REVIEW: Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry

Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry

It started out so innocently. Because doesn’t it always?

I want something simple, but get carried away. A search for a song and I buy the album. A hankering for a show leads to the no-sleep Netflix dive. A pondering of a Christmas party and suddenly I’m considering the 3-foot inflatable snowman and $549 deluxe Santa Suit. Who needs this? (Nobody)

And yet…

I NEED THIS!

So I shouldn’t have been surprised with my reaction to these Pop-Tarts. It’s only a box. A box of six tarts. Simple. Easy.

But then I peeled back the lid. And that’s where it all began.

Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry PBJ goo insides

The crust on these tarts is the pinnacle of Pop-Tarts: a crackly crumble with a slight sandy grit, the sugary peanut butter icing crackles underneath. The peanut butter insides are sweet with a hint of salt while the strawberry jelly serves as a sweet/tart counterpoint. While this inner layer’s a bit on the thin side, it all comes together with the crust to showcase a balance of icing, sugar, salt, crust, crunch, and goo. Three bites in and I felt better about my broken heater, the work I had left, and the universe at large.

But it didn’t stop there.

The opportunities for Pop-Tart creations now became a new avenue through which I could channel obsessive creativity. I was thinking of the Pop-Tarts at the Post Office, contemplating how to get the best ratio of inner goo-to-crust while standing in line at the grocery, and getting wound up about the setting of my toaster in places that did not offer the appliance I needed.

“No more!” I told myself. But it didn’t work (never does). Like the kinky pop song that gets stuck in one’s head, the only way to quell absurd, delightful obsessions is to pursue them without restraint. I knew what I had to do.

Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry I ate all the PBJs

If I were a different, better person, I would tell you that I shared the rest of the Pop-Tarts with my office mates, how we parceled them between the three of us, toasted them in our toaster oven, and consumed them with generic Kirkland’s coffee, savoring their salty-sweetness.

But I didn’t share.

I ate them all. And I would do it again. Santa will, no doubt, be tempted to slip me onto the naughty list, but just wait till he sees his cookie plate. He’ll change his mind.

Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry PBJ Santa's cookie plate

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Pastry – 190 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry
Purchased Price: $1.98
Size: 6 toaster pastries/box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Crackly crust. Salty-sweet. Goo. Icing with sprinkles. Excels both toasted and untoasted. Makes you feel good about the Universe. Good vehicle for convincing Santa you’ve been Nice via Cookie Plate.
Cons: Insides are a bit thin. Tempts you to not share. Kinky pop songs. $549 Santa suits.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Red Velvet Peeps

Limited Edition Red Velvet Peeps

You people. You marshmallow lovers. You raucous, inscrutable, dangerously admirable marshmallow lovers. Turns out, you’ve made 232,000 Google pages devoted to “Peeps marshmallow recipes.” You have such daring. Such skill. Such eschewing of tradition. You put Peeps on your peanut butter sandwiches, in your pancakes. Sometimes, you just smack out your miniature flamethrower and torch those suckers up. Surely, I have stumbled into my confectionary tribe. You do realize this will only lead to mischief.

For example, if I were to find myself with two packs of specialty Peeps the day after Thanksgiving, who would stop me? Certainly not you. Certainly not Target. And certainly not this Peep staring at me with its big ol’ waxy eyeball.

Limited Edition Red Velvet Peeps givin' me the stink eye

And for that, I am grateful because straight from the plastic veneer, Photoshopped with candy canes cut straight from the Windows 92 Clip Art book, the chickadees tumble out like gangbusters: sandy and sugary on the outside with a white fudgy coating glistening on their chickadee rumps, these might be confused for the fowl that grace the lakes of a Sugar Plum Fairy. Oh sure, they’re just glorified gelatin, but dear god, isn’t that what Peeps are all about? How can we expect anything more? How???

Because Peeps is making a promise here. A promise to dish out the Red Velvet Cake in all its cocoa-y, sugary, acidic glory. A promise to which they [somewhat] live up to.

Limited Edition Red Velvet Peeps 3 little Velvets all in a row

These little mallows are sweet. Straight up sugary. Unquestionably red. The inside is sweet and cocoa-y like Duncan Hines cake batter mixed with chocolate Jell-o pudding. The outside sugar crust has the taste and texture of fine sanding sugar, but with a slight mineral aftertaste, like the faint tarnish of a cast iron skillet (because the party hasn’t started until Red #40 brings the bite of metallic cookware, am I right?)

Thankfully, the white fudge is there to pick up the slack with melty, smooth sweetness. Traditionalists, be forewarned: this isn’t cream cheese icing. Heck, it’s mainly palm kernel oil and dextrose, but it does have a quick melt and is dappled with little sprinkles, making a good show for those who subscribe to the buttercream predilection. If you like your icing sweet, dig in, but, if you’re sensitive to sugar overdose, you may feel like you’re being smacked in the head by a tetherball. Only you can know your limits. Just make sure you bring a graham cracker. S’mores will be in your future.

Limited Edition Red Velvet Peeps Peeps cross section

It’s easy to think of new products as a long chain of evolving improvements, as a never-ending advancement toward largeness and complexity, but Peeps knows not to flatter itself with such delusions. They thrive, nay, celebrate the creation of the same marshmallow sensation over and over. These Peeps are a pretty good riff on that variation. At the best of times*, they made me feel like I was eating cake batter straight outta Martha Stewart’s golden Kitchen Aid. Other times, I felt like I was eating the crust of a rusty nail.

*The worst of times was when I had just put lotion on my hands and wrestled to open the package for 15 minutes.

Aftertastes and mistimed use of moisturizer aside, these Peeps provide marshmallow lovers something different while still sustaining the unique, smooshed Peeps signature. Sure, they may not be astounding, but they remind me that, even when life’s not astounding, I can be grateful that it doesn’t completely suck.

Limited Edition Red Velvet Peeps Red Velvet Peeps teach us a life lesson

(Nutrition Facts – 3 Chicks/1 pack – 150 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 30 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Item: Limited Edition Red Velvet Peeps
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 3 Peeps Pack
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Doesn’t completely suck. Duncan Hines cake batter. Squishy. Festive fudge glaze. Reason to make s’mores. Reason to pursue Mischief. Windows 92 Clip Art.
Cons: Doesn’t completely suck. Red #40 tastes like a cast iron skillet. Glaze is mainly palm oil and dextrose. Getting smacked by a tetherball. Poorly timed use of moisturizer.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups

Ever since buying this tub, I’ve woken up to a THWUMB, THWUMB, THWUMB outside my window. Upon investigating, I find nothing at the window. I am convinced it is a) a very stupid pigeon, b) the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe, or c) a telepathic message from Professor X that states, “Margaret…you’re a Mutant. You must join the X-Men!” No matter which, it’s clear this thing eats cookie butter cups and wants them bad, but can’t quite figure out the whole “opening the window” thing (hence why it is not a breed of hyper-intelligent monkey or particularly creepy human).

But it makes perfect sense for this creature to try to get in every morning to obtain this little tub of aluminum-studded cups. Let me tell you why.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups TJ Cookie Butter cup escapes from foil

Sparing us from frippery of fluted cups, Trader Joe’s delivers a simple, complete concept right out of the golden foil. The size of a mini Reese’s Cup but with a firmer, darker outer shell, these start off with a striking visual impression, a sensation that swiftly carries over to the taste.

This is not a hyper-sugared confection that coats your tongue, no glucose-ridden lozenge that burns as it courses down as if the Almighty were ripping out your trachea. No, this is just quality semisweet chocolate, dark, bitter, and smooth like a 1965 Clint Eastwood riding out into the vengeance-ridden dusk.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups Cookie Butter Cup insides!!

Stuffed into each nub is a generous helping of cookie butter paste. Smooth, but slightly crumbly, that inner spread tastes of the named pulverized Speculoos cookies, highlighting the oat-cinnamon streusel notes. This filling, coupled with the woodsy, coffee-wisped chocolate, pushes this candy to the top, the cream of the crop, the Chrome Viking Refrigerators of confectionary-dom.

Just one problemo: there are only 28. Sure, it’s a pretty good number, but for $4.99, I do wish there were a few more. Desperate to hold on for as long as possible, I tried to ration them out. Like today: I’ll only have 2 cups…or maybe 3…or 4…

(2 hours later, upon emptying tub)

Sugar is GOOD!!! I feel I could pick up a lawnmower and fling it across a baseball field! I am invincible! I am unstoppable! I AM a Mutant!

(1 hour later, upon going to Home Depot and looking at lawnmowers)

I overestimated myself. I am not a Mutant. I am not even an Animorph. I am more like the lanky, awkward teenager hired to stand outside the store dressed in a paper mache koala suit. Nothing near a Mutant. Just a mortal, attempting to down a bag of sugar, chocolate, and crumbled cookies.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups Cookie Butter Cup sculpture

But maybe that’s okay. It certainly doesn’t make these cookie butter cups any less delicious. With such quality semisweet chocolate and a good ratio of cookie butter stuffed in each, who needs to be a mutated superhero? Maybe I could become one if I were to share these with that creature that rattles at my window, but me? Share these? I think I would rather be trampled by a fleet of rabid pigeons.*

*Not sure if pigeons can contract rabies.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 pieces – 180 calories, 120 calories from fat, 13 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 11 oz. tub
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Smooth chocolate. Crumbly insides. Streusel-like filling. Nice balance of sugary insides to bittersweet outsides. Provides you with enough energy to throw a lawnmower. Messages from Professor X.
Cons: Those sensitive to dark chocolate may be sad. Runs out quickly. I am not a Mutant. Rabid pigeons.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter

Trader Joe's Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter

Has everyone gone on vacation without you? Are they lounging in their getaway cabins while you swoon from your dusty, fluorescent-lit alcove? Are they showing you their long weekends on various social media mediums, tempting you with visions of homemade apple cobbler and piles of fall leaves? Are you feeling very much like you are not one of these vacationers? Maybe now is the time for an acceptable pity party. And I have just the snack to wash it down.

Trader Joe's Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter And we get a close up

Gooey, spreadable, and with just enough grit to give it crunch, cookie butter came to America in a surge, flooding aisles with a vow to nourish the Food Pyramid’s need for palm oil and pulverized cookie nubs (I’m pretty much sure my brain is composed 10 percent thought and 90 percent cookie nubs). This Trader Joe’s Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter extends that promise, allowing for the concept of bittersweet fudge cookies and sugary frosting to come together in a surface that’s as smooth as all the freshly fallen snow outside of Mr. Puff’s house.

A swipe into the smooth white cream brings me straight to the sugar frosting of an Oreo: a little gritty, very sweet, and a hint of coconut. Not “tropical sunscreen” coconut, just a slightly floral whiff, like the gentle breeze on a summer day if that summer day were also doused in super sugary goo.

The Oreo taste profile also makes its presence known on the dark chocolate end: cocoa, a hint of coffee, an edge of that dark, nearly-burnt crunch, and a solid sugar surge give it all it needs to feel at home in the Oreo family. The two flavors combine to form a smooth, easily consumed Oreo-like spread, and, thus, my brain is now composed of 95 percent cookie nubbins and 5 percent thoughts (3 percent of which are centered around which cookies to bake for spreading said cookie nubbins on).

Trader Joe's Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter Right off the spoon

Oreo built a reputation around eating cookies in wacky ways, so it should come to reason that this spread might encourage similarly adventurous snacking styles. Having consumed three servings in 7.5 minutes, the sugar rush cracks open the spread’s possibilities in my mind. Make s’mores. Dollop on ice cream. Spread on Pop Tarts. Drizzle on cinnamon rolls. Eat from the jar. Finish jar. Realize you must now buy another jar and eat from that jar. Eat all the jars! With this expansive ability to transform, you carry the equivalent of the body of an ancient wizard in your pocket. Just remember: with such great power comes great responsibility. Dunk wisely.

Trader Joe's Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter Dunk wisely

With its brave interpretation of two already-loved staples, this Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter reminds me to live life on the edge: adopt a highway! Learn Butoh! Become the Government Agent specializing in Meteorology and Produce Distribution! You never know when you’ll slip into a coma and get stuck in the confines of your subconscious, so you might as well put on your badass pants.

And definitely get this cookie butter. Plunk it on stuff. Watch as the object you consume transforms it into something stupendous. You’ll forget about that pity party you were planning. Promise.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 tablespoons – 210 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter
Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 14.1 oz. jar
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Dark, dutch cocoa-y fudge. Both smooth and chunky. Sweet frosting. Easy medium to eat more Oreo-like goods. Allows you to forget about pity parties. Highway adoption. Butoh.
Cons: Really, are there any? Okay, maybe it’s hard to stop eating. Really hard. And it may be too sweet/overly chocolatey for some. But it’s so good. May cause brain to be composed of more cookie than thoughts. Not being on vacation.

REVIEW: Wrigley’s Extra Seasonal Edition and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gums

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum

In the land of guar gum and sucralose, where the pumpkins and gourds lie…

Two brands.
Many layers.
One flavor to rule them all.

Yes, it’s Pumpkin Spice Season, and, in the legion of opportunities to build up your pumpkin spice endurance, Extra and Trident are throwing themselves in the sumo circle to see which can make the product with just enough squash, just enough cinnamon, just enough grit, to transform a dessert of caramelized orange vegetables into a new and potentially terrifying medium.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum Trident-Extra face-off

With enough tire tread marks to wrap around a Ford F-150, the Extra pieces serve up a classic, slim look. The Layers, on the other hand, are the prodigy of pudgy, 3-dimensional nubbins, the Tetris blocks of a former life, if you will.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum Trident Tetris!

And, much like Tetris blocks, there is no pumpkin in either gum. No pumpkin at all. But a chewer still gets many of the sensations that a pumpkin-spiced treat might bring (sweetness, warmth, cinnamon spice). The Extra smooshes the sugar-and-spice sweetness in one bite, with an emphasis on the sweet coming together to taste something like a strongly cinnamon-spiced sugar cookie (or, more accurately, a cinnamon-spiced Juicy Fruit).

There aren’t any squash notes, but there is a strong emphasis on caramelized sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and fruity clove. It’s hyper-sweet and the spice fills me with Christmas optimism, and, as we all know, it’s so easy to accomplish stuff when filled with Christmas optimism. I even cleaned my house thanks to Extra gum.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum This clean house is brought to you by Extra gum

On the other end of the spectrum is the Trident, which has all the looks and smells of a Yankee Candle store in October, combining the familiar spices of cinnamon and nutmeg with a hint of sweetness. I have my hopes up, but as I start to chew…

Remember that scene in Return of the Jedi? Where Jabba’s henchmen are sucked into the maw of a gaping sandpit, wherein they are chewed and ddigested? That is how I felt while chewing the Trident: it starts off super sweet, but then eeks out into an amalgamation of popcorn, plastic, Halls cough drops, and those name-brand white jelly beans.

The spice is equivalent to gnawing on a basket of potpourri and, in a mere 47 seconds (47 SECONDS!), the gum got tough as the girders of Scottish gentlemen. Unless you have recently lost your sense of taste or have a particular nostalgia for gnawing on Goodyear Tires baked in a vat nutmeg, I’d recommend putting your pumpkin pie money elsewhere.

The Extra on the other hand? It had a solid 3-5 minute run before losing flavor, and even then, it had a soft chew and spice that stayed. Is it the sorbital? The soy lechithin? The Acesulfame-K? I dunno, but I do know that Acesulfame-K is almost as fun to say as “Stoichiometric ratio” or, “nuclear binary fission.” Thankfully, Acesulfame is not as intense or damaging to your internal organs as nuclear binary fission. Yay for not chewing nuclear radiation!

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum The winner and grand champion

When I was 8 years old, I decided I’d be a Detroit Lions quarterback. As a 4.5-foot, 65-pound human who couldn’t get past the third rung on the climbing rope, I knew this was unlikely, but certainly not impossible, so I tried anyway.

Similarly, the concept of creating a gum that mimics pumpkin pie is far-reaching, but not ludicrous, and Extra did a respectable job here. While neither match the pie experience to the “–nth” degree, Extra takes a notable lead over Trident with its longer chew time and greater sense of roundedness in flavor, but just know that, like a 4.5-foot, 65-pound 8-year-old pretending to be an NFL quarterback, it still can’t quite replace the real thing.

(Nutrition Facts – Extra – less than 5 calorie, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of sugar alcohol, and 0 grams of protein. Trident – 5 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of sugar alcohol, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Wrigley’s Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum
Purchased Price: $1.39
Size: 1 pack/15 pieces
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Fruity clove. Nice vanilla balance. Lasts for about 3-5 minutes. Christmas optimism. Detroit Lions.
Cons: No pumpkin in ingredients. Not as aesthetically pleasing as the Trident. After 3-5 minutes, gets rubbery. Nuclear radiation.

Item: Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum
Purchased Price: $2.80
Size: 3 packs (14 pieces each)
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Pretty to look at. Tetris. Girders of Scottish gentlemen. Reason to talk about Return of the Jedi.
Cons: No pumpkin in ingredients. Like chewing a mix of cinnamon-spiced plastic, popcorn, and stale jellybeans. Gets tough after 47-seconds. Being chewed by a sandpit.