REVIEW: Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies

Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies

Candy Canes and Cookies.

It has a cute ring to it, doesn’t it? Like the title of a baking blog, or a children’s Christmas story, or even a specialty store that sells holiday-themed socks. But eaten together?

Sure, we’ve had Candy Cane Oreo Cookies, but a part of me has always felt the confection world should never be combined with the creaming method world. It’s sort of like fish and cheese. Conventional wisdom tells us these things just don’t “go” together, and far be it for drumming up iconoclasm once Christmas comes around.

Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies change all that. It really shouldn’t be a surprise; I mean, these are cookies baked by magical elves. Yes, they may live in a tree owned by Kellogg’s, but I like to think of the Keebler elves as cousins to Santa’s elves, except more proficient in cookie making than toy making.

And let me tell you something: The Keebler elves nail the cookie thing here, just like how Santa’s elves nailed my 1997 request for a Nintendo Gameboy. The familiar shortbread cookie base is crunchy, buttery, and not overpoweringly sweet; small bursts of red nonpareils lend a sweet sugar cookie vibe, while the white fudge coating further adds to the frosting-like texture of the cookie.

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As for the peppermint taste, it’s right where it needs to be. The danger with peppermint anything is that the floral, light taste of mint overwhelms the taste buds and makes you feel like you’re eating a Tic-Tac. Thankfully, that is not the case with these cookies. The peppermint taste is there, but it’s not that rush of winter freshness that comes from binging on a box of candy canes (pro tip: not good). Instead, the floral taste gives a cool relief to the frosting-like white fudge, which has a rich vanilla sweetness.

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While Keebler’s elves are clearly taking a page from Santa’s elves in the design of a Christmas themed cookie, what they haven’t managed to do is perfect a flawless packaging and delivery system. The same nonresealable package that plagues Fudge Stripes houses the limited edition cookie, while the white fudge coating had melted by the time I opened the package. The ensuing peppermint white fudge, while lickable and probably awesome on cupcakes, was stickier and harder to wash off my paws than the sugar coating of a half-eaten candy cane.

You gotta give it to the Keebler elves. After years of offering plain Fudge Stripes (which are delicious) they’ve tinkered their treehouse production facilities and expanded into pumpkin spice, birthday cake, cookies & creme, and now peppermint. I’m not saying these would be a great cookie to leave out for Santa, but yeah, with the frosted shortbread cookie vibe, crunchy vanilla, and peppermint sweetness, I am kind of saying that.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories from fat, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of sat fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, 0 grams of fiber, and less than 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 11.5 oz
Purchased at: United Supermarkets
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Fresh and floral peppermint taste that doesn’t linger on your tongue like a candy cane. Crunchy shortbread cookie with rich white fudge and crunchy vanilla flavor. Would make a solid seasonal ice cream sandwich base.
Cons: Keebler’s absolute reluctance to embrace resealable packaging. White fudge coating can melt and be messy. Limited appeal for non-peppermint lovers. The politics of elf family trees.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows

Kellogg’s Limited Edition Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows

Kellogg’s Limited Edition Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows remind me of my fourth grade Stormtrooper Halloween costume.

Like eight-year old Adam in awe of the theatrical release of the Stars Wars Special Edition movies, Tony the Tiger’s latest creation sets out to trick-or-treat with only the utmost respect for the ethos of Halloween.

Problem is, there’s some stiff competition. In my case, it was Luke, who ironically decided to trick-or-treat as a Stormtrooper the same year I did (Like, really? Your name is Luke and you decide to go as a Stormtrooper?)

Anyways, Luke’s costume kicked the crap out of mine. He was the kid with the lights and sound enhanced Stormtrooper carbine, specially crafted armor, and an actual helmet like those people who go to ComicCon. I, meanwhile, had a mask attached with a string, a cheap white smock with some black lines on it, and (because my parents hated weapons) a pillowcase stuffed with candy as my only armament.

In other words, Luke was the Count Chocula to my Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows, which, while okay, are quickly defrocked as an imitator to the chocolaty standard of limited edition Halloween cereals.

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To Kellogg’s credit, Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows get the job done as a snacking cereal. There’s a savory and sweet thing that goes on with the cocoa-glazed flakes, which still have that crunchy, malted corn aftertaste of original Frosted Flakes. But the cocoa flavor is mild and varies from flake to flake, while the marshmallows are just bad. Sure they look cool; a deconstructed skeleton beats the ambiguously-shaped blobs that Count Chocula claims are bats, but the Frosted Flakes marshmallows lack a sturdy texture ideal for snacking or a long soaking in milk.

And it’s in milk that Tony the Tiger’s Halloween cereal is stripped of its chocolate costume. The cocoa quickly flows off the flakes, but the end-milk, while darkly colored like a Halloween night, tastes nothing like the cocoa-infused milk left behind by Count Chocula, Cocoa Puffs, or other tier one chocolate cereals. Combined with the marshmallows, it’s just a hyper sweet bowl of milk with faraway (far, far away) notes of cocoa powder.

Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows are an okay novelty cereal that will do in a pinch, but like that flimsy Stormtrooper mask and loose-fitting “armored” smock that I wore for Halloween as a kid, the cereal is too easily unmasked. And with the chocolate covered spirit of Halloween in good and cocoa-powder stained hands with Count Chocula, Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows probably won’t be making a repeat appearance in my pantry next year.

(Nutrition Facts – 30 grams – 100 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 150 mg of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugars, and 1 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.74
Size: 9.5 oz. box
Purchased at: United Supermarket
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Enjoyable cocoa and milled corn flavor when eaten as a snack. Marshmallows provide a needed textural contrast to the crunchy frosted flakes. Creative use of a marshmallow artwork.
Cons: Not as chocolaty as Count Chocula and leaves nonexistent chocolate end-milk. Marshmallows aren’t as sturdy as Count Chocula. Wait, are the skeletons from people Tony the Tiger ate? My stupid fourth grade Halloween costume.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Twinkies

Hostess Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Twinkies

Life tip number one: Always write your name in big, bold letters on your cowboy hat.

Life tip number two: Never say no to cheesecake, especially when it involves pumpkin.

Ever since Hostess rose from the crumbling sponge cake edifice of its 2012 bankruptcy filing, the company has been churning out seasonal flavors with Pop-Tart like alacrity. You might just say that Twinkie the Kid (who’s actually a 55-year old man who apparently doesn’t believe in wearing shirts) is a Twinkie of many hats, except, well, Twinkie the Kid always wears a cowboy hat.

Well, Twinkie the Kid must be hiding a chef’s hat under his Stetson, because his new Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Twinkies might just be the pinnacle of artificial pumpkin spice cheesecake flavor.

I wrote this in an endearing manner; one only expects so much authenticity in a cheesecake-flavored product that contains hydrogenated beef tallow, yet for what the Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Twinkies lack in their simplicity of ingredients, they more than make up for in surprisingly unexpected guilty pleasure appeal.

The key to enjoying the flavor of the Twinkies, like the key to enjoying so many mass-produced bakery snacks, is to judge the flavor as a sum of the cake’s part. I won’t sugarcoat this, because the 18 grams of sugar in each Twinkie already do, but the white fudge coating is waxy and saccharine on its own. The Twinkie cake, is, well, a slightly dry sponge cake that could just last into eternity. And the cream? A cinnamon and nutmeg explosion spilled into equal parts sour cream and marshmallow fluff.

When I first ate the Twinkie in three distinct parts, I thought it was mediocre. But then, since I’m a complete glutton who absolutely loves pumpkin spice cheesecake, I stuffed a whole Twinkie in my mouth.

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The flavor was unexpectedly if not unequivocally pumpkin spice, with a sweet, slightly tangy filling providing notes of cheesecake. The white fudge coating, commingling with the cakey and cream filled elements, suddenly provided both a textural contrast that mimicked a cheesecake crust, while also serving as a rich and sweet topping. I’m not saying it was a Cheesecake Factory experience par excellence, but as each Twinkie wrapper fell to the floor and crumbs of white fudge coating smeared onto my shirt, both the cheesecake and pumpkin spice flavor became more pronounced.

Which brings me to my major problem with Twinkie the Kid’s latest concoction: It’s hard to say no. Actually, it’s downright impossible, even though the cloying nature of the white fudge and the cinnamon heavy flavored cream tell your brain that this is not exactly the most authentic representation of pumpkin spice cheesecake you could buy.

But that’s the thing about both cheesecake and pumpkin spice: there’s a margin for error that doesn’t demand Philadelphia cream cheese, toasted nutmeg, or Saigon cinnamon. The flavor can be artificial; it can be overly sweet. Yet as long as it works within the constraints of the ingredients to conjure up the flavor of pumpkin spice cheesecake, it’s not something you’re going to say no to.

And judging by the how quickly I plowed through the nine snack cakes in my box of Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Twinkies, I won’t be saying no to buying these again.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Cake – 170 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 6.0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 9 cakes
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Admirably complexity in the pumpkin spice flavored cream. Cream has a cheesecake tang and thicker viscosity than normal Twinkie cream. White Fudge coating binds the whole cake together with rich and sweet flavor. Doesn’t screw up one of the best flavors of fall.
Cons: The white fudge coating is almost uneatable when sampled alone. Exceptionally sweet. Made with the same great stuff that McDonald’s used to fry their fries in. Eating 720 calories in Twinkies and still feeling famished.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Cereal

Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Cereal

Pumpkin spice presents an existential crisis for the creative writer.

There is only so much that can said about it. What there is to say has been said before, said again, and then said in a different way. Chances are the same trite expression about pushing autumn in August, or the long litany of pumpkin spice products now available to us, is currently being wrestled onto the page of another food blog. We, the pumpkin spice addicts of America, have long since typed our love affair with the orange gourd and its seminal flavors into a monotony of clichés.

This is a damn shame, because when done right, pumpkin spice should not be reduced to a cliché.

Take the new Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.

This is limited edition cereal to end all limited edition cereals; the kind of product that’s worth stocking up on from the beginning of August and then rationing out through the polar onslaught of December and humid days of July.

To be fair, we should have expected this much. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios were announced back in the spring when Strawberry Cheerios came out, and given the success of the spring flavor, Cheerios let us know they’re not doing this LTO thing half-ass.

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Case in point, Pumpkin Spice Cheerios don’t taste like cinnamon. The flavor isn’t the cheap heavy note of cassia, nor is it the honey or brown sugar sweetness that often comes along for the pumpkin spice ride. Likewise, this is not the repackaged taste of Honey Nut Cheerios or Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios are pumpkin spice Cheerios. There’s the sweet fragrant note of nutmeg, the aromatic warmth of clove, and, yes, the flavors of cinnamon and ginger.

Lest you think this is just a pumpkin spice flavor, there is some serious sweet pumpkin flavor going on in each of those oat rings. The addition of real pumpkin in the ingredients makes a world of difference when eating the cereal in milk, where the sublime essence of pumpkin desserts comes to life.

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Yes, sublime essence. Think of it as that moment when crust component, pumpkin component, and dairy meet. Here the warming and exotic notes of spices co-mingle with the sweetened taste of pumpkin and the richness of milk. A hearty crunch filled with sweetened dairy and a bit of milkfat greets eats spoonful, and in that moment the eater relives everything that is right about the cool breeze of October and the multicolored leaves that drift to the ground.

I may have chomped down on my first bite on a 95-degree day in west Texas, but if I would have closed my eyes and blasted a fan in my face then I’m pretty sure I could have fooled myself into believing it was autumn. It sure tasted that way.

Based on the rapidly growing list of pumpkin spice cereals entering the market, we’ll soon have the proverbial cornucopia to choose from. I don’t doubt many of these cereals will be good, but few, I’m willing to bet, will be able to match the appeal of Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 grams – 110 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 120 mg of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.98
Size: 21 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Outstanding representation of the complexity of pumpkin spices that exceeds the dull and heavy cinnamon flavor sometimes assigned to pumpkin spice. Sweet, hearty taste of oat base. Wonderful rich flavor in milk that tastes like the edge of a pumpkin pie or bar.
Cons: Could be a tad sweeter and have a “glaze” like Honey Nut Cheerios. The creative struggle to explain the appeal of pumpkin spice.

REVIEW: Baskin-Robbins Oreo Milk ‘n Cereal Ice Cream

Baskin-Robbins Oreo Milk ‘n Cereal Ice Cream

Move your cursor away from the search box on Stop trying to scroll through the listings of international breakfast foods. Do yourself a favor and cancel your vacation plans to South Korea.

Oreo O’s are dead.

The cereal does not exist anymore. Not here in the States, not in Seoul, not even in freaking Pyongyang. Why else do you think Kim Jong-un is shooting missiles into the ocean?

The magical elixir of milk that blends the sweet chocolaty taste of cookies and the crunchy wholesomeness of breakfast cereal is but a distant memory. In its place we have a few attempts at compromise, but who are we kidding? The stale abomination known as Cookie Crisp will never suffice, nor will a new limited edition Oreo creme which tastes like sixteen bowls of Fruity Pebbles.

But perhaps we have been looking in the wrong places. Instead of trying to find the soul of Oreo O’s in cereal or even cookies, perhaps the flavor explosion of sweet milk, chocolate, and corn cereal can be resurrected in ice cream form?

As our 1990s selves would have said: Well, DUH!

I have eaten a lot of off-the-wall Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavors in my day, but the new Oreo Milk ‘n Cereal flavor is my favorite, mostly because it captures the Oreo and cereal vibe that only my beloved Oreo O’s had been able to do. But if I thought the combination of Oreo chocolate wafers embedded into a crunchy corn cereal base was good, then Oreo Milk ‘n Cereal ice cream borrows a line from Tony the Tiger and is Gr-r-reat!

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The cereal milk flavored ice cream basically tastes like a sweeter, richer, and thicker version of a really good cookies and cream ice cream; one studded with so many crunchy Oreo pieces you’d have thought an entire package of Oreos went into a single scoop. This isn’t some store-brand cookies and cream. Big chunks of rounded, ridged edged Oreo wafers are packed with a bittersweet chocolate flavor that contrasts the sweet ice cream base and the slightly salty, chewy frosted flakes ribbon.

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What’s this, you say? The description reads frosted corn flake cereal pieces and a crunchy frosted corn flake cereal ribbon. Well that it does, but the description is as big a fib as telling you that you can still buy a box of Oreo O’s on Amazon.

Truth be told, I licked every nook and cranny of this cone, and the corn flake ribbon and frosted flake pieces are one and the same. The pieces have an odd texture that’s somewhere between the discontinued Frosted Flakes Gold, a northern style corn bread, and, I swear I’m not making this up, Corn Nuts. If that wasn’t complicated enough, there’s also notes of waffle cone and Cap’n Crunch, although I suspect the latter is due to toasting the clustered ribbon in coconut oil.

Long list of ingredients aside, It’s like having a corn cakes breakfast-flavored cereal, and it’s beyond delicious (note to Kellogg’s: Get on that).

I was actually a little skeptical that Oreo cookies and corn/frosted flakes would work together, but the result is a surprisingly harmonious ménage à trois, hearkening back to Oreo O’s while introducing another layer of crunchy corn sweetness and sweet creamy flavor. So do yourself a favor and wipe those tears from your keyboard, because you’ll soon be dripping melting ice cream (and tears of joy) all over the space bar.

(Nutrition Facts – 2.5 ounce scoop (small) – 200 calories, 180 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 110 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 16 gram of sugar, and 3 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.79
Size: Small Scoop
Purchased at: Baskin-Robbins
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like a combination of Oreo O’s, Frosted Flakes, pancakes, and Cap’n Crunch all in one lick. Sweet and rich cookies and cream vibe from the cereal milk base. Excellent contrast of crunchy and creamy.
Cons: Cereal element isn’t exactly as advertised and isn’t crispy in the way cereal is. Crying over spilled (cereal) milk.