REVIEW: Starbucks Toasted White Chocolate Mocha

Starbucks Toasted White Chocolate Mocha

I frequent Starbucks a little too often. (Mom, if you’re reading this, Starbucks gift cards are a very acceptable Christmas gift). I also am a sucker for the holiday and/or limited edition drinks, like Starbucks’ new Toasted White Chocolate Mocha.

The beverage includes espresso, caramelized white chocolate, whipped cream, and candied cranberry sugar. When I received my hot drink, I was super pleased that what I got DID look like the promotional picture.

There’s plenty of whipped cream (although it was sunken in due to the heat of the drink when I took off the lid) and cranberry sugar that, in my opinion, kind of looked like bacon bits. (Hey Starbucks, there’s an idea! A drink with bacon? This would have done wonders for the Maple Pecan latte that was released this fall. The drink fell flat for me, and bacon would have seriously enhanced it with the maple. I end my rant.)

The first sips of the drink were mostly whipped cream, which is never a bad thing. Once I got to the actual drink, I was definitely a fan. I didn’t taste too much of the “toasted” flavor, but the white chocolate was strong and delicious. While there is espresso, I didn’t taste any coffee – I felt like I was drinking a fancy white hot chocolate.

This is definitely a fun “dessert” drink or mid-afternoon pick-me-up (I’m plotting it for a Black Friday sugar rush), but don’t count on it for your morning caffeine jolt. It DOES contain caffeine, but it just wasn’t too noticeable for me. I usually avoid caffeine after 5 p.m. so I can get to sleep like a normal person at night, but I had this at 7 p.m. and my 10 p.m. bedtime wasn’t a problem.

Starbucks Toasted White Chocolate Mocha 2

Back to the candied cranberry sugar — this was the most unnecessary part of the drink. Not only did I not taste any cranberry flavor, once the fruit bits got soggy, their texture was too soft and chewy. Because cranberry isn’t in the name of the drink, I think you could do without it.

I drank the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha over the course of an hour, and the flavor and temperature held strong. One key takeaway is although this is a sugar bomb – 41 grams in a tall! – it’s not overly sweet. Perfect for sipping and shopping, if you ask me.

Starbucks, another well-done holiday drink. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next. (cough, bacon, cough.)

(Nutrition Facts – 12 oz – 330 calories, 12 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 300 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 41 grams of sugar, 11 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.25
Size: Tall (12 oz.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Strong white chocolate flavor. Didn’t keep me up all night.
Cons: Bacon bit-looking cranberry sugar on top that just wasn’t necessary.

REVIEW: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios Cereal

I knew I was winning before I even opened the box of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios. First of all, I’ve often professed my love for the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. Second, how can you go wrong with Cheerios? I consider them the great American cereal, and I grew up in a Honey Nut Cheerios household myself. My dad loves ’em.

(And side note, in doing research for this review, I guess I never realized how many Cheerios varieties there actually are. Chocolate, Fruity, Protein, Apple Cinnamon, and many, many more. Now I’m a little too excited, and currently imagining my husband’s face if he sees 12 varieties of Cheerios on our next grocery bill. I’ll tell him it’s for research, of course!)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios Cereal 2

Back to these babies: I’m gonna cut to the chase. These are great. As soon as you open the box, you get a strong yet pleasant whiff of the chocolate and peanut butter combination. With a flavor that is reminiscent of Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs, the Cheerios don’t taste artificial and aren’t overly sugary.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios Cereal 3

The two flavors marry together nicely and you still get the original Cheerios grain taste in there as well. It’s like when you’re already pleased with the sale price of an item and then it rings up even less when you get to the register. (Who doesn’t love this?!) Regular Cheerios are classic and delicious, and when you add in these two flavors, it elevates them even more.

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One of my favorite things about the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios is the versatility. They taste great dry or with milk, making them an ideal snack. Moms, throw these in your diaper bags, and young professionals like me, pack them in your briefcase for between meetings. That’s my plan for the rest of the week, unless my husband hijacks the box before I get back to them.

When you do add milk, the Cheerios hold up well and don’t get soggy instantly. The milk does turn a light brown hue from the chocolate, as you typically find with chocolate cereals, but it doesn’t take away from the flavor.

The other plus is that the nutritional values aren’t too shabby for a cereal involving chocolate. I was pleasantly surprised a serving (yes, I did portion it out to the 3/4 cup serving. Who dictates these serving sizes anyway? It was like a generous handful.) only contains 8 grams of sugar. That’s less than my morning iced coffee! Good job, Cheerios. All the more reason to make these a snack throughout your day.

Bottom line is if you like Cheerios, chocolate and peanut butter, there’s really no reason not to give these a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 120 calories, 4 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 11.3 oz. box
Purchased at: Giant Eagle
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Great flavor combination for an iconic American cereal.
Cons: Honestly hard for me to find one, except for the fact that I wish General Mills had created this flavor sooner.

REVIEW: White Pumpkin Pie M&M’s

White Pumpkin Pie M M s

These White Pumpkin Pie M&M’s are simply white chocolate with a pumpkin pie flavor. But it got me thinking that a pumpkin pie engulfed in hardened white chocolate would actually be an epic holiday dessert. If you make this, you’re officially invited to my family Thanksgiving.

These M&M’s are your standard specialty M&M’s, slightly larger in size and featuring several different colors. (Side note: Is it me or do M&M’s and Oreo seem to be in a competition for who can create the most flavors? I’m certainly not mad about it. Let’s get Mars and Nabisco in on this, stat.)

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I LOVE all things pumpkin, so I was super PUMPed (see what I did there?) to try these guys. I had my hesitations, of course, because oftentimes I find that food supposedly flavored as pumpkin really just tastes like “fall” (nutmeg, spices, etc.) and not really pumpkin itself. Beer is the perfect example of that. More spice and less pumpkin.

I’m super happy to report that the White Pumpkin Pie M&M’s DO in fact taste like pumpkin pie. But boy, are they sweet. Not in a bad way, just in a “You better be ready for dessert way.” The sweetness becomes more prevalent as you go, and there’s also a nice cinnamon aftertaste to them. I could only eat a small handful each time I opened the bag.

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When I bit into one for a cross-section photo, that’s when I could see the inside looks like white chocolate, which is the first ingredient listed on the bag. (Above anything pumpkin, please note.) Now I’m wondering what white chocolate flavor M&M’s comes up with next…

Anyway, I did like these a lot. So much so that when my husband tried to hijack the bag to take to a work meeting, I immediately stopped him because I enjoyed them so much and wanted the bag for myself. (First rule of marriage: Let your wife have all the candy!) They’re a good fall treat and good for grabbing a quick handful as I enjoy my morning coffee. Now, who’s up for a Pumpkin Beer and White Pumpkin Pie M&M’s tasting?

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz – 210 calories, 11 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 28 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tasty pumpkin flavor, perfect fall treat.
Cons: Too sweet for more than a handful. Should have added “Chocolate” in the product title.

REVIEW: Brach’s Cookie Candy Corn

Brach s Cookie Candy Corn

I really enjoy candy corn, despite it being a major sugar bomb. (Seriously – have you checked out those nutrition facts below? Basically, ONLY sugar. I think in this case ignorance is bliss… Don’t even get me started on calorie counts on certain restaurant menus. IHOP is NOT the place I want to know how many calories I’m ingesting. Let me eat my stack of pancakes in peace.) But I do love me some candy corn when fall/Halloween comes around.

I had two thoughts when I saw the Brach’s Cookie Candy Corn in the store.

  1. What could this possibly taste like?
  2. Why are the Fall items out when schools haven’t even started yet? I’m a firm believer in Fall/Halloween AFTER back-to-school, Christmas music the day AFTER Thanksgiving and Easter goods AFTER Valentine’s Day.

The flavors intrigued me: The bag contained four different flavors of the candy corn, all beloved cookies. You’ll find Chocolate Chip (top left in the photo below), Oatmeal (top right), Butter Cookie (bottom right), and Cookies n’ Cream (bottom left).

Brach s Cookie Candy Corn 3

I was excited to try, but I couldn’t help but wonder: Would someone pick these over Aunt Alice’s cookie tray at Thanksgiving? Read on, my friends…

I started out by determining which flavor was which – surprisingly easy based on the color combinations – and compiled notes on each. Let’s start with Chocolate Chip. Definitely one of the more basic flavors. It had a strong chocolate taste up front with a subtle finish. Tasted more like a chocolate cookie with chocolate chips than just a chocolate chip cookie.

Next up was Oatmeal, which was by far my favorite of the group. It’s a warm-up for the taste of fall and the candy corn to come. There was a hint of cinnamon aftertaste, and it was the one that tasted the least like candy corn.

Brach s Cookie Candy Corn 4

For Cookies n’ Cream, vanilla is definitely the dominant flavor. It was good, leaving a sweet aftertaste. Alas, I’d still rather have an Oreo. And finally, Butter Cookie. Although the most even-flavored, it was the sweetest by far and the flavor that tasted the most artificial. There was no aftertaste with this one.

My expert analysis is this: The Brach’s Candy Corn is good, not great. Take my advice – if you want candy corn, eat candy corn. If you want a cookie, eat an actual cookie. The mixing of the two isn’t quite up to par. But if they do decide to bag up just the Oatmeal flavor, I may be OK with that.

(Nutrition Facts – 15 pieces – 110 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 22 grams of sugar; includes 22 grams added sugars, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 9 oz. bag
Purchased at: Giant Eagle
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Fun flavors, unique spin on candy corn. Good, not great.
Cons: Just not as good as a cookie. Stick to Aunt Alice’s Thanksgiving cookie tray.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Keep Caramel and Cookie On Ice Cream

Ben  Jerry s Keep Caramel and Cookie On Ice Cream

I hold a very special place in my heart for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. My most memorable Valentine’s Day as a single gal included takeout from my favorite local spot, German grapefruit beer, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and binge-watching Suits on USA. (A shameless plug: The show comes back on July 12 and I can’t wait. You’ll thank me later.)

Anyway, I told my now-husband about that when we were dating, so for our first Valentine’s Day, he recreated it, right down to the same Ben & Jerry’s pint I had savored. My waistline thanked me that year, considering we split it instead of me face planting into the entire thing.

I tell you this story because you need to understand my enthusiasm for Ben & Jerry’s. Now that this is established, I must also share my enthusiasm for Target. So: My favorite brand of ice cream has an exclusive flavor at my favorite store. Done deal, had to have it.

Ben  Jerry s Keep Caramel and Cookie On Ice Cream 2

Ben & Jerry’s Keep Caramel and Cookie On is described as “Caramel Malt Ice Cream with Shortbread Cookies, Fudge Flakes & Caramel Swirls.” The first thing I noticed about this ice cream was how incredibly smooth it is. Like “goes down way too easy let me keep digging into this pint” smooth. The smoothness could be attributed to the malt, which, based on my research, can add to the creamy texture.

While I loved the smoothness of the ice cream, the downfall was the actual caramel flavor. It was slightly underwhelming. That being said, the ice cream was not bad, just not as caramel-y as I was expecting. It seems as though the focus was more on the add-ins and the ice cream was a bit overlooked. I definitely got more of a caramel note from the caramel swirls. I’m glad the swirls were there; otherwise, I would have been seriously missing some caramel flavor. #swirlpower

The fudge flakes are more than flakes – they’re basically glorified chocolate chips. Which was a nice surprise, considering I usually think of flakes as shavings or something not as prevalent. They were a nice add-in.

Ben  Jerry s Keep Caramel and Cookie On Ice Cream 3

But let me tell you about the shortbread. You guys, the shortbread cookies totally made this ice cream. Why have I not had shortbread with ice cream before? It was soft, not crunchy (from being embedded in the ice cream), and not overly sweet. It was such a nice addition without overpowering the rest of the flavors. Did I tell you I loved the shortbread?

All in all, this is a super solid Ben & Jerry’s flavor that gets my seal of approval. It left me wanting more…in a good way, not an unsatisfied way. I’m thinking some kind of ice cream float is in my future with the rest of this puppy.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 270 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: One pint
Purchased at: Target (Exclusive Flavor)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Shortbread in your ice cream. I repeat, shortbread.
Cons: Not enough caramel to live up to the name.