REVIEW: Special K Nourish Maple Brown Sugar Crunch Hot Cereal

Kellogg's Special K Maple Brown Sugar Crunch Nourish Hot Cereal

You may be asking: Why in all the magical golden coins of Super Mario would I want to buy two bowls of portable oatmeal with some mix-ins?

Well, that just brings up a slew of other questions: Why fry a Snickers? Why make your own piñata? Why learn to surf in a pool of whale sharks? Why, in fact, should you do anything? I’ll tell you why: because you are a great human. You want to reach higher. To be all you can be. To walk into work not only with your shoes on the right feet, but with a little kick that says “I am a great human and I am here to change the world.” And how, with a 1:30 bedtime and a 4:30 wake-up call, can you have the consciousness to do that?

Kellogg's Special K Maple Brown Sugar Crunch Nourish Hot Cereal Cup

Breakfast.

Preparing to fully bank on this need for early morning sustenance, Special K’s kicked out this new line of oatmeal so you can microwave a bowl of whole grains in your office, dorm, or as you brush your hair before dashing out the door, spooning mouthfuls as you swerve through the 7:30 traffic, without even grabbing a bowl. And this spurs the next question: Is it worth it?

That depends.

Kellogg's Special K Maple Brown Sugar Crunch Nourish Hot Cereal Closeup

On first glance, I figured there’s nothing revolutionary going on here. It’s just a mushy, but oddly comforting bowl of cooked oats, right? Oh how wrong I was. Underneath the goopy exterior rests an amalgam of grains that stretches the vocabulary of Kansas agriculture: there’s oats, some wheat, barley, and even quinoa, which I appreciate because it has a “Q” in it. Q words are so hard to come by these days.

While there were four grains in there, the sweet, malty oats still stand at the forefront of flavor. I was quite pleased that Special K opted for whole oats rather than the puny chopped up instant ones, which often make me feel underappreciated and begging for more like a character in a Dickens novel.

The accompanying mix-ins include two packets of toasted almonds, which, while a bit flavorless in their unsalted way, serve as quality crunch nubbins, and the separated dual packets of almonds allowed me to plop one segment in the top half of the oatmeal while saving some for the bottom, thus preventing Boring Bottom Half of Oatmeal Syndrome.

Unfortunately, there’s no actual maple syrup involved here. Instead, the oatmeal is swirled with what I imagine are little dehydrated maple crystals that, when looked at under a microscope, might be mistaken for those frightening rhinestones people put on their cell phones that blind you on a sunny day. While the maple bits add a nice smell of maple to the air, the sugar-y-ness of maple is subdued after preparation, but let’s face it: dehydrated maple bits are no substitute for the Grade-B Vermont liquid gold.

Otherwise, this is pretty successful in that straightforward, no frills way, even if there were only two bowls. The almonds stay fresh in their little compartments and the single serving allows me to stuff the bowl in my bag in the morning while running out the door. It can be prepared in the microwave or, if you wanna get fancy, the bowl provides directions for steeping.

As with all microwave oatmeal, you can whip it up with your liquid of choice, be it water, milk, coffee (and excellent choice), or, depending on the time of day and your mood, maple syrup’s best friend: bourbon. If you’re passing by a McDonald’s or keep a slab of pork belly in your employer’s mini fridge (not that I do…), a side of crispy bacon would make an excellent pairing.

As fall whisks its merciless wind through the tethers of my flimsy cardigan, this oatmeal seems perfectly timed. It’s warm, hearty brain food that I can grab on the way out the door. I don’t see myself buying this all the time, but it makes me feel cozy enough to wear footie pajamas to work. In fact, perhaps I will! Tomorrow! If you see me in my footie pajamas on the subway, know that I am not committing an act of defiance. It is merely a symptom of being filled with hot cereal.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 container– 190 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 170 milligrams of potassium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 5 gram of dietary fiber, 11 grams of sugars, and 8 grams of protein.)

Item: Special K Nourish Maple Brown Sugar Crunch Hot Cereal
Purchased Price: $2.78
Size: 2 pack
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: No frills. Easy to prepare. Big whole oats. Crunchy almonds. Magically dissolving maple-y bits. Slabs of pork belly. The option of preparing with bourbon. Making a piñata. Wearing footie pajamas to work.
Cons: Only 2 bowls. No actual maple syrup. 4:30 wake-up calls. Feeling like a character in a Dickens novel. Endangered “Q” words. Being blinded by cell phone bling.

QUICK REVIEW: Special K Cookies & Creme Pastry Crisps

Special K Cookies & Creme Pastry Crisps

Purchased Price: $3.29 (on sale)
Size: 5 pouches
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tastes similar to Cookies & Creme Pop-Tarts. Light and crispy exterior. 100 calories per pouch. A nice little snack. No need to toast in order for it to be crispy, unlike Pop-Tarts. Nutritionally, two Cookies & Creme Pastry Crisps equal one Oreo cookie. If you eat a lot of Cookies & Creme Pop-Tarts and think to yourself, “Hey, I should cut back on the Cookies & Creme Pop-Tarts” these are the Nicorette Gum that’ll satisfy your Pop-Tart cravings.
Cons: Insides were a bit hollow so maybe they could use a little more cream…I mean, creme. Chocolatey drizzle melts in your mouth and in your hands. They’re pretty much portion control Pop-Tarts. Being addicted to Cookies & Creme Pop-Tarts.

Special K Cookies & Creme Pastry Crisps Closeup

Nutrition Facts: 2 crisps – 100 calories, 20 calories from fat, 2 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Special K Chocolatey Strawberry Cereal

Kellogg's Limited Edition Special K Chocolatey Strawberry

Do you know what’s romantic?

Chocolate-covered strawberries.

Awww yeah! You can take one and lightly stroke it on various parts of your lover’s body, letting body heat melt the chocolate, which leaves behind a gooey mess your tongue will have to clean up while your lover eats the juicy strawberry and whatever chocolate didn’t end up on his or her body.

Do you know what also has chocolate and strawberries but is significantly less romantic than chocolate-covered strawberries?

Kellogg’s Limited Edition Special K Chocolatey Strawberry cereal.

Awww yeah! Nothing says the opposite of sensual than scratchy rice and wheat flakes on your lover’s skin. Sure, some of the freeze-dried strawberries look like areolae, but the brittle, dried fruit and firm chocolatey hyphens will have her or him begging for less.

Kellogg’s Limited Edition Special K Chocolatey Strawberry cereal looks special because it’s labeled “limited edition,” but it’s not so remarkable because it’s basically two other Special K cereals mixed together — Special K Red Berries and Special K Chocolatey Delight.

It’s that kind of innovation that makes me look forward to other possible Special K limited edition cereal varieties, like Chocolatey Blueberry Special K or Granola, Fruit, Yogurt, Oats & Honey Special K.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog who has been following it since it began in 2004, you might remember me saying some harsh things about Special K Red Berries cereal in another review. I probably used profanity and the adjective “junky” when sharing my thoughts about the cereal with freeze-dried strawberries. My issue with the cereal was its fruit, which got horribly soggy within moments of sitting in milk. As for Special K Chocolatey Delight, I gave it a positive review in 2007.

Limited Edition Special K Chocolatey Strawberry cereal had a noticeable chocolatey aroma, but my nose didn’t really detect the strawberries. However, while I was shoveling the cereal into my mouth, my taste buds could mostly taste the strawberries, while the chocolatey pieces were muted.

Freaky Friday!

Kellogg's Limited Edition Special K Chocolatey Strawberry Closeup

I last tried Special K Red Berries cereal in 2005 and it seems freeze-dried strawberry technology has improved because the ones in this limited edition cereal didn’t absorb milk as quickly as a National Spelling Bee favorite absorbs a dictionary. As for the chocolatey pieces, they’re solid so there’s no need to worry about them getting milk logged.

In the box I purchased, there were significantly more chocolatey bits than freeze-dried strawberries, but you’re almost guaranteed to get one or the other in each spoonful.

I keep saying “chocolatey” because the chocolatey bits in the cereal aren’t made with real chocolate, like the stuff Hershey bars are made of. They lack what makes real chocolate awesome, like cocoa butter. Instead they’re waxy, less sweet, and they taste Tootsie Roll-ish.

Of course, if Kellogg’s used real chocolate, this cereal wouldn’t have Special K-like nutrition facts. But for what they are, they’re not bad. However, I wish they had a stronger flavor. Heck, the crispy flakes overpower the chocolatey flavor. As for the strawberries they’re more tart than sweet and I enjoyed their flavor, but my box needed a lot more of them.

Special K’s Limited Edition Chocolatey Strawberry Cereal was a bit disappointing and strange. I liked it for what I thought I wouldn’t enjoy and disliked it for what I thought I would love. It’s also not an inventive limited edition cereal variety. So if you’re one of those people who regularly eats all the Special K cereals, this one will probably not seem special to you.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 110 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 80 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, and fortified with vitamins and minerals to make us awesome.)

Item: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Special K Chocolatey Strawberry Cereal
Purchased Price: $3.99 (on sale)
Size: 11 ounce box
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Freeze-dried strawberries don’t absorb milk as quickly as a college kid absorbs alcohol at a frat party. Pleasant strawberry flavor. Feeding the one you love chocolate-covered strawberries.
Cons: It’s basically Special K Chocolatey Delight and Red Berries combined. Weak chocolatey flavor. Needs more strawberry. Cereal ruins romance.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Special K Fudge Brownie Bites

Special K Fudge Brownie Bites

Sometimes you’re waiting at the ATM or buying a plunger or watching movers carry a divan into the lobby of an apartment complex and a brownie craving just plum rises out of the Earth’s crust, willing and ready to swallow you in a single gulp, and there you sit, defenses bare, without a bakery, grocery, or Easy Bake Oven in sight. What’re you to do?

Fret not, dear reader, for the hope of relief rests in sight, and it cometh in the form of a 0.74-ounce purple baggie.

Saturday was an exciting day: we survived the Mayan apocalypse, dodged a passing asteroid, and lived to see another National Haiku Day (and what’s more fun than short poetic verse??). In hopes to celebrate all these wonders in a fiscally realistic economic exchange, I skipped-the-doo-da-day down to the local supercenter and found these new-fangled Special K Fudge Brownie Bites.

Prior to opening my factory-sealed satchel, I noticed the special emphasis Mr. Kellogg stamped on the portion represented here.

Hmmm…

Considering the amount of Photoshopping that went in to that picture, I visualized myself opening the bag to find two, maybe three, dinky brownie nubs that would more likely than not remind me of hamster food. Nonetheless, I closed my eyes and reached in…

“Como?!” I uttered under my breath.

These were not the brownie shrapnel I feared. Quite the contrary, they were chewy without a wisp of a factory-sealed grease coating in sight. I was so surprised by my spontaneous bout into brownie-inspired Spanish expression that I had to try another.

And another.

And another.

Ten anothers later, I realized I had eaten the whole bag. After conducting an in-depth psychological analysis and setting my results against years of previous research, I am proud to conclude that these are, indeed, fudge-like in texture, which is an accomplishment in any regard. It got me thinking, “Gee willikers, I wish there were a superhero made of brownies.”

Luckily, I had five more bags of these, so I made one.

Special K Fudge Brownie Bites Brownie Man

Indeed, his name is Brownie Man. He has a theme song:

Brownie Man, Brownie Man
Quicker than
A minivan
Not Raisin Bran
Or made of flan
He’s Brownie Man.

Special K Fudge Brownie Bites  Brownie Man Saves the Day!

One of Brownie Man’s greatest strengths is his convenience. The compact size of these nifty little pouches leads me to believe I could take these brownies just about anywhere. To the hardware store. In a submarine. Lumberjacking through the dense Canadian woods. In fact, due to the compact size and easy disposal, I’m about 87 percent sure they would make excellent space food.

Special K Fudge Brownie Bites Brownies in Space!

Of course, if you’re not a lumberjack or deep-space explorer, I am pleased to announce how excellently these fit in a lunchbox.

Sometimes, I crave a homemade, straight-out-of-the-oven brownie filled with milk chocolate chips that, when pulled, form molten lava ribbons. Other times, I covet a simple, no-fuss brownie that comes in a cellophane bag and requires absolutely no effort other than rip, pluck, and chew. These Brownie Bites fulfill the second.

That said, texture reigns far over flavor here. If you find yourself with a hardcore, exclusive-batch, better-than-the-original-Star-Wars brownie craving, these may not fulfill your inner needs (and, really, what can when talking about the original Star Wars?), but, for those who are just looking for a chewy packaged brownie or, if you’re like me and missing those Hostess Brownie Bites (oh, lonely Hostess, where has your pastry magic gone?!), these are a rainbow of light, guiding the map to a chewy treasure.

Special K Fudge Brownie Bites Brownie Brick Road

So follow the brownie brick road.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bag – 100 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugars, and 1 gram of protein..)

Item: Kellogg’s Special K Fudge Brownie Bites
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 1 box/6 pouches
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Soft. Chewy. Lots of little brownies per bag. Lumberjacks. Spontaneous Spanish expressions of delight. Surviving the apocalypse. Space explorers. Haikus.
Cons: Faint on the chocolate flavor. Excessive photoshopping. Not having an Easy Bake Oven when you need one. Buying a plunger.

REVIEW: Special K Ham, Egg & Pepper Jack Cheese Flatbread Breakfast Sandwich

Special K Flatbread

It pretty much goes without saying that meat, egg, and cheese form the triumvirate of breakfast deliciousness in the grab-and-go world. It also goes without saying that this trinity of cholesterol, fat, and sodium will pretty much kill you if you eat too much of it and sit on your butt all day.

That is, unless you serve it up within the familiar packaging of Special K, which wants to rewards that hard butt-sitting at the office with a breakfast sandwich to keep you going without sending you into cardiac arrest.

There are a few things I give Special K the benefit of the doubt with. Cereal, obviously, is one of them. Making my girlfriend attempt contortionist yoga moves while pouring milk onto said cereal while wiggling into those skinny jeans would also be up there. Crafting a healthy breakfast sandwich that doesn’t taste rubbery or flavorless (here’s looking at you, Dunkin Donuts) isn’t.

That being said, I have an unhealthy and unrealistic expectation of box art on new grocery products and not a lot of time to spare for making breakfast in the morning, so I willingly stepped to the plate when it came to buying Special K’s new Flatbread Breakfast Sandwiches.

They must have been selling like hotcakes because there were only a few boxes of the Ham, Egg and Pepper Jack Flatbreads left on the morning I stopped by the store. If they tasted half as good as hotcakes, I might be inclined to make a joke about how I’d be on a fast track to becoming a fat dude. Except, since each flatbread is only 200 calories and packs 12 grams of protein, I guess I’d be on a fast track to being one skinny dude, which I already am.

Special K Flatbread Instructions

Regular readers now know I’ve lived up to the stereotype about men and our inability to follow directions. However, in this case I followed the directions to a tee, right on down to microwaving my sandwich on a paper towel for 1 minute and 15 seconds and then letting it rest for one minute to ensure “even heating.” I followed the directions so closely that had I considered myself a child, I would have made sure to Skype my parents and have them supervise me.

Special K Flatbread Ooze

Special K Flatbread Cheese

After 2 minutes and 15 seconds my previously hard as a hockey puck flatbread had become warm and, to my utter bewilderment, slightly toasty. Worried the microwave process would render the bread component flimsy and soggy was a fear of mine going in, but aside from one spot where the cheese had overflowed to the side, the sandwich emerged almost as if it had a round at the number two setting in the toaster. Speaking of that cheese to the side deal, would it kill Special K to position the cheese to the middle? There’s not a lot of pepper jack to begin with, and having a sixth of my puny slice fed to the paper towel wasn’t, as the kids say, cool.

Special K Flatbread Side

Special K Flatbread Egg

The sandwich itself isn’t half bad. Wow, I can’t believe I actually wrote that. Obviously it’s small, but the the eggs have a slightly buttery and salty flavor, with the cheese adding a really good, milky, and fatty richness that has all the melty goo and backheat you’d expect from pepper jack. Even the flatbread had a nice honey-oat flavor, which added a little sweetness and wholesomeness to the otherwise salty-heat of the eggs and cheese.

Special K Flatbread Ham

It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. The cheese lacks the coverage needed to goo-ify the entire sandwich, while the ham is dry and a bit chewy. Oh yea, did I mention that it was salty? Low calorie it might be, but with 30 percent of the RDA for salt (based on a 2,000 calorie diet) it’s not going to do your blood pressure any flavors. As much as I liked the pepper jack, the sandwich screams for a little sweetness, while a salsa component that adds tomatoes would go a long way to pushing a southwestern flavor profile.

I’m not willing start giving Special K the benefit of the doubt on other crap like chicken nuggets and french fries, but for the crowd who’ve been staring at those skinny jeans or just looking to mix-up the breakfast routine with a heated component, I admit these breakfast flatbreads could be a big hit. The texture isn’t bad at all for something that starts out in your freezer, and it definitely doesn’t taste like it’s low calorie. Still, a few minor tweaks would have gone a long way to making these way tastier, and maybe even a semi-regular buy for those of us not looking to add a few new yoga moves.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 flatbread – 200 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, 730 milligrams of sodium, 200 milligrams of potassium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 12 grams of protein, and 20% calcium)

Item: Special K Ham, Egg & Pepper Jack Cheese Flatbread Breakfast Sandwich
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 4 flatbreads
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Cheese melts up nicely and has great milky flavor with spicy backheat. Flatbread maintains toasty texture with honey-oat taste. Eggs have buttery flavor. Ham is smoky. Tastier than Dunkin Donuts’ egg white flatbreads. Only 200 calories per sandwich. Reading directions. New yoga props.
Cons: Small. Tiny. Puny. Minuscule. Not recommended if you’re a grown man. Cheese doesn’t get full coverage over the egg. Ham is dry and chewy. Could use some kind of sweetness or relief. Saltier than the Dead Sea.