REVIEW: Lay’s Game Day Chili Potato Chips

Lay s Game Day Chili Potato Chips Bags

What are Lay’s Game Day Chili Potato Chips?

Another genius Lay’s food scientist flex! They’ve been replicating our favorite dishes into a chip for nearly 10 years now. Inspiration not only comes from the crowdsourced Do Us A Flavor program, but also in seemingly random bursts of comfort food inspo like Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup. Game Day Chili is the newest comfort food add!

How are they?

Lay s Game Day Chili Potato Chips Spill

I was prepared to be disappointed when I opened the bag and mostly smelled a faint barbecue sauce scent. I continued to think BBQ as I looked at the seasoning’s reddish hue. I did make a note of the generous and ample seasoning, though!

While the smell and visual under-promised, the taste over-delivered! To be fair, I didn’t experience the full spectrum of flavor notes described “…tomatoes, chili peppers, onion, garlic, and Tex-Mex spices with a little back-end kick.” I got tomatoes, onion, garlic, and then straight into a nice bit of chili powder heat. It was a light burn that built up nicely and got my nose a bit runny after eating hand pincer after hand pincer of chips.

Anything else you need to know?

I usually tear into bags like nobody’s business, but the sheen on this one really caught my eye. Yes, I’m like a food packaging magpie. While I was admiring the luster of the blue, I noticed that the packaging looked more like the Flavor Icons bag with the plate of food on the bottom left, vertical color paneling, and white middle rather than the one-color “standard flavor” bag. It made me wonder if this was a Flavor Icon idea that didn’t make the initial cut, but someone important liked it, so it eventually made its way on shelves.

Conclusion:

If you left these out on the table during game day, it’d probably be mistaken for BBQ chips, but your guests would be in for a good surprise! It’s a worthy try for an upcoming tailgate of one (a.k.a. everyday snack time) or for the actual big game, but don’t forget to stock up for National Chili Day (Feb. 25)!

Purchased Price: $3.79
Size: 7 3/4 oz bag
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Pillsbury Snackable Cookie Dough Bites

Pillsbury Snackable Cookie Dough Bites Pouches

I thought Pillsbury was leapfrogging this edible cookie dough trend when it upgraded its existing Ready to Bake refrigerated cookie dough packs with a “safe to eat raw” seal and instructions to either eat OR bake them. It was pretty clever, but I guess even the Pillsbury Dough Boy couldn’t resist something in bite-form! So, three Snackable Cookie Dough Bites flavors rolled out: Birthday Cake, Chocolate Chip, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip.

He may just be dipping his toe in the water as it doesn’t seem like they’re available nationally yet. Interwebz intel says it’s only at Meijer stores, a regional Midwest grocer, for now.

I hope all of these make it, but with some changes, though. These are overall enjoyable. They’re at the same price point and package size as Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough Chunks. But, with each piece at almost twice the size of Ben & Jerry’s offering, it somehow seems like a better value to me. The mind (and stomach) works in mysterious ways. Their texture is perfect right out of the bag – just like a freshly mixed batch ready to go into the oven. Another plus is that this form doesn’t require any utensils. That’s a win-win-win in my book.

In regards to specific tasting notes, I would rank the flavors from “STEAL IT FROM THE DOUGH BOY NOW – GO GO GO!” to just kindly ask him for a sample as follows: Birthday Cake, Chocolate Chip, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip.

Pillsbury Snackable Cookie Dough Bites Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pouch

The “some changes” mentioned above mainly falls on the peanut butter one. I love all things peanut butter, so I had high hopes. But it fell flat on the rich nuttiness I expected. I could tell it was different from the chocolate chip one, though. But it was mostly visual.

Pillsbury Snackable Cookie Dough Bites vs Ben Jerrys

It looked like a brown paper bag saturated in grease, which I’m assuming was caused by the extra oils in the peanut butter. I mentioned these bites were larger, but size didn’t make up for flavor as Ben & Jerry’s packed more peanut taste in a smaller form.

Pillsbury Snackable Cookie Dough Bites Chocolate Chip Pouch

The Chocolate Chip one is in the middle of the pack. While the size and texture were just right, it tasted a bit bland to me. Some additional chocolate bits would have definitely helped, but the dough wasn’t as flavorful, which may be a harder fix. I could clearly taste the vanilla, but it was missing another flavor note.

Pillsbury Snackable Cookie Dough Bites Pouches Comparison

Determined to figure it out, I sat in my kitchen eating one Pillsbury bite, one Ben & Jerry’s Dough Chunk, and a spoonful of Nestle Toll House edible cookie dough in rapid succession. It validated the lack of that je ne sais quoi, so I read the ingredients and noticed that the Dough Boy omitted a critical component present in the other doughs: BUTTER. I gasped audibly at the cardinal sin. Regardless of whether you agree if cookie dough can be considered cookie dough sans butter, it was a satisfying lightbulb moment as it also explained why the peanut butter one didn’t taste as flavorful either.

Pillsbury Snackable Cookie Dough Bites Birthday Cake Pouch

Birthday Cake ranked at the top because it was wonderfully vanilla-forward, AND the confetti colors didn’t bleed into the surrounding dough, unlike others. The lack of butter in this one didn’t bother me as I wanted that pure sugary vanilla-y taste. I did find myself wondering why I wouldn’t just buy and eat Ready to Bake Confetti Cookie Dough, though. So, I did and found out that we don’t do that unless we want a mouthful of sugary grit. Well, that’s one way to ensure a shopper buys both. Tricky, tricky!

While there are other edible cookie dough bite options, Pillsbury is currently the only brand that offers a birthday cake flavor, which also happens to be the tastiest and most exciting of the Dough Boy’s offerings. The other flavors are truly not bad at all, but they could use some improvement.

Purchased Price: $4.49 each
Size: 8 oz pouches
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Birthday Cake), 6 out of 10 (Chocolate Chip), 4 out of 10 (Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip)
Nutrition Facts: (about 5 pieces) Birthday Cake – 120 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0g of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein. Chocolate Chip – 120 calories, 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0g of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip – 120 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0g of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Box

I derive great joy from eating foods that are much too spicy for my taste buds and stomach. Call me a masochist, but I always aspire to be like the host of Hot Ones (Sean Evans) but usually end up with tears streaming down my face while blubbering, “..but it’s so good!!!” I’m going to come right out and admit that it was my first Paqui One Chip Challenge and that the reaper bested me. But keep reading for snot, tears, and antacids.

Paqui’s challenge first launched in 2016, and it’s come back every year. Over that time, it’s transformed from what could be mistaken as Flamin’ Hot Doritos to an all-black, super edgy form. Talk about a glow up. The Carolina Reaper, the world’s hottest pepper, has been the inspo and main pepper since Day 1, but the added pizazz this year is scorpion pepper and Sichuan peppercorn. I’m very familiar with Sichuan peppercorn’s delightfully numbing qualities, but had never tried scorpion pepper before.

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Wrapper

Upon opening the inner package housing the single tortilla chip, the first thing I noticed was the unpleasant pungent smell. It was unlike anything that had EVER passed through my olfactory epithelium. The sour smell paired with the visual of what looked like charcoal for seasoning added to my already mounting trepidation.

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Chip

The chewing experience was awful – not because it was immediately incredibly spicy but mainly because of the crumbly, stale texture. It felt like I was trying to chew through a mouthful of dried red pepper flakes.

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Inside 2

As for the heat, it was the type of spicy that renders any talking, let alone breathing, impossible without wincing and choking. It was a very agonizing and intense 15 minutes of snot, tears, and saliva – even with milk. However, it was followed by capsaicin-induced endorphins. What added to this feel-good was the slight tingle from the Sichuan peppercorn. It was like Wrigley’s 5 Gum commercial vibes, but with peppers. This deluded top-of-the-world feeling almost made me feel like I could take another chip!

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Inside 1

I’m glad I didn’t have another one on hand because it took a turn for the worst. Once the endorphins dissipated, I was left with lingering pain under my tongue and gums (oddly specifically just around my molars). Furthermore, my taste buds were absolutely blitzed. Everything I ate that day tasted less flavorful than usual. The cherry on top came three hours later. I was minding my own business when a roiling stomach pain came to play. It took a max antacid dose before I could begin to function again.

My ultimate measure, though, is how spicy it comes out the other end. Sorry not sorry for the TMI, but it’s important! It was surprisingly tame compared to the entire pre- and during-experience. Thank goodness.

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Banner

I don’t get to proudly declare myself as The Paqui One Chip Challenge Champ, but I think I held my own. Bring it on, 2021.

Purchased Price: $6.99
Size: .21oz (6g)
Purchased at: Plum Market
Rating: 10 out of 10 (for challenge factor, but 2 out of 10 for taste)
Nutrition Facts: (1 chip) 30 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 0 grams of added sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: KIND Cereal

KIND Cereal Boxes

2020 is the year of many firsts, including what I’m calling “fancy cereal.” Starting with General Mills’ $13 Morning Summit cereal that made headlines earlier this year to KIND’s newest $6.98 box of cereal. We’re on a new level of bougie cereal, y’all.

Best known for its fruit and nut bars, KIND has quadrupled down with four new cereal flavors – Apple Cinnamon, Cranberry Almond, Dark Chocolate Almond, and Honey Almond.

These sound like standard, well-known flavors, but they’ve been amped with super grains (sorry Paleo-ers, they’re full of sorghum, quinoa, and amaranth). Two of the four flavors – Dark Chocolate Almond and Cranberry Almond – are also bar flavors, so there’s added familiarity.

The shiny, expensive-looking packaging helped a bit with my initial sticker shock. Perception is such a funny thing, but the cardboard’s heavier weight and beautiful food images were very appealing and helped me begin to rationalize the price.

After examining all four flavors, the concept seemed pretty formulaic: same base flake with fruit and nut inclusions. These base flakes looked like thicker, brown, and lumpy corn flakes. I guess that’s what happens when it’s made of super grains! They were generally plain tasting – lacking even the toasted fragrance found in usual cereal grains like corn and oat. But, it was a proper backdrop for all the added goodies as it has a non-intrusive, but unmistakable grain note.

But the Cranberry Almond and Dark Chocolate Almond included an accompanying colored flake – pink and brown, respectively. This plays an important role as you’ll read on later, but these did subtlety taste like their respective flavors.

But back to the formula. Inclusions aren’t game-changing as we’ve seen cereal jazzed up with marbits, two scoops of raisins, etc. for decades now. I find the fancy nut inclusions, like the pepitas in the Apple Cinnamon flavor, are more like something I’d find in muesli or granola.

But, what really stood out was the consistent delivery of each component with every pour. Usually, it’s a slim ratio of the expensive stuff to cereal bits, but there’s no skimping here. This is crucial because I found that the flavor comes from these inclusions — from the sweet pops of dried fruit to the rich, nutty almond notes.

With all the different textures from the dried fruit, nuts, and the super grain flakes themselves, it was quite crunchy. Even when I left it sitting just a bit longer, it didn’t turn immediately into mush. As an ice chewer, I personally enjoy texture over soggy cereal!

There was truly no bad egg of the four. However, the two that surprised and delighted me the most were Cranberry Almond and Dark Chocolate Almond.

KIND Cranberry Almond Cereal

KIND Dark Chocolate Almond Cereal

As I mentioned earlier, each of these included a different color flake and the plain base flake. The natural coloring washed into the milk and produced millennial pink-colored and chocolate-colored milk. So fun!

KIND Cranberry Almond Cereal Milk

KIND Dark Chocolate Almond Cereal Milk

The Cranberry Almond pink was purely visual as the subtle cranberry flavor was overpowered by the milk. The chocolate one seemed more indulgent as it did actually create chocolate cereal milk. The little, semi-sweet chocolate rectangles added a nice extra bit of choco-goodness as well.

KIND Honey Almond Cereal

Honey Almond, surprisingly, didn’t give me as much delight as the previous two. While it clearly listed toasted coconut as an ingredient on the box, I didn’t expect that to be the dominant flavor. I know they probably wanted to be consistent in saying that almonds are the number one ingredient across all four, but they should’ve at least named it Coconut Almond to reflect what it actually tastes like!

KIND Apple Cinnamon Cereal

Apple Cinnamon was more middle of the road for me – not offensive but didn’t surprise and delight like the others. The base flake did slightly deviate from the rest as it was the cinnamon flavor source, but it was very lightly flavored. So, it reminded me of good ol’ cinnamon Cheerios.

KIND Apple Cinnamon Cereal Red Puffed Rice

I didn’t think that I would like dried apple pieces in cereal, but I was proven wrong. Also, unlike the other varieties, there were some red puffed rice pieces. I was unclear what purpose they served as they didn’t really add any additional flavor or visual interest.

If I’m going to gripe about anything, it’s the prominent touting of 5-6 grams of protein per serving. Is that supposed to be a lot?! My usual nowadays, Special K Protein, is three times that! So, the nutrition isn’t quite there to replace my go-to, but a Dark Chocolate Almond bowl as a regular treat sounds like a great plan to me.

Purchased Price: $6.98 each
Size: 15 oz boxes
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Apple Cinnamon), 8 out of 10 (Cranberry Almond), 9 out of 10 (Dark Chocolate Almond), 7 out of 10 (Honey Almond)
Nutrition Facts: (55 grams) Cranberry Almond – 230 calories, 8 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 4.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein. Dark Chocolate Almond – 240 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein. Apple Cinnamon – 220 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 1 gram of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein. Honey Almond – 250 calories, 11 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 4 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Sun-Maid Bites

Sun Maid Bites

When I was 12, I tricked my younger cousin into taking a bite of broccoli by saying it tasted like pizza. Of course, it didn’t, and he’s harbored side-eye towards me ever since.

If Sun-Maid’s Bites existed almost two decades ago, I’d like to think I’d be successful in tricking him into eating healthier. These new fruit, nut, and oat bites come in four different flavors and are all loaded with California raisins!

Sun Maid Bites Kidtastic

All the flavors are “kidtastic” (per the little flag graphic on the front) classics like PB&J, Banana Split, S’mores, and Birthday Cake. To reinforce fun and disguise, they’re all very visually appealing and quite aromatic. You can only tell there are dried grapes if you look closely and/or read the ingredients list.

Sun Maid Bites Birthday Cake 2

I was pleasantly surprised by the form of these. The flat one-inch squares looked tasty. The sprinkles on the Banana Split and Birthday Cake were a nice touch! Even the flavors sans said colorful bits – PB&J and S’mores – looked like tasty morsels. The PB&J one had strawberry pieces – only quality real fruit from Lorraine (the Sun-Maid gal in the logo), mind you! The s’mores flavor had nice chocolate drizzle and cute, teeny tiny marshmallows.

Sun Maid Bites Birthday Cake

I started with Birthday Cake because who doesn’t like festive foods?! The smell was unmistakably vanilla frosting-like. However, it tasted more like oat and even a bit like the way Play-Doh smells. Is this what they meant by kidtastic?! Kids (including myself) have been known to sample Play-Doh at least once during childhood.

Sun Maid Bites Banana Split

I quickly moved onto the Banana Split flavor. As someone who generally prefers ANYTHING chocolatey, I thought this was a winning combo at first. There was an immediate dark chocolate flavor followed by a subtle banana taste. I appreciated that it wasn’t anything like banana-flavored Laffy Taffy or Runts.

I kept eating these until, at some point, it began to taste more like bubblegum to me. I’m unclear on what ingredient build-up causes this effect. But, after that entered my noggin, I couldn’t un-taste it, which ruined it for me. I’m going to chalk it up to the vague “natural flavors” ingredient.

Sun Maid Bites S mores

Next up was S’mores as I was trying to get rid of the gum taste. The smell was the most artificial of the four and reminded me of the cinnamon/pumpkin spice room spray used in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion over the holidays. I know that’s very specific, but if you haven’t been on the ride – think fall-scented Glade or Febreze. This smell translated to an artificial tasting eat and an even more unpleasant aftertaste. It’s like they tried to amp up the graham flavor, but the cinnamon note overpowers and lingers. My favorite part of the eating experience was using my front teeth to nibble the tiny marshmallows.

Sun Maid Bites PB J

I left PB&J for the grand finale because, honestly, it seemed the most boring. But, this was my favorite flavor because it truly captured the classic sammich in bite-size form. It had just the right touch of sweetness from the fruit. Also, as a crunchy peanut butter fan, I appreciate the bits of peanuts. I suspect the little ‘uns may not gravitate towards this one as much because the raisins are the most visible.

Sun Maid Bites PB J 2

Across the four flavors, the texture was better than expected. The PB&J was a harder chew for some reason, but I’m sure it would work fine for baby teeth! Warning: I got oat and raisin bits occasionally stuck in my molars, but no biggie – it’s a snack for later, right?

I can truly see the appeal of these for parents who want to feed their kids nutritious foods that their kids would actually enjoy eating. It’s made with whole fruit/whole grain/nuts, only 4 to 5 grams of added sugar, and does NOT contain any artificial flavors or synthetic colors.

Cheers to hiding fruit in your kiddo’s (or cousin’s) snacks!

Purchased Price: $2.99 each
Size: 3 oz. pouches
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Birthday Cake), 6 out of 10 (Banana Split), 3 out of 10 (S’mores), 7 out of 10 (PB&J)
Nutrition Facts: (4 pieces) Birthday Cake – 120 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of sugars, 5 grams of added sugars, and 2 grams of protein. Banana Split – 120 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of sugars, 5 grams of added sugars, and 2 grams of protein. S’mores – 110 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of sugars, 5 grams of added sugars, and 2 grams of protein. PB&J – 120 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of sugars, 4 grams of added sugars, and 3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: DiGiorno Croissant Crust Pizza

DiGiorno Croissant Crust Pizza  Pepperoni and Four Cheese

What is DiGiorno’s Croissant Crust Pizza?

DiGiorno has added a 10th crust line with its new Croissant Crust pizza. The Nestlé PR gurus tout that this innovation combines the goodness of a croissant with “It’s Not Delivery!” to create a unique twist. It launched with three different toppings: Pepperoni, Three Meat, and Four Cheese. But, I was only able to find two: Pepperoni and Four Cheese.

How is it?

Sometimes marketing speak is way too lofty. In this case, though, I do think it’s a unique twist. It’s not something that I’ve seen from the pizza delivery giants nor other frozen pizza brands. Another aspect that speaks to its uniqueness is that I didn’t have a frame of reference for what a croissant crust pizza should be like. However, unique and a 10 out of 10 rating are not synonymous.

DiGiorno Croissant Crust Pizza Crust Closeup Uncooked

They say you eat with your eyes first, and I immediately nitpicked at the lack of lamination on both. The uncooked layers looked more like a biscuit than a refined French croissant. Even in its pre-baked state, I picked up on a very buttery smell that reminded me of the way Pillsbury biscuit dough smells. While I was appreciative it wasn’t an artificial or overpowering movie theatre popcorn butter smell, it unfortunately further reinforced biscuit.

DiGiorno Pepperoni Croissant Crust Pizza

DiGiorno Four Cheese Croissant Crust Pizza

I was also a little peeved that there were ONLY 19 pieces of pepperoni. After the baking process, my perception changed because the 19 produced quite an amount of grease. So, the skimping worked out well. Four cheese, on the other hand, was the perfect amount of molten stringy goodness. I wouldn’t be able to tell you which “100% real” cheese is which to save my life, but it was enjoyable.

DiGiorno Croissant Crust Pizza Crust Closeup

A key win is that the crust created a firmer texture like an elementary school cafeteria pizza. I know that may sound like an off-putting comparison, but it conjures a lot of nostalgia for me. It also speaks to the fact that there was not a soggy crust in sight!

DiGiorno Croissant Crust Pizza Crust Closeup Side

It actually flaked nicely like a croissant, and surprisingly not like a biscuit. Also, when I was cutting it, I could hear a bit of the crispy crackly like the top of a croissant. The butter smell and taste were still prevalent, but with the harder and crispier texture, I was able to get past the biscuit context.

Anything else you need to know?

The mark of a solid pizza is how it tastes when it’s cold. These did lose a bit of the croissant flakiness, but the flavors were still there.

Conclusion:

At this price point, I’d place this in the Little Caesars $5 Hot & Ready realm. In most instances, I’d probably only pick this over a Hot & Ready if I had enough room in my small freezer, which unfortunately isn’t often enough.

Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: 25 oz. (Pepperoni), 25.3 oz. (Four Cheese)
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Pepperoni), 8 out of 10 (Four Cheese)
Nutrition Facts: (1/5 Pizza) Pepperoni – 380 calories, 20 grams of fat, 780 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 2 gram of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of protein. Four Cheese – 370 calories, 18 grams of fat, 680 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of protein.