REVIEW: Quaker Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Life Cereal

Quaker Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Life Cereal

Let me be honest with you all – I think I’m basic.

Each year I eagerly anticipate the arrival of the cool autumn air and the changing of the leaves. Fall brings with it an excuse to wear my large collection of flannel shirts, strap on my boots (they’re not Uggs….yet), and head out to the countryside to pay extra money to pick my own apples that end up being smaller than anything I could buy at the grocery store.

And while some folks may believe that apple cinnamon is the quintessential fall flavor of choice, I am here to proclaim my love for anything and everything that is pumpkin spice. Sure, the latte has run through my veins from September through November in the past, but the grocery aisles have been my go-to for orangey and spicey products in recent years. 2015 brought us pumpkin spice kale chips (for basic vegans), pumpkin spice eggnog (for basic holiday combiners), and even pumpkin spice vodka (for basic drunks), and if you’ve read TIB in the past few weeks, you know that 2016 is shaping up to offer even more nutmeggy goodness.

As such, I jumped at the opportunity to review Pumpkin Spice Life Cereal. To be honest, I found it hard to believe that such a classic cereal would get on the pumpkin spice train, but the more the merrier. Next stop, my mouth. CHOO CHOO!

Life was never my first choice of cereal as a kid. I mean, when you’re competing with Cap’n Crunch and Count Chocula, a picture of wheat squares on the box wasn’t really appealing. As I grew older and wiser, my palette learned to appreciate Life and its cooler younger brother, Cinnamon Life. I eagerly dove into Pumpkin Spice Life, hoping that I’d be able to welcome it to the family with open arms.

Quaker Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Life Cereal 2

Upon opening the box, I was concerned that I’d mistakenly grabbed a box of traditional Life in error. Pumpkin Spice Life is relatively dull in the package, even though the box screams OMG THERE’S FALL IN HERE. The cereal offers nothing that will remind you of a pumpkin pie baking in the oven or the colors of the changing leaves. In fact, I was only able to discern any sort of cinnamon or nutmeg scent when I brought a spoonful of cereal right under my nose, and it was a very weak smell at that.

My bites of the cereal were similarly bland. The flavor of Pumpkin Spice Life, like regular Life, is very grain heavy, with notes of oats and wheat at the forefront. The tastes of cinnamon and nutmeg are only faintly evident, but become amped up with the inclusion of milk. A word to the wise though – once you add milk, you’ll need to finish your bowl quickly, lest you enjoy cereal that is the consistency of mashed potatoes.

Quaker Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Life Cereal 3

The best part about pumpkin spice flavored products is that they typically bring a strong punch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice right from the beginning. You want to feel like you’ve been slapped in the face with your Thanksgiving dessert spread, and Pumpkin Spice Life isn’t going to give you any of that. Unless you’re a fan of muted fall flavors, I don’t suggest you play the game of Pumpkin Spice Life.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 120 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 13 oz box
Purchased at: Star Market
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Witty board game references. Good for fans of regular Life. Flannel shirts worn unironically.
Cons: Hey Mikey, he hates it! Barely discernible pumpkin spice flavor. Mushy in milk.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Cereal

Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Cereal

Pumpkin spice presents an existential crisis for the creative writer.

There is only so much that can said about it. What there is to say has been said before, said again, and then said in a different way. Chances are the same trite expression about pushing autumn in August, or the long litany of pumpkin spice products now available to us, is currently being wrestled onto the page of another food blog. We, the pumpkin spice addicts of America, have long since typed our love affair with the orange gourd and its seminal flavors into a monotony of clichés.

This is a damn shame, because when done right, pumpkin spice should not be reduced to a cliché.

Take the new Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.

This is limited edition cereal to end all limited edition cereals; the kind of product that’s worth stocking up on from the beginning of August and then rationing out through the polar onslaught of December and humid days of July.

To be fair, we should have expected this much. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios were announced back in the spring when Strawberry Cheerios came out, and given the success of the spring flavor, Cheerios let us know they’re not doing this LTO thing half-ass.

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Case in point, Pumpkin Spice Cheerios don’t taste like cinnamon. The flavor isn’t the cheap heavy note of cassia, nor is it the honey or brown sugar sweetness that often comes along for the pumpkin spice ride. Likewise, this is not the repackaged taste of Honey Nut Cheerios or Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios are pumpkin spice Cheerios. There’s the sweet fragrant note of nutmeg, the aromatic warmth of clove, and, yes, the flavors of cinnamon and ginger.

Lest you think this is just a pumpkin spice flavor, there is some serious sweet pumpkin flavor going on in each of those oat rings. The addition of real pumpkin in the ingredients makes a world of difference when eating the cereal in milk, where the sublime essence of pumpkin desserts comes to life.

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Yes, sublime essence. Think of it as that moment when crust component, pumpkin component, and dairy meet. Here the warming and exotic notes of spices co-mingle with the sweetened taste of pumpkin and the richness of milk. A hearty crunch filled with sweetened dairy and a bit of milkfat greets eats spoonful, and in that moment the eater relives everything that is right about the cool breeze of October and the multicolored leaves that drift to the ground.

I may have chomped down on my first bite on a 95-degree day in west Texas, but if I would have closed my eyes and blasted a fan in my face then I’m pretty sure I could have fooled myself into believing it was autumn. It sure tasted that way.

Based on the rapidly growing list of pumpkin spice cereals entering the market, we’ll soon have the proverbial cornucopia to choose from. I don’t doubt many of these cereals will be good, but few, I’m willing to bet, will be able to match the appeal of Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 grams – 110 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 120 mg of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.98
Size: 21 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Outstanding representation of the complexity of pumpkin spices that exceeds the dull and heavy cinnamon flavor sometimes assigned to pumpkin spice. Sweet, hearty taste of oat base. Wonderful rich flavor in milk that tastes like the edge of a pumpkin pie or bar.
Cons: Could be a tad sweeter and have a “glaze” like Honey Nut Cheerios. The creative struggle to explain the appeal of pumpkin spice.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Cap’n Crunch’s Orange Creampop Crunch Cereal

Limited Edition Cap’n Crunch’s Orange Creampop Crunch Cereal

Confession time: I have never in my life eaten Cap’n Crunch. That’s right: me and the Cap’n have never made it happen.

I know one thing about Cap’n Crunch, which is that it is like eating a spoonful of razor blades. This is just one of those things I’ve heard people speak of while they fondly recall their childhood. It baffles me. Did you all turn into little masochists when it was breakfast time?

It’s not one of those situations where I wasn’t allowed sugary cereals, either – Tony the Tiger and…whatever the name of the Lucky Charms leprechaun is were regulars in my house. The Cap’n just never entered my radar. Ha! I just realized that’s a boat joke.

Before we get started, I want to note that the marketing department did a spot-on job with the front of this box. Everything from the jaunty orange valance to the Olde Tyme Shoppe font to the little ice cream cart proclaiming that this flavor is Limited Edition made me want to pick up Cap’n Crunch’s Orange Creampop Crunch and take it home with me.

I will say, though, it seems less like the Cap’n is offering me a 50/50 bar and more like he’s about to assault me with it. Stand down, Cap’n! We all be buckos here!

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I know the cereal is orange on the front of the box, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how bright it was when I opened the box. My brain immediately went to Cheetos, which is a weird thought to have when you’re about to eat sugary cereal.

Luckily, I was able to push the cheesy thoughts away and dig in to my bowl full of crunchy Creamsicles. I mean, Creampops. Wouldn’t want to violate any registered trademarks, here.

It was hard to pin down the taste at first, but finally the perfect analogy came to me – Froot Loops that had been dosed with extra artificial orange flavoring. It was that ubiquitous “I’m fruity!” sugar cereal flavor but with one particular standout.

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Unfortunately, this does not a 50-50 bar/Creamsicle/Creampop make. Where was the vanilla? I thought I tasted hints, but that could have just been the milk and sugar mixing with my imagination.

Regardless, I’m very familiar with the delicious flavor of the orange and vanilla ice cream bar, and this was not it. Along with the lack of vanilla, which is half of what makes up the ice cream bar this cereal was modeled after, the orange was all wrong. The orange outside of a Creamsicle has a light, fruity orange flavor, and the Cap’ns version was like an orange Runt got mixed in there and started throwing punches.

Something kept pulling at me, telling me that Orange Creampop Crunch reminded me of something, and then I realized it: Yummy Mummy cereal! The difference is that Yummy Mummy actually tasted like orange cream, in my opinion. Congrats, Cap’n, you got showed up by a Halloween monster.

With all that said, will I have another bowl? Probably. I might even finish the box. Despite the over-orangeness and disappointing vanilla, Cap’n Crunch’s Orange Creampop Crunch has that satisfyingly artificial, super sugary, crunchy goodness. I’ll just pretend I’m eating orange Froot Loops that managed not to sog out after two seconds in milk.

Me and the Cap’n finally made it happen. I popped my Cap’n Crunchcherry. I would say that I regret that that is the second-to-last sentence of my review, but I regret nothing.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 110 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 50 milligrams of potassium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, 11 grams of other carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.49 (on sale)
Size: 14 oz. box
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Had that lovely sugary artificial fruit flavor. Boat jokes! You’ll like it if you’ve been craving orange cereal. Cute box design. Stays crunchy in milk. Didn’t cut my mouth to shreds.
Cons: Lack of vanilla flavor. The Cap’n trying to assault me. Orange flavor was very artificial. Making gross jokes about the Cap’n popping my cherry. Totally failed at capturing the flavor of a Creamsicle.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows Cereal

Kellogg's Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows Cereal

There are three things I never got to see that bum me out – Ebbets Field, a World’s Fair, and Banana Frosted Flakes.

According to Wikipedia – the world’s most trusted source – there have been less than ten Frosted Flakes flavor variants in North America since its inception in 1952, so you can understand why it took 64 years for Kellogg to sprinkle a few marshmallows in.

Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows.

It’s so simple, yet so necessary. I think I’ve subconsciously always wanted these to exist. Why wouldn’t there be Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows?

I’m sure some of you skeptics are thinking, “Meh. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Why you gotta harsh marshmallow’s mellow? (Say that ten times really fast.)

Didn’t you ever mix two cereals together when you were a kid? I still do that. I could write a book about the best cereals to mix together. Dare me. Dare me to write that book. I’ll write that book so hard!

Threats aside, I don’t think I need to go into much detail about Frosted Flakes. At this point, you should know all about the sugary corn flakes. They’re literally sugar coated Corn Flakes and one of the most iconic cereals on Earth.

Kellogg's Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows Cereal 2

Tony the Tiger is one of the most recognizable marketing mascots ever, up there with Mickey Mouse, Ronald McDonald, and every child’s favorite, Progressive Flo. Just in case anyone was wondering, the box notes that Frosted Flakes is indeed the official cereal of Tony the Tiger. Thanks for confirming our lifelong suspicions, Kellogg.

So, you’re well aware of the flakes. How are the marshmallows?

They’re Gr-r-r-ross!

Nah, I’m playing, they’re fine. Not quite “gr-r-r-reat,” but they’re okay.

They look like hot chocolate-style marshmallows. Texturally, they are pretty much what you expect from a cereal marshmallow. They have a nice sticky crisp, if that makes sense.

Kellogg's Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows Cereal 3

It’s hard to get too excited about the appearance. This is a no-frills cereal, and annoying people tell me you eat with your eyes first. They could have at least made them little tiger paws or something. Instead, it’s just a boring bowl of whiteish-yellow flakes and little rock marshmallows devoid of color.

The marshmallows have a really good crisp that gets immediately overtaken once you crunch them along with the cereal flakes. Frosted Flakes is a cereal that loses crispness in milk quickly, so after a couple spoonfuls, you’re left with soggy flakes and slimy marshmallows. That being said, the after-milk was the same as I remember. It’s like mixing five tablespoons of sugar in a glass of milk.

I never thought of Frosted Flakes as a “without milk” cereal, but I think these could be a nice starter kit for a top notch snack mix. Throw in some honey roasted peanuts, M&M’s and pretzels, and we’re on to something. I may buy another box and give this a shot.

I consider Frosted Flakes a good “if they’re on sale” purchase. They’ve always been a 7 out of 10 cereal to me, and I don’t think I can give these a different score. The marshmallows didn’t really change the taste, and barely provided a different texture. I could hold that against them, but why bother? It was still a satisfying bowl of cereal.

I’m sure you weren’t expecting this cereal to reinvent the wheel, so I think you’ll like ’em. If you love Frosted Flakes, give ’em a whirl. Now, who wants to start a petition with me to get Banana Frosted Flakes back on shelves?

(Nutrition Facts – 29 grams – 110 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 135 mg of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugars, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 13.6 oz box
Purchased at: Wegmans
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Classic cereal. Really good fresh out of the box. Potential base for a snack mix. Mixing multiple cereals together. Tony the Tiger. Saying Tony the Tiger’s famous catchphrase out loud.
Cons: Really not much different than normal. Boring appearance. Almost instant sog. Super sugary cereal milk. Tongue twisters. I really wanted to go to a World’s Fair. “Ya know, anyone can edit Wikipedia.”

REVIEW: General Mills Strawberry and Blueberry Tiny Toast Cereals

General Mills Strawberry and Blueberry Tiny Toast Cereals?
Toast is so en vogue right now. You’ve got your avocado toast, your restaurants that only serve toast, and your beer made from toast. Hell, at this point, you’d half expect toast to start singing “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It).”

Toast wasn’t always the critical darling it is today. For years, it perched precariously on the side of breakfast platters everywhere, only there to sop up the remnants of runny yolks (or last night’s bad decisions, if you know what I mean).

But then, in 1984, the cereal wizards at General Mills introduced Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and the rest was history. What then followed were years of toast cereal offshoots like French Toast Crunch and Peanut Butter Toast Crunch, which led me to believe that General Mills should just change their name to “That Cereal Company That Only Makes Toast Themed Cereal.”

Enter Strawberry and Blueberry Tiny Toast cereals to prove my point.

In what is apparently General Mills’ first new cereal brand in fifteen years (I know, I was just as surprised as you), Strawberry and Blueberry Tiny Toast cereals were developed to have an “all-family appeal.” I’m not sure where General Mills finds their test families, but I imagine that the folks who thought this cereal would appeal to everyone are the same folks who think Pop-Tarts are a good source of your five-a-day.

Upon opening the box, the tiny toast cereals have a scent reminiscent of fruit and cream instant oatmeal. While it’s totally artificial, it brings back memories of all of the times in college I didn’t have the time or the initiative to make a more nutritious breakfast. Then upon pouring it out, I was greeted by an adorable bowl full of tiny pieces of toast. We’re talking Honey, I Shrunk the Kids tiny here. Rick Moranis would be proud.

General Mills Strawberry Tiny Toast Cereal

The look of the cereal is a different story, as the specks of fruit on each piece of tiny toast look a little more like measles and mold than anything natural. If Cinnamon Toast Crunch is the “taste you can see,” this cereal is more like the “taste you should see a doctor about.”

As a cereal purist, I first tried both cereals sans milk. Upon scooping out my first bite, I noticed the toasts had a dry and dusty appearance, which was affirmed when they immediately dissolved on my tongue. While the texture isn’t the most pleasant (think arid desert), the taste is much better, with both giving off muffin-like oat flavors mixed with the fruit.

General Mills Blueberry Tiny Toast Cereal

Tired of the Sahara-like climate inside my mouth, I drowned the cereals in milk. Let me tell you – Milk. Is. A. Game. changer. The milk immediately fluffs up the tiny toasts, giving them a more pleasant appearance and mouthfeel, and making the cereal much more enjoyable to eat. It’s like that Lubriderm commercial where they apply it to an alligator – it works that well.

Overall, the Tiny Toast cereals are a pretty good, albeit artificial, addition to your balanced breakfast. Let’s just hope that General Mills doesn’t come out with a crappy sequel.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 120 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99 each
Size: 11.1 oz box
Purchased at: Star Market
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Blueberry)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Strawberry)
Pros: R&B jams. “Honey, I shrunk the breakfast.” Muffin-like fruit flavor. Moisturized with milk.
Cons: Need for cereal antibiotics. Dusty texture sans milk. Remembering bad decisions.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Strawberry Cheerios Cereal

Limited Edition Strawberry Cheerios Cereal

If you were to put a gun to my head and demand I rank every single Cheerios flavor in history, my first thought would be, why are you willing to kill me over something as trivial as one man’s opinion on a toasted oat cereal?

And then I’d proceed to rattle off the definitive guide to 22 flavors.

Apple Cinnamon Cheerios would be up there. So would Peanut Butter Multigrain Cheerios. And, being the purist that I am, I wouldn’t forget the golden bee of Honey Nut Cheerios.

But at the very top? The discontinued Strawberry Yogurt Burst Cheerios.

Taken off shelves sometime in the past three years, but long adored by adults and kids alike, the sweet strawberry notes of the O’s still haunt me. Yeah, I could get Fruity Cheerios and just eat the red ones, but it’s not the same. If Cheerios can give spelt, quinoa, and other ancient grains their own box, then America’s favorite berry should have its own flavor.

Thankfully, General Mills has finally taken note, albeit in a limited edition role with the new Strawberry Cheerios.

Just writing “limited edition” makes me want to sift through pages of Google search results for a viable answer to “how to freeze time” so I can endlessly replay the moment when my milky spoonful of red-freckled oat rings embraced my taste buds like a cold strawberry shake on a warm spring day.

Yes, Strawberry Cheerios are that good.

Those who fondly recall Berry Burst Cheerios will be filled with poetic memories of the subtly sweet strawberry flavor, oatey crunch, and sophisticated tart aftertaste of the bygone classic. Eaten dry, the new Strawberry Cheerios have an ideal combination of strawberry flavor (emphasis on the straw, as opposed to just vague berry; although, now that I think about it, don’t think about eating straw. That’s freaking disgusting) and wholesome Cheerios taste.

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There’s a wonderfully sturdy crunch in each oat ring — more crunch than the standard Cheerio — but unlike past Cheerios flavors, Strawberry Cheerios has no identifiable defect. Gone are styrofoamy freeze-dried fruit; banished are fake palm kernel oil yogurt coatings; and exiled are the annoying original Cheerios that taste like insipid islands of plainness amidst an ocean of strawberry islands.

They also get better in milk.

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The strong strawberry tartness in the aftertaste dissipates, replaced by mellow yet sweet flavor that, when enjoyed in the presence of whole milk, takes on notes of milkshake or ice cream. The gluten-free oat rings stay crunchy even through a long soak, slowly giving away their sweetness to a light red bowl of pure strawberry milk.

If you’re going to put a gun to my head and demand I give you one slight suggestion of improvement for the new Strawberry Cheerios, I’d admit they could be a little sweeter, since I recently figured out how awesome macerated strawberries taste. But it’s hard to nitpick, especially with how accurate Cheerios nailed the strawberry flavor. Are Strawberry Cheerios the best of the now 23 Cheerios varieties that have been created? It’s tough to say, but if you’re going to demand an answer from me, I’d say they’re up there, and are probably the purest, tastiest strawberry cereal on the market.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 grams – 110 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 120 mg of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.38
Size: 21 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Delicious and bright strawberry flavor combined with solid oat crunch. Tart, sophisticated aftertaste. Serious strawberry milkshake vibes when eaten in milk. No crappy freeze-dried strawberries. Best strawberry cereal on the market.
Cons: Limited freaking edition with no scientifically verifiable way to stop time. Could be a tad bit sweeter. Random people putting guns to your head and asking you to rank cereals.