REVIEW: Drake’s Fudge Dipped Devil Dogs

Drake s Fudge Dipped Devil Dogs

I like my food plain and dry. I eat sandwiches without condiments. Cereal without milk. I credit two things for this strange (according to the world) habit. First, the “Don’t Drown Your Food” public service announcement that ran during Saturday morning cartoons. What can I say, it really stuck with me. Second, the driest snack cakes known to mankind – Devil Dogs. It’s little wonder these cakes are bone-shaped, as in “Dry as a…”

As a child, I took it as a test of my junk food mettle to down a whole Devil Dog (or multiple) without a drink. It was the ‘80s equivalent to the Cinnamon Challenge. Nobody could power through those little Saharas like me. It’s a wonder I survived to adulthood without fatally aspirating a chunk of chocolatey desiccant. Sure, there was a layer of frosting between the layers, but we all know that did nothing to offset the plastic-wrapped drought that is Devil Dogs.

Despite Devil Dogs’ apparent desire to kill me, I love them dearly. They are second only to Hostess Cupcakes in my all-time rankings. But they’ve sat out the recent novelty flavor trend, hence I haven’t paid them much attention lately. So I was delighted to see them re-enter the arena with a new iteration – fudge-dipped. I like it, DD – keeping close to your roots. No garish colors or artificial fruit filling, just more of what you already do well.

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Inside the individual wrappers, I was greeted by the familiar Devil Dog aroma – cocoa-cocoa-cocoa. But a new sensation enveloped my fingers – slightly moist melty chocolate. Like the Ring Dings and Yodels’ shells, Devil Dogs’ new thinny thin covering was body heat sensitive and easily left traces of itself on my hands.

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Compelled by habit, I took the biggest bite possible, expecting the lovely arid velvet to cling to my throat as usual. But three things happened: 1) the fudge coating paved the way for an easy swallow. 2) the cake itself seemed to be slightly less dehydrated – perhaps the chocolate cover held more moisture inside? And 3) the frosting layer was lighter. My memories of Devil Dog filling was a thick, sweet slab. This filling was more like marshmallow – sticky with tiny air pockets. This was a nice change.

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The basic flavor of Devil Dogs was intact – the cocoa cake and the sugary sweet filling. The fudge dip tasted just like Yodels’ and was a logical extension of this classic ‘Dog. The refined textures appealed to the 40+ year-old me who’d rather not eat tiny cakes with the Grim Reaper standing behind me, waiting for his chance.

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Overall, if you’re a fan of Devil Dogs, this is a treat to try. If you can’t handle the realness of Devil “Dry AF” Dogs, you might just be able to take these, with a glass of milk in reach.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 280 calories, 120 calories from fat, 13 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of total sugars and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 18.32 oz. box (8 cakes)
Purchased at: Food Emporium
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Familiar Devil Dog cocoa flavor and Yodel-y chocolate shell. Lighter, fluffier filling. Not being choked by complete, utter dryness.
Cons: Not being choked by beautiful, beautiful dryness. I can’t let it go. I just can’t.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Gold Peanuts & Pretzels Bar

Hershey s Gold Peanuts  Pretzels Bar

HERSHEY’S GOLD – IT’S THE FIRST NEW HERSHEY BAR FLAVOR IN 20 YEARS!!! At least that’s what the press release and news articles screamed.

But didn’t I review a new Hershey’s Cherry Cheesecake bar flavor. a few months ago? And wasn’t I snarfing down Candy Corn and Candy Cane flavors recently? Yes, but Hershey’s says it’s the first non-chocolate flavor release since Cookies ‘n’ Creme in 1995. Like the C&C bar, Hershey’s Gold is a creme-based bar.

How is that different than a flavored white chocolate bar? I fell into a rabbit hole of internet research on what’s considered real “chocolate” and comparing ingredients from various Hershey’s bar flavors.

Three hours later, I realized there was a candy bar next to me, being NOT eaten. Focus! Let’s just say it’s a new Hershey’s bar flavor and consume it already.

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This bar is a deep golden hue, as promised. The peanut and pretzel bits mixed in were tiny shards. I expected larger peanut chunks and hoped for crunchy pretzel balls in the style of the Cookies ‘n’ Creme cookie balls.

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A fun surprise was the new pip layout (yes, that’s what those squares are called, apparently). Instead of the standard uniform rectangles, these are offset with some larger ones. The design initially looked asymmetrical, but came together to satisfy my sense of geometric justice.

On first smell, this thing is ALL peanut butter. On first taste, same thing. Overwhelmingly peanut butter. I can’t discern any pretzel taste beyond a slight burst of salt. Same with the caramelized creme – a little toasty sweetness. These are flavors I associate already with peanut butter and PB-flavored foods, however, so to me they’re hard to separate out. What they do is blend seamlessly to make a really nice peanut butter bar. It’s creamy and salty and sweet, but not too much of any of those things.

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The texture was slightly crunchy, but a far cry from what I’d expect from peanuts and pretzels. As a big pretzel fan, I was disappointed in their shallow presence here. Had this been billed just a peanut butter bar, I’d say this was a great entry.

But the larger issue was — was it s’moreable? I grabbed some holiday Peeps and graham crackers and headed to the microwave. (Yeah, I’m one of those.)

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18 seconds later – Holy peanuts, Batman. These are great. I think this bar is far more interesting as s’mores than as a candy bar.

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(Nutrition Facts – 1 bar – 220 calories, 14 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 20 grams of total sugars, 17 grams of added sugars, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.39
Size: 1.4 oz. bar
Purchased at: Duane Reade
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Good peanut butter flavor. New artsy pip design. Incredibly S’morable.
Cons: Are you there pretzels? It’s me, Rachel. Still haven’t figured out the whole “first non-chocolate bar in 20 years” thing.

REVIEW: Spangler Oreo Candy Canes

1 Spangler Oreo Candy Canes

Christmas Creep is bad, right?

No one wants to see ornaments and stocking stuffers out on display in October. It’s a silent judgement — haven’t you thought about what you’re getting Aunt Mary yet? What’s taking you so long? All this great stuff will be gone by the time you start shopping after Thanksgiving.

But Christmas Candy Creep is A-OK by me! I love walking into a store on November 1st to find Halloween candy on clearance AND a full selection of holiday treats ripe for the picking. So after checking out the 80 percent off Halloween Pop-Tarts to my left, I was delighted to see a brandy-new tower of Oreo Candy Canes on my right. I’ve been waiting for you, my pretties. Come sit with me by the fire.

2 Spangler Oreo Candy Canes

Visually, these candy canes fit the bill. Brown and white stripes mimic the shades of Oreo cookies & filling perfectly. These would look great on a table display with muted tones, but perhaps not the best for tree decorating – stick with the white/bright colors for contrast.

3 Spangler Oreo Candy Canes

Inside the package, there was no aroma. After shedding the individual wrappings, the canes themselves sported a prominent chocolate scent. It was identifiable as “Oreo,” but not authentic Oreo. It was more like a Bonnie-Bell-Lip-Smackers version of Oreo. Not unpleasant, but you won’t forget you’re consuming an approximation of that famous cookie.

4 Spangler Oreo Candy Canes

Moving onto taste. I regret to inform you there isn’t really any. A few licks in, I suspected the taste and smell were one in the same, so I did the old “hold your nose while you eat” test. All hint of Oreo disappeared. It was just a sugary stick. Since most of us (myself included) experience food with our eyes, nose, and mouth, I didn’t consider this a deal breaker, just a bit of a bummer. If you’re smell-challenged, however, don’t bother with these. Instead of “Oreo flavored,” these should probably be called “Oreo scented.”

And, in case you’re wondering, yes, you can fashion them into the traditional holiday weapon of childhood – the candy cane shiv.

5 Spangler Oreo Candy Canes

Overall, they’re a fun change from the usual candy cane offerings – particularly for Oreo fanatics. I enjoyed them, but these were a “one-and-done” choice. I don’t think I’d get them again. 

But since I’m in holiday craft warm-up mode, I wanted to use these in a gingerbread house project. Six sheets of graham crackers (cut with a serrated knife), a cup of Oreo minis, some royal icing cement and you’ve got the basic structure. 

6 Spangler Oreo Candy Canes

One Oreo candy cane makes the door frame and roof topping. Two canes (crushed with a rolling pin) make the gravel around the house. Throw in some icing dots and hearts and voila! You’ve got yourself an Oreo holiday house!

7 Spangler Oreo Candy Canes

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cane – 45 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 10 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of total sugars, 9 grams of added sugars, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 5.3 oz. box (12 candy canes)
Purchased at: Tops
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Fun gift or snack for Oreo fanatics. Great addition to holiday food displays and crafts. Strong “Oreo” aroma.
Cons: Had to put quotes on “Oreo” aroma. Smell definitely came to the party, but didn’t bring its friend flavor.

REVIEW: CVS Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cough Drops

CVS Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cough Drops

A cough drop review? Don’t act like cough drop flavors don’t matter. You know you’ve felt the crushing disappointment of walking into the drug store in peak cold season with a scratchy throat to find all that’s left are the basic blue menthol Halls. Your brain runs through all the flavors you’d rather have: strawberry, cherry, citrus. Hell, I’d take honey before plain menthol.

I have to give CVS a slow clap for taking the bold (i.e. insane?) step of cashing in on the pumpkin spice trend via the cold relief aisle. Mentholated PS cough drops? My first reaction was “Whyyyyyyy?”  But I wanted to try them. I couldn’t wait to HATE them with the fire of a thousand Targaryen dragons.

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So imagine my surprise when I tasted Pumpkin Spice Cough Drops and found them – not bad at all!

It’s tough to describe the aroma inside the bag. It didn’t resemble pumpkin, spices or menthol. It was like asiago Band-Aids…but let’s not dwell on that because if you’re in the market for cough drops, your nostrils will be snot-blocked anyway and you’ll probably never actually smell them.

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When I popped one in my mouth, the first flavor to come screaming out of the gate was loud, obnoxious menthol. Yelling over everyone else and kicking chairs over. But once menthol quieted down, I started picking up on cinnamon just underneath. Not a hot fiery cinnamon, but a warm, fuzzy loved-up cinnamon. There was probably some nutmeg flavor there, too, but I’m bad at identifying nutmeg – it just ends up being in everything I describe as “autumn-y.”

I’m shocked to say this cough drop flavor works. I happen to be trying them in good health on an 80+ degree day, but I can imagine on a chilly fall or winter day when you feel like you swallowed a cheese grater, they’ll be a pretty decent option. They’re still sweet like most cough drops, but a not-unpleasant change from the usual fruit flavors. They’re not delicious, but they’re not the horror show I expected.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 drop – 10 calories.)

Purchased Price: $1.49
Size: 30-drop bag
Purchased at: CVS
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Not the worst thing I’ve ever tasted! The cinnamon/menthol combo works better than expected. (I know! I’m shocked too.)
Cons: Strange aroma – which will likely not be experienced when you have a cold and need cough drops. Do these cough drops make me look like a basic b***h?

REVIEW: Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

1 Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

Ah, the end of summer. A magical time when sleeves appear on clothes again, Halloween candy starts popping up in store aisles and I can finally turn the oven on and bake again (without feeling like I’m living inside it). Thankfully, Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites hit shelves in near-autumn, when I could truly enjoy them.

2 Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

On first look, the sparkling sugar coating promised on the package was nowhere to be found. I guess sugar crystals would likely dissolve after just a short thaw, but still – bummer. When tempted with glitter/twinkle/shine/sequins/shimmer, I take it hard when real life comes up short.

3 Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

After the suggested eight-minute oven bake, the aroma was subtle – enveloping the stove area with a “something’s baking” cinnamony scent. The bites looked exactly the same after baking – I photographed them with my oven mitt in the frame to tell the before & after shots apart.

4 Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

The cinnamon coating gave the bites a density and a flavor kick, but it was more like a crust than crunch. Flavor and texture-wise, the outer shell of the bites screamed “Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls” with that familiar doughy feel. The tops even looked like those cinnamon shards that get half-stuck to the roll below it when you separate them from the exploding cardboard tube. I am a huge fan of the rolls, so I was happy with this development.

5 Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

Inside, the warm cinnamon filling stayed put and didn’t ooze out when cracked open. (I’ll let you decide if that’s a good thing or not.) It was slightly thicker than pudding and had a lovely cream cheese-like flavor taking second billing behind the star of the show, cinnamon.

6 Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

The biggest issue here was the lack of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in these Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites. They didn’t have the eggy undertones of the cereal or the grit of the cinnamon sugar. We need Maury to run a DNA test!

The box has oven and microwave directions, so I nuked a batch too. This only takes 30 seconds and while the taste is the same, the texture changes. The al dente feel is instead a soft bite and moist top.

7 Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

I tried to turn that into a positive, however. With Halloween right around the corner, I deployed my collection of candy eyeballs and edible whatnots. The sticky surface was perfect for grabbing and holding decorations. They also add a crunch that the bite itself doesn’t have.

Overall, I thought these were fun, easy and delicious – a great treat to make with kids. If you want them as-is, take the time to bake them. If you want to glam them up, put ‘em in the blaster.

(Nutrition Facts – 4 bites – 180 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 380 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 13 grams of sugars and 3 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 8.8 oz. box (18 bites)
Purchased at: ShopRite
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: More like Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll Bites, amiright? Fun size & shape, nice cream-cheesy filling. Oven and microwave options. Begging for H’ween decorations.
Cons: Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, you are NOT the father! Don’t ever promise a glitter girl sparkle and not deliver.