QUICK YOGURT REVIEW: Chobani Flip Limited Batch Peppermint Perfection Greek Yogurt

Chobani Flip Limited Batch Peppermint Perfection Greek Yogurt

Minty Greek yogurt flavors are rare; there aren’t many of its kind.
So it’s nice Chobani added Peppermint Perfection to the Flip line.
White peppermint and dark chocolate chunks bring winter and bitter.
While the numerous dark chocolate cookies bits are crunch emitters.
They’ll take a short trip into vanilla Greek yogurt when you flip.
They’ll drop into the yogurt as if a dunk tank bullseye you hit.
The peppermint’s power won’t clear your nostrils like Altoids would.
If it was peppermint yogurt it might’ve cleared your nose real good.
It would have been nice if the peppermint was turn up several bits.
Then it would always taste like Chobani with Girl Scout Thin Mints.
Some spoonfuls had peppermint flavor, but most had none at all.
Not having enough white chocolate chunks is its only downfall.
But while peppermint wasn’t in every spoonful I put into my mouth,
the dark chocolate cookies and chunks kept the flavor from going south.
The cookie pieces stayed crunchy as I ate through the mixture.
And the chocolate chunks had a snap that gave it a varying texture.
Chobani’s Peppermint Perfection isn’t perfect, but it’s still a hit.
It’s a seasonal flavor so head to your nearest store and get it quick.

Chobani Flip Limited Batch Peppermint Perfection Greek Yogurt 2

Chobani Flip Limited Batch Peppermint Perfection Greek Yogurt 3

Purchased Price: $1.75*
Size: 5.3 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 200 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 20 grams of sugar, 12 grams of protein, and 15% calcium.

*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: Kellogg’s Jif PB&J Strawberry Cereal

Kellogg's Jif PB&J Strawberry Cereal

Frankly, I blame adults.

They are, after all, the ones leading cereal companies. They’re the ones trying to come up with ways to stop sliding cereal sales, but when they’re not too busy putting quinoa and Sprouted Grains into my breakfast bowl, they’re forgetting what it’s like to be a kid.

How else can we explain the fact that no one has made peanut butter and jelly cereal before? If they would have only asked us kids (ok, slightly balding upper twenty-somethings, too) then we could have told them the next great cereal flavor was right under their noses the whole time.

Any kid with a crowded cereal pantry, taste buds, and a bit of imagination probably already knew it was a good combination. I’m probably not the only person to combine Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch and Whoops All Berries in the same bowl, so I’m guessing many of you expected as much. But in case any anxious food company executives still needed convincing, Jif’s PB&J Strawberry Cereal should put fears to rest.

I was a bit skeptical, too. A year and a half ago I wrote that Jif’s cereal was good, but it wasn’t as peanut buttery as other peanut butter cereals. To a certain extent this is still true; the brown sugar and molasses flavor gives each square an almost kettle corn quality, while the squares aren’t quite as roasted or developed in flavor as Peanut Butter Crunch. But the peanut butter flavor is better than it used to be, and works especially well when mixed with the small spheres of strawberry cereal.

Kellogg's Jif PB&J Strawberry Cereal 2

I’m glad Jif lived up to its slogan and was choosy with their choice of jelly for the cereal: whether you like strawberry or grape jelly doesn’t matter so much, because you’re going to like the fact that the red corn spheres taste more than just vaguely fruity. They’re much better than Crunch Berries in that they have a distinct strawberry flavor that is both ultra-sweet but also slightly tart; in other words, the perfect foil to the salty, molasses and brown sugar flavor of the peanut butter squares.

It’s when these two flavors come together that the unmistakable synergy that is PB&J takes over. As you crunch down on a spoonful (or, as I prefer, a dry handful) the two flavors mix and mingle with the utmost of equality. Just like in a real PB&J sandwich, the jelly flavor takes center stage first, but it quickly gives way to a salty peanut flavor.

Kellogg's Jif PB&J Strawberry Cereal 3

There’s a kettle corn type aftertaste in milk that’s a bit unconventional, and the tartness of the strawberry pieces takes a little getting used to, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the cereal just works. It is, in so many ways, absolutely everything you’ve ever wanted from a PB&J sandwich, right on down to the sticky mush that sticks to the room of your mouth and the absence of those stupid bitter crusts that always end up getting thrown away.

When you think about it, a PB&J cereal sounds weird. I mean, you probably wouldn’t stick a PB&J sandwich in milk, unless, of course, you are weird. What I’m trying to say is I forgive all those adults out there for not wanting us to eat weird things. But in the case of Jif PB&J Strawberry cereal, it works, and is something both kids and big kids are sure to enjoy.

(Nutrition Facts – 26 grams – 100 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 150 mg of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugars, and 1 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Jif PB&J Strawberry Cereal
Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 10 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Great sweet and salty balance captures the taste of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Strawberry pieces actually have a distinct sweet-tart strawberry flavor. Sticks to the roof of your mouth in milk. No crusts. Just straight up works.
Cons: A slightly distracting corn aftertaste. No unctuous and fatty peanut butter depth. The unfortunate state of the cereal industry.

REVIEW: White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s

White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s

Eat your fruit. It’s good for you, they say. It gives you antioxidants, they say. It turns you into an Animorph and lets you shoot laser beams out of your eyeballs, they say. (They actually only say two of these. I’ll let you choose which.)

But sometimes, you don’t want fruit. Not fresh, dried, packaged or plain. Sometimes you want dye-colored, artificially-enhanced pretend fruit in all its sucrose-filled glory. BUT just because it’s pretend doesn’t mean we lower our standards. We want funky grapes, sweet-tart lemons, and a strawberry so balanced and sweet, it makes umami disappear. Who shall take up the reins and harken to our plea for a strawberry-inspired white chocolate? Who shall deliver it in morsel form??

Well, M&M’s gave it a shot.

White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s 2

The multi-colored morsels tumble out of the bag, bumbling about in their charming, misshapen way. Indeed, M&M’s could start a Home Depot paint line with as many colors as they shroud their candies in these days. This time around, Mars stuck with a white, light pink, and beige color palette, or, as the paint-namers say, “Minced Onion, Palace Rose, and Vanilla Clay.”

White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s 3

The bits smell distinctly of the brightness that comes from opening a bag of Skittles, and, indeed, the first bite reminds me of a Strawberry Skittle, with its sweet, floral strawberry flavor and crunchy outer shell. The shell immediately crumbles, leaving the white chocolate center to melt into goo, coating your mouth with a light, Starburst-like strawberry sweetness.

The chocolate’s not nuanced or particularly high quality, but, if my eyes don’t deceive, the ingredients list includes cocoa-butter-filled white chocolate rather than, “White Confection,” which might be better described as, “Nefarious, sweetened Vasoline born to create destruction.”

And using that white chocolate pays off. With a hint of vanilla and sugar-filled creaminess, the elements come together just enough to remind me of the strawberry and whipped topping (think: Cool Whip from the tub) often found in strawberry shortcake. Okay, so it’s missing the whole “Shortbread Biscuit” thing, but I enjoy my strawberry-shortcake-inspired bits nonetheless, reveling in the fact that I didn’t even have to open an oven to achieve such joy. Laziness, for the win.

White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s 4

Life is fraught with dangers, both real and imagined. Strawberry-shortcake-flavored candy should not be one of them. M&M’s knows this. They made a sweet, strawberry morsel that harkens back to a Strawberry Skittle (my favorite flavor) enmeshed with their fudgy white chocolate.

Sure, it’s a bit sweet, not the best quality chocolate, doesn’t include a shortcake biscuit, and won’t replace your everyday fruits (remember: you need that fruit so you can shoot laser beams out of your eyeballs), but, for 2016, I hear many folks hope to do more of what they love. Hypothesizing that M&M’s likes cranking out a whole bunch of seasonally flavored morsels, it looks like M&M’s plans to do that, too. If this is how doing more of what you love tastes, I have hope.

(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..)

Item: White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s
Purchased Price: $3.19
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Strawberry Skittles. Crunchy shell. Creamy center. Actual white chocolate. Cool Whip from the tub. Laziness, for the win. Fruit that turns you into an Animorph.
Cons: Where’s the shortcake? Will not appeal to those who are Strawberry Starbursts/Skittles haters. Not the best quality white chocolate. Life is fraught with dangers. Being faced with too many paint colors.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Sriracha Chicken and Spicy Beefy Nacho Crunchwrap Sliders

Taco Bell Sriracha Chicken Crunchwrap Slider

Cheap.

It’s what Taco Bell does best.

What Taco Bell is also good at is coming up with a gazillion varieties of the same products. So many different tacos. So many different burritos. So many different Freezes. And now so many different Crunchwrap Sliders.

If you’re not familiar with Crunchwrap Sliders, let me put it to you this way. If the original Crunchwrap is Khloe Kardashian, then Crunchwrap Sliders are the significantly smaller Kourtney Kardashian. Oh wait…I should really write the previous sentence this way: If the original Krunchwrap is Khloe Kardashian, then Krunchwrap Sliders are the significantly smaller Kourtney Kardashian. Now it’s korrect.

Last year, about this time, these smaller Crunchwraps debuted with three varieties — Beefy Cheddar, Spicy Chicken, and BLT. This year two of the flavors are back — Beefy Cheddar and BLT — but this time they’ve brought along the new Sriracha Chicken and Spicy Beefy Nacho.

The Sriracha Chicken comes with shredded chicken, Fritos chips, and Taco Bell’s sriracha wrapped hexagonal in a flour tortilla. The Spicy Beef Nacho has seasoned beef, Fritos chips, creamy chipotle sauce, and nacho cheese sauce in a flour tortilla.

Yes, there aren’t a lot of ingredients in each one. But the lack of components does two things: it keeps the menu item cheap and allows our taste buds to really notice the sauces in them.

The Sriracha Chicken is somewhat similar to last year’s Spicy Chicken with chipotle sauce. The only part that’s different is the sauce. I didn’t think too highly of the Spicy Chicken because it wasn’t very spicy. But this new chicken Crunchwrap Slider has a bit more heat, although I wish it had more. It’s not “Oh my God, I need some Mountain Dew Baja Blast NOW” hot, but it’s a step above what the Spicy Chicken offered.

As you can see in the photo above, the chicken wasn’t shredded, it was chopped into chunks, which I didn’t mind. It was also a little dried out, but still easy to chew. Again, because there weren’t a lot of ingredients, I could really taste the garlic and peppers from the sriracha, which was something I really didn’t experience with Taco Bell’s Sriracha Quesarito. Because of the sriracha, this Crunchwrap Slider is my favorite out of all of them.

Taco Bell Spicy Beefy Nacho Crunchwrap Slider

My new third favorite is the Spicy Beefy Nacho (BLT is my number two). The creamy chipotle sauce isn’t very spicy, but it has a nice smoky, zesty flavor that seems to work better with their seasoned beef than their chicken. Yeah, I’m talking about you, Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Slider. The mixing of the chipotle sauce with the nacho cheese sauce created a nice queso flavor. If you liked the Beefy Cheddar version, but wished it has a bit more flavor, then the Spicy Beefy Nacho will satisfy your taco hole.

As for the Fritos chips, despite being in flour tortilla cocoons, they were able to maintain some crunchiness. And because there aren’t a lot of ingredients to get in the way of each other, I could taste the corn and salt from the Fritos as I ate my way through each one. Thank goodness because what’s the point of having Fritos if we can’t taste the Fritos.

For a dollar, both of these new Crunchwrap Sliders are totally worth it. They prove once again that Taco Bell knows how to do cheap and tasty. Now if only the chain would add these to their regular menu.

(Nutrition Facts – Sriracha Chicken – 370 calories, 15 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 980 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein. Spicy Beefy Nacho – 460 calories, 25 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 1030 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Sriracha Chicken and Spicy Beefy Nacho Crunchwrap Sliders
Purchased Price: $1.79 each*
Size: N/A
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Sriracha Chicken)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Spicy Beefy Nacho)
Pros: Cheap. Sriracha Chicken is way better then Spicy Chicken. The sauces. Chipotle sauce works better with seasoned ground beef than shredded chicken. Fritos chips remained somewhat crunchy.
Cons: Something so small has so much sodium. Those looking to burn their mouths will have to burn their mouths with something else. Wish the Sriracha Chicken had a bit more heat. Not cheap here on this rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

*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: Coke Freestyle Holiday Beverages (Secret Santa, Jolly Reindeer, and Mistletoe Flow)

oke Freestyle Holiday Beverages

Gather ‘round, all you Tiny Tims, Little Lisas, and Miniature Mitchells, and I’ll tell you about how ol’ Ebenezer Dan was visited by three new, carbonated Christmas Cokes during his latest Burger King trip.

As an idealist who insists that each December should be blanketed in snow (and pigs in blankets, but that’s a story for another day), I’ve been bah-humbugging my area’s lack of that magical sky sugar.

Turning to my local holiday radio station for inspiration, the unintentional subliminal advertising within “Hark! The Herald Angel Sings” soon had me driving to the nearest BK to quench my thirst with the chain’s three limited edition, seasonal Coca-Cola flavors. That’s right: I was ready to sing glory to the new-poured Burger King.

I placed my drinks-only order with my Burger King bartender, whose confused expression clearly read, “Gee, I sure hope this isn’t one of those Internet pranks where dumb teens throw soda at typically non-soda covered objects.”

Her confusion intensified as I proceeded to take photos of the Coke Freestyle machine that harbored my sought-after soda behind its newfangled touch screen. After touching the appropriately merry buttons, I was presented with three tempting options.

Coke Secret Santa

First up was Secret Santa: the Coke of Christmas Past. This drink earns that title by tasting like every mad scientist concoction of leftover sodas that my cousins and I mixed together as young’ns. The overwhelming taste notes are a seamless cocktail of cola, cherry, and vanilla. It feels like the flavors were unceremoniously dumped together, as it’s hard to distinguish between the candied cherry and syrupy vanilla sensations that blend together like a liquid fruitcake.

Sorry for that mental image.

So while the middle is a bit muddled in this one, the lime twist that comes with the aftertaste is pleasantly citrusy with a subtle sourness. It lasts, too: limey tendrils continued to wander aimlessly around my labyrinthine mouth like a fruity Theseus (that mythology class is finally paying off!).

Coke Jolly Reindeer

While the other flavors are available in most restaurant Freestyle machines, Jolly Reindeer seems to be a BK exclusive. This Coke of Christmas Present gets its name by embodying a very irritating modern trend in which companies simply slap two existing things together and call it “New!” “Revolutionary!” or, worst of all, “Mystery Flavored!”

Because there’s no mystery here: the enigmatic “festive blend” of Jolly Reindeer tastes just like Coke mixed with vanilla root beer. It’s tasty, don’t get me wrong, but it makes me imagine an emergency, last minute marketing brainstorming session that ended with a hastily scrawled sticky note reading “DEER = Sounds like BEER? Yes: do it!”

I have to admit that Coke and root beer make great cup-fellows, though. As I chugged down my gingery cola, I noticed a sophisticated herbal and woody aftertaste, as if Jolly Reindeer were barrel-aged and half the cedar barrel came with it. Bravo, Jolly Reindeer: you made me feel like a lumberjack Santa Claus.

Coke Zero Mistletoe Flow

My final visitor was Mistletoe Flow. As the Coke of Christmas Future, the Coke Zero base of this drink symbolizes all of the diet drinks I’ll be drinking in the near future to justify the Santa-sized portions of gingerbread men I’ll be sliding down my own face chimney.

Like most diet colas, the body of the drink tastes a bit diluted, light, and artificial. However, the vanilla here makes up for it—unlike the syrupy vanilla smack of Secret Santa, Mistletoe Flow boasts denser notes of genuine vanilla extract.

Beneath the vanilla, I struggled to decipher what the drink’s “zesty blend” was. Coming up empty-handed and full-stomached, all I could think was that it tasted an awful lot like those cola bottle gummies, which have a more puckering and exaggeratedly caramelized cola flavor. And as someone who often dreams of sucking down liquefied cola bottle gummies through a straw, this is a high compliment.

So all in all, each limited edition Coke offering presents a fun holiday present, and each would make a perfect gift for a certain personality. What do you get for the person who has everything? Give ‘em a taste of everything with Secret Santa’s fruity mixology. Got a Ron Swanson-themed holiday party coming up? Go with Jolly Reindeer’s down-to-earth charm (my personal favorite). Oh, and I’m sure your Haribo-loving HariBro will love Mistletoe Flow.

After my invigorating series of visits, this Scrooge is now feeling merry once more. I should probably stop listening to the radio when I’m hungry, though. Because now B.B. King has me dreaming, of a Whiiiteee…Castle!

(Nutrition Facts – Not available.)

Item: Coca-Cola Secret Santa, Jolly Reindeer, and Mistletoe Flow
Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 20 oz (small)
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Secret Santa)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Jolly Reindeer)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Mistletoe Flow)
Pros: A vanilla-y trilogy of holiday fun. Lime-flavored Greek heroes. Three cheers for deer beer: here here! Fulfilling gummy cola fantasies
Cons: Metaphorical liquid fruitcakes. Literal liquid fruitcakes (probably). Drinking flatter colas to get a flatter stomach. Inevitable post-gingerbread man regret. Pissing off the kids behind me at the Freestyle machine

REVIEW: Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy

Every year Nabisco puts out the same uninspired winter products.

There’s Snowflake Ritz with the image of a snowflake on each cracker. While no two snowflakes are alike, the millions of Snowflake Ritz crackers are. There’s Holiday Wheat Thins, which could’ve been called Snowflake Wheat Thins if not for the other holiday shapes stamped into some of the crackers. Then there’s Winter Oreo Cookies that have a creme that tastes like a regular Oreo, but has enough red food coloring to make a Maraschino cherry think that’s a bit too much food coloring.

This year, Nabisco brought back those boring snacks, but they also introduced the Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies.

The chocolate cookie features marshmallow-flavored chips, fudge chips, and a disc of hot cocoa-flavored goodness in the center. If you look at the beautifully Photoshopped cookie on the wrapper, it looks like it’s supposed to have a viscous goo center. Because the packaging says, “Heat for a treat,” I assumed sticking them in a microwave oven would achieve that gooey center. Unfortunately, the appliance has no effect on the center of these cookies.

Despite what Ron Popeil and George Foreman might say, the microwave oven is the greatest kitchen innovation in the past few decades. It’s a powerful radiation pulsing cooking machine that can boil water in under 90 seconds and make a Hot Pocket burst open in two minutes. But it appears the mighty microwave oven has met its match with these cookies.

There are instructions that say to warm them in pairs for 6-7 seconds. I tried that, but the centers remained completely solid. Then I microwaved another two cookies for 8 seconds. No gooey. Then just one at 9 seconds. Nothing. Then another one at 10 seconds. Still solid.

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy 3

Since time is endless and the amount of cookies in the packaging are not, I decided to up the intervals. 14 seconds. Nope. 20 seconds. Noooooo. 25 seconds. Noooooooooooo. Then I decided to heat up one for 30 seconds. Only the edges of the chocolate disc in the cookie melted. The rest of it was still solid.

While the chocolatey center didn’t turn into a pool of goo, microwaving beyond the 6-7 seconds did affect the rest of the cookie, making it crumble apart during any attempt to pick it up.

When eaten straight out of the package, these cookies are good. But when heated up, they’re damn good. Both ways have a hot cocoa flavor, but the flavor is amplified when the cookies have spent a few seconds in a microwave oven. I thought the marshmallow flavor was strictly with the white chips, but it tastes like the hot cocoa center also has a bit of marshmallow flavor. When heated up at the recommended time, the exterior of the cookies have a wonderful softness to them, and the center, while not melted, does give easily.

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy 2

There have been many new Chips Ahoy varieties over the past two years, but the only ones I’ve truly enjoyed were the Ice Cream Creations Root Beer Float and Limited Edition Chocolate Banana, both of which are no longer available. But I’m happy to say these cookies brought me as much joy as those did. They are wonderful…when warmed up.

Sure, I’m disappointed with the center not being gooey, but they’re tasty enough that I definitely would love to see them next holiday season with the Snowflake Ritz, Holiday Wheat Thins, and Winter Oreo Cookies.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 150 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 2 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 75 milligrams of potassium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies
Purchased Price: $3.50
Size: 10 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Wonderful flavor. Tastes like hot cocoa. Good when eaten straight from the package, but awesome after being heated up in the microwave. Soft exterior when microwaved. Much more exciting than Snowflake Ritz, Holiday Wheat Thins, and Winter Oreo Cookies.
Cons: Center doesn’t get gooey. Only available for a limited time. Not knowing if they’ll be back next year.