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.

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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.

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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.

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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: Lay’s Poppables (White Cheddar and Sea Salt)

Lay's Poppables

In between its flavor experiments (long live the cappuccino chip!), Lay’s has decided to try switching up the form factor on the beloved potato chip for its next innovation. The results are named Poppables for their popped up 3D shape that can easily be popped into your mouth.

Before you read any further please take note, though, that these are high class potato snacks.

Exhibit A – the eye catching design on the top of the bags as Harper’s Bazaar tells me that polka dots are recently back on trend.

Exhibit B – the o in Poppables needs a dot below it, which the internet tells me is a diacritic mark, whatever that is. Do you pronounce it differently? No clue.

Exhibit C (and if you weren’t already convinced this is the dead giveaway) – notice that the two featured flavors are not just cheddar but white cheddar and not just original but sea salt.

Lay's Poppables 2

I’m surprised they didn’t go further with possibly aged white cheddar or pink Himalayan salt or something. I, myself, alternate between drip coffee and espresso, so I do like to think of myself as highbrow every now and then meaning I was very, very excited to try out these bite-sized snacks.

Lay's Poppables 3

Their shape looks like a lattice cut potato chip and an M&M had a beautiful snack baby. A very hollow but starchy one. Each is about the size of a quarter and significantly puffed out towards the center. The crunchiness is definitely a highlight as there are so many layers to bite through from the unique shape.

After the crunching gives way, the flavors definitely make their arrival. The sea salt ones have a tiny bit too much saltiness to them as it increases the more you chew. The white cheddar, though, have a nice crunch followed by intense cheesy flavor that then transforms into your classic potato chip profile. I found myself continually popping these into my mouth as they are a lot lighter than expected and not heavy at all (until you have eaten half the bag, though).

Lay's Poppables 4

To wrap up on these Poppables, out of the two eatable flavors available, and while this could be debatable, I did think that the white cheddar was more desirable and capable of tingling my excitable taste buds even though both, while perishable and potentially breakable, were portable, delectable, and very satiable potato snacks.

(Nutrition Facts – White Cheddar – about 28 pieces – 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein. Sea Salt – about 30 pieces – 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.49 each
Size: 5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10 (White Cheddar)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Sea Salt)
Pros: On trend packaging design. Potato chips and M&M’s falling in love and procreating. Crunchiness and lightness all in one.
Cons: Overuse of the suffix -able. Aged White Cheddar and Pink Himalayan Salt getting the shaft.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Girl Scouts Thin Mints Cereal

Limited Edition Girl Scouts Thin Mints Cereal

One hundred years.

The Girl Scouts of America have been selling cookies since 1917. That’s how long in the making this was.

Now that Girl Scout Cookie season is upon us, our favorite pint-sized peddlers have teamed up with General Mills to stock shelves with a breakfast cereal representative of their famous baked goods. It’s about time.

The famous flavors of Girl Scout Cookies have managed to find their way into everything from ice cream to chocolate bars over the years, and starting now, you can officially have Thin Mints and Samoas in a bowl for breakfast without feeling awful about yourself.

I picked up a box of Thin Mints at Target, opting to pass on the Caramel Crunch (Samoas) variety, because the idea of having a mint flavored cereal intrigued me much more.

They certainly smell the part, which took a second to adjust to. I don’t think I’d ever even heard of a breakfast cereal with mint in it until that moment. I can’t think of one off the top of my head. Either way, the cereal smells just like the cookie.

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As far as aesthetics, they aren’t the best looking cereal. My brother’s dog eats food pellets that look exactly like these little dark discs, so that image was tough to shake at first. For a more palatable example, If Cookie Crisp ever borrowed a marketing ploy from the Cap’n, these would be “Oops, All Chocolate Chips Cookie Crisp.”

The cereal pieces have an outer crispy area encapsulating a center that tasted like it was on a fast track to sogsville the second I poured the milk in. Each bite had a typical crunch but soon turned gluey, and clung to my teeth more than I expected.

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All in all, they taste like less chocolately Cocoa Puffs with a cool little mint kick on the finish. The mint flavor fades as the cereal pieces start to scratch your mouth up, but there was still a constant cooling reminder that you’re eating a mint cereal. That being said, these aren’t exactly Altoids. Don’t forget to brush your teeth after breakfast, ya sickos.

I tried these as a dry snack, too. I had a couple handfuls out of the box, and the chocolate was more pronounced. The pieces are coated in a powdery layer of flavor that must have faded immediately when the milk was poured on. The mint also powers through more on the dry pieces. I guess it was intentional that the extra powder layer was included to improve the milk at the end of the bowl.

Limited Edition Girl Scouts Thin Mints Cereal 4

I’ve gone on record about my feelings of cereal milk. I don’t even want it half of the time. Part of me finds it mildly disgusting – a tepid, gross colored pool of cereal backwash – but the other part of me feels guilty pouring half a cup of milk down the drain.

But Thin Mints has some pretty damn good cereal milk. You can’t really go wrong with minty chocolate milk, can ya?

So, this is a decent first effort by General Mills. I still plan to try the Samoas cereal, but expect them to be a less impressive transition to a cereal box. As a lover of Reese’s Puffs, I really hope they tackle Tagalongs next.

These cereals are a limited edition, so act quick. I’m not positive if proceeds benefit the Girl Scouts, but I imagine they do. Either way, I always take some solace knowing I’m contributing to a good cause when I house an entire box of Girl Scout Cookies.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 Cup – 120 calories, 3 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 12 grams of other carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 9 grams of sugars, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 11 oz. box
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: They smell like the real thing. Basically a Cocoa Puffs/Cookie Crisp hybrid. Mint in a cereal. Tasty cereal milk. Hopefully a good sign of what’s to come. 100 years of Girl Scout Cookies.
Cons: Sogged up quickly. Mint fades as you go. What the heck are “other carbohydrates?” Little burger looking cereal pieces. No fun games on the back of the box, just some kind of environmental message.

REVIEW: Double Chocolate and Oatmeal Chips Ahoy Thins

Nabisco Double Chocolate Chips Ahoy Thins

If you find yourself standing in the cookie aisle because someone broke your heart, you’re stressed out, or “me want cookie” is thumping in your head with an EDM beat, you’re going to be faced with a wall of cookie choices.

Let me help you by figuring out if Double Chocolate or Oatmeal Chips Ahoy Thins will temporarily fill that hole in your heart, bring you down from pulling out your hair, or get the Cookie Monster voice loop out of your head.

As you probably know Nabisco offers Oatmeal Chewy Chips Ahoy and Choco Chunky Chips Ahoy, which appear to be the inspiration for these new thin cookies. To be honest, I haven’t had the oatmeal ones in years. In fact, it’s been such a long time that I forgot they have chocolate chips and not raisins (I know it’s CHIPS Ahoy and not RAISINS Ahoy).

Nabisco Oatmeal Chips Ahoy Thins

As I mentioned in my Chips Ahoy Thins review, I love their texture, and both new varieties have that distinctive crispiness. But while the Original Chips Ahoy Thins are uniform in shape and size, these new flavors aren’t. I don’t know if it’s a production error, but in the packages I purchased half are circular and the other half are oval.

Oatmeal and Double Chocolate Chips Ahoy Thins

The Double Chocolate had a pleasing deep chocolate flavor because of the one-two chocolatey punch of the chips and cookie. While I loved the original Chips Ahoy Thins, I have to say the amped up flavor of these made my taste buds prefer them slightly more. They’re so tasty that it’s been hard trying to limit myself to a single serving size of four cookies in one sitting. Actually, I’ve failed almost every time.

As for the Oatmeal flavor, they’re good, but not as enjoyable as the Double Chocolate (or any of the other Chips Ahoy Thins varieties). But you probably knew that because I’m going to say 95-98 percent of you will agree with the following: Chocolate chip cookies > oatmeal cookies.

Sure, they have rolled oats in them and there’s raisin paste. Who doesn’t love raisin paste? But the ground up oats kind of get in the way of the chocolate and the raisin paste doesn’t raise the flavor of the cookie. So, basically, if you’re dealing with crap, these are not the cookies to help you cope.

So after reading this review, if you still find yourself in front of a wall of cookies at the store, pull out the Double Chocolate Chips Ahoy Thins, take a deep breath, and say to yourself either, “you deserve someone better,” “everything is going to be all right,” or “STFU, Cookie Monster!”

(Nutrition Facts – 4 cookies – Double Chocolate – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 60 milligrams of potassium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein. Oatmeal – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 45 milligrams of potassium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.00 each
Size: 7 oz. package
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Double Chocolate)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Oatmeal)
Pros: Double Chocolate is wonderful and I’m having a hard time stuffing my mouth with them! Love the crispiness of them. Double Chocolate ones might help you if you dealing with crap. Hearing Cookie Monster say “me want cookie” a few times.
Cons: Just thinner versions of regular Chips Ahoy varieties. Oats get in the way of the chocolate. Raisin paste doesn’t raise the flavor of the cookie. Stress. Breaking up. Hearing Cookie Monster say “me want cookie” over and over for several minutes.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Cupcake Kisses

Hershey's Cupcake Kisses

In my mind, and in my heart, cake and Kisses fall in essentially the same category. Short, sweet, and simple reminders that life is worth living, and ideally consumed/received on a daily basis. It is under this umbrella of logic that I read the news of Hershey’s Cupcake Kisses and proceeded to die with anticipation.

For this Target-exclusive Valentine’s Day candy Hershey’s put a spin on their popular Cookies ‘n’ Creme flavor (also available as Kisses) and made a “white cookie cupcake” kiss with colored cookies and cupcake flavor. Opening the playful pink bag is like dunking your face into a Funfetti frosting wonderland, It is exactly what I wanted these Kisses to smell like.

Hershey's Cupcake Kisses 2

The initial bite is very sweet and smacks you in the face with vanilla frosting splendor. At first these Kisses taste exactly like hardened bits of Funfetti vanilla frosting with the cookie pieces in place of the festive sprinkles, and the white chocolate is the jarred faux-buttercream. Unfortunately there is a strange astringent aftertaste that dominates and leaves my mouth tasting unpleasant and artificial, almost like a cake made with too much baking soda.

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I thought it might be coming from the colored cookie pieces, which unlike in the cookies and cream version have no chocolate or specific flavor to them. I was able to isolate some of the cookies in my mouth and they tasted fine, like a slightly tame shortbread. After repeatedly trying more Kisses to shake the bitter essence, it kept coming and put a damper on the overall experience, but for some reason I kept wanting to eat them.

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There is a lore that pink or red frosting has a bitter strong flavor when compared to other dyes, likely due to the use of iodine, Red #3, or Red #40. Although not specifically listed in the ingredients, there could be an element of frosting-emulation at play here that is causing the strange aftertaste.

Whether that translates to a true cupcake experience or a failed element of execution is up to you, but it’s certainly there, and for me, ultimately distracting. Strange frosting flavors have never kept me from crushing cake in the past, and while these Kisses miss the mark of being perfect, I will still eat at least three servings of them (27 Kisses).

(Nutrition Facts – 9 pieces – 200 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 10 oz. package
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Funfetti frosting wonderland. Still oddly delicious. Foil covered in hearts. So many shades of pink.
Cons: Weird bitter aftertaste. Cake doesn’t have a crunch.