REVIEW: Limited Edition Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch Cereal

Limited Edition Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch Cereal

Dear Nick,

First off, I hope you don’t mind me using your first name. I figure now that I’m older and no longer writing to you on a yearly basis with my egregious gift requests, we could drop the excessive formalities. Speaking of which, I want you to know I harbor no ill will about my letter dated 5 December 1998. Turns out little girls with Olympic aspirations are much more deserving of a pony than any 10-year old boy trying to recreate a scene from Indiana Jones in his backyard. Besides, horses poop. I wouldn’t have wanted to deal with that.

Anyways, I’m writing to you this year as one cookie fiend to another. You should know that when you shimmy down chimneys this year you may not find the usual assortment of gingerbread men, peanut butter Kisses, and snickerdoodles arranged neatly beside a glass of milk. What you might find is a bowl of cereal in milk.

I know. It certainly sounds like an egregious attempt to circumvent the spirit of Christmas Eve, or at the very least a cabal by concerned parents trying to teach their children a lesson about saturated fat intake. I also had many reservations. But you, Nick, are more familiar with the inexplicable magic of the season than most, so it should come as no surprise to the man who guides his sled by flying reindeer that cereals can transform into cookies.

How else can you explain a transformation that defies reason? Not to mention evidence that bakeshop-inspired cereals suck.

But this cereal doesn’t suck. Actually, it’s pretty freaking good. While looking the same as 2012’s less than memorable Frosted Toast Crunch, Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch is much better. And it’s a worthy substitute for fresh baked cookies in your Christmas Eve travels. And believe me, Nick, I’m a certified expert when it comes to sugar cookies, thanks mostly to the complimentary sugar cookies offered at the Harris Teeter store they opened on our street about a year ago. (Side note: You won’t be putting me on the naughty list for taking more than one on each visit, will you?)

Limited Edition Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch Cereal 2

But back to the cereal, or should I say the mini sugar cookies, because that’s what each one of these little squares taste like. They have a lighter texture on the tongue than the other cereals of the Toast Crunch family, but keep that delightful crisp exterior, which in this case glistens with specks of superfine sugar that mirror freshly fallen snow.

There’s a Frosted Flakes taste going on when you eat the squares dry. It’s not cloying and there isn’t any hint of the toasted richness French Toast Crunch used to have, but there’s something about the crispy texture and vanilla flavor of the sugar which inexplicably registers as sugar cookie. It’s as if, by some commutative property of Christmas magic, the essence of whatever makes a sugar cookie a sugar cookie and not, say, a snickerdoodle, has been extracted and sprinkled over each square.

Limited Edition Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch Cereal 4

I know you’re not one to eat cookies without milk, and the good news for you (and me) is that Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch tastes amazing in milk. The combination of sugar and milk creates an instant flavor of royal icing, and leaves a rich and sweet end milk which should be bottled and sold. Come to think of that, maybe I’ll add that to my Christmas wish list.

Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch isn’t perfect, Nick. It’s still not as great as Frosted Toast Crunch, and I personally still love Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Chocolate Toast Crunch better. But when it comes to recreating a cookie taste, don’t be so quick to pass over a bowl left out this Christmas Eve. I think you’ll find it’s worth a few presents in some kid’s stocking. Oh yeah, and please send me a pony.

Sincerely,

Adam

(Nutrition Facts – 31 grams – 130 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 55 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 1 grams of protein.)

Item: Limited Edition Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch Cereal
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 12.2 oz. box
Purchased at: Weis Markets
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Good representation of sugar cookie flavor. Light and crispy texture plain, with a Frosted Flakes-like aftertaste. Not too sweet. Sucks up milk like a fat man in a red suit. Better than Frosted Toast Crunch. Leaves sugar cookie end milk.
Cons: Still not French Toast Crunch. Possibly laced with Christmas magic dust. Lacks buttery crumb. Still not getting a pony.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Multi-Grain Shapes Cereal

Kellogg's Rice Krispies Multi-Grain Shapes Cereal

It can be said that the less excited you are about something, the greater the opportunity it has to pleasantly surprise you. That’s the optimistic view, anyway. So when a product’s name contains the words “Rice” and “Multi-Grain,” well, it has a pretty good chance to impress you by being even halfway decent.

Fair or not, I tried to temper my expectations to reasonable levels when buying Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Multi-grain Shapes. I like regular Rice Krispies just fine, but they don’t top the list of my absolute favorite cereals, and multi-grain bread and I are historically not friends. (Actually, thanks to my younger daughter’s allergies, ANY store-bought bread and I aren’t friends, but that’s another story.)

That said, the box itself mitigates this a bit, offering hope via Pop’s sign proclaiming the cereal to be “lightly sweetened graham flavored.” That’s promising, and though it carries a hint of trying to have their cake and eat it too (“Hey parents, we’re healthy, buy us… wait, kids, come back, we also taste like graham crackers and have fun shapes!”), they’re certainly not the only cereal to try that tactic. Frosted Mini-Wheats, anyone?

Moving on, the rest of the box is rather bland, swapping out the classic blue Rice Krispies palette for bright yellow. On the plus side, the elves remain in their classic form; Kellogg’s hasn’t tried to youthanize them with baggy shorts, earrings, and baller shades.

The back of the box is surprisingly busy, combining bad jokes, a recipe for Popcorn Munchie Mix, and myriad reasons to buy this product. One touts that buying this cereal is a “Smart Move, Mom,” so as far as Kellogg’s is concerned, all you stay-at-home dads and men who do the grocery shopping can go fuck yourselves.

Opening up the plastic bag immediately wafts a strong smell into your nostrils, and I’m sorry to report it isn’t pleasant. Describing aromas is always hard, but just know that it smells slightly musty and not at all sweet, like your grandmother’s attic minus the slim chance of finding a copy of Action Comics #1. Not ideal, but then the taste is ultimately the only thing that really matters. So here we are: spoon in hand, milk in bowl, do-or-die time. Will the taste send Multi-Grain Shapes home in ignominious defeat?

But no! Far from it, that first bite is the equivalent of, if not a home run, at least a line drive past a diving shortstop for extra bases. This may actually be the only product I’ve ever tasted where the multi-grain version is more flavorful than the “regular” edition. Which is both surprising and terrific, frankly.

Oddly enough — because this is maybe the last cereal in the world I’d have expected to compare multi-grain Rice Krispies to — the taste isn’t entirely dissimilar to Waffle Crisp. I know, it sounds crazy and/or blasphemous, but the texture is very similar and the graham flavor of the Krispies shapes is somehow akin to the faux syrup flavor of the WC.

Honestly, if you’re a regular patron of Waffle Crisp, consider Multi-Grain Shapes as a viable alternative, if only because they’re a smidge healthier. (Only a smidge, though, in case you thought this was the breakfast equivalent of eating celery.)

Kellogg's Rice Krispies Multi-Grain Shapes Cereal Closeup

I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the shapes because they sort of morph a bit in milk, plus I’m ostensibly an adult. They’re not the most interesting of shapes, really — nothing like little C-3PO heads or ghosts. There are four in total: a stick figure, a tree, a Star of David, and a (Jesus?) fish. Which makes them pretty welcome in our dual faith household, and since the tree obviously represents Wiccans, it’s almost a shame the stick figure isn’t (as far as I know) a recognized symbol of Islam, or we’d have a damn progressive cereal on our hands here. Or maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way and it’s supposed to be a Wicker Man. Got to throw those pagans a bone too. (Lucky Charms don’t count.)

Okay, I’m getting weird, which generally means it’s time to wrap things up. Bottom line: don’t let the “multi-grain” part turn you off if you demand taste over healthiness. Conversely, if you ARE concerned with good nutrition first and foremost, you get a nice bonus of some delicious cereal to nom nom. Whether tempered expectations helped or not, I can honestly report that this is a pretty darn good breakfast option. Enjoy!

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Cup – 110 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 100 milligrams of sodium, 50 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of total carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Multi-Grain Shapes Cereal
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 10.8 oz box
Purchased at: Acme
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tastes better paired with a beer than you’d expect. The price is right. Religiously inclusive breakfast cereal. Who ever thought a Rice Krispies affiliate would ever evoke Waffle Crisp? Reasonably healthy.
Cons: Smells like a mummy’s tomb. Distinct lack of any snap, crackle, and/or pop sound. I lied that none of the elves have been modernized, Crackle actually is wearing sneakers and jeans… you watch your ass, son. Now I’m going to expect ALL healthy cereals to taste good.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Jif Peanut Butter Cereal

Kellogg's Jif Peanut Butter Cereal

Choosy moms who want what’s best for their children might choose Jif, but twenty-five year olds who buy their own damn cereal haven’t had a reason to choose Kellogg’s when it comes to getting their peanut butter fix.

But what would you expect from me considering the last peanut butter flavored cereal Kellogg’s introduced was in 2007 when Chocolate Peanut Butter Pops hit shelves. Since that time Kellogg’s has given us a half dozen more versions of Special K, cereals endorsed by magical elves, and even a cereal reminding us of those days when Miley Cyrus was just a tween with a lisp on the Disney Channel. But peanut butter? They pretty much conceded that one to General Mills and Quaker.

So you might say it was about damn time for Kellogg’s to grow a pair and partner with Jif to create Jif Peanut Butter Cereal. Adorned in the familiar colors of everyone’s favorite minute West African country, Gambia, the red, green, and blue box becomes only the second name-brand peanut butter cereal on the market, joining Reese’s foray into cereal.

Kellogg's Jif Peanut Butter Cereal Battle Royale Boxes

I give Jif Peanut Butter Cereal the full review treatment by conducting a comprehensive taste test with the “Big Three” of kid’s peanut butter cereals (sorry Cheerios and mothers, this ain’t a health food review). Sporting the name of a peanut butter company is all well and good, but if the cereal can’t match up to Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs, Peanut Butter Toast Crunch, and Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch, than the name Jif doesn’t mean a thing.

When I tasted the four cereals side by side, Jif stood out from the rest—but not in peanut buttery way. (I separated the peanut butter Reese’s puffs from the chocolate ones. As an aside, they’re not nearly as good as I thought they’d be all by themselves.) In fact, it had the least amount of pure peanut butter flavor while having the most distinctive corn aftertaste. It’s a distracting aftertaste at first, completely opposite that of the richer, rounder finish of Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch or Peanut Butter Toast Crunch.

Kellogg's Jif Peanut Butter Cereal Battle Royale

Slightly sweeter than both those cereals although noticeably less salty, the Jif cereal isn’t bad, but it’s not peanut butter. Notes of kettle corn and buttered popcorn jelly bean persist, as does a slight molasses and brown sugar depth. But the crunch is almost nonexistent when compared to the Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch and Peanut Butter Toast Crunch, although the familiar monoglyceride coating native to most peanut butter cereals renders an enjoyable experience for licking messy fingers. Texturally a disappointment, it nevertheless grows on you when eaten dry. Still, it has very little peanut butter or even peanut flavor.

Kellogg's Jif Peanut Butter Cereal Wet

The story is a bit different in milk, but unsatisfyingly the same. The salty factor and the heavy corn aftertaste gets dulled, but the peanut butter flavor lacks impact. The crunch, as you might expect, only dissipates further, while the end milk doesn’t even begin to approach slurp worthy. All things considered, I could appreciate the unique (but not peanut butter) taste of the cereal dry, but in milk I found it unremarkable on every account.

There’s one final point to make. Jif Peanut Butter Cereal’s price tag compared to other peanut butter cereals gives me pause. A box weighs only a little over nine ounces, less than all the major competitors. While I realize sales and prices differ, I can reliably grab a 20-ounce box of a very peanut buttery Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch from Walmart for the same price I paid for Jif cereal on sale.

If I was really in the mood for a bowl of kettle corn that would be an acceptable tradeoff—but I like kettle corn enough to actually, you know, buy kettle corn. Not distinctive enough to join the ranks of the best peanut butter cereals and not worth of its price tag in such a small box, both choosy moms and choosy twenty-five year old sugarholics will find it easy to agree to choose other cereals over Jif.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup (26 grams) – 100 calories, 15 calories from fat, 2 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, .5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1 gram of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 45 milligrams of potassium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugar, 2 gram of protein, and a number of vitamins and minerals.)

Item: Kellogg’s Jif Peanut Butter Cereal
Purchased Price: $2.99 (on sale)
Size: 9.1 oz box
Purchased at: Weis Markets
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Unique kettle corn flavor that breaks new ground in the world of cereal. Yummy when eaten dry in a salty-sweet-caramel kind of way. Learning about obscure country flags on Wikipedia. An excuse to open up three other kinds of better peanut butter cereals.
Cons: No distinctive peanut butter flavor when eaten as a snack. Heavy whole grain corn aftertaste is distracting. Least crunchy of the major peanut butter cereal. Lackluster in milk. The economic implications of the shrinking cereal box.

REVIEW: Post Limited Edition Honeycomb with Twisted Marshmallows Cereal

Post Limited Edition Honeycomb with Twisted Marshmallows Cereal

Your kitchen, circa nineteen-ninety something. Your hair is shabby and your brain is in a fog after another week of grinding through pages of fractions and mitosis, but Saturday morning has finally yielded its sweet relief from the onerous oppression that is the sixth grade. You’ve been put on the spot all week long, but today, there’s no chance of giving the wrong answer. As you open the pantry and breathe in the scintillating aroma of dextrose and trisodium phosphate, you realize the correct answer is “all of the above.”

Hey look, I’m not casting judgment. We all mixed and matched our cereals in those days before chocolate combined with Cinnamon Toast Crunch and marshmallows found their way into Froot Loops. When you think about it, we had to. It was sheer evolution. How else was I suppose to recreate apple cinnamon waffles then to add Apple Cinnamon Cheerios to Waffle Crisp? But somewhere over the last fifteen years the fat cats at General Mills, Kellogg’s, and Post got wind of what we were up to. Like any good business people, they consulted the brightest minds in high-performance and highly refined grains, came up with a flowchart for these sorts of situations, and devised a plan for research and development. I imagine it went something like this:

Mr. Bob Post, CEO: What do we have on the agenda today? Ah yes, Honeycomb. Classic. Underrated. Consistent. The Andre Reed of cereals, if you will. But sales are down. How can we jazz it up?

Herbert Sherbert, Head of R&D: Chocolate!

Mr. Bob Post: Tried it. Absolutely abysmal. What else you got?

Herbert Sherbert: How about Cinnamon? I heard Apple Jacks was doing that now and the reviews have been great!

Mr. Bob Post: I like it, but we’ve tried that too. Just didn’t sell. Kids these days have no sense of nuance. Looks like we’ll have to go with Plan Ireland.

Herbert Sherbet: You mean Curtis Stone? I actually think he’s Australian…

Mr. Bob Post: No, you idiot. I mean that Irish cereal, whatyacall it, the one with marshmallows.

Herbert Sherbert: You mean Lucky Charms?

Mr. Bob Post: That’s the one! Lucky Charms! Now let’s marshmallowize this beeswax!

Post Limited Edition Honeycomb with Twisted Marshmallows Cereal Closeup

And so, through the miracles of capitalism, Post’s Limited Edition Honeycomb with Twisted Marshmallows was born. Why “Twisted”? Other than the squiggly line running down the marshmallows, I seriously have no idea. But considering hearts, stars, and horseshoes, clovers and blue moons were already taken, I guess the options were somewhat limited. In any event, it’s my experience that marshmallows can subtly, yet brilliantly, elevate what otherwise might be a plain cereal base. Lucky Charms is obviously the quintessential example, with the sturdy and crunchy oat pieces—small and not overly sweet on their own—pairing wonderfully with the bursts of sweetness provided by the ‘mallows.

Unfortunately, Honeycomb doesn’t derive such a boost from the marshmallows. The Honeycomb pieces themselves are fine; they have that just-right level of sweetness and gentle, non-toasted crunch which somehow holds its texture in milk. I’ve always kind of admired the strange savory taste of Honeycomb, which seems to blend just the right proportions of corn, oat, and honey flavor.

The thing that has always trouble me is the lack of a glaze. Other honey cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios and Honey Nut Chex have a sturdier glaze, which helps to retain the distinctive taste and crunch of the sweetened grain in milk. Honeycomb just doesn’t have it, though, and the pieces themselves become sort of bland when you let them soak.

Ideally the marshmallows would supply little bursts of twisted sweetness, but because of the bulky size of the Honeycomb pieces, the marshmallows get lost in the shuffle. When you do get the taste of the marshmallows, you get, well, the taste of a marshmallow. For some reason marshmallows work in some cereals and don’t work in others, and in this case, they don’t add anything.

In fairness, the cereal is much better as a snack, where the subtle honey flavor can shine without being slowly diffused and lost amidst the milk. The net effect of the marshmallows, though, doesn’t share in the improvement, and despite granting any given mouthful a bit more sweetness, they don’t contribute anything that makes this iteration of Honeycomb stand out from the original. It pains me to admit it, but I found the cereal to be altogether bland for something that advertising 12 grams of sugar per serving.

Where do cereal R&D people go after trying chocolate, cinnamon, and marshmallow versions of a classic, well, I just don’t have the answer. But it looks like they’ll be heading back to the drawing board soon enough, because this limited time only cereal just doesn’t deliver anything special.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 1/4 cup – 120 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of potassium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Post Limited Edition Honeycomb with Twisted Marshmallows Cereal
Purchased Price: $2.37
Size: 12.5 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: If you like Honeycomb you’ll like this. Pretty good snacking cereal. Has a savory corn and oat element. Not having to pick out the marshmallows from Lucky Charms and add them to other cereals.
Cons: Marshmallows don’t add anything. Not nearly as good as Cinna-Graham Honeycomb, which was the shit before Post discontinued it. Doesn’t taste very sweet in milk. Missing the glazed crunch of other honey-flavored cereals. Hardly any fiber.

QUICK REVIEW: Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats Touch of Fruit in the Middle Raisin

Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats Touch of Fruit in the Middle Raisin

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 15 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: It’s a good cereal; it tastes like a less raisin-y raisin bran. Hey folks with low hemoglobin counts, just like all Frosted Mini Wheats, it’s an awesome source of iron. Great to eat straight out of the box as a snack. Nice crunch when eaten dry. Fortified with a bunch of vitamins and minerals. Hey folks who don’t eat enough fiber, just like all Frosted Mini Wheats, it’s an awesome source of fiber.
Cons: I know it’s “Touch of Fruit,” but a part of me wishes it had a hard poke of fruit because it looks like there’s 1/3 or 1/4 of a raisin in there. Anthropomorphic cereal still freaks me out. Like all Frosted Mini Wheats, it quickly becomes soggy in milk.

Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats Touch of Fruit in the Middle Raisin Closeup

Nutrition Facts: 24 biscuits w/no milk – 190 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 240 milligrams of potassium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, and a bunch of vitamins and minerals.