REVIEW: General Mills Strawberry and Blueberry Tiny Toast Cereals

General Mills Strawberry and Blueberry Tiny Toast Cereals?
Toast is so en vogue right now. You’ve got your avocado toast, your restaurants that only serve toast, and your beer made from toast. Hell, at this point, you’d half expect toast to start singing “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It).”

Toast wasn’t always the critical darling it is today. For years, it perched precariously on the side of breakfast platters everywhere, only there to sop up the remnants of runny yolks (or last night’s bad decisions, if you know what I mean).

But then, in 1984, the cereal wizards at General Mills introduced Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and the rest was history. What then followed were years of toast cereal offshoots like French Toast Crunch and Peanut Butter Toast Crunch, which led me to believe that General Mills should just change their name to “That Cereal Company That Only Makes Toast Themed Cereal.”

Enter Strawberry and Blueberry Tiny Toast cereals to prove my point.

In what is apparently General Mills’ first new cereal brand in fifteen years (I know, I was just as surprised as you), Strawberry and Blueberry Tiny Toast cereals were developed to have an “all-family appeal.” I’m not sure where General Mills finds their test families, but I imagine that the folks who thought this cereal would appeal to everyone are the same folks who think Pop-Tarts are a good source of your five-a-day.

Upon opening the box, the tiny toast cereals have a scent reminiscent of fruit and cream instant oatmeal. While it’s totally artificial, it brings back memories of all of the times in college I didn’t have the time or the initiative to make a more nutritious breakfast. Then upon pouring it out, I was greeted by an adorable bowl full of tiny pieces of toast. We’re talking Honey, I Shrunk the Kids tiny here. Rick Moranis would be proud.

General Mills Strawberry Tiny Toast Cereal

The look of the cereal is a different story, as the specks of fruit on each piece of tiny toast look a little more like measles and mold than anything natural. If Cinnamon Toast Crunch is the “taste you can see,” this cereal is more like the “taste you should see a doctor about.”

As a cereal purist, I first tried both cereals sans milk. Upon scooping out my first bite, I noticed the toasts had a dry and dusty appearance, which was affirmed when they immediately dissolved on my tongue. While the texture isn’t the most pleasant (think arid desert), the taste is much better, with both giving off muffin-like oat flavors mixed with the fruit.

General Mills Blueberry Tiny Toast Cereal

Tired of the Sahara-like climate inside my mouth, I drowned the cereals in milk. Let me tell you – Milk. Is. A. Game. changer. The milk immediately fluffs up the tiny toasts, giving them a more pleasant appearance and mouthfeel, and making the cereal much more enjoyable to eat. It’s like that Lubriderm commercial where they apply it to an alligator – it works that well.

Overall, the Tiny Toast cereals are a pretty good, albeit artificial, addition to your balanced breakfast. Let’s just hope that General Mills doesn’t come out with a crappy sequel.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 120 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99 each
Size: 11.1 oz box
Purchased at: Star Market
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Blueberry)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Strawberry)
Pros: R&B jams. “Honey, I shrunk the breakfast.” Muffin-like fruit flavor. Moisturized with milk.
Cons: Need for cereal antibiotics. Dusty texture sans milk. Remembering bad decisions.

QUICK REVIEW: Rockstar Ginger Brew Energy Drink

Rockstar Ginger Brew Energy Drink

I took a deep breath and braced myself before my first sip of Rockstar Ginger Brew Energy Drink. With the name “Ginger Brew,” I expected the beverage to burn like every ginger beer I’ve tried.

And I expected I’d say “Mmmm” and pretend to be cool because I was drinking a ginger beer, but screaming internally from the ginger burn going down my throat.

But there was no burn, grimaces, silent screaming, tensing of muscles, or calls out to mommy, because I should’ve realized that “Ginger Brew” could also mean ginger ale. Yes, Rockstar has created an energy ginger ale. So while the ginger may help settle your stomach, the caffeine will do the opposite to your heart.

Actually, ginger isn’t listed as an ingredient. Instead, it’s under the mysterious “natural flavors.” But that’s also the case with big brand ginger ales, like Seagram’s and Canada Dry.

The ginger flavor is as light as an elf’s breath. It’s so light that if I didn’t know it was a ginger ale, I would’ve thought it was a regional citrus soda with a silly name like Quenk. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rockstar Ginger Brew is a slightly tweaked version of Rockstar Revolt Killer Citrus.

Rockstar Ginger Brew Energy Drink 2

Overall, it’s still a decent tasting energy drink that’s not overly syrupy like other Rockstar varieties. If the ginger flavor was slightly more intense, I would’ve like it more. It’s easy to drink and I’d definitely buy it again if I need to slam down 160 milligrams of caffeine and settle my tummy.

Purchased Price: N/A
Size: 16 oz. can
Purchased at: Purchased on eBay (currently an amp exclusive flavor)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (8 ounces) 140 calories, 0 grams of fat, 10 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 32 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, 100% niacin, 100% vitamin B6, 100% vitamin B12, and 100% pantothenic acid.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Mushroom Swiss Burger Pizza

Papa John's Mushroom Swiss Burger Pizza

Papa John’s seems hellbent on deconstructing already-existing fast food sandwiches and turning them into pizza. They are the Dr. Frankenstein of dough. And, as with the infamous doctor, things don’t always go well.

For instance, there was the time they tried to turn a Philly cheesesteak sandwich into a pizza, and they also did it to a double cheeseburger. Both of these were, in my opinion, failed attempts. Oh, sure, Papa John could shout “IT’S ALIVE!” But at what cost?

To my taste buds, I mean. The price is on their menu.

I feel like right after the God of Burgers created the cheeseburger and then added bacon to it, his next creation was the mushroom Swiss burger. I’m not sure why it was that combination that came up next, but it seems to be menu item #3 on a lot of burger restaurants’ lists.

Papa John's Mushroom Swiss Burger Pizza 2

Papa John’s says that “Our New burger pizza comes with beef, crimini mushrooms, onions, cheese made from mozzarella and Swiss cheeses, with creamy garlic sauce.”

I’m not a mushroom expert, but the mushrooms that came on my pizza looked like what I would call “pizza mushrooms”. Are criminis always used for pizzas? I don’t know, but the ones on my pizza tasted like pizza mushrooms. Which is fine, I suppose. There was also a healthy coverage of them.

What there was not a lot of was burger pieces. I feel like if you’re going to make a pizza specifically designed from a burger, you should get at least one burger piece per bite. That was not the case with my pizza. However, the umami from the mushrooms helped balance that out a little.

The onions were, of course, rather floppy, but they added a nice kick of flavor to the pizza. As for the Swiss, I feel like it added an extra dimension to the cheese profile. I also feel like that sentence smelled just a tiiiiny bit like bullshit. My mind could have been tricking me into thinking that the Swiss was there; I honestly can’t say for sure.

Papa John's Mushroom Swiss Burger Pizza 3

Call it trivial if you like, but I think the biggest victory of this pizza was Papa John’s choice to use garlic sauce. They must have tweaked the recipe since its application on the Philly Cheesesteak Pizza, because this time it did not taste like bile. It had a nice creamy texture and the taste of garlic was present but not overwhelming.

This was a critical decision, because using tomato sauce would have made the pizza impressively boring, and using the weird “zesty burger sauce” they had on their Double Cheeseburger Pizza would have been disgusting because that shit tasted like hot Thousand Island. So again, good call, Papa.

The Mushroom Swiss Burger Pizza is by far not Papa John’s worst limited time pizza, but I wasn’t exactly blown away by it. There were lots of mushrooms, but they were the same kind of mushrooms you’d get on a usual pizza as far as I could tell, and the burger – kind of an important part – was sparse. I’m not entirely sure I could taste the Swiss, but if I did, it was okay? The real saving grace here was the creamy garlic sauce, which really brought the pizza together and gave it that little something special that it otherwise definitely would have lacked.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/6 of a small pizza – 240 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 500 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 9 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $12.00
Size: Small
Purchased at: Papa John’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Creamy garlic sauce brings it all together. The God of Burgers. Plenty of mushrooms. Garlic sauce doesn’t taste like bile this time.
Cons: Sparse burger pieces. Being the Dr. Frankenstein of pizza. My stupid brain could have tricked me into tasting Swiss. Just a bit boring.

REVIEW: Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza

Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza

Over the years, competitors have come out swinging – stuffing crusts with hot dogs, creating delivery cars with pizza ovens, and paying Peyton Manning.

Last year, Little Caesars tried to play ball with the Bacon Wrapped Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza. Dialing it back, Little Caesars’ latest contribution to realm of ridiculous pizza innovation is their new Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP!DEEP! Dish Pizza. I’ve learned from my day job that if you throw the adjective “premium” in front of your product or offering, it’s a sure win!

Continuing to sip on my haterade, I conclude from the rectangular box that my pizza isn’t round. What! Choquée! The box does proudly tout that Little Caesars is America’s Favorite Detroit-Style Deep Dish Pizza. Detroit is home to a lot of great things like the Detroit Lions, so what could go wrong here? Kidding.

Because Little Caesars is carry-out only, the eau d’pizza had about 20 minutes to permeate my car. I’ll give Little Caesars this – if they bottled the tantalizing pepperoni aroma, I’d buy it. When I got home, I expect it to look as glorious as it smells but the squares look really plain, small, and sad. Product description reads: “Four corners of perfection weren’t enough, so we gave you eight!” Honestly Little Caesars, I would’ve been fine with one, good round pizza.

Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza 3

While I can look past size, the pepperoni pieces were clearly just haphazardly thrown on. It looks like the one time I tried to play ring toss inebriated. I do appreciate that the pepperoni wasn’t marinating in a puddle of oil like competitors’ pepperoni pizzas.

While the overall pizza is hardly as ooey-gooey as it is in the ads, two slices down and I’m heavy breathing. I find myself feeling relieved that the cheese isn’t molten lava because it’s as if an entire cheese wheel was melted down and stuffed into the contents of this square dough. It’s like the dough and cheese have fused into one; I’m not quite sure where one begins and the other ends – there’s cheese on top, cheese in the middle, cheese in the crust. Alls I know is that my stomach is stuffed like this pizza.

Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza 4

I’m amazed that a single square slice somehow holds everything with such grace – no collapsing soggy crust whatsoever like other competitors’ stuffed crusts and not dry and hard like some Sicilian-style pizza I’ve had. Conclusion: Stuffed Crust DEEP!DEEP! Dish Pizza is the Spanx of pizzas. Like Spanx, it’s somehow containing and holding in all the cheese. The little muffin top forming over my jeans is a stark contrast to the pizza’s remarkable composure. Damn, I knew I should’ve worn my stretchy pants.  

This really does remind me of elementary school cafeteria pizza. But, this conjures fond memories for me like a square pizza patronus (where my Gryffindors at?!). Like all elementary school meals, it looks unappetizing and has way too much sodium; but if you count the pepperoni as your daily serving protein and tomato sauce as your daily serving of vegetables, you have a square meal. Get it? *buh dum tss*

Square pizza = square meal. Ha! No? Okay, fine. Fair.

Dad jokes aside, I will admit it’s not the best pizza I’ve ever had, but it’s definitely one of the better fast food chain pizzas. I still think that pizza shouldn’t be square but the this one can be the exception.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Purchased Price: $10
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Little Caesars
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Eau d’pizza could be bottled and sold. Spanx of pizzas – will induce heavy breathing. Square pizza patronus.
Cons: Deceptive – doesn’t look as good as it smells and cheese isn’t ooey-gooey as advertised. Square.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Ritz Ultimate Butter Crackers

Limited Edition Ritz Ultimate Butter Crackers

Butter.

It makes bread taste better. It makes theater popcorn less healthy. It made Paula Deen a multimillionaire. And it helps take off rings that have gotten stuck on fingers because folks have eaten either too much buttered bread, theater popcorn, or Paula Deen’s cooking.

Butteriness.

It’s one of the defining characteristics of the iconic Ritz Cracker. Crumbly is also a defining characteristic, but I’m not here to talk about the mess Ritz Crackers make. I’m here to discuss whether it’s necessary to take the already buttery Ritz Cracker and make the Limited Edition Ritz Ultimate Butter Crackers.

The cracker has a strong artificial butter flavor, which isn’t surprising since the words “artificially flavored” are printed on the front of the box in tall thin letters and they have a smell that’s similar to what you’d get with anything that’s “buttered popcorn” flavored. 

Limited Edition Ritz Ultimate Butter Crackers 2

The first cracker is a bit odd, but not odd enough to make me go “nope,” walk away, and leave the other seven Fresh Packs for birds. But if you have an aversion to Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, I imagine you won’t enjoy these. 

However, after that initial cracker, the artificial butter flavor fades, which I guess is a good thing. But even with a muted flavor, they’re still noticeably more buttery than regular Ritz crackers. I think they’re not bad on their own and they’re as crispy as any Ritz cracker, but I definitely prefer regular Ritz Crackers over them.  

On the Limited Edition Ritz Ultimate Butter Crackers box, it suggests you create “Ritzwiches” featuring steak and potatoes, corn and bacon, and caramel corn. Seeing those suggestions got me thinking that maybe these crackers were really meant to be eaten with toppings. 

Since I lack the drive to prepare fancy toppings like steak and potatoes, I went with whatever was in my fridge — processed American cheese. I have to admit the American cheese between two crackers was surprisingly good. It tasted as if I was eating a grilled cheese sandwich.

Limited Edition Ritz Ultimate Butter Crackers 3

I also used another ingredient from my fridge to make cracker sandwiches — butter. Let’s face it, using a pat of butter as the filling for a cracker sandwich with these extra buttery crackers would truly make them the ultimate.

So how did it taste? It tastes just like a pat of butter or licking the paddle attachment of a KitchenAid Stand Mixer that was just used to soften butter.

Remind me to not eat that again.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Fresh Stack – 200 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 370 milligrams of sodium, 40 milligrams of potassium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 11.5 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: As crispy as regular Ritz Crackers. Not bad after the first cracker. Tastes surprisingly good with American cheese. Butter.
Cons: First cracker has a heavy artificial butter flavor. If you don’t like Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly, you’re not going to like these. Maybe not meant to be eaten without toppings. Making cracker sandwiches using pats of butter.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Ben & Jerry’s flavor gurus have wizarded four new Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert flavors: Chunky Monkey, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Coffee Fudge Caramel, and P.B. & Cookies. Yes, autocorrect keeps reminding me that “wizarded” is not a real verb but the flavor gurus’ work is food magic.

While my body is still processing lactose like a champ, I have many friends who can no longer enjoy lactose-filled foods – even with Lactaid! But, is Ben & Jerry’s giving my lactose-intolerant friends the real deal with this Non-Dairy innovation? I’m particularly skeptical of Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey because it’s a brazen move to try to replicate a tried & true flavor.

There’s only one way to settle it – a good ole taste-off.

As I open both pints and get ready to dig in, Rocky IV flashes before me. Regular Chunky Monkey is Rocky – now wildly successful and the crowd-pleasing favorite. It used to be the underdog because banana ice cream isn’t OG like vanilla or chocolate. Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey is Ivan Drago – designed to perform and to mirror the best of the best.

*DING DING DING*

The first round, taste, goes to regular Chunky Monkey. Unlike the full-fat Chunky Monkey, Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey doesn’t have a creamy buffer so the banana flavor is reminiscent of banana-flavored Runts. Runts were one of the worst candies in the childhood trick-o-treat plunder and of course, the banana-shaped runt was the worst flavor of them all. It’s not looking so hot for Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey.

Chunky Monkey and Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey are neck-and-neck in Round Two – texture. Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey takes the win. Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey’s overall texture is surprisingly identical to the regular Chunky Monkey. How is Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert made with almond milk?! Vegan ice creams are typically made with fattier substances like cashew milk or coconut milk. I don’t know what kind of almond milk Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield drink but the almond milk in my fridge is most closely related to murky water. ALMOND MILK SORCERY!!!

Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert 2
(L – Non-Dairy, R – Regular)

Round Three, mix-ins, is a swift win for regular Chunky Monkey. Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey’s packaging claims that it’s “so boldly loaded with chunks & swirls.” While I can clearly see the superior distribution of the fudge chunks and walnut pieces in Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey, the Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey fudge chunks have a sandy texture and are also less deliciously rich. It’s a rookie error of quantity over quality – tsk, tsk Non-Dairy!

Instead of ring girls holding up round cards, it’s just me holding up two spoons – alternating bites of ice cream and Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert at lightning speed. Brain freeze? Yep, numerous times.  

Now, we’re in the 15th & final round (and I’m finally almost done with both pints). Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey goes the distance; it’s not melting as quickly as regular Chunky Monkey. Regular Chunky Monkey is puddling into pools while Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey is melty but definitely looks more solid.  

Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert 3

The taste-off is over and it’s a close call. Regular Chunky Monkey edges out Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey. However, like Rocky & Drago, Chunky Monkey & Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey can co-exist! While Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey is not an exact replica of the regular Chunky Monkey, it’s pretty damn close.

As a lactose-lovin’ gal, Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey wouldn’t be my go-to because it doesn’t have the full-fat richness, fragrance. But, some Ben & Jerry’s is better than no Ben & Jerry’s; Non-Dairy is a really great option for lactose intolerant/vegan folks. Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey Frozen Dessert won’t be in the Flavor Graveyard any time soon.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 260 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 26 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.79
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Vons
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Almond Milk Sorcery!!! Superior distribution of the good stuff. Coexist with regular Chunky Monkey like Rocky & Drago! Goes the distance.
Cons: Banana-flavored runts. Sandy fudge chunks.