumnal goodness on top of earthy whole grains. There’s a very pleasant, squashy pumpkin presence in the mix that when I sniff deep with my eyes closed I can envision hay stacks at the pumpkin patch.

The flavor starts with Cheerios’ signature hearty oat-y crunch and gradually evolves into a smooth and sweet pumpkin with notes of honey, reminiscent of its big Honey Nut brother, before finishing strongly with pronounced cloves, cinnamon, and a touch of nutmeg. The clove flavor is intense, but it isn’t over the top, and as with most cereals the nose is a touch more dramatic than the actual bite.

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In milk, as expected, the clove-leaning flavor drops down a bit, and the creamy pumpkin honey notes are amplified, but the flavor overall is incredibly well-rounded with spicy cinnamon delight. The moisture awakens the bouquet of fall spices and ties them together with a beautiful orange bow, making for a bowl that should be agreeable to most palates and not just fiends like myself. Cheerios are some of the most classic in the game when it comes to a quick morning fix, and their ability to hold up to milk is proven and no different here. They work perfectly when submerged in the cold creamy stuff and cradle my spoon like a cozy autumn scarf in the most satisfying way.

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Whether you’re a certified cinna-slut spice junky, or just want a fresh spin on your breakfast cereal, this is one seasonal release that’s worth your time, and will get you in the proper mood for carving that jack-o-lantern in, ya know…six weeks.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: Target ($2.99)
Quick Nutrition: 3/4 cup – 110 cal – 2g fat – 120mg sodium – 22g carb – 2g fiber – 8g sugar – 2g protein

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