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.

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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.

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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: Nestle Nesquik Protein Plus Vanilla Milk

Nestle Nesquik Protein Plus Vanilla Milk

Protein. We need it for body stuff.

Yeah, I don’t know what body stuff exactly. I have an English degree and got C’s in every class that ends with -ology or -ience.

What I do know is that protein is big. A big money maker. Everywhere you look in the grocery store, companies are putting the stuff into everything they possibly can. And I guess Nesquik Protein Plus Milk, is Nestle’s way to get a little bit of that sweet, sweet protein drink money.

Some of you might be thinking, regular Nesquik is milk so it already has protein. That’s true, but it just has more. According to the bottle, Nesquik Protein Plus has “10% more of the daily value for protein per 8 fl oz than regular Nesquik.” A cup of it has 13 grams of protein, while regular Nesquik has 8 grams.


I got C’s in every class that ends with -athematics, but I’m pretty sure the difference between 13 grams and 8 grams is more than 10 percent.

Anyway, this protein enhanced milk gets its protein from the milk and an ingredient called milk protein concentrate. What’s milk protein concentrate? Again, C’s in every class that ends with -ology or -ience.

Nesquik has always been a brand that targets kids. But Nesquik Protein Plus is for adults, or as the bottle says, “For Adults Young At Heart.” But from afar, it looks like any Nesquik bottle. So other adults are going to look at you and think to themselves, “Oh my God, how can you drink that? You’re not lactose intolerant?”

As for its flavor, well, if you’ve had regular vanilla Nesquik milk, you will know what this tastes like. It’s sweet, creamy, it’s better tasting than a vanilla protein powder shake, and I enjoyed drinking it. The added protein doesn’t affect its flavor.

Yes, it does have a good amount of sugar in it (22 grams per serving). But the bottle does say it has “28% less sugar than the leading Protein Enhanced Flavored Milk.” So, there’s that. Although, as we’ve learned earlier, this bottle isn’t good at stating accurate percentages.

But if you want to consume a lot of protein, be young at heart, and satisfy your sweet tooth, this milk is a tasty way to do it.

Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 14 fl oz
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (8 ounces) 170 calories, 25 calories from fat, 2.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 230 milligrams of sodium, 450 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Twinkies

Hostess Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Twinkies

Life tip number one: Always write your name in big, bold letters on your cowboy hat.

Life tip number two: Never say no to cheesecake, especially when it involves pumpkin.

Ever since Hostess rose from the crumbling sponge cake edifice of its 2012 bankruptcy filing, the company has been churning out seasonal flavors with Pop-Tart like alacrity. You might just say that Twinkie the Kid (who’s actually a 55-year old man who apparently doesn’t believe in wearing shirts) is a Twinkie of many hats, except, well, Twinkie the Kid always wears a cowboy hat.

Well, Twinkie the Kid must be hiding a chef’s hat under his Stetson, because his new Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Twinkies might just be the pinnacle of artificial pumpkin spice cheesecake flavor.

I wrote this in an endearing manner; one only expects so much authenticity in a cheesecake-flavored product that contains hydrogenated beef tallow, yet for what the Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Twinkies lack in their simplicity of ingredients, they more than make up for in surprisingly unexpected guilty pleasure appeal.

The key to enjoying the flavor of the Twinkies, like the key to enjoying so many mass-produced bakery snacks, is to judge the flavor as a sum of the cake’s part. I won’t sugarcoat this, because the 18 grams of sugar in each Twinkie already do, but the white fudge coating is waxy and saccharine on its own. The Twinkie cake, is, well, a slightly dry sponge cake that could just last into eternity. And the cream? A cinnamon and nutmeg explosion spilled into equal parts sour cream and marshmallow fluff.

When I first ate the Twinkie in three distinct parts, I thought it was mediocre. But then, since I’m a complete glutton who absolutely loves pumpkin spice cheesecake, I stuffed a whole Twinkie in my mouth.

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The flavor was unexpectedly if not unequivocally pumpkin spice, with a sweet, slightly tangy filling providing notes of cheesecake. The white fudge coating, commingling with the cakey and cream filled elements, suddenly provided both a textural contrast that mimicked a cheesecake crust, while also serving as a rich and sweet topping. I’m not saying it was a Cheesecake Factory experience par excellence, but as each Twinkie wrapper fell to the floor and crumbs of white fudge coating smeared onto my shirt, both the cheesecake and pumpkin spice flavor became more pronounced.

Which brings me to my major problem with Twinkie the Kid’s latest concoction: It’s hard to say no. Actually, it’s downright impossible, even though the cloying nature of the white fudge and the cinnamon heavy flavored cream tell your brain that this is not exactly the most authentic representation of pumpkin spice cheesecake you could buy.

But that’s the thing about both cheesecake and pumpkin spice: there’s a margin for error that doesn’t demand Philadelphia cream cheese, toasted nutmeg, or Saigon cinnamon. The flavor can be artificial; it can be overly sweet. Yet as long as it works within the constraints of the ingredients to conjure up the flavor of pumpkin spice cheesecake, it’s not something you’re going to say no to.

And judging by the how quickly I plowed through the nine snack cakes in my box of Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Twinkies, I won’t be saying no to buying these again.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Cake – 170 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 6.0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 9 cakes
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Admirably complexity in the pumpkin spice flavored cream. Cream has a cheesecake tang and thicker viscosity than normal Twinkie cream. White Fudge coating binds the whole cake together with rich and sweet flavor. Doesn’t screw up one of the best flavors of fall.
Cons: The white fudge coating is almost uneatable when sampled alone. Exceptionally sweet. Made with the same great stuff that McDonald’s used to fry their fries in. Eating 720 calories in Twinkies and still feeling famished.

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.

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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!

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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.

REVIEW: Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies

Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies

Hi, everyone.

I’m here to accept this Cookie of the Year award on behalf of Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies. They couldn’t be here because…well, because I ate all of them.

First off, I’d just like to congratulate and thank the other nominees. I’m not really sure who any of you are, because this award is entirely made up by Nestle Toll House, but you all did a great job this year and should feel really proud. Except for you, Swedish Fish Oreos. You were not nominated for this fake award and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

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Next, I want to thank “break and bake” technology. Thanks to you, making sugary, fattening cookies is SO much easier! No more worrying about whether I have enough flour on hand or if the eggs have expired…I can just open the package, break the premade dough along its perforations, and 10-11 minutes later I have some perfectly baked cookies. And another 10-11 minutes later, I have a stomach ache from inhaling those perfectly baked cookies.

The sugar cookie dough is really what made this whole thing possible. It’s sweet and buttery, with just a hint of floury goodness. Its performance doesn’t take any risks, but it doesn’t have to. It’s the same sugar cookie flavor we know and love from Nestle Toll House–a real classic.

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The Butterfinger Baking Bits did a pretty good job in the starring role, too. Their stick-to-your-teeth presence is definitely noticeable, and shows their peanut buttery range through a dynamic sweet and salty combination. As enjoyable as that peanut butter element aspect is, I really wish there had been more of it from start to finish. It just popped up here and there, upstaged by the fantastic sugar cookie dough. But those occasional cameos are really satisfying when they do happen.

I’ve got to say, I’m a little surprised that the milk chocolate took such a minor role in this whole project. When it’s there, it’s creamy and sweet, but I was hoping for a lot more of it. When I think of Butterfingers, I think of a crispy peanut butter center enveloped in a creamy milk chocolate coating. This cookie nailed the peanut butter part, but didn’t quite reach its full milk chocolate potential. With a better peanut butter-to-chocolate ratio, I have no doubt this cookie would go down as one of the all-time greats.

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Having said that, Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies wouldn’t have won this award without good reason (okay, actually, they did). The sugar cookie dough does an incredible job carrying the cookie, and the Butterfinger Baking Bits mimic the inside of a Butterfinger candy bar quite well. The milk chocolate flavor is a bit underwhelming, but hey, not everybody can be the star of the show. Let’s all raise a glass of milk to the 2016 Cookie of the Year: Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies.

Thank you for allowing me the honor of devouring them.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cookie – 80 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protei.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 16 oz (makes 24 cookies)
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Sugary and rich sugar cookie dough. Peanut butter flavor shines through sweet and salty buddy cop duo. Baking Bits stick to your teeth just like an actual Butterfinger. Giving acceptance speeches just for eating cookies.
Cons: Totally made-up award. Milk chocolate flavor could have been better. Swedish Fish Oreos.