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.

REVIEW: Fudge Brownie M&M’s

Fudge Brownie M M s

What are Fudge Brownie M&M’s?

Fudge Brownie M&M’s promise to be “everything you love about homemade brownies without even turning on the oven!”

How are they?

I was skeptical that candy could deliver the same experience as a baked good, but they really captured the essence of it!

The candy piece itself is large, like the size of a peanut M&M. But instead of a peanut center, it’s a chewy chocolate core that represents the fudge brownie.

Fudge Brownie M M s Innards

There’s definitely something to be said about the textural contrast of the hard candy shell with the chewy center. That something is: it’s good and creates a candy eating experience that I haven’t had before.

On the flavor front, when I first eat it, I get the classic M&M’s taste from the shell, followed with a subtle fudgy note. This fudginess becomes more pronounced as the shell dissolves. I wouldn’t mind even more brownie flavor, but I get it – there’s only so much “batter” you can pack into a half-inch candy piece.

Is there anything else you need to know?

Fudge Brownie M M s Colors

Aren’t M&M’s usually pretty uniform? I noticed that they were a bit lumpy looking. However, this did not take away from the flavor or overall eat for me!

Conclusion:

How many flavors are there now?! It’s a bit overwhelming on-shelf, but this one is worth a try — look for the light purple bag with Ms. Brown!

Purchased Price: $2.98
Purchased at: Walmart
Size: 9.05 oz.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 oz/28g/11 pieces): 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 18 gram of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Iced Lemon CupCakes

Hostess Limited Edition Iced Lemon CupCakes

What are the Hostess Limited Edition Iced Lemon CupCakes?

A new limited-time citrus variation on the OG grocery store/gas station/convenience store cupcake that you know and love! It’s an iced lemon flavored cake with a creamy filling.

Hostess Limited Edition Iced Lemon CupCakes Train

When you read the box, you may think that “iced lemon” is a flavor. But, I think it means it’s an iced cake that is lemon-flavored. Note that this “iced” designation is different from the “frosted” designation on the other flavors.

How are they?

Hostess Limited Edition Iced Lemon CupCakes Icing

These perfectly machine-formed cupcakes, with their cute lil’ Charlie Brown hair squiggle, are delicious. In my opinion, lemon-flavored foods are difficult to get right because it’s really easy to lean into cleaning product territory.

But, Hostess got it right! The flavor reminded me of the way lemonade is – not too tart with a fair amount of sweetness. The sugary filling also helped to temper the lemon flavor, so there was no puckering here!

Hostess Limited Edition Iced Lemon CupCakes Bite

The texture was as good as expected: nice and – trigger warning: I’m going to use the word because it’s fitting – moist. I enjoyed the textural bite of the iced topping with the soft cake and the luscious filling.

Is there anything else you need to know?

Hostess Limited Edition Iced Lemon CupCakes with Hostess Ice

This is by far superior to Hostess’ Iced Lemon Cake, which tasted a bit bitter as if straight lemon zest was used. It also left a weird aftertaste. Plus, the more artificial yellow color wasn’t as pleasing to the eye, but to be fair – the cupcake itself looked interchangeable with a vanilla cupcake. Despite having the taste of lemon through and through, only the topping has a lovely pastel yellow hue.

Conclusion:

Lemon is the new spring LTO flavor du jour, and Hostess nailed it with its Iced Lemon CupCakes!

Purchased Price: $3.50
Size: 12.7 oz box (8 individual wrapped cakes)
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 Cake [45g]) 170 calories, 6 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 23 grams of sugar, and 1 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Nestle Toll House Funfetti Edible Cookie Dough and Edible Fudge Brownie Batter

Nestle Toll House Funfetti Edible Cookie Dough and Edible Fudge Brownie Batter

Friends, edible cookie dough is so 2019.

It’s 2020, and it marks the brave new world of EDIBLE BATTER. Nestle Toll House has one foot in the past and one foot in the future with its launch of Funfetti Edible Cookie Dough and Edible Fudge Brownie Batter.

I thought the first two flavors were outstanding. And even though I didn’t need another flavor, I’m never going to say no to colorful candy sprinkles!

Nestle Toll House Funfetti Edible Cookie Dough

Upon opening, the color and smell reinforced birthday cake. Like with the other flavors, I marveled at how easy it was to scoop as it wasn’t goopy or too hard. I was also happy to see that the color of the sprinkles didn’t bleed the way the M&M’s did in the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Monster flavor.

The taste delivered Funfetti, which is like sugar cookies. As expected, the sprinkles didn’t add much except a little color.

What caught me off guard was the texture. There was a distinct grittiness that I didn’t notice in the other flavors. I mean, one could argue there’s more realism with it – like you’re getting the granulated sugar that you mixed into your real dough! Or maybe it was the texture from the sprinkles that created this experience. Either way, it read as extra gritty to me.

One last gripe about this flavor, the “Made with 100% Real Fun” claim on the container made me roll my eyes. I have a personal vendetta against useless claims like this because it cheapens us all!!

Nestle Toll House Edible Fudge Brownie Batter

As for the edible batter – two words: HECK YES!

The smell immediately reminded me of Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix, and it took me back to elementary school with me in my parents’ kitchen mixing away. The ability for this new flavor to conjure up intense nostalgia, just from its smell, is part of its magic.

The batter itself was dense, rich, and delicious – quite cocoa forward and chocolate-intense, so calling it Devil’s Food Cake wouldn’t be off!

So, which is it, Tiffany, cake or brownie?!

This could easily be a base batter for making Devil’s Food Cake OR fudge brownies! BUT, I find brownie more fitting because the firmer texture of cookie dough translated into this new batter reminds me of eating the ooey-gooey core of a slightly underbaked fudge brownie.

I did notice there were white unmixed bits that were a stark contrast to the deep chocolate brown. OK, Nestle, that’s a bit TOO MUCH realism. I know I was a terrible cake mixer as a kid, but no need to remind me. But jokes aside, I have no idea what these bits were, and I could see how they could be off-putting.

Nestle Toll House Funfetti Edible Cookie Dough and Edible Fudge Brownie Batter 2

All in all, these edible goodies were executed quite well. Yes, there were small issues, but I didn’t find them egregious. However, what could be a deal-breaker is the new price! I was a bit taken aback by the price increase from $4.49 to $6 on all flavors. The food is good, but dang that is premium!

Purchased Price: $5.99 each
?Size: 15 oz. container
?Purchased at: Meijer
?Rating: 7 out of 10 (Funfetti), 9 out of 10 (Fudge)
?Nutrition Facts: (2 Tbsp) Funfetti – 140 calories, 4 grams of total fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 9 milligrams of cholesterol, 110 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 14 grams of total sugars, 14 grams of added sugars, and 1 grams of protein. Fudge Brownie Batter – 140 calories, 4.5 grams of total fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 14 grams of total sugars, 14 grams of added sugars, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Papadias

Papa John s Meatball Pepperoni Papadia

While your favorite pizza chain is still 2000 and late by adding more things to the crust, my favorite pizza chain – Papa John’s – is doing the most with its new Papadias. Inspired by the piadina, a Northern Italy flatbread sandwich, these were tested back in July and clearly did well enough to be launched nationwide. Thank you, test markets!

I was surprised to see ALL four varieties (Italian, Philly Cheesesteak, Grilled BBQ Chicken & Bacon, Meatball Pepperoni) made it through, but I’m making an educated guess the Philly Cheesesteak was the crowd favorite because it’s the hero image on all posters, website, etc.

I’m going to cut right to the chase; these part pizza, part sandwich phenoms are legit! I have eaten many a Subway flatbread sandwiches and it simply can’t compare to flatbread created with Papa John’s fresh, never frozen dough that has a fantastic springiness to it.

I can see why this portable form would work well for lunch. Thanks to the uniform fold-over, it was really easy to hold and didn’t come undone. There was no chance of me accidentally eating more of the top than the bottom and making a mess. Additionally, there wasn’t much oil residue on my fingers – just the tolerable, manageable dustiness that comes with eating pizza.

I was also very impressed by the amount of food for $6 each. It was one of the rare times that the press photos actually mirrored the size of the food in real life!

Here’s my ranking, in order of would order/eat again to likely would not order/eat again:

Meatball Pepperoni

Spicy meatballs, pepperoni, pizza sauce, mozzarella, and classic Italian seasoning. Served with a Pizza sauce dipping cup.

Papa John s Meatball Pepperoni Papadia Box

I didn’t want to put this one down. I don’t usually order meatballs as a topping at Papa John’s, so I was a blank slate on this one. I found that the beef and pork meatballs had good flavor and a pleasant overall texture – easy to bite into without weird tough bits or strange gamey-ness. And the pepperoni complemented these very well!

Papa John s Meatball Pepperoni Papadia 2

The meatballs were also cut in half, which helped with the distribution – I always had bites with meatball and/or pepperoni – and ensured that it all stayed in the flatbread. I was a bit disappointed the meatballs weren’t actually spicy though. On the bright side, no need for Alka-Seltzer! Spicy meatball reference, anyone? Overall, this Papadia had all the tastiness of a meatball sub without any of the messiness.

Grilled BBQ Chicken & Bacon

Grilled chicken, bacon, fresh-cut onions, and mozzarella. It’s drizzled with sweet and smoky BBQ Sauce. Served with a BBQ sauce dipping cup.

Papa John s Grilled BBQ Chicken  Bacon Papadia Box

What I noticed immediately about this one was the smell. The BBQ sauce was quite pungent, but it was welcomed! The plethora of sweet and smoky BBQ sauce was well-balanced with the mild mozzarella, savory bacon, and sharp onion strips. The first thing that came to mind was that it reminded me of a Carl’s Jr Western Bacon Cheeseburger except way easier to eat. Again, I can get a version of another favorite with LESS MESS? YAS.

Papa John s Grilled BBQ Chicken  Bacon Papadia

Italian

Alfredo sauce, spicy Italian sausage, salami, mozzarella, and banana peppers. Served with a Pizza sauce dipping cup.

Papa John s Italian Papadia Box

I LOVE Italian sandwiches because of the nuanced cold cut meat flavors balanced by the fresh crunch of banana peppers. The Papadia interpretation lost me a little bit because by having it all warm/cooked, the flavors and textures blended together too much.

Papa John s Italian Papadia

It blended so much so that I didn’t even realize there was Alfredo sauce! Furthermore, the salami and spicy Italian sausage melded together so much that the salami flavor couldn’t be discerned. And once again, no heat. Luckily, I was able to get some fuego from the standard pepperoncini fixin’ on the side. From a texture perspective, I could definitely taste the tangy banana pepper, but I wanted that added crunch!

Philly Cheesesteak

Sliced Philly steak, fresh-cut onions, green peppers, mozzarella, and the chain’s Philly sauce. Served with a Garlic sauce dipping cup.

Papa John s Philly Cheesesteak Papadia Box

The flavor was unmistakably a Philly cheesesteak with that green bell pepper and onion-forward flavor. However, my biggest gripe was the texture of the “sliced” Philly steak. Sliced is in quotes because it felt like ground beef and I couldn’t get past that. I’m no Philadelphian, but even I know that’s blasphemy! The flavor couldn’t make up for the faux pas on texture. However, even if the texture was right, it still would not leap frog the other flavors in tastiness.

Papa John s Philly Cheesesteak Papadia

Besides personal preference on flavors and textures, the only thing I thought was gratuitous across the board was the sauce on the side. All of the Papadias were really well-sauced and didn’t need any extra love.

Given the tastiness and viability of this innovation, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Hutadias or Domdias soon.

Papa John s Papadias

Purchased Price: $6 each
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Meatball Pepperoni), 7 out of 10 (Grilled BBQ Chicken & Bacon), 6 out of 10 (Italian), 6 out of 10 (Philly Cheesesteak)
Nutrition Facts: (1 Papadia) Meatball Pepperoni – 950 calories, 50 grams of fat, 21 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 140 milligrams of cholesterol, 2460 milligrams of sodium, 81 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 42 grams of protein. Philly Cheesesteak – 850 calories, 39 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 2180 milligrams of sodium, 81 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 40 grams of protein. Grilled BBQ Chicken & Bacon – 880 calories, 30 grams of fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 165 milligrams of cholesterol, 2630 milligrams of sodium, 91 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 36 grams of sugar, and 59 grams of protein. Italian – 960 calories, 55 grams of fat, 21 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 140 milligrams of cholesterol, 2760 milligrams of sodium, 77 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 38 grams of protein..