REVIEW: Lean Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches Grilled Chicken Jalapeño Cheddar

Lean Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches Grilled Chicken Jalapeno Cheddar Box

I’ve always generally regarded Hot Pockets as the fast and easy food favored by stoners and people who pee into empty Mountain Dew bottles so they don’t have to leave their computer chair and risk missing part of their guild’s raid.

On the other hand, I’ve always regarded Lean Pockets as the fast and easy food favored by cubicle monkeys who don’t really care what they eat during their 30 minute lunch break but would like to at least pretend whatever bland food they cram down their maw is mildly healthy. Added bonus: no utensils required.

Lean Pockets has introduced several different products throughout the years in an attempt to keep your taste buds a little less bored as you sit in the break room trying to ignore the loud smacking sounds coming from the sweaty guy in accounting sitting across from you at the table. There’s Stuffed Quesadillas, Culinary Creations, Seasoned Crusts, and now Pretzel Bread Sandwiches.

From Lean Pockets’ website: “Why dip a soft pretzel when you can stuff it? Premium meats, veggies, and cheese wrapped in warm, soft pretzel bread. Hello, amazing!”

I can’t ever imagine calling any Lean Pockets product “amazing”, but hey. They seem pretty proud of themselves. I won’t burst their bubble until I’ve tried it. I find the stuffing over dipping a soft pretzel angle interesting. I imagine what they’re going for here is something along these lines: “Hey, you like Auntie Anne’s pretzels at the mall, right? Enjoy dipping them in those little cups of sauce? Well, you’re at work, and the mall is too far away, so you’re going to have to settle for this enjoy this amazing Pretzel Bread Sandwich!”

It’s a thin premise, but I’ll go with it. The Pretzel Bread Sandwiches currently come in two flavors: Grilled Chicken Jalapeño Cheddar and Roasted Turkey with Bacon and Reduced Fat Cheese. I went with the former because I’m a tool and I still think I can find a fast or frozen food that actually delivers on the Jalapeño heat. The latter seems kind of all over the place: turkey is always considered the healthy white meat, the cheese is reduced fat, and yet there’s bacon, generally considered delicious but nowhere near healthy. I prefer my lunches less…schizophrenic.

What the Lean Pockets website has to say about Grilled Chicken Jalapeño Cheddar: “You can’t have a soft pretzel without the spice of tangy Jalapeño cheddar. And why not add grilled white meat chicken while you’re at it? (Oh wait, we did all that.)”

Many people would probably disagree with the first sentence. There are lots of different dipping options for soft pretzels. Lucky for Lean Pockets, I agree with them on that point. “Why not” is a bit of a slippery slope…”Why not add the chewing gum I found on the bottom of my shoe last week? Why not add the nuts and bolts I found under the bread-baking machine?” Okay, I’m being a little outrageous. But that’s what makes slippery slopes fun!

Lean Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches Grilled Chicken Jalapeno Cheddar Frozen

The Pretzel Bread Sandwiches come with the classic crisping sleeve. One sandwich takes 2 minutes and 15 seconds to cook in the microwave. The sandwich seemed a little small to make a full lunch. In frozen form, you can see the large crystals of salt on the sandwich, a staple of soft pretzels. After being cooked, the salt crystals melt into the crust. I was surprised to see that the crust was indeed golden brown. The smell was exactly like that of a soft pretzel you’d get at the mall or maybe a stadium. I was surprised at how fragrant and authentic it smelled.

Lean Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches Grilled Chicken Jalapeno Cheddar Inside

I was disappointed when I cut the Lean Pocket open, however. It looked like a bunch of pale mush. I decided to butterfly one of the halves to really get a good look inside. There were some bits of red and green pepper, but it still didn’t look that encouraging.

I have to say, had these ingredients been inside a regular Lean Pocket pouch, my general review of the sandwich would have been “Hey, there’s actually some heat from the Jalapeños in here. The cheese is creamy. Otherwise, blandsville.” The chicken was completely flavorless and basically just acted like filler. The cheese was your typical Hot/Lean Pocket cheese, creamy but generally flavorless. What actually made these Lean Pockets stand out was the pretzel shell. It tasted just like a soft pretzel, salty and flavorful. I hate to agree with such a silly premise, but having a pretzel shell that really tasted like a pretzel made the cheese and the Jalapeños taste a lot like a pretzel dipped in Jalapeño cheddar sauce. The chicken could’ve just disappeared; even the texture of it was mushy enough to be barely noticeable.

I would have classified the Lean Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches Grilled Chicken Jalapeño Cheddar as just another bland but acceptable lunch option, but the pretzel shell and the Jalapeños really saved the day. The peppers aren’t hot enough that you’d need a glass of milk, but they make themselves known with the perfect amount of heat. The texture of the cheese works with the pretzel, which makes its lack of flavor more forgivable. The sandwich was a bit small and chicken itself could disappear and I never would have noticed, but overall these Pretzel Bread Sandwiches are a step above the usual boring Lean Pockets fare. It’s a small step, but a step nonetheless.

On a side note, I happened to look at a Hot Pockets review I wrote a while back and found something interesting — Lean Pockets Pretzel Sandwiches Grilled Chicken Jalapeño Cheddar has more calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol (over 200% more) and sodium than the Hot Pocket SideShots, and both boxes are nine ounces. That doesn’t seem very lean to me.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 piece – 280 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 890 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 13 grams of protein, 10% vitamin A, 15% calcium and 10% iron.)

Item: Lean Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches Grilled Chicken Jalapeño Cheddar
Price: $1.99 (on sale; normally $2.50)
Size: 2 sandwiches
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Delicious, soft pretzel shell. Fun with slippery slopes. Perfect Jalapeño heat. The word “blandsville.” Fast and easy to make.
Cons: Mushy, flavorless chicken. Food-smacking co-workers. Bland cheese. Unhygienic computer gamers. Not exactly “lean” Pockets.

NEWS: Carl’s Jr. Introduces Hand-Breaded Chicken Tender Wrappers, Shocks the World with Their Ingenuity

Carl, Day 81 of 365

I’m sorry, what was this news post about again? Was it McDonald’s Snack Wraps? Or Wendy’s Chicken Go Wrap? Was it KFC’s Toasted Wrap, or maybe El Pollo Loco’s Grilled Chicken Tortilla Roll? No, can’t be those, they both appear to be defunct now.

Oh, wait, I remember now. Carl’s Jr. is launching their new Hand-Breaded Chicken Tender Wrappers. Hardee’s, the east coast/midwest/southern equivalent of Carl’s Jr., launched these late last year, but now the west coast gets to have a taste. As I illustrated in the paragraph above, chicken wraps are certainly nothing new, but if you’re a big fan of their Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders, then you might enjoy having them in a form that won’t grease up your fingers.

From Carl’s Jr.’s website: “Perfect as a quick snack or part of a meal, Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenderâ„¢ Wrappers feature a delicious Hand-Breaded Chicken Tender rolled in a flour tortilla with shredded lettuce and cheese, then topped with your choice of Buttermilk Ranch, Honey Mustard, or Sweet & Bold BBQ sauce.”

That wraps it up nicely, har har. With your choice of three dipping sauces included in the wrap, you can enjoy your Chicken Tenders sauced up and on-the-go. No more worrying about grease on your steering wheel or balancing the dip cup in your lap! Nobody wants a ranch crotch.

You can get a single Wrapper for $1.29 or as a combo with two Wrappers, fries, and a drink for $4.99. Prices vary by location.

The Ranch Wrapper has 360 calories, 210 calories from fat, 23 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 850 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugars, and 16 grams of protein.

The Honey Mustard Wrapper has 320 calories, 170 calories from fat, 18 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 760 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugars, and 16 grams of protein.

The BBQ Wrapper has 290 calories, 120 calories from fat, 13 grams of total fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 910 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugars, and 16 grams of protein.

NEWS: Cheerios Family One Step Closer To Having Their Own TLC Reality Show With New Cinnamon Burst Cheerios

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Diddy once said, “I thought I told you that we won’t stop. I thought I told you that we won’t stop. I thought I told you that we won’t stop. I thought I told you that we won’t stop.” He could’ve been talking about himself and his late partner, the Notorious B.I.G., but he also could’ve been talking about himself and Cheerios, because with the new Cinnamon Burst Cheerios, it looks like Cheerios won’t stop producing new flavors.

Cinnamon Burst Cheerios is flavored with real cinnamon, although it doesn’t seem like a lot of it since it’s listed between salt and guar gum in the middle of the ingredients list. If you’re a big fan of fiber, and who isn’t, you’ll be happy to hear this particular Cheerios contains five grams of dietary fiber, which is more than regular Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios.

A cup of Cinnamon Burst Cheerios has 110 calories, 2 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1 gram of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, 13 grams of other carbohydrates and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Eggo Thick & Fluffy Waffles (Original & Cinnamon Brown Sugar)

Kellogg's Eggo Thick & Fluffy Original Waffles

Borrowing things from overseas to sell on our shores is a tricky business. As with any translation, we run the risk of not getting it quite right. Like turning the infinitely-watchable E4 series Skins into a show that no one (save for The Parents Television Council who wants to kill it with fire) cares to watch… or transforming the delicioso Mexican corn-cake-style gordita into the well-known and often-devoured Taco Bell Gordita that is basically a taco made with pita bread. How they made the leap to the Middle East by way of Mexico, I have no idea. I guess, to them, foreign food is foreign food. We’re lucky they didn’t try to stuff haggis in there.

The process of repackaging these things for consumption in the United States is clearly an attempt to make them more palatable for Americans, however unrecognizable they become. But it doesn’t explain why Kellogg’s would revise the Belgian waffle for their Eggo brand by making them toaster-sized instead of plate-sized and octagonal instead of round (or square) and calling them “Thick & Fluffy ” waffles. Did they think consumers wouldn’t understand these waffles if they used the word “Belgian”? They’ve been around for 50 years. I think we get it. Semantics aside, what it really comes down to is whether the waffles have deep pockets and taste good. For the most part, they do.

Eggo Thick & Fluffy waffles come in two flavor varieties: Cinnamon Brown Sugar and Original Recipe. The name “Original Recipe” conjures up visions of crispy, golden fried chicken offered by string-tied Southern gentlemen with dubious military origins, yet as a Roscoe’s devotee, I can attest to the fact that fried chicken does pair well with waffles. Maybe this title wasn’t unintentional.

The Original Recipe waffle was exceptional. It has a certain extra something (probably sodium) that makes the waffle taste extra malty. I scoured the ingredients list and didn’t see anything about malt, though, so I could just be imagining it. Maybe my previous experiences with other Belgian fluffy and thick waffles created an expectation for malt flavor.

Kellogg's Eggo Thick & Fluffy Cinnamon Brown Sugar Waffles

On the flip side, I was all ready to love the Cinnamon Brown Sugar waffle, being the brown sugar & cinnamon addict that I am, but it was just OK. The flavor just doesn’t “pop.” It’s not super sweet, but it’s also not very cinnamon-y. Blah Sugar. Cinna-Zzzzz. The experience is underwhelming. Way to not be an enabler, Kellogg’s. I’m one step closer to recovery.

Despite the fact that it’s a toaster waffle, I was expecting preparation to be a breeze. Logistically, it is pretty easy. Place in toaster… Toast… The End. But the toasting instructions specify that you may need to use two toasting cycles in order to evenly heat the waffle. That’s far too long for a toaster-based convenience breakfast. I hate double-toasting. It ruins the feeling of relief you experience once the toaster pops up because as soon as it does, you just have to push it back down again and start all over. It’s totally defeating. Bad way to start the day.

Kellogg's Eggo Thick & Fluffy Cinnamon Brown Sugar Waffle Naked

Another negative is that even though these are Thicker & Fluffier, they don’t make you feel any fuller — just the opposite. The extra carbs and sugar you ingest in the thicker waffle make you crash faster… and if you double-up on the serving size (eating two waffles instead of one), it just makes things worse.

That’s another thing. The serving size is just one waffle, but the box shows two. WHY MUST YOU TOY WITH MY EMOTIONS, EGGO??? Sorry, that’s the cinnamon brown sugar withdrawal talking.

I appreciate Eggo’s take on Belgian waffles, though the Original Recipe flavor makes a tastier breakfast than the Cinnamon Brown Sugar one. They should try making crépes next… though they’ll probably call them “Eggo Thin & Flat Pancakes.” How gauche.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 waffle/55 grams – Original Recipe – 160 calories, 70 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 3.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 300 milligrams of sodium, 50 milligrams of potassium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, >1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein. Cinnamon Brown Sugar – 170 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 3 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 270 milligrams of sodium, 50 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, >1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Eggo Thick & Fluffy Waffles (Original & Cinnamon Brown Sugar)
Price: $2.00 (on sale)
Size: 11.6 oz
Purchased at: Vons
Rating: 10 out of 10 (Original Recipe)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Cinnamon Brown Sugar)
Pros: Corn cakes. Southern gentlemen. Invisible malt. Octagons.
Cons: Witch hunts. Haggis. Understanding waffles. Boring me with cinnamon. The long toast. Small serving size.

THE WEEK IN REVIEWS – 1/29/2011

Lemons - a rare treat

Here are a few product reviews posted this week from other blogs we follow.

Black lemonade? It sounds like there is something you can make when life hands you rotting lemons. (via The Soda Jerks)

To get a jolt of energy using hot water, I could shower with a caffeinated body wash or pay a homeless guy a dollar to throw a lidless Grande-sized cup of Starbucks coffee at me. (via Caffeine-A-Holic)

These mayonnaise Pringles don’t have any actual mayonnaise in or on them. Well, I’ve got a bottle of Best Foods right here to solve that. (via Japanese Snack Reviews)

Hmm… If you replace Snickers with Trojan, it will still sound like an actual product name. (via Chocolate Mission)

Something doesn’t seem right about Title Run Sports Drink. Is it the fact that I haven’t seen any coaches get doused with it after winning a big game? No. Oh, I know what it is. It’s missing the obligatory sports drink suffix. It should be called Title Run-ade. (via Food Junk)