REVIEW: Peeps Filled Delights Vanilla Caramel Brownie

Peeps Filled Delight Vanilla Caramel Brownie

In my experience, Peeps are a polarizing force in society. You either love them passionately or think they’re the most disgusting non-food ever created. Thankfully, I made it out of childhood with my sense of whimsy intact and fall squarely in the former camp. Every year, I buy two packages of yellow chicks shortly after Valentine’s Day, and three more from the clearance bins the day after Easter.

I’ve fallen in love with every novelty flavor and dipped version of Peeps that have hit shelves in recent years. Now Peeps with a filling? And there’s a caramel version? I am overcome with the vapors – fetch me my fainting couch!

Peeps Filled Delight Vanilla Caramel Brownie 2

This year’s novelty Peeps have been rebranded as “Delights.” Fitting. But because I was throwing flavors in my shopping cart in a sort of Peep-sterical fit, I didn’t at first notice the word “filled” above the Vanilla Caramel Brownie. More attention should be called to the fact that these are different than the dipped Peeps.

Peeps Filled Delight Vanilla Caramel Brownie 3

The aroma inside the bag was all glorious fudge brownie. A closer sniff of the Peeps themselves was equally brownie and vanilla marshmallow. They looked like the now-standard dipped Peep – sparkling sugar-studded chick, thin shell of chocolate on the bottom, and a smattering of errant crystals clinging to the chocolate. They felt so precious in their individual cubicles – these Peeps fly business class.

Peeps Filled Delight Vanilla Caramel Brownie 4

I expected the caramel filling to be a big central blob, like a jelly doughnut. Instead, it was laced throughout like a ribbon, hitting all the major geographical areas of the peep – including the furthest point of the tail. And yeah, I made the others watch while I split this guy up.

Peeps Filled Delight Vanilla Caramel Brownie 5

I popped a cross-section in my mouth to get the full flavor. The caramel was beautifully thick and stayed just on the right side of the line between real and fake-tasting. The vanilla marshmallow was the typical Peeps sweetness, and the chocolate was like a shot of rich hot chocolate.

Peeps Filled Delight Vanilla Caramel Brownie 6

Of course, I had to give them the head-first treatment. It’s the only real way to eat a Peep, amiright? In this case, the filling added a nice little squish, which tickled the 7-year-old in me.

These were my favorite (excluding the originals). I want more. If you love Peeps, definitely try them. If you’re a Peeps hater, these just might win you over.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 chicks – 180 calories, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 1.75 oz 3-pack
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Brownie-caramel-marshmallow-y goodness. Peeps finally have innards!
Cons: Easy to overlook the fact that they’re filled based on the packaging.

REVIEW: Vanilla Cupcake M&M’s

Vanilla Cupcake M&M’s

The trouble with vanilla cupcake flavor is — just what IS it? Is it simply a marketing ploy because vanilla is “too boring” on its own? What exactly is added to a vanilla item to make it taste like a cupcake? If you asked me what a vanilla cupcake tastes like, I’d say vanilla – in which case, does it need any additions to make it taste like a cupcake? It feels like I’m lost in a hall of mirrors.

Enter Vanilla Cupcake M&M’s. I hoped they would solve this existential crisis for me, since Hershey’s Cupcake Kisses fell short on that task.

Vanilla Cupcake M&M’s 2

The purple & polka dot theme of the packaging is attractive, but I’m not sure I would’ve chosen the Green M&M character for this bag. Cupcakes are fun and silly – the “sexy” M&M (insert eye roll here) vamping seems out of place here. Yellow’s goofy personality would be a better fit. And it would fill my head with J.K. Simmons’ voice saying “Beecher, want a vanilla cupcake?”

The aroma inside the bag was 80 percent vanilla, 20 percent…something else. Something I imagine is meant to remind one of frosting, but comes off as a chemical-y approximation.

Vanilla Cupcake M&M’s 3

The intense pastel hues of these M&M’s made my eyes very happy. They definitely belong in a cute bowl on display next to a bouquet of spring flowers.

Inside, these are the white chocolate/candy coating base we’ve seen in other recent flavor releases like White Cheesecake and Boo-terscotch.

Vanilla Cupcake M&M’s 4

If given a blind taste test of these M&M’s, I would swear they were vanilla milkshake flavored. I picked up on the strong vanilla flavor and I got the milky white chocolate, but the essence of “cupcake” evaded me. The frosting-esque smell didn’t carry over to the taste buds, either.

Vanilla Cupcake M&M’s 5

So did these M&Ms fail at capturing that certain cupcake je ne sais quoi? Or were they right on target, since they tasted like vanilla – exactly as a vanilla cupcake would? I DON’T KNOW!

What I do know is they were delicious and I promptly ate the entire bag. If you like white chocolate M&M’s – and can ponder vanilla cupcake philosophy better than I – give these a go.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz – 210 calories, 100 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 28 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.55 (on sale)
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Beautiful, happy spring colors. Strong vanilla milk flavor.
Cons: A vanilla cupcake this is not. (Or is it?? My head hurts.)

REVIEW: Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal

Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal

Churros existed before I discovered them in 2009, or so I’m told. But that fateful March afternoon in a Barcelona café was a personal turning point. As in – I turn my head any time I hear the word now. “Did someone say churros?” I ask, more a plea than a question.

When Cinnamon Pebbles cereal was announced last month, it was immediately linked with churros. Blog posts breathlessly asked if the breakfast flakes would taste like them. News articles suggested making Cinnamon Pebbles-covered churros.

My churro buds were aching when I ripped open the box of Cinnamon Pebbles. The scent was definitely cinnamon, but not churro-y. It was familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it reminded me of.

Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal 2

I threw a dry handful into my mouth. The size, weight and texture are the same as the classic Pebbles varieties. Then the taste revealed itself. These were not Churro Pebbles. They were the simple cinnamon sugar of my youth.

I instantly flashed back to 8 years old, finding an ancient shaker of Domino’s “Sugar ‘n Cinnamon” in the back of the kitchen cabinet. I started dumping clumps of cinna-sugar (emphasis on the sugar) over my plain Rice Chex cereal. That is precisely the taste of Cinnamon Pebbles.

Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal 3

The cereal absorbed milk quickly, in typical Pebbles (and most rice cereal) fashion. The flavor stayed pretty true wet or dry, which makes me think it’s really baked in, not just a coating. It did impart some cinnamon-sweetness and a beige tint to the leftover milk, but visually not the party of brown flecks I expected.

While I loved the cinna-sugar/rice cereal combo in 1984, and eating it now was a bit of fun nostalgia, it’s 2017 and tastes have changed. Flavors have gotten more complex, exotic and sometimes silly. Hence, I can’t say that this cereal was exciting or “new.” It needed a hook to make it more modern.

Cinnamon Pebbles might have been greatly improved by adding a dash of red pepper, so I set out to do just that. I spread a layer of the cereal on a cookie sheet, sprinkled a mixture of water, ground cayenne and roasted Saigon cinnamon on top and gave it a quick toast in the oven (250 degrees, 5 minutes or so).

Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal 4

The results were beyond my expectations. The extra cinnamon knocked down the overwhelming sugar and the red pepper brought a delayed warmth that hit just as I was ready to take the next spoonful. This was a cereal worth buying again.

Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal 5

I also tried using the Cinnamon Pebbles as a pie crust. Filled with devil’s food instant pudding and a bit of cayenne, it was an easy and decent approximation of churros and chocolate.

Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal 6

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup cereal only – 120 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 11 oz. box
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Yep, they’re Pebbles alright! Pleasant throwback cinna-sugar flavor.
Cons: Too simple for novelty-seekers. Needs something to offset or amp up the cinnamon.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Dunkin’ Donuts Frosted Vanilla Latte Pop-Tarts

Limited Edition Dunkin' Donuts Frosted Vanilla Latte Pop-Tarts

Ugh. Coffee. Know what I hate about coffee?

  1. The taste. Gross.
  2. Endless choruses of “I can’t function until I’ve had my kawfeee.”
  3. Griping of coworkers choking on the terrible brew they insisted I make as an intern, despite my warnings that I was bad at it.
  4. This:

Limited Edition Dunkin' Donuts Frosted Vanilla Latte Pop-Tarts 2

So why am I reviewing COFFEE Pop-Tarts? Because, as a woman of many contradictions, I love java-flavored foods. Jelly beans, ice cream, potato chips – I’ll eat ‘em. Kahlua? Yessir! When the short-term marriage of Pop-Tarts and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee was announced, I was ready. I particularly coveted the Frosted Vanilla Latte flavor – I imagined it would be like eating a non-alcoholic White Russian.

But for the sake of scientific review, I had to compare them to the genuine article. So I popped next door to the Dunkin’ where they give me extra Munchkins if I go in 10 minutes before closing, got a small Vanilla Latte and hunkered down with it and my Box O’ Joe Tarts.

Limited Edition Dunkin' Donuts Frosted Vanilla Latte Pop-Tarts 3

I took deep breaths of each. The same lovely coffee and vanilla aroma was present in both, but the Pop Tarts had an additional, nutty/wheaty scent, which I assumed was the pastry.

Limited Edition Dunkin' Donuts Frosted Vanilla Latte Pop-Tarts 4

The appearance wasn’t exactly exciting. They looked pale – not like the rich tones Pop-Tarts usually come in. The pastry, frosting and filling were all a washed-out monochromatic tan with a white squiggle blended in on top. It reminded me of squirting SPF50 on my embarrassingly colorless skin during a tropical vacation.

Limited Edition Dunkin' Donuts Frosted Vanilla Latte Pop-Tarts 5

On first bite, I loved the taste. As I suspected, this was a Pop-Tart White Russian. (I know there’s a Big Lebowski joke to be made here, but I’ve never seen it, so…) They were coffee-ish, milky and sweeeeeet – exactly what I hoped for.

Limited Edition Dunkin' Donuts Frosted Vanilla Latte Pop-Tarts 6

Next, I downed a mouthful of the DD Vanilla Latte, which confirmed my hatred of coffee. The Pop-Tarts don’t have the bitter punch of the latte. I appreciated that, but if you’re looking for that edge, it’s not there. That could be due to the lack of actual coffee product in the ingredients list. I guess “natural and artificial flavors” don’t impart quite the same zip.

Limited Edition Dunkin' Donuts Frosted Vanilla Latte Pop-Tarts 7

Overall, I really enjoyed these Pop-Tarts, but I’m cool with a less-than-authentic flavor. If you’re not, you might want to dunk them in the real McCoy.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pastry – 200 calories, 50 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 16 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.00 (on sale)
Size: 14.1 oz. box/8 pastries
Purchased at: Food Lion
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: It’s a White Russian Pop-Tart! Spot-on coffee aroma. Delicious, sugary approximation of taste.
Cons: Won’t get you drunk like a real White Russian. Ghostly appearance. If you want authentic coffee flavor, look elsewhere.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s It’s Sedimentary, My Dear Cookie

Trader Joe's It's Sedimentary My Dear Cookie

On picking up Trader Joe’s It’s Sedimentary, My Dear Cookie mix, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a little. The precious Mason jar, the muted tones of the “candy coated chocolate drops,” the cutesy crowd-sourced name. I wanted to trust the company that’s kept me in Speculoos Cookie Butter all this time, however. I read the instructions – mix butter and egg, dump entire jar in.

Wait. What?

Trader Joe's It's Sedimentary My Dear Cookie 2

First rule of Cookie Baking Club is: cream the butter and sugar first. Most cookie recipes (and all mothers) will tell you that whipping the sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy before everything else is cookie gospel. It’s what makes them light and airy. Now Trader Joe was telling me not to. I feared ending up with hockey pucks – something your childhood friends’ hippie parents would give you, saying “These are better than Chips Ahoy, trust me!”

Initial impression opening the jar was the smell of OATS! The oat force was strong with this one. Peanut Butter chips and graham cracker crumbs were present, although aromatically invisible. The dough came together quickly in my mixer – less than 30 seconds. Second rule of Cookie Baking Club: Don’t overmix!

Trader Joe's It's Sedimentary My Dear Cookie 3

Using a loosely-packed 2-Tbsp scoop, I was able to form 30 cookies, despite the label stating it would make 18. That’s a pretty good yield. Next – refrigerate the dough for two hours.

Trader Joe's It's Sedimentary My Dear Cookie 4

TWO HOURS? What kind of patience and willpower does Trader Joe’s think I have? With a tiny fridge, I had to cram every other cold item I own into the crisper bin so these free-range oat balls could chillax.

Eventually, it was time to bake. Since they were cold, the dough didn’t spread or flatten much – more like puffed out into domes.

Trader Joe's It's Sedimentary My Dear Cookie 5

I must admit, these cookies surprised me.

Trader Joe's It's Sedimentary My Dear Cookie 6

They’re dense, but not potential deadly weapons in a food fight. More than 4 might leave you feeling like there’s rocks in your belly, though. They were crumbly on the outside and soft on the inside.

After baking, the oats piped down and let the peanut butter chips and graham cracker crumbs dominate the flavor, which I appreciated.

Trader Joe's It's Sedimentary My Dear Cookie 7

I would have liked more “candy coated chocolate drops” for color, but overall, this was a pretty decent cookie mix. Could be a nice gift for busy parents, kids, or anyone who wants to upgrade from the “cut and bake” pre-made cookie dough.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/8 cup (as prepared per directions) – 200 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 23 oz. jar
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Easy to make. Nice earthy peanut butter and graham cracker flavor. Presentation is gift-appropriate.
Cons: Could use more “candy coated chocolate drops.” Cynics might contract charming-itis from the whole thing.