REVIEW: Rah-Rah Raisin Girl Scout Cookies

Rah Rah Raisin box

First, I decided: these are not “raisin cookies.” They are galletas de pasas.

A “raisin cookie” sounds like something your grandmother forced you to eat because you had already eaten too much chocolate that day. “Galletas de pasas” sound like an exotic biscuit blended found at a market where they sell Art Deco and hand-woven rugs and play Johnny Cash in the background. Something obscure and enigmatic, yet also specific.

Despite all that self-imposed delusion, all I could read was, “raisin,” and my head—my very stubborn head—kept shouting, “Wrinkly, dry nubs! Stay away!”

My head is no longer allowed to make decisions. These cookies? Put it down. As the perfect entry-level raisin cookie, the small, mini-chocolate-chip-sized fruit bits dot their way along the crispy surface, providing a slight chew and grapey tang that’s effective without being intrusive. The yogurty chips are sparse but wonderful: sweet with a hint of tang at the very end, contrasting and complementing the chewy raisin.

And let’s not forget about the cookie foundation. The cookie is sandy and crumbly, far more so than the Trader Joe’s shortbread I enjoyed earlier this month. While this dough lacks any hint of butter, it dissolves into a fizzle of sweet, sugar-cookie-like dough with the barest bit of molasses at the end, which serves to amp up those the raisins and yogurt chips.

Rah-Rah Raisin Girl Scout Cookies are crumbly

Of course, this crumbled texture brings a hazard for the cookies. Without any protective plastic tray, the biscuits have trouble maintaining their shape. In my box of 14, three cookies came fully intact. I also realize this could’ve resulted from a bum sample or a transit flub. New York roads are bumpy.

But let’s be real: Girl Scout Cookies aren’t about the looks. While the cookie’s sturdiness might be a tragedy for its aesthetics, it’s all the better for you as you are left with a big pile of crumblies at the end of your cookie-eating experience.

Instructions for dealing with crumblies include:

  • Tilt head back.
  • Pour contents of cookie bag into mouth.

Rah Rahs just before they crumbled

So, yes, the cookies and their crumblies are good (so good!). But I am filled! With! Hyperbolic! Agony! At $3.50 per 6-cookie box, my hope to also purchase 18 bajillion boxes of Tagalongs and Thin Mints and Samoas dwindles at the edges. I want to buy more cookies, Girl Scouts, but my bank account suggests otherwise. Oh, catch me! I’m fainting in despair…

And yet that $3.50 is going toward instilling kids with self-esteem and business skills and Girl Scout trips involving s’mores, and what kind of miserable, lonely person discourages putting more self-efficacy and s’mores in the world?! I’d dip into my 401k before I deprive anyone of that.

Leadership Skills, Rah-Rah Raisin Girl Scout Cookies, and you

Overall, these are a pretty swell addition to the Girl Scout line-up. While they may not muscle out my Girl Scout favorites, I’ve only had this one box, which is unfair given that I have over 20 years experience with the traditional cookies. If given time, maybe a sturdier cookie base, and more yogurt chips, I could foresee these, too, heaving themselves up the line of Greats. Not only did they convert the wrinkly raisin-hater inside my heart, but I’m looking for a reason to buy them again. “It’s Thursday!” may have to suffice.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 120 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Rah-Rah Raisin Girl Scout Cookies
Purchased Price: $3.50
Size: 6 oz. box
Purchased at: A sidewalk from a small child
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Crunchy. Sweet, melty yogurt chips. Small, chewy raisins. Crumblies. Converted raisin-opposed brains. Galletas de Pasas. Johnny Cash.
Cons: Not as good as Tagalongs. Small raisins may not appeal to raisin fanatics. Pricey for 6 oz. box. More yogurt chips would be nice. May induce stressful situations in which you debate your 401k.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies

Trader Joe's Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies

This is everything the trainers, cardiologists, and armchair psychologists warned me about. Why? Well…

Trader Joe's Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies Tower

(You still here?)

To the three of you who you haven’t sprinted for your keys, I’ll do my best use some adjectives that describe the above cookie sandwiches, photographed just moments before they were ingested. If you head for your local Trader Joe’s via car/bus/ferry/personal helicopter before you make it to the end, I won’t blame you.

Trader Joe's Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies Topless

Despite the sudden population boom in biscuit-based spreads, the cookie butter Trader Joe’s implements here holds tight to tradition, using the familiar cinnamon caramel flavors found in Speculoos cookies. The goo is a little thicker than peanut butter, but not quite as stiff as an Oreo creme. The spread separates from the cookie swiftly when twisting and remains as tasty as I remember in that special caramelized-frosting way. But the real kicker? Comes with the shortbread.

Salty, sugary, and sandy as a renegade drifter, the buttery shortbread breaks with a crisp bite before it crumbles and dissolves under its own weight. Darwin surely would’ve been fascinated to hear my post-first-bite monologue of, “Yum. Cookie. More. Yum,” as I’m fairly certain it brings into question humanity’s ability to linguistically evolve…or perhaps this is just me? Am I de-evolving?? And what will I do when I become a monkey?? If these cookies have anything to do with it, I’ll be eating shortbread.

Despite the Super Wonderful that is this cookie, I’m a little conflicted. This is the third cookie butter product I’ve reviewed in the past 12 months. Trader Joe… are you using cookie butter as a crutch? Maybe even surfing on a… (gulp)…trend??

Now, no lies: it’s a very, very tasty crutch, but, as my ski instructor said to me back when I was a poorly coordinated 10-year-old, one never learns if one always takes the Bunny Slope. Sometimes, you gotta strap on your skis and rocket down the double-black diamond at 50 miles per hour without a helmet.* You may crash, lose a glove, and bonk into a California pine, but you’ll learn from the wipeout.

*This is a lie. You should always wear a helmet, silly.

Trader Joe's Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies Mug

But who am I kidding? These are delicious. I’m knocking them a little for being trendy, for not having a re-sealable bag, and for making my arteries sad with the box’s 216% of my saturated fat, but, let’s face it: neither health nor coolness are what you keep in mind when eating these. What you keep in mind is joy. Pure, unobstructed joy. And Trader Joe? You’ve succeeded in that.

So, dear reader. will you twist? Nibble from the outside in? Dip in milk or not? One at a time or gulf down a pile of five? There are a lot of ways people will tell you to eat these, all stress-inducing and rife with contradictions. I say ignore them and enjoy your cookie.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 180 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 10 oz. box
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Classic cookie butter. Crumbly. Buttery. Sandy. A little crispy. Renegade drifters.
Cons: Dangerously trendy. Not in a re-sealable bag. 214% Saturated Fat in one box. Ski accidents. Knocking into a California pine. Cardiologists. Turning into a monkey via de-evolution.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Chocolatey Strawberry Pop-Tarts

Kellogg's Limited Edition Frosted Chocolatey Strawberry Pop-Tarts

January.

The month of Gore-Tex.

The 31 sun-deprived days of fleece, down comforters, knee-length socks, and long underwear pulled up so high, not even Grandpa Joe could compete with your mid-weight, merino-wool-studded rump.

So it goes that, when in my apartment, I turn on as many other easy-to-use electronic devices to generate heat, and, because I can’t leave the door of my microwave open (radiation or something), I find as many excuses as possible to use my toaster (Toast! Bagels! Waffles! Uh…more toast? Yes! More toast!). It was in this state of mind that I picked up these toaster pastries.

And they suit my toaster just fine.

After toasting on medium, the crust is crisp and crackling, breaking with a respectable few crumbs post-toast. Nipping at a corner edge, the chocolate crust seems weaker than usual, tasting more of stale graham crackers and burnt charcoal than chocolate. Fortunately, the frosting, with its milk-chocolatey, candy-like crunch, does its best to pick up the pace a little, and… hey! Sprinkles!

Kellogg's Limited Edition Frosted Chocolatey Strawberry Pop-Tarts Chocolatey Strawberry sprinkles!!

Sprinkles have the unique ability to make me feel I can do anything. Truly. Nothing makes me want to go out and self-engineer a robotic crane without an engineering degree more than sprinkles.

But back to the taste. The inside jam is gooey, if a bit thin to my unrealistic, excess-demanding American brain. The strawberry flavor is pronounced, sugary and a bit flowery. It may be a little flat or sweet for those who like non-hypoglycemic-inducing jams, but, if taste is any indication, the pastries are delighted to have their hyper-sweet, summery strawberry bellies. Can you blame them? Strawberry bellies are the bomb.

Kellogg's Limited Edition Frosted Chocolatey Strawberry Pop-Tarts A moderately chocolatey duo

You know that scene in Back to the Future II where Doc dumps banana peels and beer into the DeLorean’s Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor before it rockets away? That’s what Pop-Tarts does. They take an amalgam of ingredients (some of which other companies might consider “trash”), combine those ingredients together, and voila. Something respectable, sometimes even downright brilliant, is born.

For me, these weren’t downright brilliant, but respectable? You bet. Sure, the crust may have tasted a little like burnt crackers and maybe the chocolate was weak, but they’ve got a decent amount of gooey strawberry filling, they provide a warm vehicle for an especially frigid January, and, friends, sprinkles.

Just. Sprinkles.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pastry – 190 calories, 35 calories from fat, 4 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, <1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Chocolatey Strawberry Pop-Tarts
Purchased Price: $1.98
Size: 8 pastries/box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Candy chocolatey shell. Sprinkles. Gooey insides. Strawberry bellies. Reasons to use your toaster. May inspire spontaneous engineering feats. The DeLorean.
Cons: Low chocolate levels. Thin-ish filling. Crust tastes a bit of stale cracker meal. Insides may be too sweet for some. All those layers of wool socks. Not having an engineering degree when you need one.

REVIEW: Reese’s Spreads

Reese's PB Choc Spread

The challenge is issued, the gloves are dropped, the physicians wait at the sidelines, ready to dress the wounds of the wounded. Who will stand above: the candy or the spread? The Modernist or the Traditionalist? Call the bluff. Claim your honor. The pistols are loaded.

Reese's PB Choc Spread Reese's Traditionalist

With cat-like reflexes, the Traditionalist makes the first move. The Reese’s candy ever remains a classic, the very foundation upon which all peanut butter candies attempt to stand. It sharpens its brass knuckles on its well-grounded history: the gritty, crumbly peanut butter insides, the hyper-sweet, milk chocolatey outsides, all nestled away in its charming paper cup. I can’t even keep it around long enough to consider if it’s less than perfect.

But then…

Reese's PB Choc Spread Reese's PB Choc Spread is made of Goodness

Stronger than a 3-horsed chariot driven by Ron Swanson, the spread busts out with a perfume of peanut butter and chocolate. Smooth, shiny, a smidge gritty from itty candy chunkies, this Righteous Goodness combines all the textural traits of a nut butter with the classic chocolate-and-honeyed-peanut-butter taste of its candy contender.

With a flavor that combines peanut butter, Nutella, and sweetened condensed milk, it’s easy to eat from the jar or spread on those 48 leftover Christmas cookies from the office party. It goes on toast. It goes on waffles. It goes on ice cream. It would make an easy job for marketers conspiring to brainwash humankind with a catchy jingle that would subconsciously influence us [i.e.: me] to buy more of it. I already blame my subconscious for the excessive number of jars I will be purchasing in the future.

Reese's PB Choc Spread Reese's Spread is trying to hypnotize you

So the shots have been fired, the dust has cleared, the cowboy audience got bored and returned to the Tavern to nurse their beer bellies. But which product emerged victorious?

Reese's PB Choc Spread Reese's duel finale-which wins?

When you’re in a duel, you are acutely interested in NOT dying, so why kill your fellow compatriot? If you shoot, s/he may very well fire in return, rupturing your aorta and, well…sayonara to that vacation to Puerto Rico. Both versions of Reese’s realize this and offer their respective qualities. One, a munchable, melty candy. The other, a smooth, chocolatey peanut spread that integrates well with anything you consider suited for peanut butter. Me? I prefer something that I can carry around in my pocket, but, dang if this spread isn’t delicious.

Perhaps more importantly, the spread proves an important point: that, despite its long history, peanut butter and chocolate live in the gullet of the confectionary world with justifiable cause. The salty-sweet combination, combined with a gritty, sugared goodness, fills a special pocket of the stomach without overwhelming. It punches you and embraces you at the same time. Like a good man hug. And what better way to start the year than with a good man hug?

(Nutrition Facts – 2 Tbsp – 190 calories, 100 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Reese’s Spreads
Purchased Price: $3.29
Size: 13 oz. jar
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Sugary. Chocolatey. Peanut-buttery. Nubbins of candy/chunky peanut butter stirred in. Tastes just like spreadable Reese’s. 3-horsed chariots driven by Ron Swanson. Beer-bellied cowboys. Man hugs.
Cons: May induce sugar rush. May induce buying too many jars. May induce lack of pantry space after buying too many jars. Not quite as awesome as the candy, but still very awesome. Reminder that those leftover Christmas cookies are very, very stale. Catchy jingles that get stuck in your head. Vacations in Puerto Rico that don’t exist.

REVIEW: Crispy M&M’s (2014)

Crispy M&M's (2014)

9 years, 2 months, and 13 days ago, I was shot down by Mars, coming up empty-handed in my attempts to find a bag of Crispy M&M’s. As noted by the comprehensive timeframe, I may not be over it.

Well, now I can hack off that elephantine chip on my shoulder because Crispy M&M’s are back and putting a candy-coated jingle in my step. While they come in a dashing green bag and serve as an excellent pocket-sized tambourine, let’s ask ourselves the Really Important Question: how do these suckers compare to the old Crispy M&M’s?

Crispy M&M's (2014) get the stare from George Washington

Let’s start with some basics: there are crisps and then there are Crisps.

I know.

I’ll give your brain a moment to catch up with the shocking depth of that.

*Waits.*

Now that it’s sunk in, I’m sure you’ve realized you can have a crisp (a smidgeon of a rice puff made of itty-bitty grainy bits that get stuck between your teeth) or you can have a Crisp (a giant husk that crunches, cracks, then dissolves like a massive, non-mushy rice crispy treat). The specimens found in these Ms are unquestionably Crisps. For the mathematical statisticians out there, the average M is about 80% crisp, 15% chocolate, 4% candy shell, and 1% astronaut. That description may also be 75% true.

The Crisp inside crackles on first bite, verging on malt ball territory in sheer dimension. While the Crisp tastes of little more than toasted rice and air, it picks up the slack in providing texture, carrying the burden of contrast as the smooth, super-fast melting milk chocolate rushes in.

Taken as a whole, each candy strikes a moderate balance of chocolate, candy shell, and poof, making it easy to shovel the bag into one’s mouth and/or stash the rest in a drawer so they don’t say, Eat all the bags nowwww or Do you think you could request these in 240-bag packs from Costco? or any of the other things candies say to me when we’re alone together.

Crispy M&M's (2014) tumble out all shiny

President Benjamin Harrison gave the White House its first Christmas tree in 1889. Had Harrison lived for 125 more Christmases, I suspect he would’ve slipped these M&M’s under his tree. They’re filled with sugar, chocolate, and artificial colorings in pebbly candy form. Sure, they may not blow flavor out of the water, but they taste exactly as they did in 2005. In that way, they’re dependable and, moreover, represent a Large American Company doing something Large American Companies rarely do: listen.

Mars heard the call of the American people for the return of that which they held dear and, by George, they answered. Mars gets a gold star for being good listeners. If you were a fan of the Crispy M&M’s of yore, I hope you go forth to your favorite store and haul off any burden and angst of the past as you chow down on these nubbins. Do it for your stocking. Do it for nostalgia. Do it for Benjamin Harrison.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bag/1.35 oz. – 180 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Crispy M&M’s (2014)
Purchased Price: 99 cents (on sale)
Size: 1.35 oz. bag
Purchased at: CVS
Rating: 7 out of 10 (plus a special gold star for bringing back a classic)
Pros: Melty milk chocolate. Giant crisp interior. Tastes exactly as I remember them. Good listeners. 1% astronaut. Benjamin Harrison’s Christmas tree.
Cons: Crisp doesn’t add much flavor. Artificial colorings are still artificial. Things candies say when we’re alone together.