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.

REVIEW: Cap’n Crunch’s Sprinkled Donut Crunch Cereal

Cap'n Crunch's Sprinkled Donut Crunch Cereal

I’ve never been one for conspiracy theories. But in the case of the abrupt discontinuation of one of cerealdom’s most flawlessly engineered constructs of sugar and corn, I’ve never been able to accept the company line anymore than most Americans buy that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in 1963.

I speak, of course, of Sprinkle Spangles. Officially, any General Mills exec worth his 10 essential vitamins and minerals will dismiss the cereal’s dismissal to it having just run its course at the breakfast table. But, unofficially, whispers persist as to the real reasons why a cereal so great, so unquestionably yummy, was abruptly yanked off shelves.

Some say General Mills was threatened by government health officials who feared an escalation of childhood obesity; others claim wheat farmers cut off shipments to General Mills’ factories over fears the corn-based cereal sales would render their crops obsolete. Still other experts, namely me, have advanced that it was Dom DeLuise who sabotaged the cereal’s continuance.

Acting out because of selfish demands for more money as the cereal’s spokesman, DeLuise’s refusal to make more commercials left General Mills with no choice but to discontinue the cereal or risk the ire of the Hollywood backlash.

Whatever the real reason, we all suffered, and have never quite found a replacement.

Until now. Cap’n Crunch’s Sprinkled Donut Crunch is the proud successor to Sprinkle Spangles we have all waited for.

The aroma alone is almost ethereal, insofar as you might assign such a joyful and otherworldly adjective to a sprinkle coated oat and corn flour ring. More intense in confectionary goodness than even Post’s recent Sugar Cookie Pebbles, this smell makes me want to plunge my nostrils into the plastic sleeve and risk asphyxiation in the name of breakfast. Cooler minds prevailed, but just barely.

Cap'n Crunch's Sprinkled Donut Crunch Cereal Dry

Holding a single donut cereal piece in my finger and examining it with the kind of scrutiny usually reserved for rare diamonds, I’m impressed with the size of the donut rounds. These aren’t Cheerios; fatter, larger, and with that slightly fried texture that makes Waffle Crisp so addictive, the donuts have a heft and body to them usually not seen in ringed cereals. They’re also sprouting more sprinkles than a cupcake designed by an overzealous three-year-old baking prodigy.

Popping one of the pieces into my mouth, I allow the sweet taste to dissolve slowly. There’s definitely a strong note of Funfetti mixed with Birthday Cake Goldfish in each ring, but the flavor is aided by a none-too-cloying aftertaste of baked corn, oats and coconut oil that is unmistakably the taste of Cap’n Crunch. Crunching down, you’re met with the familiar shredding sensation that marks the original Cap’n Crunch, expect in this case, you’re also greeted by tiny explosive shards of pure confectionary firepower. Dare I use a nautical analogy in complete deference to ongoing controversy about the Cap’n’s actual naval accomplishments, but these sprinkles deliver a veritable broadside.

Cap'n Crunch's Sprinkled Donut Crunch Cereal Wet

Normally I would not advocate breeching the hull of the Cap’n’s vessel, but in this instance, taking on water milk only improves the cereal. Having misplaced the keys to my time machine I can’t compare the taste exactly to Sprinkle Spangles, but milk turns the sprinkles into a kind of donut glaze with just enough richness to make each spoonful seem downright dessertish. An especially telling byproduct of this glazed effect is that the milk slowly takes on multicolored form, with pools of red and green developing on the side of the bowl. Restraint isn’t easy, but should you find yourself willing to marinate the still crunchy donut rings in the milk for an extended period of time, you’ll find yourself rewarded with a flavor that echoes a barrage of donuts, snickerdoodles, and yes, our long lost Sprinkle Spangles.

Cap’n Crunch’s Sprinkled Donut Crunch is not, by any means, an accurate representation of a glazed and sprinkled donut. But you know what? Go grab a sprinkled donut from most stores and tell me it’s not better than just “pretty good.” The truth is this latest galleon in the Cap’n’s arsenal is so much more than its name alludes to, capturing the flavor of a bygone cereal and even improving on it. Whether you’ve been circumnavigating in vain for a replacement for Sprinkle Spangles, or charting a course towards a Cap’n Crunch flavor that does the classic taste justice, you’ll want to make Cap’n Crunch’s Sprinkled Donut Crunch the flagship cereal in your pantry.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 110 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 200 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 13 grams of sugars, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Cap’n Crunch’s Sprinkled Donut Crunch Cereal
Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 17 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Tastes just like Sprinkle Spangles, except better. Strong notes of Funfetti, snickerdoodle, and glazed donut with all the brown sugar corn and oat crunch of classic Cap’n Crunch. Leaves one of the most amazing end-milk experiences in cerealdom.
Cons: Not the strongest donut flavor. Cereal conspiracy theories. Overreliance on nautical and naval puns to stretch out a narrative that could be summed up as, “this is really freaking yummy.” Doesn’t contain Bavarian crème in the center.

REVIEW: Chex Chips (Caramelized Onion, Cinnamon and Sugar, Cheddar Jalapeño, and Wasabi)

Chex Chips

Yo, do y’all remember the story of the Three Little Pigs?

Well, here’s a recap in case you recently fell off of a train of something.

Basically, there are these three anthropomorphic pigs that get kicked out of their house by their mother because they are probably all like 22 and have degrees in Philosophy or Russian Literature and don’t have jobs. Anyway, the titular three pigs travel out in the world and decide that they each need some new digs.

Two of the pigs, who apparently have never seen an actual house, each decide to erect crude little shelters out of straw and sticks respectively. The third pig, and possibly the only one that never received a traumatic brain injury in his youth, builds his using bricks like a champ. Eventually a hungry wolf arrives whose plan of attack, loudly announcing his arrival while blowing as hard as he can on each home, easily destroys the first two lousy shelters. Not wanting to be eaten, the first two pigs run to the smarter, craftier third pig and seek shelter in his house, which, because it’s basically a brick fortress, keeps them all safe. Hooray!

The moral of this little story is clear: You can get by in a group by being completely and utterly useless as long as at least one of you has their shit together.

Chex Mix, much like the Three Little Pigs, is similarly plagued by certain members who cannot carry their own weight. While greatly enjoyable as a whole, those dry, squiggly breadsticks and boring circular pretzels are clearly the straw and stick houses in this analogy. And, even though those zesty bagel chips can usually be a crowd pleaser, I have always felt that the true beauty of Chex Mix lies in the Chex themselves, and their flawless evolution from breakfast cereal to snack food.

But dammit, it’s 2014 and it appears Chex is finally ready to make moves in the snack department sans its slightly less enticing compadres, and the beautiful result is Chex Chips.

Let’s be honest, when I first saw this new snack at my local 7-Eleven (in the following four flavors: Caramelized Onion, Cinnamon and Sugar, Cheddar Jalapeno, and Wasabi) I had a few questions. How can my familiar Chex cereal pieces be transformed into a chip? How big are we talking here? Did I really ever want my Chex to taste like wasabi?

Scouring the front packaging for details, I was provided with only the following description, beneath the large printed Chex Chips logo:

“GIANT CHIPS. NO MIX.”

Chex Chips Size

Personally, I take the purposeful capitalization of these two short, direct sentences as a sign that this text should probably be read in the brutish voice of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And, like The Rock himself, Chex Chips similarly appear to be significantly roided-up. Upon opening the bag, the texture of Chex Chips is a wonderfully effective hybrid somewhere between the puffiness of Bugles and the crispiness of the late (and well missed) Doritos 3D. Much less flimsy than their breakfast cereal brethren, these giant Chex seemed perfect for transporting each specific delicious flavor.

Let’s break it all down.

Chex Chips in Bowls

First, I began with the Caramelized Onion flavor. Yeah that’s right, caramelized onion. Did Bobby Flay whip these gourmet creations up on Iron Chef? Probably. Can you serve these at your next fancy gala or museum opening? Probably. Does a caramelized onion simply mean a cooked, browned onion? Probably. Was the name of this flavor an attempt to hide that fact they basically taste just like a sour cream and onion flavor minus the sour cream? Probably. Were they still shamelessly delicious? … Yes.

Next, I moved onto the Cinnamon and Sugar variety because, well, I like both of those things. Ignoring the fact that the pile of sugar with accompanying tubes of cinnamon displayed on the front of this bag look suspiciously like someone is ready for an 80s cocaine binge, this may have been my favorite flavor of the bunch and I strongly recommend it. Allow me to consider the reasons: They tasted like delicious churros. I like delicious churros. I liked this flavor. If you like delicious Churros you will also like this flavor. (See… it all adds up)

Moving along, I next tried the Cheddar Jalapeño flavor. Already pleased with the previous two flavors, I was not surprised when this variety blew my idiomatic pants off. Underneath its delightfully fiery kick; there is an impressive amount of real flavor. I’m a bit tired of the recent trend of using heat as a shield to cover up lousy taste, so it’s a welcomed surprise when spicy flavors such as this benefit from a good combination of the two.

Finally, this left me with the flavor that I had largely been anticipating, Wasabi. It has always surprised me that, despite the already established and steadily growing popularity of sushi restaurants, wasabi has made very few permanent appearances in American mainstream snack foods. Sure it might pop up as limited edition flavor, like sriracha, but it seems there are very few consistent outlets for this flavor. And, truthfully, it’s a shame. Yet, the taste of these Chex Chips have captured an essential part of what makes wasabi such a popular condiment; that perfect combination of spiciness and distinct flavor. I hope these chips stick around because they are impressively good.

In fact, Chex Chips as a whole are all surprisingly the crème de la crème of the usual 7-Eleven pickins’, and my hopes for the longevity of the Wasabi flavor spreads to Chex Chips as a whole.

(Now, I just want to see those bagel chips get the right idea and go solo too).

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pouch – Caramelized Onion – 200 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 320 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein Cinnamon and Sugar – 200 calories, 90 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 250 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein. Cheddar Jalapeno – 200 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 380 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein. Wasabi – 200 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 320 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Chex Chips (Caramelized Onion, Cinnamon and Sugar, Cheddar Jalapeño, and Wasabi)
Purchased Price: $1.49 each
Size: 42 gram bag
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Caramelized Onion)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Cinnamon and Sugar)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Cheddar Jalapeño)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Wasabi)
Pros: The chips themselves were way tastier than I had anticipated. Large portion size. Interesting variety.
Cons: I have only seen them that one time I was at the 7-Eleven at two in the morning and I knocked over a gallon of milk and the store clerk looked at me funny and now I don’t want to go back there even during the day when he probably doesn’t even have a shift.