REVIEW: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Chocolatey Strawberry Pop-Tarts

Kellogg's Limited Edition Frosted Chocolatey Strawberry Pop-Tarts

January.

The month of Gore-Tex.

The 31 sun-deprived days of fleece, down comforters, knee-length socks, and long underwear pulled up so high, not even Grandpa Joe could compete with your mid-weight, merino-wool-studded rump.

So it goes that, when in my apartment, I turn on as many other easy-to-use electronic devices to generate heat, and, because I can’t leave the door of my microwave open (radiation or something), I find as many excuses as possible to use my toaster (Toast! Bagels! Waffles! Uh…more toast? Yes! More toast!). It was in this state of mind that I picked up these toaster pastries.

And they suit my toaster just fine.

After toasting on medium, the crust is crisp and crackling, breaking with a respectable few crumbs post-toast. Nipping at a corner edge, the chocolate crust seems weaker than usual, tasting more of stale graham crackers and burnt charcoal than chocolate. Fortunately, the frosting, with its milk-chocolatey, candy-like crunch, does its best to pick up the pace a little, and… hey! Sprinkles!

Kellogg's Limited Edition Frosted Chocolatey Strawberry Pop-Tarts Chocolatey Strawberry sprinkles!!

Sprinkles have the unique ability to make me feel I can do anything. Truly. Nothing makes me want to go out and self-engineer a robotic crane without an engineering degree more than sprinkles.

But back to the taste. The inside jam is gooey, if a bit thin to my unrealistic, excess-demanding American brain. The strawberry flavor is pronounced, sugary and a bit flowery. It may be a little flat or sweet for those who like non-hypoglycemic-inducing jams, but, if taste is any indication, the pastries are delighted to have their hyper-sweet, summery strawberry bellies. Can you blame them? Strawberry bellies are the bomb.

Kellogg's Limited Edition Frosted Chocolatey Strawberry Pop-Tarts A moderately chocolatey duo

You know that scene in Back to the Future II where Doc dumps banana peels and beer into the DeLorean’s Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor before it rockets away? That’s what Pop-Tarts does. They take an amalgam of ingredients (some of which other companies might consider “trash”), combine those ingredients together, and voila. Something respectable, sometimes even downright brilliant, is born.

For me, these weren’t downright brilliant, but respectable? You bet. Sure, the crust may have tasted a little like burnt crackers and maybe the chocolate was weak, but they’ve got a decent amount of gooey strawberry filling, they provide a warm vehicle for an especially frigid January, and, friends, sprinkles.

Just. Sprinkles.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pastry – 190 calories, 35 calories from fat, 4 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, <1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Chocolatey Strawberry Pop-Tarts
Purchased Price: $1.98
Size: 8 pastries/box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Candy chocolatey shell. Sprinkles. Gooey insides. Strawberry bellies. Reasons to use your toaster. May inspire spontaneous engineering feats. The DeLorean.
Cons: Low chocolate levels. Thin-ish filling. Crust tastes a bit of stale cracker meal. Insides may be too sweet for some. All those layers of wool socks. Not having an engineering degree when you need one.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Raisin Bran with Cranberries Cereal

Kellogg's Raisin Bran with Cranberries Cereal

You probably have a lot of questions about Kellogg’s Raisin Bran with Cranberries Cereal.

Does it come with two scoop of dried cranberries? Or are two scoops of cranberries and two scoops of raisins dumped into each box? Or does it contain one scoop of raisins and one scoop of dried cranberries? Does Mr. Sun on the box realize that his extinction means the extinction of the entire galaxy? Also, if he doesn’t realize it, would he still smile if he did?

I can answer most those questions.

Kellogg’s Raisin Bran with Cranberries Cereal has a scoop of raisins and a scoop of dried cranberries. Also, yes.

I wonder why it’s taken so long for Kellogg’s to combine dried cranberries with their bran flakes. I thought they would’ve done it soon after the word “Craisins” came into our snacking vernacular thanks to Ocean Spray. Actually, I didn’t expect them to end up in a new Raisin Bran variety. I thought they would have their own line called Kellogg’s Cran Bran.

Kellogg's Raisin Bran with Cranberries Cereal Closeup

If you love dried cranberries and have Costco-sized bags of Ocean Spray Craisins in every room in your house, including your bathroom and S&M chamber, then this cereal will disappoint. Because, after going through the entire box, I think it smells and tastes like good ol’ regular Raisin Bran.

While eating my first bowl, I thought I might’ve gotten a bad box with nothing but raisins. All the shrived fruit looks the same at arms length in an poorly lit S&M chamber. But a closer inspection with better lighting revealed the reddish dried cranberries, and it looked like there was an equal amount of both fruits. However, the dried cranberries sans milk and bran flakes, didn’t have much flavor or tartness.

So if the cranberries don’t offer any flavor, what do they offer?

I also have an answer for that.

Cranberries are a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that regular Kellogg’s Raisin Bran doesn’t have. A serving of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran with Cranberries Cereal has 25 percent of your daily recommended intake. So if you want those damn free radicals to get off your damn lawn, this cereal will help.

Overall, if you enjoy Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, need more vitamin E in your diet, and don’t mind that the bran flakes get soggy quicker than a sponge in the rain, then you’ll enjoy Kellogg’s Raisin Bran with Cranberries.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 1/4 cup – 200 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 210 milligrams of potassium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 18 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, and a bunch of vitamin and minerals.)

Item: Kellogg’s Raisin Bran with Cranberries Cereal
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 13.5 oz. box
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: If you like Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, this will taste the same. Good source of vitamin E. Appears to have an equal amount of raisins and dried cranberries in every box. Cran Bran has a nice ring to it. Two scoops!
Cons: If you like Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, this will taste the same. Cranberries don’t have much flavor or tartness. Not as much potassium and fiber as regular Kellogg’s Raisin Bran. Soggy bran flakes.

REVIEW: Jack in the Box Enchilada Monster Taco

Jack in the Box Enchilada Monster Taco

I wish Jack in the Box’s Enchilada Monster Taco was an enchilada inside of a taco, but it is not. But I’m sure Taco Bell will one day accomplish that feat and give it a name, like Enchitaco, Enchilataco, or Talada.

For those of you not keeping score at home, and I’m pretty sure that’s 100 percent of you, Jack in the Box has introduced six Monster Taco varieties since 2013. There’s the original Monster Taco, Nacho Monster Taco, Bacon Ranch Monster Taco, Breakfast Monster Taco, Southwest Monster Taco, and this one

The Enchilada Monster Taco features seasoned ground beef, shredded lettuce, cheddar cheese, and an enchilada sauce in a partly crunchy, but 75 percent greasy taco shell. At a quick glance, it doesn’t look too different than a regular Monster Taco, but within the grease-stained shell there’s a difference. The original version has slices of American cheese and taco sauce instead of cheddar and enchilada sauce.

As you can see below, my taco had a whole lot of taco beef sludge and shredded lettuce, a bit of enchilada sauce, and not a lot of cheddar cheese. The enchilada sauce is a nice change of pace from Jack’s regular taco sauce. It’s not as spicy as the taco sauce, although the amount of lettuce my taco had might’ve dampened the spiciness. The enchilada sauce is also sweet and has a nice tomato-y, garlicky, and oniony flavor to it. I think I prefer it over Jack’s taco sauce.

Jack in the Box Enchilada Monster Taco Innards

As a whole, I did enjoy Jack in the Box’s Enchilada Monster Taco. It’s tasty and the shell, like all Jack in the Box tacos, has that wonderful crunch on the edges. But it’s too slight of a variation from the original Monster Taco. Adding enchilada sauce to a taco is as exciting as adding ketchup to a burger.

The Nacho version has jalapeños and nacho cheese sauce, the Ranch Bacon has a strip of bacon and ranch sauce, and the Southwest one had black beans and roasted corn. But the Enchilada Monster Taco just has enchilada sauce and shredded cheese. Compared with the others, it sounds unimaginative to me. And I don’t think it’s worth its premium price, which is a few dimes more than the original Monster Taco.

Now if it was an enchilada inside of a taco, then it would be a whole different story.

(Nutrition Facts – 308 calories, 177 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 27 milligrams of cholesterol, 693 milligrams of sodium, 317 milligrams of potassium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.)

Item: Jack in the Box Enchilada Monster Taco
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Enchilada sauce has nice flavor. The crunchy edges of the Taco Shell. Glad it doesn’t have American cheese.
Cons: Too slight of a variation from the original Monster Taco. Not worth the premium price over the original Monster Taco. Not using their creamy sriracha sauce on a taco (it’ll probably happen this year). Mine had a lot of lettuce and not a lot of cheddar cheese. Not an enchilada in a taco.

REVIEW: Subway Monterey Chicken Melt with Subway’s New Grilled Chicken Strips

Subway Monterey Chicken Melt wGrilled Chicken

I’m told that Monterey, California is a beautiful waterfront community with awesome beaches and amazing weather, but I’ve never been there so I’m forced to take the propaganda from the city’s website at its word. Likewise, I’m told Subway’s new Monterey Chicken Melt comes with improved grilled chicken strips which contain no artificial flavors or preservatives, and taste better because they are better.

Whatever that means.

Naturally suspicious of a chain which claims to have single-handedly condensed one giant man into a single pants leg, this is not a claim I can submit to without a little verification.

Subway Monterey Chicken Melt comparison

Subway likes its slogan “Eat Fresh,” but when your oven roasted chicken consists of a somewhat flabby and unnaturally opaque breast of what, presumably, was once a chicken, you’ve earned the right to be called out on the freshness front. For those of you who enjoy the slightly chewy texture and brothy flavor notes of the roasted chicken breast, I have good news. The sandwich to the left features it in all its glory, right on down to the fake black grill marks which are apparently part of the “roasting” process.

Those marks, believe it or not, look suspiciously similar to the ones on the new grilled chicken strips.

Fortunately we speak of two different breasts.

Subway Monterey Chicken Melt wGrilled Chicken 4

The grilled chicken strips on the Monterey Chicken Melt have a much less artificial and salty flavor, while also giving off a pleasant, albeit mild, char-grilled taste which could almost pass as smoky. The portion in a six-inch sub is modest, and the strips lack the proverbial if not injected juiciness of the “roasted” chicken breast, but the flavor is respectable by fast food standards.

While nowhere near as fresh or authentically chargrilled as Chick-fil-A’s Grilled Chicken, I enjoyed the new strips, and enjoyed them on Subway’s “new” sub, which is really just a combination of cheese and protein when you think about it.

Subway Monterey Chicken Melt wGrilled Chicken 2

And let me be real with you here: the new chicken is an improvement, but the Monterey Cheddar makes this sub. It melts perfectly—neither oozing oil nor turning elastic—and adds a subtle milky tanginess, lactic sweetness, and complexity to the sandwich. The vegetables—Subway’s usual combination of tomato, cucumbers, spinach, peppers, and red onion—are fresh and purpose serving, but the sub still tasted a little plain.

I get that Subway wants to keep the attention on the chicken and the cheese, but not marketing the sub with a sauce proves a blunder. At the very least, I’d recommend customizing it with your favorite from Subway’s offerings.

Subway Monterey Chicken Melt wRoasted Chicken

Subway’s Monterey Chicken Melt isn’t very revolutionary, and can more or less be ordered with a Roasted Chicken breast—fake grill marks and salty rib meat aftertaste and all—at fifty cents less than the advertised sub with the new grilled chicken. I did just that, and found it tasty in its own way, the cheese playing a more profound role in offsetting the overly chicken broth flavor of the roasted breast. Still, the flavor of the two sandwiches wasn’t substantially different given the toppings, and had I ordered the same sauce on both my subs, I imagine the flavors would be even more similar.

So does that mean the new, “expertly” prepared grilled chicken is a sham?

Does that mean Monterey’s beaches are actually full of shipwrecked catamarans and the weather is really a none-too-balmy -26 degrees?

Probably not, but what it does mean is that if you’re loading up your sub with fixings, cheese, and sauce, you probably won’t notice the modest, but authentic, grilled taste of the new strips. That’s ok with me. Sometimes less is more—a fact I know the guy they shoved into one pants leg would agree with.

(Nutrition Facts – 6-inch sub on Hearty Italian – 360 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 580 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 27 grams of protein.)

Item: Subway Monterey Chicken Melt with Subway’s New Grilled Chicken Strips
Purchased Price: $4.75
Size: 6-inch sub
Purchased at: Subway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Not the same chicken as the roasted chicken. Good, authentic, and non-artificial tasting char-grilled flavor. Clean tasting chicken strips lack the enhanced chewiness of typical fast food roasted or grilled chicken. Monterey Cheddar finally getting its due. Researching possible vacation sites amidst another East Coast polar-vortex.
Cons: Subtle grill flavor might be a little bland for some. Still not as juicy or flavorful as Chick-fil-A’s grilled chicken breast. Lack of a sauce fails to make the flavors pop. Bread-to-meat ratio lags behind premium sub chains.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Crunchwrap Sliders (Beefy Cheddar, Spicy Chicken, and BLT)

Taco Bell Crunchwrap Sliders

The Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme is the greatest Taco Bell menu item ever and I hope the people who developed it have their portraits or busts displayed throughout the halls of Taco Bell headquarters. If you disagree and try to tell me why it isn’t, I will use a yapping chihuahua to drown you out.

Despite it being awesome and on the menu for almost a decade, the Crunchwrap hasn’t seen much variety. There’s been a spicy chicken version here and breakfast versions there, but it hasn’t gotten the same treatment from Taco Bell’s tacologists that their burritos and tacos have over the years. So it’s nice to see Taco Bell’s new Crunchwrap Sliders make their way onto menu boards, although for a limited time.

The Crunchwrap Sliders come in three varieties: Beefy Cheddar, Spicy Chicken, and BLT. They’re only a dollar at most locations, five inches wide, hexagon-shaped, contain Fritos corn chips, and if I was a taco ninja they would be my throwing stars. According to the sleeve each one comes in, besides the preset varieties, it’s possible to create custom orders, so let this mini taco frisbee be your canvas.

Taco Bell Beefy Cheddar Crunchwrap Slider

The Beefy Cheddar Crunchwrap Slider comes with seasoned ground beef, nacho cheese sauce, cheddar cheese, and Fritos corn chips in a grilled flour tortilla. Taco Bell’s nacho cheese sauce is made using cheddar cheese so I’m not sure why more cheddar is included and I don’t know how anyone other than supertasters could point out the cheddar in the Crunchwrap.

Seasoned ground beef and nacho cheese sauce has been a winning combination for Taco Bell. I could list all the Taco Bell products that have them, but this review would be even more unnecssarily longer than usual. It’s a combo that makes my taste buds happy, but it’s beginning to get a little old. It’s also a combo that does a great job at making Fritos soggy. Granted, it had to sit though a five-minute car ride and three-minute photoshoot before they were consumed, but so did the other two varieties and the Fritos in them were mostly straight-from-the-bag crunchy.

Taco Bell Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Slider

The Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Slider is stuffed with shredded, marinated all-white meat chicken, creamy chipotle sauce, and Fritos chips. If I gave an award to the saddest looking Crunchwrap Slider I received, I would pin a sad face on the Spicy Chicken. The chicken was dry and, compared with the other two, it didn’t look like there was much filling. If it weren’t for the Fritos, it would’ve looked even sadder. Of course, your results will vary. But, thanks to the smoky chipotle sauce, it had some decent flavor, and the chips were still crunchy. For those of you who are excited to see the word “spicy” in its name, I’m going to pop your pepper and tell you it’s not.

Taco Bell BLT Crunchwrap Slider

The BLT Crunchwrap Slider was the one I was least looking forward to because I’m not a fan of the bacon bits they use, which I’ve experienced with Taco Bell’s Waffle Tacos. Along with the bacon, it comes with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, avocado ranch sauce, and Fritos in a flour tortilla.

Surprisingly, this Crunchwrap Slider was my favorite of the bunch, although it was also the messiest of the bunch thanks to the bacon bits, tomatoes, and shredded lettuce not being able to fight gravity. The bacon bits were front and center in terms of flavor because there were a lot of them. It’s as if someone went a little too vertical with the bacon bits bottle. The slightly tangy avocado ranch sauce works well with the other ingredients and it does help with cutting the saltiness of the bacon. Besides messiness, the lettuce adds a little bit of crunch. As a whole, it tastes like I’m eating a sandwich with chips on top.

Overall, l enjoyed all the Crunchwrap Sliders. They aren’t filling, but anything you can pay for with loose change shouldn’t be. They’re available for a limited time, but I believe they should be a regular menu item.

(Nutrition Facts – Beefy Chedar – 410 calories, 170 calories from fat, 19 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 960 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of protein. Spicy Chicken – 400 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 900 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein. BLT – 430 calories, 210 calories from fat, 23 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 900 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Crunchwrap Sliders (Beefy Cheddar, Spicy Chicken, and BLT)
Purchased Price: $1.69*
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Beefy Cheddar)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Spicy Chicken)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (BLT)
Pros: $1 at most locations. Fritos were able to maintain crunchiness in the Spicy Chicken and BLT varieties. Despite my previous negative experience with Taco Bell’s bacon, I enjoyed the BLT the most. Crunchwrap Supreme is the greatest Taco Bell menu item.
Cons: Fritos got soggy in the Beefy Cheddar. BLT version is messy. Beefy Cheddar has a too familiar flavor profile. Spicy Chicken wasn’t spicy. Limited time only.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay just a dollar for each.