H-E-B Hijole Cheese Balls and H-E-B Reduced Flavor Intense Cheese Puffs

Sometimes it’s hard to get your family to support your dreams. Your family might dissuade you from flying over the Sahara in a hot air balloon, or opening a refuge for troubled baboons. Luckily for me, my family supports my dream to eat junk food and then write about it. My parents are my champions- this was abundantly clear when my dad presented me with various bags of Texas junk upon my arrival at the homestead.
While the UK excels at meat-flavored carbohydrate-based snacks, the U.S., particularly the Southwestern U.S., excels at cheese-flavored snacks. I’ve noticed that a cornucopia of cheese snacks are available in Texas, and the Texas grocery chain H-E-B’s cup of runneth over.

H-E-B is a cheesy poof innovator. A couple of years ago, I tasted their buffalo blue cheese poofs. I’m not usually a fan of blue cheese, but those poofs are delish, because the buffalo flavor is more pronounced than the blue cheese flavor. (I suspect that real blue cheese flavor is difficult to replicate in a processed cheesy poof). On this trip to Texas, I had the pleasure of trying H-E-B’s Hijole Cheese Balls and their Reduced Sodium Intense Cheese Puffs.
Regarding the latter, while I know it’s healthy to watch salt intake, sometimes watching salt intake has an inverse relationship with general happiness, so my natural inclination is to be wary of reduced sodium junk food.  However, it’s obviously great for people on strict diets. These snacks focus on the rich, buttery flavor of cheese, rather than the savory tang imparted by good ‘ol American sodium. I didn’t mind the buttery flavor, but my family wasn’t enthusiastic about the lack of salt. These puffs were tasty, but not a huge draw.
On the other hand, the Hijole Cheese Balls are muy fantastico (nb- apparently Hijole Cheese Balls translates to Wow Cheese Balls, which is more than appropriate in this case). They combine the lime, cheese, and chili flavors that help make Mexican food delicious. They’re salty, cheesy, and slightly spicy. They have a perfect cheesy poof consistency- not rough enough to grate your palate, but not mushy enough to dissolve in your mouth like one of those biodegradable packing peanuts (I know I’m not the only person who’s been dared to eat one of those peanuts).
I’m sad that the Hijole Cheese Balls aren’t more widely available. Maybe I should import them into the UK…or maybe not, because the British may not be ready for Texas-strength cheesy poof firecrackers.


Walker’s Pops- Melted Cheese & Crispy Bacon

Afternoon doldrums hit the open office.  Listless workers slouch into their chairs, defying ergonomics.  Our protagonist initiates a mental snack calculus.  She already went to Pret A Manger today.  Twice in one day? The employees might become too familiar with her habits.  She thought “what about Starbucks?,” but then realized that the Frappuncino happy hour promotion would likely prove too tempting.  After a moment of reflection, she realized the truest option, the most hewed to her own nature, would be to go to Tesco and get some juuuunnnnkkkk.

And that is the story of how I ended up being reacquainted with my old friend Diet Dr. Pepper and meeting my new friend Walker Pops.

diet dr p

Walker Pops fall into the category of “British crisps designed to taste like meat.”  There are a surprising number of crisps in this category.  These are slightly different because of the “melted cheese” element.  The Pops smell like bacon, and the initial impression is bacony, but that’s followed by a lingering cheese flavor.  I should note that the ingredients do not list a particular type of cheese.  Instead, “melted cheese & crispy bacon seasoning” is the fourth ingredient.  Weirdly enough, they do taste specifically like melted cheese.  Now THAT is science.

I enjoyed these savory meat chips, and I’d eat them again (particularly after a few beers).

In related news, Dr. Pepper just really gets me, you know?  We should hang out more often, even if I have to walk all the way (i.e. 50 feet) down to Tesco to engage his company.  He’s changed his name to Dr. Pepper Zero in the UK.  I’m worried about his self-esteem.

Combos- Pizzeria Pretzel

This isn’t so much a review as it is a tribute.  I love Combos.  I’m trying to refrain from using expletives in this blog, but I need to underscore that I [insert expletive here] love Combos.  They are one of my favorite snacks, and probably my number one snack for car trips.  Maybe that’s why they’re the Official Cheese-Filled Snack of NASCAR.  I have a stockpile of Combos, pictured here:

combos stockpile

I hide this arsenal in a cabinet to keep it away from enemies…and by “enemies,” I mean myself and my appetite.  Although many people think snacks like Combos are designed to withstand nuclear attack, I know this is incorrect.  Combos have a shelf-life, and hiding them in a cabinet isn’t really doing me any good.  I will save a few packages though, because I think they’d make great currency in an emergency barter economy.

combos pizzeria

There are several varieties of Combos, including nacho cheese and pretzel and 7-layer dip.  Right now I’m eating the pizzeria pretzel type.  These flavor names make a lot of promises- 7 layers of dip flavor in one small pretzel cylinder?  An entire cornucopia of pizzeria flavors in a tiny pretzel shell?  How can this be?  Somehow, the snack engineers at Mars make it work.  The pizzeria pretzel flavor doesn’t exactly taste like a pizza, although it’s not supposed to taste exactly like a pizza.  It’s supposed to taste like a combination of a pizza and a pretzel.  It achieves this flavor synergy.

combos pizzeria 1

First, your taste buds encounter a delicious salty pretzel, and then you break through to the tangy cheese filling.  It’s a wonderful combination of taste and texture.  And the nacho cheese and pretzel Combos are even better, in my opinion.  The only bad thing about Combos (other than the saturated fat, blah blah blah), is that they’re so delicious they tempt you to overeat like some sort of pretzel siren.  Then you feel kind of gross. That’s why my stash consists of small bags.  I don’t trust myself.

p.s. I just found out that there are two new sweet flavors of Combos: Sweet & Salty Caramel Creme Pretzel and Vanilla Frosting Pretzel.  Boom.  Mind blown.  But will these become the Official Sugar-Filled Snack of NASCAR?  I feel like there might be some stiff competition for that crown.

Tyrrell’s Furrows- Sea Salt & Vinegar


Oh my, Tyrrell’s.  How bold of you to announce that these chips are ridged for pleasure (seriously- look at the bottom of the package).  I can’t help but review these crisps accordingly.

These piquant potato chips pucker your lips, but the pain is gently abated by the sweet flavor of apples.  They’re sour, salty, and sweet, just like the sea captain love interest in an old-fashioned British novel.

These crisps have given me great pleasure, so much so that I inadvertently finished the bag while writing this review (don’t worry, dear readers, most of them had been eaten during cocktails with guests earlier).  However, despite the saucy slogan, I don’t think the ridges contributed to my happiness.  Rather, it was the perfect balance between salt and vinegar and pleasure and pain.  I mean, um, they’re just really good salt and vinegar chips.  The best I’ve ever had.

I think I need a candy cigarette..

Marmite Rice Cakes and Turkey Slices- A Delcious Snack

I love cold cuts.  I’ll eat any cold cut straight out of its flat plastic container.  Better yet, I’ll nosh on a bag of freshly sliced deli meats.  Add some mustard, and I’m quite content.  I’ve recently discovered something even better- turkey slices on marmite rice cakes.  It’s a perfect savory snack. The marmite rice cakes are full of B vitamins, low in calories, and somewhat filling (ok, slightly more filling than air, but something is better than nothing). The turkey enhances the savory flavor but takes the marmite edge off ever so slightly, as to not diminish the unique flavor, but to complement.*  In other words- nom nom nom.

Marmite’s B vitamin claims have convinced me that eating marmite is like taking a supplement.  I suppose this is slightly ignorant on my part.  However, for the time being, I’m going to stay in my metaphorical cave and continue to eat marmite rice cakes for health.

*Technically speaking, I think that marmite’s savory flavor is “umami,” which is distinct from a salty flavor, and can be slighty bitter and more earthy.  The saltiness of the turkey slices complements the umami of the marmite, because it cuts just a tiny bit of the umami bitterness while maintaining the satisfying savory taste.

Mary’s Gone Crackers- chipotle tomato pretzels

Mary's Pretzels

Just because I love junk food doesn’t mean I can’t also appreciate healthy food.  In fact, I’m a bit of a health nut.  I know this presents a paradox.  If I had to breakdown my eating habits, the ratio of healthy eating to very naughty eating is about 80 to 20, more or less.  I delight in every variety of Combo (although I think we can all agree that the cracker Combos are generally inferior to the pretzel Combos), but I also know my way around any health food store.  “But where are these sea vegetables from?” is a thought I’ve actually processed…multiple times.  Sometimes you want some Icelandic dulse instead of Japanese kombu, amirite?

During today’s venture to the local health food store, I bought some chipotle tomato pretzels.  They’re organic, gluten free, non-gmo, soy free, vegan, and tax deductible.  JK about that last part.  These actually come from ‘Murkha, and I think I recall seeing them in Whole Foods, but I hadn’t tried them before.  They’re pretty, how do you say, earthy.  They’re made with a brown rice, quinoa, flax seed, sesame seed, and chia blend (there are also some biblical-sounding grains in there).  They have a slightly spicy aftertaste, which is just enough to excite your mouth a little (yeah, I know how that sounds).  By themselves, they taste like one would imagine they’d taste- like gluten-free whole grain pretzels with a slightly spicy kick.  However, paired with some houmous and h’oy boy- good stuff.


I really enjoyed the pairing these pretzels with this houmous.  This stuff seemed creamier than normal houmous.  Because it’s plain, but super rich and creamy, it complimented the slightly spicy pretzels.  This pairing also made me feel very full, which is good snack quality.  Now that my hunger is sated, I can get back to sitting in the sun on the couch like a house cat.

Monster Munch- Pickled Onion Flavor

Monster Munch

A bag of Monster Munch has been sitting in a decorative dish on my coffee table for weeks.  I saw ads for Monster Munch on TV, and it was recommended by friends and family.  And yet, I hesitated, fearing that this snack would be so bizarre and uniquely British that it would render other junk foods useless, and diminish the utility of this blog.  For why go on, after international junk food apotheosis?  But then I realized that the sell by date was approaching, so I ate them posthaste.

Why was I so intimidated by Monster Munch?  First of all, the name is a bit weird.  What taste does that name suggest?  Nothing in particular, in my view.  The package notes that there are “huge chunks of pickled onion.”  I was expecting corn snacks with big bits of pickled onion mixed in, like the corn version of a Gibson. They made me feel excited, well, excited and scared.

My first impression was that they’re lighter than I thought (more corn-colored) and they tasted more like salt and vinegar chips and less like pickled onion.  Not that pickled onion is so bad, I just wasn’t sure about a junk food dominated by that flavor.  After a few bites, they break down a bit.  At that point the consistency is pretty perfect- a nice light corn texture complimented with a perfect amount of fat- enough to add richness.  I noticed that these have MSG listed in the ingredients, so that could also be contributing to the sensation of being wrapped up in a velvety snack blanket.

They’re pretty delicious.  However, my one complaint is that they cut up the roof of my mouth.  You may recall that I described Wotsits as “the ideal cheesy poof for orderly people with sensitive mouths.”  Well, there may be too much monster in this snack for my delicate little palate.

Doritos for the Weary

The week before last, I fell ill, dear readers, and have slowly transitioned through the various stages of flu or upper respiratory infection. Everyone I encountered seemed to be sick, and this impression deepened each time I ducked to avoid uncovered coughs on public transportation. I thought I was finally rounding the last quarter mile, but then I started to feel new symptoms and a resurgence of old symptoms. A new cold has begun, much to my chagrin. Normally, I try to tackle the first signs of illness with a battery of orange juice and supplements. This tactic failed two weeks ago. So what did I do this time? I did what my body really wanted to do, which was eat almost an entire large bag of Chilli Heatwave Doritos. This is a dominant variety of Dorito here in the UK, where Doritos are made by Walkers under the PepsiCo umbrella. Why am I self-medicating with Doritos? Maybe it’s because I’m Doritos Loco.

A few years ago, when I was working long, stressful hours, I periodically visited my local 7/11 to buy a nacho trifecta- Tostitos, Queso dip, and salsa. I would mix the queso and the salsa together and indulge in nachos.*  Perhaps, as a result of this, and years of snacking au vending machine, my body simply associates nacho chips with stress relief and repair. I don’t know. What I do know now is that delicious, slightly sweet, slightly hot Chilli Heatwave Doritos should not be washed down with orange juice. I think the human body knows it’s not supposed to consume that much of any one color.

Now I’ll go to bed a bit early. If I feel better tomorrow, the credit may be shared with sleep and Doritos dust.

*After a nacho hiatus of a couple months, when I finally went back to 7/11, the clerk asked me where I had been.  I appreciated his concern, while simultaneously recoiling at the frequency of my stress relief nacho purchases.

Happy National Cheetos Day!

Although I have a bit of a cold and I’m a bit sleepy, I am here as your humble junk food servant to celebrate National Cheetos Day.  It would be remiss of me to end the day without reflecting on the deliciousness of Cheetos.  Cheetos have helped me through some long and arduous days.  Best catalyzed with Diet Dr. Pepper, they serve as fuel for concentration and creativity (that is, after you take care of the sticky cheese dust, because you don’t really want that getting stuck in your keyboard.*)  Katy Perry has become the Patron Saint of Hot Cheetos, which many argue are even more delicious than regular Cheetos.  Her influence was apparent when I arrived in London.  I went to a grocery store in Sloane Square and noticed a mountain of Cheetos for sale.  Upon further inspection, I noticed that they were all Hot Cheetos.  I think this is due to Saint Katy’s influence.  Personally, I am an equal opportunity Cheeto Lover.  I must admit, however, that I haven’t yet tried some of the new Cheetos varieties, including Sweetos.  Chester Cheeto should be ashamed of me.  I’ll commit in advance to sampling them the next time I visit the U.S. of A.

I bid you all good night.  May visions of cheesy poofs dance in your heads.

*I’ve noticed that food getting stuck in my keyboard is an issue I’ve addressed in few of my posts.  Do I need a plastic cover that goes over my keyboard?  Should I cover it with saran wrap?  Should I post this question on Quora?

McCoy’s- Flame Grilled Steak


(I took this picture while walking out of a Tesco Express.  Classy)

First of all, I must apologize for being derelict in my junkfood duties.  I’ve been eating junk food, as I am wont to do, but I haven’t haven’t posted my reviews.  My first post-hiatus review is for another meat-flavored snack.  My first impression of McCoy’s Flame Grilled Steak chips was “beef flavored ramen noodles.”  I happen to like beef-flavored ramen noodles, so this wasn’t huge a con.  However, I’m not totally sold on chips coated in that flavor.  One thing about these chips that amused me is that it’s there’s a “supersize” alternative which features more ridges.  I do find the ridges on these chips strangely appealing, as if my mouth recognizes and appreciates their structural integrity.  I don’t know if I’d really derive more pleasure from beef-flavored chips with even bigger ridges.  At that point, I think I’d just eat actual meat.  On a related note, I was thinking of bringing jerky to work as a snack, but then I wondered if people would think I was some sort of paleo lumberjack (not that there’s anything WRONG with that!).  I assume they sell jerky here- it’s probably in the smoked fish area.  I definitely can’t bring smoked fish to work as a snack because I don’t want to be banish’d.  That would be a one-way ticket to office pariah.  Maybe there’s a smoked-fish flavored chip.  I would not be surprised.

In other news, my keyboard greasiness level is out of control.  I need to stop writing and eating at the same time.