Influenster Product Review: Weight Watcher’s Ice Cream

Weight Watchers GIANT Chocolate Cookies & Cream Bars
Weight Watchers GIANT Chocolate Cookies & Cream Bars

Summer and ice cream go together, it’s as simple as that.  Earlier this summer, I received an Influenster VoxBox with two coupons worth $4 each to try Weight Watcher’s Ice Cream.  Honestly, I was slightly surprised: I knew about their frozen meals and other food products, but I didn’t know they did ice cream.  I am calorie-conscious, so this seemed like it might work well.  I had tried other brands of reduced-calorie ice creams and usually found them to have an odd flavor or poor texture, but I was willing to give these a try.  Hey, free ice cream!

I went to the grocery store and purchased two different flavors: the English Toffee Crunch bars and the Snack Size Vanilla Fudge Swirl Ice Cream Cones (neither pictured).  The snack-sized cones were rather small and didn’t last very long!  I found that they were actually pretty good–better than I expected.  The consistency was creamy and soft, probably a little closer to soft-serve than some ice creams.  The flavor was fine and the chocolate syrup actually tasted like chocolate, not fake chocolate.  There’s a difference.   The English Toffee bars were also a bit surprising: I really only expected the toffee bits in the crunchy chocolate shell, but the ice cream itself was toffee-flavored as well.

These were so good I went back to the store and bought two more packages out of my own pocket: another box of the English Toffee bars, and the Chocolate Cookies & Cream bars (pictured above).  I don’t usually go for chocolate ice cream.  Remember those ice cream bars when you were a kid that had the brown-and-white cookie crumb speckles on them?  Or strawberry pink-and-white?  I loved those, and these made me think back to those and hope that they’d be similar.  I was a little disappointed since the cookie crust was finer and less crunchy than the old-fashioned bars, but they’re still very tasty and a great summer treat.  They’re just large enough to satisfy a craving and make you feel not-deprived.

Honestly, I’m seriously considering buying round 3 of these: they have a cherry-chocolate variety that I still want to try.

They’re not going to get me to give up my Häagen-Dazs (ever), but I’d really like to see scoopable ice cream, too.  It’s great with fresh fruit.

Full disclosure: I received these products complimentary for testing purposes.

Plated Meal: Peruvian Lomo Saltado Steak Stir-Fry with Potatoes & Mexican Hot Chocolate Pudding

We had an issue.  There were too many tasty meals on Plated.com this week, so we had a midweek delivery!  Not common for us.

The Ingredients

The Cooking

There were a lot of vegetables to cut up.  The potatoes were fairly small and didn’t take long, but those bell peppers were HUGE!  The potatoes were boiled first, then stir-fried with the other vegetables, which was interesting-I’ve never stir-fried potatoes before.  The quantity of vegetables was such that it barely fit (heaping) in my largest skillet.  If I were going to do this again (and I will), I’d start the bell pepper before the rest, as it took long enough to cook that the onions were limp by the time the peppers were tender.

Mistakes in the Kitchen

I had two issues with the dessert.  First, it required AN EGG, and we were completely out of eggs.  Oops.  After my roommate graciously ummm… volunteered was voluntold to pick up some eggs, I started to prep the pudding.  The instructions clearly stated to add an egg YOLK to the milk.  Perhaps I should have read the instructions because I added the whole egg and whisked it in before I realized my error.  Of course, although I now had more eggs, I did not have more milk.  This dessert was doomed.  I did substitute my Mexican vanilla, which was great in this recipe, and I’d do it again.  When I added the flour and other dry ingredients though, I was not able to get a smooth texture despite continuous (and vigorous) whisking.  It also thickened significantly faster than the directions suggested, which might have been because of the egg whites <ahem>.

The Results

The Peruvian Steak dish was really good!  It had a more subtle and well-blended flavor than we expected, but needed a touch more pepper.  I hadn’t added any because I wasn’t sure how spicy that aji amarillo paste was going to be.  The textures were interesting, but again, I would have added ingredients in a different order so that the onions could have been less limp.  The potatoes, too, ended up a bit more soggy/soft than I would have liked.  The cilantro was actually fantastic in this dish: it gave it a bright, fresh note that helped a more stew-like dish transition to spring.  I might actually consider a dash of lime juice in the future.  Overall, we all rated this a solid four stars out of five.

Peruvian Steak Stir-Fry
Peruvian Steak Stir-Fry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mexican Hot Chocolate pudding did not have a great texture, to be honest.  I would compare the lumpiness to tapioca pudding.  The flavor, however, was a subtly spicy rich milk chocolate that we all loved!  The blend of cinnamon and chili powder didn’t make it spicy-hot, but it added depth and complexity.  This led to a lengthy discussion of the merits of instant pudding mixes.  This might have been the first non-mix pudding that I’ve made (I don’t count flan/custard as pudding per se).  It was quite easy to prepare and I really look forward to trying this again (without the egg white)!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Pudding
Mexican Hot Chocolate Pudding

Plated Meal: Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage, Brown Butter, and Sage

The Ingredients

The Cooking

This recipe was strikingly simple, especially since it had so few ingredients.  Despite that, it took the full 30-40 minutes described to finish the dish.  Here’s why: boiling a pot of water takes forever.  Cooking the pasta, only 10 minutes.  Adding the pasta water to the dish to create a sauce–the instructions said 1 Tbsp at a time.  Since I had a double batch, that meant adding 32 Tbsp, which takes quite a while.  In all honesty, I gave up and started splashing in small amounts after a few additions.

The Results

This was SO good, and SO easy, we will definitely be doing it again. Rave reviews all the way around!

 

 

 

For Tatyana Lobova… Cream of Tartar!

I just got home from my departmental Christmas party.  It was fun!  One of the strange questions I got was “what is Cream of Tartar and what is it for?”

Yes.  I have this in my spice cabinet.  Chemically, it  is potassium bitartrate:

Image from Wikipedia entry Potassium bitartrate
Image from Wikipedia entry Potassium bitartrate

 

 

 

 

From the chemical structure, you can see a three half OH groups (the half is the O).   The bitartrate ion shown here is therefore fairly alkaline.  When you throw this molecule into water, those 3 hydrogens pop right off (apparently), forming H+ ions.  That makes it an acid, and according to the illustrious Wikipedia entry, it creates a pH of about 3.557 in water.  Thus, tartrate and tartaric acid form a conjugate acid/base pair.

Some uses for cream of tartar in cooking:

  • Often used in meringue.  This helps to stabilize the egg whites as they foam during beating.  Note that Oregon State University has the pH of egg whites listed as about an 8, so they’re naturally alkaline.  Adding the cream of tartar shifts the pH and causes the egg proteins (albumin, mostly) to denature (solidify, in this case), so you get stiffer peaks that last longer.  You could get the same effect with vinegar or lemon juice, but that wouldn’t taste very good.
  • Also used in creating icing and smooth sugar solutions.  This chemically helps keep the sugar from forming regular crystals and solidifying.  It’s a geometry thing.
  • Ingredient in baking powder: the third ingredient of baking powder along with baking soda and corn starch.  Kind of makes you wonder why recipes call for both–usually, that has to do with pH again.  Baking soda neutralizes acids, including cream of tartar, when they’re mixed in liquid form (not as much happens in the dry, crystalline powder forms).
  • Leavening: this means it’s an ingredient that can contribute to rising/fluffiness.  Did you ever make a vinegar and baking soda volcano as a kid?  It’s the same chemistry here: acid + base = bubbles!  Those bubbles cause breads and other baked goods to rise without using yeast.  Unleavened breads usually refer to ones made without yeast, although some may still use these chemical leaveners (pita is a good example).
  • Sometimes used in whipped cream: what a waste!  Whipped cream is best enjoyed fresh.  However, it will denature milk proteins just as well as it will egg proteins.

 

Plated meal: Italian Sausage Burgers with Provolone and Broccoli Rabe

The Ingredients

The Intermediate WHOOPS

We decided to put off making this from our normal Sunday until Wednesday night.  That way, we didn’t have to deal with what’s for dinner before Thanksgiving, and we didn’t have to do takeout.  Unfortunately, the ciabatta didn’t last that long; they had moldy spots by Wednesday night:

I actually wasn’t too upset.  I posted this online and asked whether I should make more from scratch, or brave the store and buy more.  Then I chose option C: have roommate brave the store and buy more en route home from work!  $5 fix.  Easy peasy (for me, not for poor roommate).

The Results

These sausage burgers were HUGE. They didn’t’ shrink with cooking much if at all, and they were so filling that halfway through you felt like you ate a brick.  A very, very tasty brick.  Completely stuffed.  I finished mine only because I’d only had a bagel that morning… and I still thought I might explode!  The broccoli rabe was interesting.  I’d never had it before.  Next time I’d trim the ends a bit so that it’s more tender, and I might season it differently (more).  It has a slightly bitter flavor that was bright and refreshing next to the sweet Italian sausage, but I think I’m the only one who liked it.  LEFTOVERS!

Plated meal: Roasted Quail with Balsamic Quince and Smashed Potatoes

This last week we did our Plated meal rather late.  We spotted this meal on Plated.com and we all drooled.  I mean, QUAIL!  Come on!  But the weekend it came was right after I had surgery and I wasn’t up to cooking, so we stored it and waited until the next weekend.  In addition, one of our household was traveling and wasn’t home for Sunday night dinner, so we postponed to Monday night.

The Results

It’s quail. It was delicious, of course!  In al seriousness, though, the mustard and rosemary on the quail actually overpowered the flavor of the little birds somewhat.  I’ve only tried working with quince one other time and I didn’t like it then.  These had about the consistency of apples, but after cooking in the balsamic vinegar, they were surprisingly sweet.  I really enjoyed this particular side dish and would definitely do it again.  The smashed potatoes weren’t really stellar either–they were just plain-tasting potatoes (but I did like them with the rosemary mustard, so that kind of got redistributed quickly as I ate).  Overall, this meal had a huge amount of promise but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  I’d order it again in a heartbeat though (quail!), and just modify the cooking a bit.  Yum!

Plated Meal: Mushroom-Crusted Flatiron Steak with Cauliflower Mash and Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding with Pumpkin Pie Spice

This week from the Plated.com kitchen:

Preparing the cauliflower mash was probably the most labor intensive part of the dinner prep.  I’ve learned from previous experience to boil the heck out of cauliflower and turnips if you plan to make them into mash, so I did.  The veggies and a little butter were all that went into that initially.  If I do this again, I’ll leave the minced chives as just a garnish I think, and I would try to drain the veggies better (the mash was more runny than I prefer but that’s fairly  easy to fix).  Honestly, this was the best cauliflower mash I’ve had, and I think it’s a reasonable substitute for mashed potatoes! Way to get more veggies in!

The steaks were coated with porcini mushroom powder and pan-fried. Two were much thinner and cooked faster, so I ended up with two well-dine (oops) and one medium-rare. They tasted good, but they weren’t our favorite steaks to date.

I also made dinner rolls to go with.

The dessert however looks much more promising than last week’s. I love bread pudding. Chocolate bread pudding sounded really good! The addition of the pumpkin  pie spice is seasonal and smelled amazing when it was cooking… to serve, I topped it with a light dusting of confectioners sugar. I really need to invest in a set of basic ramekins.  For a more “adult” twist… drizzle on some Kahlua for extra YUM!