REVIEW: Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies

Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies

Candy Canes and Cookies.

It has a cute ring to it, doesn’t it? Like the title of a baking blog, or a children’s Christmas story, or even a specialty store that sells holiday-themed socks. But eaten together?

Sure, we’ve had Candy Cane Oreo Cookies, but a part of me has always felt the confection world should never be combined with the creaming method world. It’s sort of like fish and cheese. Conventional wisdom tells us these things just don’t “go” together, and far be it for drumming up iconoclasm once Christmas comes around.

Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies change all that. It really shouldn’t be a surprise; I mean, these are cookies baked by magical elves. Yes, they may live in a tree owned by Kellogg’s, but I like to think of the Keebler elves as cousins to Santa’s elves, except more proficient in cookie making than toy making.

And let me tell you something: The Keebler elves nail the cookie thing here, just like how Santa’s elves nailed my 1997 request for a Nintendo Gameboy. The familiar shortbread cookie base is crunchy, buttery, and not overpoweringly sweet; small bursts of red nonpareils lend a sweet sugar cookie vibe, while the white fudge coating further adds to the frosting-like texture of the cookie.

Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies 2

Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies 4

As for the peppermint taste, it’s right where it needs to be. The danger with peppermint anything is that the floral, light taste of mint overwhelms the taste buds and makes you feel like you’re eating a Tic-Tac. Thankfully, that is not the case with these cookies. The peppermint taste is there, but it’s not that rush of winter freshness that comes from binging on a box of candy canes (pro tip: not good). Instead, the floral taste gives a cool relief to the frosting-like white fudge, which has a rich vanilla sweetness.

Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies 3

While Keebler’s elves are clearly taking a page from Santa’s elves in the design of a Christmas themed cookie, what they haven’t managed to do is perfect a flawless packaging and delivery system. The same nonresealable package that plagues Fudge Stripes houses the limited edition cookie, while the white fudge coating had melted by the time I opened the package. The ensuing peppermint white fudge, while lickable and probably awesome on cupcakes, was stickier and harder to wash off my paws than the sugar coating of a half-eaten candy cane.

You gotta give it to the Keebler elves. After years of offering plain Fudge Stripes (which are delicious) they’ve tinkered their treehouse production facilities and expanded into pumpkin spice, birthday cake, cookies & creme, and now peppermint. I’m not saying these would be a great cookie to leave out for Santa, but yeah, with the frosted shortbread cookie vibe, crunchy vanilla, and peppermint sweetness, I am kind of saying that.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories from fat, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of sat fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, 0 grams of fiber, and less than 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 11.5 oz
Purchased at: United Supermarkets
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Fresh and floral peppermint taste that doesn’t linger on your tongue like a candy cane. Crunchy shortbread cookie with rich white fudge and crunchy vanilla flavor. Would make a solid seasonal ice cream sandwich base.
Cons: Keebler’s absolute reluctance to embrace resealable packaging. White fudge coating can melt and be messy. Limited appeal for non-peppermint lovers. The politics of elf family trees.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Cookie ‘n’ Mint Bar

Hershey's Cookie 'n' Mint Bar

As I kid I wanted nothing more than to go to Disney World. My parents had other plans and made me wait. Every time I asked about it, they said things like “patience is a virtue,” “you won’t appreciate it as much until you’re older,” and “get out of our house already, freeloader.”

While they eventually gave in to my incessant whining, said parents dragged my brother and me to Hershey Park twice in the meantime. For that, I always used to think of it as a second-tier vacation spot.

Now, I’m older, wiser, nostalgic, and I have to say, Hershey Park is bar none the best theme park named after a candy I have ever been to!

Hershey, Pennsylvania smelled like chocolate! They had rides that stacked up with other theme parks. There was a mascot dressed like a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups! I mean, you’re cool Mickey, but you’re no peanut butter cup.

Hershey Park was as close as I’d ever get to touring Willy Wonka’s factory.

Out of all those memories, there was one thing that somehow always stood out – the free chocolate bar at the end of the tour. It was the freshest, most perfect Hershey’s bar imaginable and for that I’ve always had a soft spot for Hershey’s.

I could already predict what I was in for with the Hershey’s Cookie ‘n’ Mint Bar. It smelled just like an Andes after dinner mint, or Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookie. (Aka “Grasshoppers,” if you’re a heartless heathens who refuses to help out the Girl Scouts.) Chocolate and mint may not be your favorite flavor combination, but you can’t deny the smell is fantastic. Go ahead and deny it. I dare you.

Hershey's Cookie 'n' Mint Bar 2

The candy bar tastes like a Thin Mint with less cookie. I think I prefer the ratio here. They could have just called this a “Thinner Mint” bar. The chocolate is the star of the show, instead of it being just a light coating on a cookie. The texture is exactly the same as Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Cream bars.

The chocolate taste is distinctly Hershey’s. Hershey is the only chocolate I can pinpoint blindfolded. Actually, I could probably nail Cadbury too, but beyond that? I’m not so sure.

Here’s the kicker — the Cookies ‘N’ Mint bar is not standard Hershey’s milk chocolate, but rather mint milk chocolate. I assumed the mint would be in the cookie bits, but those are apparently just chocolate flavored. The base Hershey’s chocolate itself is where the mint is.

With that said, I couldn’t really tell. I would have believed there were mint chocolate cookie pieces in regular Hershey’s chocolate if the wrapper didn’t specify.

Hershey's Cookie 'n' Mint Bar 3

So all in all, this was a success. I’d easily put this on par with Hershey’s Cookie ‘N’ Cream bars. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Cookies ‘N’ Mint become a candy stand mainstay. Other than Junior Mints and York Peppermint Patties, there aren’t that many chocolate/mint staples available in your corner store.

I also don’t see why mini versions of Cookies ‘N’ Mint can’t sneak into Hershey’s mixed bags with the Krackel’s, Mr. Goodbar’s, and Hershey’s Dark’s of the world.

I realize it’s a lot to ask of that big shot Mr. Goodbar to put his ego aside and share a bag with an additional flavor, but it’s time for him to accept the times.

It appears Cookie ‘N’ Mint are going to be taking up permanent residence on candy racks nationwide, so no need to book that trip to Hershey Park to try one.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bar – 220 calories, 100 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 78 cents
Size: 1.55 oz
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Balanced flavors. Great texture. Pleasant aroma. Walking Reese’s Cups. Hershey Park’s Hershey handouts. Lessons in patience. Helping the Girl Scouts.
Cons: Couldn’t really tell it was mint chocolate. That egomaniac Mr. Goodbar. Whiny kids. Dissing the Girl Scouts.

REVIEW: Arby’s Smoke Mountain Sandwich

Arby’s Smoke Mountain Sandwich

Smoke Mountain? Really?

I have to question Arby’s name choice for their mammoth new Frankenmeat sandwich. To me, “Smoke Mountain” sounds like an ‘90s RPG level. Or a rundown laser tag arena that’s gotten progressively seedier since the ‘90s. Or a ‘90s punk band that broke up when the drummer’s dad kicked them out of the garage.

Maybe “Meat Everest” would’ve been a better name, since this the tallest stack of meat I’ve ever held between two buns. Plus I’ve always wanted my lunch to conjure up mental images of Sherpas scaling skyscraping mounds of salted protein.

But I guess “Smoke Mountain” isn’t all bad. It also sounds like the name of a late ‘90s reality show, and this sandwich features all three of Arby’s smoked meats—turkey, brisket, and their freshly debuted pork belly—living together under one bun, Real Housewives-style. Plus it did instantly make my car smell like a smokehouse, so much so that I half-expected a pot-bellied butcher to appear in my back seat and call me “Lloyd” in a Brooklyn accent.

I carefully handled my Smoke Mountain like a quiet mountaineer, trying to prevent an avalanche that would spill three kinds of animal onto my carpet. I bisected my beastly ‘wich—which was roughly the size of a baby Mayor McCheese’s head—for a better look (and taste). Slicing through it felt downright surgical.

Arby’s Smoke Mountain Sandwich 2

The durable star-cut bun does a good job of holding its meaty tenants, and even though its chewy, densely floured innards don’t taste like much, the bun never turns to meat juice-soaked mush. The crimson barbeque sauce pocket slathered on the bun provides a welcome layer of peppery tang. It’s zippy, yet not offensive or spicy, like a grown-up Sweet Baby Ray’s.

Arby’s should bottle this sauce and call it “Angsty Teen Ray’s.”

As the world’s second biggest fan of onions (the first is Shrek), I loved the onion strings that bathe in the Smoke Mountain’s barbeque sauce. They’re oily and crisp, yet compellingly lengthy. The kid inside me wanted to slurp them up like onion ring-flavored spaghetti. These noodles lay on a bed of gummy, flavorless cheddar cheese that only gives the Smoke Mountain structural support.

Now that we’re past the window dressing, we can talk meats. The turkey is the most boring. It’s got a bit of Cajun zest that dances around its edges, but other than that, this bird just feels like filler.

The brisket is more complex. It tastes like barrel-aged roast beef, with woodsy notes and the smokiest aftertaste of any ingredient here. If this meaty ménage à trois were a sitcom instead of a reality show, the beef brisket would be its Ron Swanson.

The pork belly is the undeniable best of the bunch, as the diced bits are super juicy and savory, with an indulgent touch of fattiness. Each juice-oozing pig nugget tastes like the salty lovechild of a bacon slice and a BBQ spare rib. And given the size of every piece, the pork belly these oinker wedges came from must’ve been chunkier than my backseat butcher’s.

Arby’s Smoke Mountain Sandwich 3

But even though each part of the Smoke Mountain has its own flavorful intricacies, most people who buy a sandwich called “Smoke Mountain” aren’t gonna stop to smell the Cajun-zested roses. When this sandwich is eaten at once, only the pork belly and onions prevail, with a lingering barbeque sauce aftertaste. I enjoyed the sandwich, but you’re probably better off just buying Arby’s Smokehouse Pork Belly Sandwich.

Unless, of course, you planned on making an “I Climbed Arby’s Smoke Mountain” novelty t-shirt.

(Nutrition Facts – 800 calories, 46 grams of fat, 18 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 135 milligrams of cholesterol, 1910 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 49 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $6.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Using “fatty pig nuggets” as a sincere compliment. Brisket that tastes aged enough to be my father. Onion ramen. Humming the Price is Right cliffhanger music while I eat.
Cons: A pork belly that swallows up every other flavor. Cheese with the texture of a Fruit Roll-Up. A bun and turkey with as much personality as action movie henchmen. Giving birth to a burger-headed baby.

REVIEW: Velveeta Original Stuffed Grilled Cheese

Velveeta Stuffed Grilled Cheese

The combination of pale crust and it laying in a pool of its orange innards, made my microwaved Velveeta Stuffed Grilled Cheese look like the victim in a Law & Order crime scene. The vic, I mean, the snack looked like the Hot Pocket’s little brother.

I thought, “It looks bad, but maybe it tastes good.”


The crust was gummy enough that it felt like I was chewing on raw dough. The cheese, which I scraped up and dumped onto the cheese pocket, had that familiar Velveeta flavor, but it was gritty for some reason. Then I thought, “Okay, the first bite was bad, but maybe the second will be better.”

Nope. It was still bad.

I didn’t want to eat another bite. I didn’t even want to look at its pale crust. To psyche myself up, I yelled, “Do it for science!” But I ended up throwing away the rest of it. I’d show you photos of the microwaved stuffed grilled cheese, but I do not want to ruin the rest of your day.

Fortunately, there are two other ways to prepare them — toaster oven and conventional oven. I went with the toaster oven because I thought a conventional oven was overkill for these.

If there’s a downside to using an oven it’s that the instructions say you have prepare two stuffed grilled cheeses at the same time. So if you have no friends, family, roommates, or neighbors you’re friendly with, you’re going to be eating both of them and the 80 percent of your daily saturated fat they have.

Velveeta Stuffed Grilled Cheese 2

But, that’s not a completely bad thing. Because while they’re barely edible when microwaved, they’re downright delicious when prepared in a toaster oven. The crust had the crunch and butteriness of the toasted bread of grilled cheese sandwiches. And the cheese, which stayed in the crust, was warm, gooey, and tasted like good ol’ pasteurized prepared cheese product. Every bite I took reminded me of the grilled cheese sandwiches I’d make for myself when my parents felt I was responsible enough to use a stove at age 26.

If my review has convinced you to purchase a box of Velveeta Stuffed Grilled Cheese, I beg of you, please prepare them in the toaster oven or regular oven. Don’t be impatient and cook them in the microwave. Patience is a virtue. And patience is a Velveeta Stuffed Grilled Cheese you’ll want to eat.

Purchased Price: $6.34*
Size: 6 sandwiches
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 sandwich) 240 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 630 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Hostess Limited Edition Caramel Apple Cupcakes

I love festivals.

I can’t help it.

I haven’t encountered a pig race, funhouse, or merry-go-round I don’t enjoy. Bring on your strong man contests, your ring tosses, your wooden roller coasters of questionable integrity. Why, between the bells, balloon animals, and clinkity clank music, there’s enough joy here to make a circus look like a film noir.

So it should come of no surprise that I was drawn to these Hostess Caramel Apple Cupcakes. I always, always, always make a moment of having caramel apples at Fall Festivals. I once consumed five of them before going into the corn maze, where I proceeded to get lost for three hours…BUT I survived! All credit goes to caramel apples.

Hostess Limited Edition Caramel Apple Cupcakes 2

Out of the gate, these cupcakes are lookin’ fine. There are smells of cider, crackles of caramel frosting, and red squiggles, all squished in an authentic “I got shipped in a truck and thrown on a shelf” way. Everything is perfect. Resistance is futile.

And, ladies and gentlemen, this is one peculiar cupcake. It’s admirably different, in its own pudgy, small, charming way. There’s the spongy, floury cake, which has bits of woodsy, warm cinnamon and some sort of tanginess that feels like a moderate hint-and-nudge toward the apple, although it speaks more toward a blend of the formerly mentioned cider and melted Jolly Ranchers.

Next up to bat is the crackly top glaze, which tastes of honey and caramel and molasses and vanilla and the burnt top of crème brulée all smooshed together. It’s like an unpaid syrup-harvesting intern got lost in the woods and decided to mix all the sugars. It’s confusing and brilliant, much like interns themselves.

And then there’s the caramel filling. In a color that’s not nearly as terrifyingly brown as the cover portrays, it seems Hostess has repurposed the light, extremely sugary caramel fluff from the Sea Salt Caramel Cupcakes and smashed it in here. Fluffy and sugar-forward, this stuff is less discreet than a mammoth in the knitting aisle. Its strong blast of Cool-Whip-like sugariness levels out the cinnamon of the cake quite nicely. Between these fluffy insides and the caramel-frosted top, caramel becomes the star of the show.

Just one thing: what happened to the apple?? Sure, there was that Jolly Rancher cider thing, but it came without chunks. It came without dices. It came without nibbles, pieces, or slices. What a tragedy. The cake could’ve benefited from a Hulk smash of tart apples. Even real applesauce or apple juice would do. This hint of flavoring? Would make an apple-loving Hulk cry. Don’t make Hulk cry!

Hostess Limited Edition Caramel Apple Cupcakes 3

But let us not dwell on the tears of giants. As it seems to go, the simplest pattern for my enjoying something usually goes 2 moments of curiosity + 1 dose lack of self-control x 8 tons of the positive or negative feedback on tastiness, and these? Are good. The cake is soft and cinnamony, the crackly frosted top stays true to its caramel name, and the inner frosting is a delicious, crazy sweet fluff, and, if you close your eyes and make a wish, it all has a slight echo of something apple-y (although you have to wish really, really hard). Can these be a little too sweet sometimes? Are they a little unbalanced? Would I like to see more apples? Sure, but, on the whole, these cupcakes are peculiar and delightful.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to eat five of them and go find a corn maze I can get lost in.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Cupcake – 160 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 1 box/8 cakes
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Soft, cinnamony cake. Crackly caramel frosting top. Fluffy, sweet insides. Syrup-harvesting interns gone amok. Corn mazes. Roller coasters of questionable integrity.
Cons: Where be the apples, yo? Questionable presence of “Hydrogenated beef tallow.” May make Hulk cry. Getting lost in a corn maze for three hours.