I vividly remember the first time I saw “Elf.” I drove two hours to meet an old friend at a Harkins Theater so we could take in the merriment together. Ever since, “Elf” has been a holiday staple of mine. It is the second-most quoted holiday film in my family. So, naturally, when General Mills launched its Elf Cereal, I wanted it in my life.
The packaging is fun, comforting, and makes ample “Elf” references. The back of the box implores everyone to help Buddy the Elf fill the Clausometer. I know it is just marketing for children, but it warms my heart. The box states that the cereal consists of sweetened corn puffs with holiday tree marshmallows, flavored with maple syrup.
Upon opening the box, a potent maple aroma punched me in the nose. This was momentarily concerning. I pulled the box closer and the smell had already settled. It was not overbearing at all.
The quantity of marshmallows sitting on top was striking. It seemed to be more marshmallow-heavy than some similar cereals. I tried a handful dry and was underwhelmed. The maple syrup flavor was almost indiscernible. The corn puffs were slightly sweet, but not nearly as sugary as I expected for a cereal based on “Elf.” After all, Buddy subsists almost entirely on sugar.
Once milk is added, the cereal moved closer to my expectations. The maple syrup taste is more evident, but still very restrained. It has been many years, but I used to eat Waffle Crisp regularly when I was younger. I was expecting Elf Cereal to have a maple flavor like Waffle Crisp, but it did not.
The sweetness really comes out with the milk also. It was not as saccharine as I anticipated, but it was pleasant. If you were to mix marbits with Kix and put a few drops of maple syrup in the milk, you could emulate the flavor profile here relatively closely.
In the spirit of Buddy, I contemplated dousing the cereal in maple syrup, but could not bring myself to do it.
General Mills’ Elf Cereal is a fun, festively themed holiday offering, but it may fall short for some. More maple syrup flavoring could have elevated it to North Pole levels.
At the very least, this cereal makes me smile, and smiling’s my favorite.
Purchased Price: $3.64 Size: 18.6 oz box Purchased at: Walmart Rating: 7 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (1 cup) 140 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.
As the leaves change colors (unless you live somewhere mostly devoid of leaves AND four seasons, like I do), autumn flavors increase their annual grip on our collective consciousness.
I have seen more maple-flavored offerings in the last few years, but it feels underrepresented compared to pumpkin spice anything. But Keebler is doing its part to keep the cookie field diverse with its new Special Batch Fudge Stripes Maple Crème Cookies.
Upon opening the package, I am hit with a friendly aroma of maple. It is warm and sweet without being overbearing. Maple flavoring must be difficult to properly implement because I have had some maple-oriented foods that were far too strong. The smell is a good sign.
The cookies are somewhat difficult to pry apart, which I do not remember being the case with traditional Fudge Stripes. This bears no real impact on the product, but it feels worth mentioning. It is likely an effect of the maple crème melting during shipping and then re-solidifying.
The cookies have the same pleasant shortbread base as the original Fudge Stripes. Biting into them yields a rewarding crunch. The maple-flavored crème immediately hits my taste buds, and I am pleasantly surprised. It is not overly strong at all. If anything, it is a bit too subdued, but being able to taste the shortbread cookie beyond the maple crème is welcome.
Compared to an average maple donut, these are considerably milder. The crème is smooth and sweet, acting as an appropriate vessel for the maple. It has the same consistency as Fudge Stripes’ usual fudge.
My mother makes a “cookie salad,” which is like a form of ambrosia-style fruit salad with crushed up Fudge Stripes. I can see the maple crème version being a nice addition for a dessert dish in a similar manner. The flavor is restrained enough to add a hint of maple goodness without taking over.
Keebler Fudge Stripes Maple Crème Cookies are a solid seasonal offering and did a fine job bringing the familiar fall flavor to my mouth. While the maple could stand to be a little stronger, these cookies are well-rounded and offer some much-needed seasonal comfort.
DISCLOSURE: I received a free product sample from Keebler. (Thanks, Keebler!) Doing so did not influence my review.
Purchased Price: FREE Size: 11.5 oz. Purchased at: Received from Keebler Rating: 8 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (2 cookies) 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.
I am very open-minded when it comes to ice cream. There is merit to be found in premium, value-oriented, full-fat, and light varieties. I find myself purchasing light versions on occasion to help offset the sheer volume of ice cream I consume.
There are numerous healthier ice creams available now that allow one to consume an entire pint with a fraction of traditional ice cream’s fat, sugar, and calories. I have always seen the texture of these light ice creams as an area that needed improving. Oftentimes they are not as smooth and creamy as their full-fat counterparts. They can come across as overly icy.
Enter Nick’s Swedish-Style Light Ice Cream. The company manufactures light ice cream using sugar alcohols and a variety of plant-based sweeteners and fat. It says that because of its plant-based fat, “only Nick’s creates the unmistakable melt-in-your-mouth creaminess of full-fat ice cream, but with way fewer calories.” This is quite the lofty claim that I was eager to investigate upon receiving six pints directly from Nick’s.
Peanöt Butter Cup
I started with one of the more difficult flavors for light ice creams to nail. This ice cream is a peanut butter ice cream with tiny peanut butter cups. It has a nice, mild, and delightfully creamy peanut butter flavored base. The miniature peanut butter cups are adorable and delicious, but I could have gone for a few more of them mixed in.
Not mentioned in the description were a couple surprises in this one. There is a chocolate swirl that helps to pull the whole thing together. Oddly enough, there are also little bits of brownie dough. The chewy brownie pieces really help to elevate the experience as a whole.
Rating: 8 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (1/2 cup) 90 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 mg of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 6 grams of sugar alcohols and 4 grams of protein.
This is a classic strawberry ice cream. The vanilla base in this is mellow and, again, quite creamy. It serves its purpose well and allows the strawberry to shine. The strawberry ribbons are bright and fresh with abundant natural sweetness. The taste reminds me of preparing homemade ice cream with my parents when I was a child. It is on-par with most of the strawberry ice creams I have had.
Rating: 8 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (1/2 cup) 70 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, 6 grams of sugar alcohols and 4 grams of protein.
Swedish Cookie Dough
I was most excited to try this one. It has a vanilla base, swirled with chocolate and pieces of sugar cookie dough. Unsurprisingly, this is just as smooth as the other flavors. The base is embedded with the taste of the buttery sugar cookie dough, even in a spoonful without a piece.
I also get a hint of cinnamon throughout, which gives the pint a borderline snickerdoodle vibe. The cookie dough pieces add a welcome and familiar grit. The chocolate swirl is mild and compliments the dough well. Overall, this was more complex than I was expecting, and it is incredibly tasty.
Rating: 9 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (1/2 cup) 70 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 5 grams of sugar alcohols and 3 grams of protein.
This flavor is a vanilla ice cream with chocolate flakes and cherry bits. The base tastes more like cherry ice cream than vanilla, as the cherry pieces have imparted their flavor upon the whole pint. It is not at all artificial, which is wonderful.
The abundant dark chocolate flakes add a touch of richness and a satisfying snap in each spoonful. The best parts are the chewy cherry chunks. They bring a pleasant texture and a realistic tartness to the mix. When getting a bite with both components, this ice cream reminds me of a cherry cordial.
Rating: 9 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (1/2 cup) 70 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 5 grams of sugar alcohols and 3 grams of protein.
Swedish Lemon Bar
This ice cream is a little airier than the others but still feels just as creamy. Nick’s says that it is a cheesecake ice cream with ribbons of lemon. I get a little bit of cheesecake flavor in the base, but it ultimately reminds me of a lemon bar, as the name would indicate. There is also a subtle buttery taste in the base that makes me think of the shortbread crust in lemon bars.
The lemon ribbon here is the star of the show. It is bright, fresh, tart, and amazing. There are small, chewy lemon rind pieces incorporated throughout, and overall, it reminds me of candied lemon rind. This refreshing flavor is the most innovative of the bunch, and I have never had anything quite like it.
Rating: 10 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (1/2 cup) 60 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, 4 grams of sugar alcohols and 4 grams of protein.
As a chocolate ice cream with brownie bits and a fudge swirl, this one seemed like it would be the most decadent. The chocolate base appears to be of the dark variety. It is slightly less sweet than I was expecting, with a touch of pleasant bitterness.
The fudge swirl tends to be overpowered by the base and does not make much of an impact. The brownie bits are chewy and enjoyable. It is a decent flavor, but much more subdued than I was expecting. As a fan of all things chocolate, I expected to like this one the most, but it’s actually my least favorite of the six.
Rating: 6 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (1/2 cup) 80 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 5 grams of sugar alcohols and 4 grams of protein.
Nick’s was not exaggerating the creaminess of its ice cream at all. These do not quite measure up to the most premium, velvety, full-fat ice creams, but one would be hard-pressed to identify these as light flavors in a blind taste test. Nick’s Swedish-Style Light Ice Cream is not just “good for light ice cream.” It is good, period. It will stack up well against many standard ice cream varieties.
I did some quick research on Swedish ice cream, and the search results predominantly bring up content about Nick’s. From what I can tell, there are not any distinctly Swedish methods of ice cream preparation. The “Swedish” moniker seems to refer to the brand’s creator.
According to its website, Nick’s has 14 patents, two in-house food scientists, and has performed over 100 flavor tests. This makes perfect sense because Nick’s Swedish-Style Light Ice Cream is an exemplary product. When deciding to purchase light ice cream in the future, I do not see myself buying any brand besides Nick’s from now on.
DISCLOSURE: I received free pints from Nick’s. (Thanks Nick’s!) Doing so did not influence my review.
Kit Kat is back again with another new limited edition flavor.
The new Apple Pie Kit Kat has hit store shelves in an appropriately bright yellow package to proclaim its arrival boldly. They are unmistakable sitting next to their red-wrapped counterparts. When I saw them beckoning from a Walmart’s seasonal display, I could not help myself and instinctively grabbed a handful.
Upon arriving home, I stowed the Kit Kats in the refrigerator. I am of the mindset that the candy bar tastes significantly better when cold. The crunch is even more satisfying once the candy has chilled for a bit. I impatiently waited for them to reach a suitable temperature and dug in.
They have a gentle aroma of warm spice, but no hint of apple. The first thing I tasted, however, was a kiss of apple flavor. Thankfully, it was reasonably accurate and mild. Foods flavored to resemble apple can often be overwhelming and artificial. This candy had a perfect level for my preferences.
Beyond the faint apple taste, the familiar apple pie spices came through. It was a subtle selection of spices, but I definitely detected cinnamon and ginger. The creaminess invoked pleasant thoughts of apple pie à la mode.
The coating seems to be where all the flavor comes from. It’s a delicate white chocolate base that lends itself to both apple and spices quite well. The interior wafer is typical Kit Kat fare.
For me, Kit Kat nailed this one. The flavors are all present enough to make it clear that this is an apple pie flavored candy. I would have been fine with a little bit more of the spices, but any more apple would have been too much for me. If you are looking for an overwhelmingly apple flavored candy, this is not it.
I recommend Apple Pie Kit Kat, provided that you set your expectations appropriately. A little slice of Americana wrapped up in the form of a Kit Kat is a comfort too good to pass up right now.
Purchased Price: $0.88 Size: 1.5 oz package Purchased at: Walmart Rating: 9 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (1 package) 220 calories, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 20 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.
Stuffed Puffs are chocolate-filled marshmallows that theoretically allow one to make an instant s’more without separate chocolate. While I never tried the original variety, I was excited to gorge on the new Chocolate-on-Chocolate Stuffed Puffs.
They have a pleasant chocolatey hue and welcoming aroma. The marshmallow itself is full-on chocolate and the outside appears to be coated in sugary cocoa powder. They are fluffy and familiar, with a pleasant onset of sweet cocoa.
The chocolate inside is more substantial than the soft exterior. I was expecting either a dense hunk of chocolate or a whipped filling and it was neither. It was creamy, but denser than the surrounding marshmallow. Above all, it was incredibly delicious.
Being that it’s already pushing 100 degrees outside here, I shied away from making a fire to roast these. I delicately skewered one with a fork and placed it over a gas burner.
When it comes to roasting marshmallows, I’m highly neurotic. I take my time to get a perfectly golden exterior. I can’t stand one that has been scorched. I hovered the Stuffed Puff just out of reach of the dancing flames, expecting a wait. Within seconds, it caught fire. I quickly blew it out. Since it didn’t seem too badly burned, I gave it a shot.
The Stuffed Puff was even better like this, but the filling only melted toward the edges. It wasn’t in the heat long enough to cook thoroughly. The coating seemed to contribute to the marshmallow igniting. It would probably be easier using the residual heat from the coals of an actual fire. One thing completely surprised me: I didn’t lose any chocolate out of the marshmallow. I assumed that would be a big problem.
I also tried something I normally wouldn’t have: a microwaved s’more. I placed the the Stuffed Puff on a graham cracker and nuked it for about 15 seconds. It was gooey, decadent and cooked through, but missing the satisfying caramelization of an authentic s’more. After this, I noticed that one of the recommended preparation methods was a toaster oven. That would have been smart.
I stirred one into a cup of coffee and it was magnificent, so these should elevate hot cocoa nicely.
Despite my fumbling with cooking applications, these marshmallows are total winners. I have finished off the bag, popping them into my mouth as I write this. I fully intend to buy more.
DISCLOSURE: I received a free sample of the product. Doing so did not influence my review.
Purchased Price: FREE Size: 8.6 oz. bag Purchased at: Received from Stuffed Puffs Rating: 9 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (2 pieces) 140 calories, 5 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.
I have been known to liberally drown potato chips (and all chips, really) in excessive amounts of hot sauce. I tend to make a bit of a mess when doing this, but it’s absolutely worth it. So, I feel fairly qualified to review the new Lay’s Frank’s RedHot Hot Sauce Potato Chips (that’s a mouthful).
Previously, Lay’s released a Tapatio potato chip that I enjoyed. In that case, it wasn’t as good as putting actual Tapatio on potato chips, but it was still a winner. I set my expectations for a similar experience here, even though Frank’s and Tapatio are different beasts entirely.
These new chips from Lay’s hit my nostrils with a welcoming aroma of spice, not unlike that of the Tapatio or other spicy chips that I’ve had. With these, however, there is a very prevalent fragrance of vinegar. It’s not the same sensation as smelling the hot sauce directly, but it does evoke memories of it.
They are appropriately orange, much like a barbecue chip. I was worried there was going to be obnoxious bright red powder coating them, which I’m not a fan of. The tried-and-true Lay’s crunch is the first thing I notice. Not that I was expecting anything different, I feel obligated to mention it.
There is a strong taste of vinegar and some noticeable cayenne pepper flavor. They have all the components of Frank’s RedHot and conjure up its essence. There are also elements of garlic and onion. They’re a tasty chip, but not quite the same as pouring the hot sauce on a plain potato chip.
The heat is interesting. They’re pretty mild at first, with a few rogue spicy chips mixed in. After eating more, though, a slow burn kicks in. It was a touch spicier than I was expecting, which made for a nice surprise (but still not as hot as I would like).
Frank’s is far from my favorite hot sauce, but it will always do in a pinch. That’s how I feel about these chips. I would prefer to have the Tapatio Lay’s back, but these totally work. It would be fantastic if Lay’s branched out and partnered up with more hot sauce companies in the future.
Purchased Price: $1.68 Size: 7 3/4 oz. bag Purchased at: Walmart Rating: 7 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (15 chips) 150 calories, 9 grams of fat,1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.