REVIEW: Limited Edition Cookie Butter Oreo Cookies

Limited Edition Cookie Butter Oreo Cookies

I begin this review with an urgent request.

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest grocery store/megamart/convenience store/bodega/Nabisco factory to get your hands on a pack of Cookie Butter Oreo Cookies.

And I’m not joking. After personally eating the first package I bought (and upon realizing that I probably needed at least one cookie to take a picture of for this review), I went to Target the very next day to procure another bag. Upon arriving, I found the Oreo shelf decimated, but managed to grab the last package on the shelf. Apologies in advance to anyone who shops at my local Target.

Nabisco’s newest limited edition Oreo flavor features two graham flavored cookies with cookie butter crème sandwiched between them. I’m going to assume that most TIB readers are well versed in the flavor of cookie butter, but here’s a crash course for those who haven’t: cookie butter is a spreadable concoction popularized by Trader Joe’s featuring the flavor of speculoos, a spiced shortcrust biscuit popular in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. It’s good on waffles, toast, pretzels, and (obviously) cookies.

Limited Edition Cookie Butter Oreo Cookies 2

When I opened my package, I was immediately overwhelmed by beige. While the packaging suggests that the cookies should have some definition against the darker brown cookie butter filling, they instead all blend together into an amorphous tan extravaganza. To be fair, the appearance doesn’t affect the taste, but it wouldn’t have hurt if the cookies got a little bit more time in the tanning bed before packaging.

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Similar to the cookie butter’s indiscernibility visually, the graham scent of the cookie masks most of the spicy cookie butter smell. The taste, however, is a different story. Per usual, the filling is the star of the show, with a strong gingerbread and molasses flavor evident throughout the cookie sandwich. The texture of the cookie butter is on-point as well, and when eaten independent of the cookie base you can really feel the familiar grit of the crushed speculoos biscuits mixed within the crème.

If there’s any area these Oreo cookies fall short in, it’s in the durability of the cookies themselves. With one bite, the cookies shatter quite noticeably and coat your cookie-eating-surface with a shower of graham sand. I’d imagine that the non-traditional graham cookie base has something to do with this, and it makes me wonder how these would have tasted with Oreo’s original chocolate cookie (*makes note for next visit to the Target cookie war zone*).

All in all, these cookies are excellent. While some previous limited edition Oreo flavors have fallen flat, these sandwiches reign supreme over the cookie kingdom. They’re speculoos-tacular!

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.).)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 10.7 oz.
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Burning off the Oreo cookies by running to the store. Amazing flavor. Visions of Franken-Oreo creations.
Cons: Needs a few more minutes out in the sun. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

REVIEW: Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs

Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs

If a Cheeto isn’t cheese flavored, is it even a Cheeto? Would a Cheeto by any other name smell as sweet?

These questions have puzzled scholars and philosophers for ages. Ok, well at least since 2015 when Frito-Lay first introduced Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs. The brand’s first foray into sweet snacks was, shall we say, a little underwhelming. So imagine my surprise to see that Cheetos Sweetos have multiplied and their new Caramel Puffs have bounced onto grocery store shelves just in time for what Frito-Lay calls the “spring snacking season,” but normal people might call “Easter.”

I imagine that this is all a sneaky ploy by Frito-Lay so that moms and dads – sorry…I mean, Easter Bunnies – everywhere might make room in Easter baskets for some crunchy snacks. Judging by the caramel-induced sugar high that Chester Cheetah seems to be having on the packaging, I imagine that this would be welcomed by children all over the world.

I opened my bag of Caramel Puff Sweetos, and was immediately accosted by a horribly artificial caramel scent, reminiscent of an off-brand candle you’d pick up at a drug store on the way to a birthday party you forgot about. The smell wafted throughout my entire apartment, causing my boyfriend to shriek with disgust from another room.

Each Sweeto is vaguely “Neil Armstrong’s bootprint on the moon” shaped, and is dusted with a heaping helping of brown powder. Surprisingly, unlike regular Cheetos, the powder stays firmly adhered to the Sweeto and doesn’t come off on your fingertips, which I guess is good for keeping astronaut gloves clean.

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Preparing for the worst, I popped a Sweeto into my mouth, and was shocked by how quickly the Sweeto dissolved on my tongue like a sickly-sweet breath strip. The artificial caramel flavor is only recognizable for a second, and then is immediately replaced by the taste of corn, which is then further replaced by an off-putting aftertaste. It’s like the Matryoshka doll of bad snack food.

Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs 3

While Chester the Cheetah’s caramel-induced-fever-dream on the packaging would make you think differently, there’s really no fun in eating Sweetos. When it comes down to it, they’re a jazzed up snack that blasphemes Cheetos. Sweetos aren’t sweet enough to earn that name, although I suppose Corntos doesn’t have the same ring to it.

In conclusion, a bag of Sweetos Caramel Puffs in your Easter basket is like the coal in your Christmas stocking. Be a good boy or girl and you’ll get some Flamin’ Hots instead.

(Nutrition Facts – about 25 pieces – 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 7 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: “Look Ma, clean hands!” The Electric Sweetos Acid Test. Making bad Easter puns.
Cons: Eau du drug store candle. Barely discernable sweetness. Incredibly artificial.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Taco Salad

Wendy's Taco Salad

I am firmly a child of the 90’s. If you don’t believe me, take a walk around my childhood home, where you’ll see way too many Lifetouch grade school portraits of me with hair moussed up to the heavens (thanks Mom).

Don’t get me wrong, though – the 90’s were a blast. I fondly remember spending weekends developing recipes with my younger sister’s Fisher Price plastic kitchen to feed to my collection of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers action figures (the Megazord was a picky eater).

And now, it seems like the 90’s nostalgia has caught on with everyone else, because there’s been no shortage of remakes over the past couple of years. From Fuller House to French Toast Crunch, everyone wants a piece of the action, no matter how horrible the reboot may be.

Take Wendy’s Taco Salad, for example. America’s second-favorite redhead (after Ronald, of course), has apparently caved into the demands of their “loyal taco salad fans” (their words, not mine), and brought back this classic dish for millennial mouths to try.

Now, before I get any angry letters from fast food historians, yes, Wendy’s did originally release the Taco Salad in the 80’s, but since they’re solely marketing this from a 90’s perspective, I thought it appropriate to lace up my L.A. Lights to head on over and sample it for myself.

Like any other fast food salad, Wendy’s Taco Salad is built on a bed of iceberg and romaine lettuce. The bed in this example is clearly a California King, because this salad is overwhelmed with lettuce. It’s as if Wendy’s forgot that there were supposed to be other toppings on this salad and went crazy with the bags of salad mix.

Wendy's Taco Salad 2

On top of the lettuce extravaganza, Wendy’s has placed a smattering of diced tomatoes and shredded cheddar cheese. I must have visited on the cook’s first day, because the pieces of tomato I received were all from the edges, and lacked any juice or flavor. Similarly disappointing, the cheese was heavily processed, and had a firm mouthfeel.

Along with the aforementioned mattress o’ lettuce, Wendy’s provides a selection of toppings to accompany the salad. These toppings – chili, tortilla chips, “signature salsa,” and light sour cream – come on the side, a sort of “taco kit” to allow you to garnish your salad as you please.

In true TIB fashion, I went all in on the toppings. While I appreciate the customization opportunity, the minuscule bowl Wendy’s provided made it difficult to mix everything together. The tortilla chips were humorously oversized for the salad, and lacked a distinctive salty kick. Their partner in crime, Wendy’s “signature salsa,” was equally as upsetting, as its sour notes overwhelmed any discernible tomato flavor.

Wendy's Taco Salad 3

The standout here was the chili – while suspect in origin, its strong tomato and cumin flavor brought some much needed zest to the salad. In fact, the chili really brings the only semblance of flavor to the salad, as it’s not served with any dressing. If you don’t conserve your chili wisely, the salad turns into a real slog to eat.

While I appreciate their play for nostalgia, Wendy’s Taco Salad should go the way of Hammer Pants. You shouldn’t touch this.

(Nutrition Facts – 660 calories, 290 calories from fat, 32 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1 grams of trans fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 1820 milligrams of sodium, 63 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of sugar, and 32 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: Full-size salad
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Having an excuse to break out my Pogs. Flavorful chili. Jamming out to fast food training videos.
Cons: Reminding my mom that mousse exists. Ridiculous amounts of roughage. Sour salsa.

REVIEW: Quaker Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Life Cereal

Quaker Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Life Cereal

Let me be honest with you all – I think I’m basic.

Each year I eagerly anticipate the arrival of the cool autumn air and the changing of the leaves. Fall brings with it an excuse to wear my large collection of flannel shirts, strap on my boots (they’re not Uggs….yet), and head out to the countryside to pay extra money to pick my own apples that end up being smaller than anything I could buy at the grocery store.

And while some folks may believe that apple cinnamon is the quintessential fall flavor of choice, I am here to proclaim my love for anything and everything that is pumpkin spice. Sure, the latte has run through my veins from September through November in the past, but the grocery aisles have been my go-to for orangey and spicey products in recent years. 2015 brought us pumpkin spice kale chips (for basic vegans), pumpkin spice eggnog (for basic holiday combiners), and even pumpkin spice vodka (for basic drunks), and if you’ve read TIB in the past few weeks, you know that 2016 is shaping up to offer even more nutmeggy goodness.

As such, I jumped at the opportunity to review Pumpkin Spice Life Cereal. To be honest, I found it hard to believe that such a classic cereal would get on the pumpkin spice train, but the more the merrier. Next stop, my mouth. CHOO CHOO!

Life was never my first choice of cereal as a kid. I mean, when you’re competing with Cap’n Crunch and Count Chocula, a picture of wheat squares on the box wasn’t really appealing. As I grew older and wiser, my palette learned to appreciate Life and its cooler younger brother, Cinnamon Life. I eagerly dove into Pumpkin Spice Life, hoping that I’d be able to welcome it to the family with open arms.

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Upon opening the box, I was concerned that I’d mistakenly grabbed a box of traditional Life in error. Pumpkin Spice Life is relatively dull in the package, even though the box screams OMG THERE’S FALL IN HERE. The cereal offers nothing that will remind you of a pumpkin pie baking in the oven or the colors of the changing leaves. In fact, I was only able to discern any sort of cinnamon or nutmeg scent when I brought a spoonful of cereal right under my nose, and it was a very weak smell at that.

My bites of the cereal were similarly bland. The flavor of Pumpkin Spice Life, like regular Life, is very grain heavy, with notes of oats and wheat at the forefront. The tastes of cinnamon and nutmeg are only faintly evident, but become amped up with the inclusion of milk. A word to the wise though – once you add milk, you’ll need to finish your bowl quickly, lest you enjoy cereal that is the consistency of mashed potatoes.

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The best part about pumpkin spice flavored products is that they typically bring a strong punch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice right from the beginning. You want to feel like you’ve been slapped in the face with your Thanksgiving dessert spread, and Pumpkin Spice Life isn’t going to give you any of that. Unless you’re a fan of muted fall flavors, I don’t suggest you play the game of Pumpkin Spice Life.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 120 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 13 oz box
Purchased at: Star Market
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Witty board game references. Good for fans of regular Life. Flannel shirts worn unironically.
Cons: Hey Mikey, he hates it! Barely discernible pumpkin spice flavor. Mushy in milk.

REVIEW: Skippy Graham Cracker P.B. Bites

Skippy Graham Cracker P.B. Bites

Let’s get one thing straight. Skippy’s Graham Cracker P.B. Bites aren’t “bites.”

They’re balls.

Which is fine, because the country is in love with balls right now. You’ve got Pokemon Go, baseball season, Powerball, and the Olympics crowding the scene, but Skippy’s Graham Cracker P.B. Bites are what you should be focusing on.

Skippy introduced their P.B. Bites line about a year ago with Double Peanut Butter and Pretzel varieties, and they’ve proven to be a hit with the public. I’d never noticed the P.B. Bites previously because choosy reviewers like me choose Jif, but for TIB I decided to give it a shot and picked up a pack of their new Graham Cracker variety.

The P.B. Bites come in small cup-holder sized containers, because I assume Skippy thought people might take a swill of these during the morning commute. While I advise against that (due to the legal threat of causing something similar to a Pokemon Go-induced car accident), the peanut butter poppers are certainly portable and are easy to take to work or school.

Upon opening the package, I was hit with a strong wave of peanut butter scent. The smell is of a nicely roasted peanut butter, and gave off none of the artificial notes you may typically find in the peanut butter candy at the bottom of your Halloween spoils.

Skippy Graham Cracker P.B. Bites 3

The P.B. Bites glisten in the light (note to self: make Mom a peanut butter diamond necklace for Christmas), and that sheen is indicative of the oily nature of the balls. Since the bites’ exteriors are coated in peanut butter, they’re soft and tacky to the touch and can only be handled for a few moments before eating (lest you want to have a real big mess on your hands). Thankfully though, the bites aren’t sticky, so you’ll be able to pop a few before getting club hand.

While you may expect the P.B. Bites have a little bit of chew to them, this is furthest from the case. The soft peanut butter exterior of the balls melts away to reveal a small, crunchy graham cracker center. The peanut butter tastes surprisingly more natural than what you typically expect from a jar of Skippy, with a deep peanut flavor. And while peanut butter from the jar has a tendency to collect on the roof of your mouth, I am pleased to share that Skippy’s P.B. Bites do no such thing. Glass of milk be gone!

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Regrettably, while the Bites’ crunch is satisfying, the tiny graham cracker center lacks any discernible flavor and is overwhelmed by the peanut butter. This makes sense, because I can imagine if I covered myself in peanut butter and ate myself, I’d be incredibly delicious. And while the bites may not provide any graham cracker flavor, you’ll find yourself not caring because the rest of the bite is just so damn good.

Overall, with their natural flavor and pleasing crunch, Skippy’s Graham Cracker P.B. Bites are a pleasant snack that any peanut butter connoisseur would appreciate. Just don’t try to throw one at a Charizard.

(Nutrition Facts – 15 pieces – 160 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 6 oz. tub
Purchased at: Star Market
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Pop ‘em in your Pontiac. Natural peanut butter taste. Satisfying crunch. Good for people with Arachibutyrophobia.
Cons: Melts in your hand and also in your mouth. Tiny, flavorless center. Thoughts of self-cannibalism.