Author Archives | Margaret

Margaret - who has written 50 posts on The Impulsive Buy.


REVIEW: General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal

Written by | December 31, 2013

Topics: 8 Rating, Cereal, General Mills

General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal

Hear that? That’s the dead echo of all the New Year’s resolutions I’ve fulfilled.

Indeed, aside from taking a multi-vitamin, my plans for non-stop, full-throttle self-improvement don’t seem to always follow through, and what starts in January as, “I’m going to plant a window garden and read Plato’s The Republic and stop a forest fire with my mind!” translates in May to, “Maybe I’ll take out the trash. But it’s raining. So I’ll do it later. Maybe.” What is it that gets my bedraggled mind so trampled in this mellifluous maelstrom of mediocrity?

After decades of research, I have uncovered that its motion begins right here at the breakfast table. Yes, America, it is at this temple of Early Risers and Eager Minds, where caffeine, cholesterol, and morning cohesion come together to form a somewhat put-together portion of myself, and yet I’ve recently cast the breakfast table aside, trading it in for those five extra minutes of sleep before I hop out the door trying to put on my left shoe, looking as coordinated as an intoxicated platypus. But 2014’s a new year and I’m going fuel my brain with more than Nutri-Grain. Just in the nick of time, General Mills is handing out one more Big G cereal for 2013: Chocolate Toast Crunch.

General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal The Chocolate Cereal Proposal

“Naturally flavored chocolate”? Hmmm… sounds shady. I can see we may be headed into precarious territory. We better put on our Danger Pants.

Danger Pants buckled and spoon in-hand, I burst open the bag and am met with a familiar scent. A scent of cocoa power and sugar and cereal-saturated chocolate milks of yore, whispering secrets of Cocoa Puffs into my nostalgia-seeking nose. While I’m a little freaked out that a cereal can whisper, I reach down shovel in the first spoonful.

Starting off on a solid foundation, I’m pleased to find that the texture of these 1/2-inch bites holds the same half-crispy, half-crunchy experience as its Crunch Toast counterparts. The surface of each 4-sided geometric shape is crosshatched with small ridges, allowing for an excellent play on texture while also making your bowl look like its filled with dollhouse-sized textured wallpaper samples.

General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal Cocoa bits right out of the bag

Fortunately, these taste nothing of wallpaper. Living up to the old slogan, each shrunken bit of toast holds a thick, brown-tinged, sugary crust of “the taste you can see.” The pleasant grit from this cinnamon-cocoa sugar is like an edible hug: full of a cocoa burst and a slightly warm cinnamon end, it harkens back to memories of a cinnamon sugar doughnut, only thinner, crispier, and generously dunked in cocoa. The cocoa is of a lighter, alkali-processed sort. The bitterness from a darker, Dutch cocoa might have added a nice bitter, coffee-ish contrast to the sugar, but to nitpick over what could’ve been is about as useful as making a workout video for Santa Claus. (He has a “bowl full of jelly.” That’s just how it is. Says so in a poem.)

Not only do these crunchy wheat-and-rice bits prove themselves of high quality in their dry form, but they also hold up admirably when saturated with leche, the sugared cocoa generously dispersing itself as it colors the milk with its chocolatey, cerealy-ness while still leaving enough of the coating clinging to the cereal itself. The resulting milk brew has a cocoa level on par with Cocoa Puffs/Pebbles, yet the cereal’s shape is notably sturdier, allowing you to choose whether you want to slurp or spoon the last of your bowl. Either way, you’ll have cocoa to the final gulp.

And that reminds me: since the cocoa isn’t shy here, it has the power to play well with other flavors. Maybe try it with some almond milk, or, if you’re feeling zesty, reach for the strawberry milk or Espresso Gelato. It’s okay. Go wild. You have your Danger Pants on, remember?

General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal The Taste You Can See!

On my list of things to improve in the world: diesel fuel, laptop speakers, standard-issue toilet paper. I never imagined cocoa cereal would or could be on this list, let alone that it may stand up against my all-time-favorite, discontinued-in-America Oreo O’s, and yet General Mills, being the daring lunatics they are, gave it their best heave-ho. While not surpassing the O’s, the risk paid off. It may not be the first time I’ve have cocoa for breakfast, but somehow the crunch of the wee little rectangles combined with the cinnamon-cocoa sugar reminds me of a churro and made this one of the more successful pairing of grains and chocolate I’ve had the fortune to scarf down. Some may call the General crazy for bringing out such a fantastic new Toast Crunch on the cusp of the New Year, but what is “crazy”?

Well, if these toasty squares have anything to do with it, it’s a different way to see ourselves, be ourselves, to go out and live in a new and exciting way, and these cocoa-cinnamon squares? They inspire me to do just that.

So, who’s crazy now?

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup (31 g) – 130 calories, 35 calories from fat, 4 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 85 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 13 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 12.7 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Crispy-crunchy. Nifty ridges. Crusty cocoa-cinnamon coating. Taste you can see. Churro in cereal form. Makes good chocolatey cereal milk. Encourages breakfast-related resolutions. Reason to eat more gelato. Brave lunatics. Danger Pants.
Cons: Reminds me how I miss Oreo O’s. Laptop speakers. Standard-issue toilet paper. Delusions of whispering cereal.

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REVIEW: Flipz Gingerbread Flavor Covered Pretzels

Written by | December 11, 2013

Topics: 7 Rating, Flipz

Gingerbread Flipz

If there’s anything that Hollywood has taught me, it’s that Christmas time can bring unexpected challenges. Trains running through the backyard. Cats blowing up the Christmas tree. Having a misguided green crook swipe my roast beast. Really, anything can happen.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I ran across the bright orange carton of holiday Flipz. Having not seen, let alone bought, a carton of Flipz since the days of Eureeka’s Castle reruns, I thought the chocolate-covered pretzels had gone extinct, and yet there they were in this 9-ounce carton at the end of aisle 7, that pudgy, slightly creepy snowman waving to me from the front of the carton as if to say, “Hark! Awaken young Margaret from your confectionary ignorance! There are pretzels to eat!”

Indeed. There are pretzels to eat.

Gingerbread Flipz Droopy Flipz faces

The pretzels come out of the box with definitive appeal. Wonky and charmingly imperfect, they look like the droopy face of Jacob Marley or The Ghost Christmas of Past, which is not only an aesthetically intriguing design, but also serves as a friendly reminder that one day you, too, will die. Ah, yes, nothing like a healthy dose of mortality to pair with your chocolate confection. Nietzsche would be proud. Let’s see if these little bites of philosophy can hold their own in the taste category.

Gingerbread Flipz Flipz innards

I have never hidden my love for sweet and salty and do not intend to do so now. Right away, the salty crunch from the pretzels is impressive, the tiny twists not daring to bend or sog under the deluge of Gingerbread coating.

That coating is soft and melty, slightly more stable than the peculiar goo surrounding Oreo Fudge Crèmes. Such a coating can be a bit waxy, but it’s the flavor that really sets the Flipz apart. This version of gingerbread-flavored confection is sweet, slightly Cinnamon-Toast-Crunch-like, with just a ruffle of tang not unlike that of a yogurt-covered raisin. It’s extraordinarily sweet, toeing the line of white fudge, but just when the dextrose deluge threatens to take over the scene, the salt speckles from the pretzels work things out.

Would I have enjoyed a bit more of a gingerbread-molasses bite? Maybe, but I just can’t be bored with these in hand. The creamy coating makes for a spectacular trail mix and the pretzels go great with ice cream. They’re exceptionally crunchy, making them perfect for snacking near those trouble risers who need waking on Christmas morning. Watch as the echo from the pretzel snaps them awake.

Gingerbread Flipz The Snowman watches all

While the separate elements of “pretzel” and “gingerbread fudge” sound humdrum, Flipz combined the two together in an innovative confection that defies boredom. The pretzels are dense, salty, and crunchy, and the gingerbread flavor stands fairly strong: sweet and just woodsy enough, these may bring back holiday memories of that time your parents got you a pony—even if your parents never got you a pony. Such are the powers of gingerbread. They create memories that don’t even exist.

But make no mistake: this isn’t magic or Hollywood parlor tricks. They’re just pretzels covered in a gingerbread-flavored coating, and that’s good enough for me.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz – 140 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 11 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Flipz Gingerbread Flavor Covered Pretzels
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 9 oz.
Purchased at: Food Emporium
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Snappy pretzels. Creamy, sweet coating. Sweet, spicy, and salty balance. Memories of Blockbuster and Eureeka’s Castle. Telepathic communication with a two-dimensional snowman.
Cons: Fudge can get waxy. Uses “Gingerbread flavored coating” rather than gingerbread fudge. Hint of molasses may be too subtle for some. Creepy snowman on the front. Cats blowing up the Christmas tree. The trauma of never getting a pony.

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REVIEW: Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M’s

Written by | December 2, 2013

Topics: 6 Rating, Candy, M&M's

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's

Hansel and Gretel is your favorite book. You have plans to visit, construct, and/or consume the entire gingerbread village in Bergen, Norway. You are still upset that Conrad Vernon did not win an Oscar for his work as Gingy in Shrek.

If any of the above describes you, you may be a connoisseur of zingiber officinale, or, in lazier, un-Latin terms, a Gingerbread Fiend. As a fanatic of this spicy rhizome, you’ve likely fallen prey to gingerbread’s warm spice, it’s slight zing, it’s common appearance as a tasty anthropomorphized cookie. Fortunately for Fiends, winter is primetime for gingerbread fury, and as a tribute to all gingery goods, M&M’s seem to have gotten their holiday jingle on and smooshed up some gingerbread into a bulbous, lentil-y speckle.

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's Spilling out into the wild

Right off the bat, these little chocolate bites exude character. Mars traditionally forms their beady, M-stamped confections in one of three sizes: the smaller milk chocolate M, the medium “Filled with something” M, or the increasingly popular “We have a holiday and/or special occasion, so we’ll make them HUGE” M. All forms have their benefits and downfalls, so it was much to my delight/surprise/befuddlement to uncover that this bag seemed to house in all three sizes.

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's Gingerbread Death Star

Some M’s are small and thin, some medium, some completely overstuffed, the size of a miniature Death Star. All of this variation in spherical shape promises great texture, but there is still one question left unanswered: are they filled? Are cookies involved?! Could they perhaps hold the crunchity limb of a former gingerbread man inside?!?!

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's Where are the gingerbread cookies?!

No.

It came without cookies. It came without cakey innards. It came without crispity fillings or baked goodies in any form.

Somewhere, the Pillsbury doughboy weeps.

But all is not lost for gingerbread lovers of the world. While the whole “bread” portion is notably absent, the shadow of ginger spice remains. The chocolate starts off with the familiar sweet, sugary grit that accompanies the common M&M experience, then leans into a slight zing of ginger, and ends with a cinnamon/nutmeg warmth that could sooth an angry South Appalachian Grizzly.

But where these M’s really shine is when paired with other goods. Spicy, crunchy, chocolatey bits get even better when coupled with crispity and/or creamy bits. Put ‘em on ice cream, sprinkle them on your cereal, leave a trail of them outside your door and watch as small children gather. If you encounter an unnecessarily angry suburban shopper during a Black Friday Sale, dump these in with some Muddy Buddies and give them to him/her. Your recipient will be happy. Sugar-crazed and happy.

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's At the end of the Gingerbread journey

At the end of the journey, I am of two minds on these little nibbles of confection. They are munchable, sweet, and spiced just enough to add some dimension to the regular M&M experience. They come in all sorts of sizes and make a mean trail mix that could knock the wig off my grandmother faster than an Arizona dust storm. However, they have no gingerbread cake, biscuit, or cookie of any sort inside, and, really, what’s gingerbread without the “bread”?

Some may call it, “Gingerbread spice.” Others may call it, “Gingerbread Identity Crisis.” I call it lying, and I certainly wouldn’t risk lying this time of the year, Mars. Santa’s watching…

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz or 1/4 cup – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M’s
Purchased Price: $2.88
Size: 9.9 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Variations in size. Some M’s are the size of miniature Death Stars. Sugary zing. Spices add some depth. Reasons to consume limbs of anthropomorphized cookies. Could sooth an angry South Appalachian Grizzly.
Cons: Cookies not included. Absence of filling of any sort. Gingerbread identity crisis. Unnecessarily angry suburban mothers. Conrad Vernon did not win an Oscar for his work as Gingy.

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REVIEW: Hershey’s Rally Bar (2013)

Written by | October 24, 2013

Topics: 7 Rating, Candy, Hershey's

Rally Bar

Having witnessed multiple variations of time travel in movies, I’ve learned that some methods of journeying into the past are more dangerous than others. For example:

  • I might get sucked in a black hole (Star Trek)
  • I might have to become a hyper-intelligent wizard in a near-death situation (Harry Potter)
  • I might have to drive 88 miles per hour on a suburban street (Back to the Future), which would encourage speeding tickets from my local law enforcement

Because I know that Hollywood is fact-checking all its sources, one can only conclude that time travel can be painful, high-maintenance, and/or involve unnecessary trips to traffic court. Nonetheless, I often dream of going back and snagging a taste of some of those rare products that disappeared before my time. Thankfully, Hershey’s is sparing me the toil of arranging time travel transportation by resurrecting their Rally Bar from its 1970s grave and stashing it at Walgreens all over the land.

Taking inspiration from its longstanding confectionary kin, the Rally bar compresses the caramel-peanut combo of a Pay Day with the lumpy, bumpy look of a Baby Ruth, resulting in a chocolate covered, peanut-coated caramel log that may or may not be a geographically correct interpretation of the Austrian Mountains.

Rally Bar The hills are alive! With the sound of music!

“The hills are alive with the sound of music!”

Diving right in, the chocolate is quick to melt, sweet, and fudgy. This is trademark Hershey’s chocolate: the kind that gets gooey on s’mores and calls forth multiple washes of your jeans after it melts in your pocket in 80-degree weather. Its palm-oil-y layer is sugary with a hint of cocoa to remind you it’s chocolate. On its own, the coating hangs off the cliff of getting too sweet. Thankfully, the peanuts and caramel nougat are there to back it up.

The structural support beam of the bar comes in the form of the nougat, which has a bit of an identity crisis. Is it caramel? Is it vanilla? At times it’s both, and I’m okay with that because it’s surrounded by a stringy, Twix-like caramel. This spin on the sticky sweet stuff gives its taste headline to the dextrose while a buttery-nut chaser comes in at the end, and anything with a chaser makes things better.

Rally Bar Gooey innards

The peanuts are outright impressive. These aren’t those puny little nubbins you might get on your discount $49 plane ride you booked on that questionable discount travel site. These are huge, fresh specimens, lightly toasted without a trace of bitterness. Mr. Peanut would approve.

Room temperature, the Rally is pleasant, but, when given a 3-7 second nuke in the microwave, every element heightens to a new form. The caramel gets goopier, the chocolate more fudgy, and the peanuts ride this chocolate slip-and-slide with ease, and all because of seven seconds in my radiation-grade mini-oven. While attempting to maneuver this goopy, malleable mass of chocolate from the 600-watt microwave into my mouth, all I could think was, “Man, this would be great in my morning oatmeal.” And it was. It was also quite good topped with potato chips. No matter how you eat it, eat it while it’s hot.*

*The unofficial title of my debut rap album.

This Rally resurrection reinforces the hypothesis that, when one combines chocolate, caramel, and peanuts in the right ratios, Goodness results. The bar itself is nothing groundbreaking, but just because it isn’t unique doesn’t make it un-delicious. It’s got a funky shape, a sugary coating, and peanuts that tide me over till the next meal/mini meal/snack/pre-dinner chomp/midnight craving strikes, so welcome back, Rally. It’s good to have you.

(Nutrition Facts – 230 calories, 110 calories from fat, 13 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 24 grams of sugars, and 4 grams of protein..)

Item: Hershey’s Rally Bar
Purchased Price: 97 cents
Size: 1.66 oz
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Fudgy. Stringy, sweet caramel. Fresh, chunky peanuts. Similar to a chocolate covered Pay Day. Even better when microwaved. Slip-and-slides made of fudge. Underdogs. Time Travel.
Cons: Chocolate flavor stunted by palm oil. Caramel may be too dextrose-forward for some. Only available at Walgreens. Washing chocolate out of your jeans. Getting sucked in a black hole. Speeding tickets.

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REVIEW: Coolhaus Louis Ba-Kahn Ice Cream Sandwich

Written by | October 22, 2013

Topics: 7 Rating, Ice Cream

Coolhaus Louis Ba-Kahn Chocolate Chip Cookie + Brown Butter Candied Bacon Ice Cream

In 1992, my mom fell into the craze that was the Bacon Wave, and when you have a dishwasher-friendly, $19.99 reusable rack specifically devoted to making pork products in 60 seconds, there is no reason not to have pounds of crispy pig belly coming out of that microwave as often as possible.

It was during these breakfasts that Cupid struck my knees, knuckles, and toes with 28 arrows, all of which were directed at ways to enjoy bacon. I had it on sandwiches, astride pancakes and waffles, with syrup, without syrup, in grilled cheeses, between Pop-Tarts, chased with eggs, covered in cinnamon roll goo, and in its simple, unmasked, curvy-crispy form. Yes, I had bacon in all these ways, but never in an ice cream sandwich.

Until today.

Lo and behold, a company has mass-produced an ice cream sandwich that a) is roughly the size of a mastadon’s kneecap and b) contains bacon. Yes, indeedee, smashed in those two giganto-mongous discs is Coolhaus’s Louis Ba-kahn, an ice cream sandwich composed of chocolate chip cookies and brown butter and candied bacon ice cream.

Coolhaus Louis Ba-Kahn Chocolate Chip Cookie + Brown Butter Candied Bacon Ice Cream Cookie Sandwichy glory

Cue the trombones and the trumpets. Heck, pull out the entire wind orchestra, because this ice cream sings. If Ben and Jerry’s could be considered super premium ice cream, this stuff would be ultra super mega platinum premium ice cream (or some other absurdly adjective-filled variant thereof). This softball-sized scoop melts slower than me on the way to a dentist appointment, allowing the consumer to take his/her glorious time. Taking a bite sans bacon, this crème de la vache has a presiding taste of sweet, sugary cream with a backdrop of vanilla.

Tasted on its own, the brown butter flavor of the ice cream eludes me, but when eaten with the brown sugar chocolate chip cookie, the nuttiness of the butter smooshes with the brown sugar in the cookie to create some nutty, sweet gastronomical frenzy. It is here that I realize I am embarking on an ice cream frontier not even Bear Grylls has trekked before. Every bite highlights the thick custard. This is not made by a waif Skinny Cow. This must be a Paul Bunyan cow: a big, friendly bovine living a happy life munching on daisies in a field somewhere.

But brown butter bacon ice cream cannot live without its Porky Pig compatriot. Luckily, small crispy bacon speckles are given a generous showing. These little dots of joy retain the look and feel of sprinkles, adding salt-and-smoke speckles throughout. It’s magic. I’m convinced this is the stuff Peter Pan’s pixie dust is made of.

And let us not forget the vessel of delivery: the chocolate chip cookies. This particular riff has a soft crumb, yet remains pliable, sturdy, and doughy enough to hold the mini mountain of ice cream inside (no small feat). Unfortunately, the chocolate chips in the cookie are too scarce to contribute their cocoa glow, but the vanilla bacon brown sugar combination is enough to make up for the loss.

Is this a good ice cream sandwich? You bet, but, considering the price tag, I’d encourage it to push itself just a smidge further. Bacon, while beautiful, can be an assertive flavor and, at times, I found it overshadowing the sensitive vanilla and brown butter, which made me sad. There is no need for sadness here. Something to bring back the sweet nuttiness, maybe a peanut butter swirl or a cinnamon sugar cookie, might’ve kept the sweet-and-nutty flavors in check with the bacon.

Coolhaus Louis Ba-Kahn Chocolate Chip Cookie + Brown Butter Candied Bacon Ice Cream In the shadow of the wrapper

But I’m nit-picking here. In the end, Coolhaus delivered a solid, innovative showing. At over 500 calories, my doctor might dub this a, “sometimes food,” but you know what they say: live life to the fullest because you never know when you’ll get smooshed by a display of canned tuna. So go out there, avoid getting smooshed, and maybe eat some bacon brown butter ice cream while you’re at it.

(Nutrition Facts – 520 calories, 250 calories from fat, 26 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 4 gram of dietary fiber, 46 grams of sugars, and 8 grams of protein.)

Item: Coolhaus Louis Ba-Kahn Ice Cream Sandwich
Purchased Price: $4.89
Size: 1 sandwich
Purchased at: Whole Foods
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Loads of ice cream. Bacon sprinkles. Nutty, salty vanilla cream. Cookies actually hold giganto scoop of ice cream. Innovative. Made from happy cows. Reasons to buy a Bacon Wave.
Cons: Brown butter flavor can get muddled. Cookies could use more chocolate chips. Pricey. Getting smooshed by canned goods. Dentist appointments.

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