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!)

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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.

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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.

QUICK REVIEW: Dairy Queen Candy Cane Chill Blizzard

Dairy Queen Candy Cane Chill Blizzard

I have an odd relationship with candy canes. They are undeniably a minty herald of the holidays. Still, something about food that sharpens to a point while being eaten makes me uneasy. I can’t help but think that a partially consumed candy cane would be the improvised weapon of choice for elves doing time in Santa’s Secret Gulag.

Fortunately, Dairy Queen has come to my rescue with the returning favorite Candy Cane Chill Blizzard. Vanilla soft serve is mixed with choco chunks and peppermint candy cane pieces, no soap on a licorice rope required.

I had never tried the chocolate chunk version before; my experience had been solely with its sibling, the excellent Oreo Candy Cane Blizzard. This version of the treat greets you with colorful red specs nestled between chocolate chunks that paint a pleasing festive picture.

Chocolate pieces in vanilla ice cream are nothing new to Dairy Queen fans, so it’s left to the candy cane bits to differentiate this offering from the standard fare. They are more than up to the task, imparting a refreshing and enjoyable peppermint taste that is powerful but not overbearing.

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The mix-ins are prominent and plentiful with the hard candy providing a pleasant crunch that never fades while the chocolate pieces linger and melt pleasantly in your mouth. I don’t feel overly hyperbolic when I say that this tastes like Christmas.

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This is some of Dairy Queen’s best work, both in taste and as a balanced representation of the Christmas season. It is distinctly different but equally as enjoyable as its fraternal Oreo twin. Bribing Santa with a Candy Cane Chill on Christmas Eve may move you off the naughty list, or, at the least, keep you beyond the reach of the striped shanks of North Pole gen pop.

Purchased Price: $3.59
Size: Small
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Small) 630 calories, 17 grams of fat, 170 milligrams of sodium, 109 grams of carbohydrates, and 11 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Cookie Butter Oreo Cookies

Limited Edition Cookie Butter Oreo Cookies

I begin this review with an urgent request.

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest grocery store/megamart/convenience store/bodega/Nabisco factory to get your hands on a pack of Cookie Butter Oreo Cookies.

And I’m not joking. After personally eating the first package I bought (and upon realizing that I probably needed at least one cookie to take a picture of for this review), I went to Target the very next day to procure another bag. Upon arriving, I found the Oreo shelf decimated, but managed to grab the last package on the shelf. Apologies in advance to anyone who shops at my local Target.

Nabisco’s newest limited edition Oreo flavor features two graham flavored cookies with cookie butter crème sandwiched between them. I’m going to assume that most TIB readers are well versed in the flavor of cookie butter, but here’s a crash course for those who haven’t: cookie butter is a spreadable concoction popularized by Trader Joe’s featuring the flavor of speculoos, a spiced shortcrust biscuit popular in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. It’s good on waffles, toast, pretzels, and (obviously) cookies.

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When I opened my package, I was immediately overwhelmed by beige. While the packaging suggests that the cookies should have some definition against the darker brown cookie butter filling, they instead all blend together into an amorphous tan extravaganza. To be fair, the appearance doesn’t affect the taste, but it wouldn’t have hurt if the cookies got a little bit more time in the tanning bed before packaging.

Limited Edition Cookie Butter Oreo Cookies 3

Similar to the cookie butter’s indiscernibility visually, the graham scent of the cookie masks most of the spicy cookie butter smell. The taste, however, is a different story. Per usual, the filling is the star of the show, with a strong gingerbread and molasses flavor evident throughout the cookie sandwich. The texture of the cookie butter is on-point as well, and when eaten independent of the cookie base you can really feel the familiar grit of the crushed speculoos biscuits mixed within the crème.

If there’s any area these Oreo cookies fall short in, it’s in the durability of the cookies themselves. With one bite, the cookies shatter quite noticeably and coat your cookie-eating-surface with a shower of graham sand. I’d imagine that the non-traditional graham cookie base has something to do with this, and it makes me wonder how these would have tasted with Oreo’s original chocolate cookie (*makes note for next visit to the Target cookie war zone*).

All in all, these cookies are excellent. While some previous limited edition Oreo flavors have fallen flat, these sandwiches reign supreme over the cookie kingdom. They’re speculoos-tacular!

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.).)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 10.7 oz.
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Burning off the Oreo cookies by running to the store. Amazing flavor. Visions of Franken-Oreo creations.
Cons: Needs a few more minutes out in the sun. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

REVIEW: Starbucks Teavana Shaken Iced Tea Infusions

Teavana Shaken Iced Tea Infusions

Summertime arrives each year following much anticipation of great weather, long days, and lots of opportunities for seasonal activities. By the time most of us get to August, the luster is gone. Skin in a mosaic pattern of sunburn and bug bites remain as a reminder of the overcrowded beaches, holiday weekend traffic jams, uncomfortable humidity, and unfinished must-reads that we experienced over the last six weeks.

Starbucks aims to rekindle some of that summer charm by introducing their new line of Teavana Shaken Iced Tea Infusions. Teavana, previously a member of the top five free mall samples, was an expert at pairing blends and other enhancers (fruit among them) to create samples that were steeped (pun intended) in flavor. Their iced tea offerings (often paired with lemonade) were always the most strongly flavored and had me looking forward to their presentation of how “Good Feels Good,” represented in each drink by two infusions (tea and a fruit/plant/floral infusion) shaken together.

Teavana Peach Citrus Shaken Iced Tea Infusions

The first variety, Peach Citrus White Tea, was inspired by Teavana Peach Tranquility Herbal Tea. The tea and a small amount of liquid cane sugar (just 70 calories and 19 grams of sugar in a 30 ounce Trenta), enhanced with an infusion of apples, licorice root, rose hips, hibiscus, orange peels, lemon verbena, chamomile pollen, lavender flowers, AND nondescript “natural flavors.”

It was generally light on peach flavor. This clearly wasn’t a Snapple or Nestea offering that beat you over the head with peach flavor. Peach does not show up on that lengthy infusion list in any form. But as I consumed more, the flavor evoked the scent of peach blossoms.

This drink captured the blending benefits I was familiar with from Teavana, and that’s a big win in my book. Iced tea is not complicated to make, and you don’t have to have exotic additions like rose hips or flower pollen to enjoy it. This is clearly a premium experience you’re being offered, and comparing other soft drinks puts this in a class by itself. Reviewer-speak aside, I nearly drank it too quickly to do the review justice!

White tea’s ability to be a featured and flexible background player (the Katherine Hahn of herbal beverages) was key, and I was concerned black tea might overwhelm the floral intonations and green tea might dampen their impact with a bitter counterpart.

Teavana Pineapple Black Shaken Iced Tea Infusions

My first fear was confirmed by the Pineapple Black Tea variety, inspired by Pineapple Kona Pop herbal tea, frequently used in Teavana’s iced tea samples. The strong tea choice did, in fact, overwhelm any subtler influences, and without the appropriate level of sweetness emanated a slight smoky nature in the aftertaste.

The pineapple flavor is a positive, a rare fresh pineapple taste infrequently found in beverages, particularly without coconut. This was the real deal. At least I think, despite a more tidy infusion list devoid of actual pineapple, save for the ubiquitous “Natural Flavors” catch-all.

Teavana Strawberry Green Shaken Iced Tea Infusions

The third variety was the Strawberry Green Tea, oddly inspired by the Strawberry Paraiso White Tea. How would the change to a more pungent tea change the overall complexion of the drink?

I found the strawberry green interesting, as it feels like it’s working backwards. This beverage’s initial impact is very plant-based, surely due in part to the earthy herbal quality of green tea. The strawberry hits after you swallow, and, like the pineapple, tastes pretty close to “real” strawberry flavor (once again no strawberry indicated, although spearmint and lemongrass each made an appearance). If you consume the drink faster, the delay of the fruit impact lessons, but I appreciated having two taste profiles in one beverage. This option is meant to be savored slowly, which after all, is what iced tea’s heritage is all about.

Teavana Pina Colada Shaken Iced Tea Infusions

BONUS SEGMENT! Reviewing the Starbucks website, I discovered a less-promoted option: the Pina Colada Infusion. Through the generosity of the Main Street Newark partners, I had the chance to try this version on the house. The only change was a simple addition of coconut milk to the Pineapple Black Tea Infusion, or so it appeared. This time the ingredients list revealed a potentially significant adjustment, the reversal of the black tea and the plant/fruit, indicating less of the former and more of the latter in this incarnation.

The drink now consisted of creamy, slightly sweet, and slightly floral coconut milk; a greater concentration of plant/fruit infusion; and a reduced amount of black tea. The results were a marked improvement, albeit a beverage unlike iced tea you’ve ever had. Instead, a mildly sweet, fresh-tasting, not-cliche pina colada beverage is created, one that largely hides the black tea component and could be a counterpart to the Violet Drink. It’s unique, and perhaps not as impressive as the Peach Citrus White Tea, but it’s the option I find myself hankering for.

On my summer bucket list, I’ve got a few of the usual things left to do — catch a superhero flick, ride a roller coaster, read through the last seven reasons why. Thanks to Starbucks, I can leave planting in the garden far off the list. I’ve got all the flowers and pollen I need from this delightful line of tea infusions.

(Nutrition Facts – Trenta – Peach Citrus White – 70 calories, 0 grams of fat, 20 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 19 grams of sugar, and 40-45 milligrams of caffeine. Pineapple Black and Strawberry Green – 70 calories, 0 grams of fat, 20 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 19 grams of sugar, and 50-55 milligrams of caffeine. Pina Colada – 160 calories, 5 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 26 grams of sugar, and 50 milligrams of caffeine.)

Purchased Price: $4.25 each except Pina Colada ($4.75)
Size: Trenta
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Peach Citrus White Tea)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Pineapple Black Tea)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Strawberry Green Tea)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Pina Colada Tea)
Pros: A gourmet effort at iced tea. Light balance between tea, fruit, and flower in the Peach Citrus White. Pineapple and strawberry flavors. The re-balancing act with the Pina Colada infusions ratios. The other members of the top five samples: (Auntie Anne’s, whatever places give out hibachi chicken or smoothies, and Charley’s Philly Steaks)
Cons: Overwhelming smokey black tea aftertaste. Starbucks adding another competitor’s outlets to the RIP pile (Seattle’s Best, Evaluation Fresh, La Boulange). When you’re a kid and move to a new house with a pool that your parents immediately replace with a vegetable garden.

REVIEW: Limited Edition PB&J Oreo Cookies

Limited Edition PB J Oreo Cookies

If you’re holding a grudge against Oreo for temporarily ruining your taste buds with its Swedish Fish flavor or turning your poop pink with Peeps Oreo, Limited Edition PB&J Oreo might be the olive branch that causes you to forgive.

The sandwich cookie features a creme layer that’s half peanut butter-flavored and half raspberry jelly-flavored between two Golden Oreo wafers. It’s disappointing Nabisco didn’t use their Oreo Thins technology to stack two thin creme layers on top of each other to make it look more like a PB&J sandwich and less like Grimace lying on top his own filth after drinking too many McDonald’s chocolate shakes.

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The peanut butter creme has a pleasant balance of sweet and salty. I haven’t had Peanut Butter Oreo Cookies in a long time, so I’m not sure if this one tastes similar. But when I lick the creme and eat the cookie, Nutter Butter pops into my head. The jelly creme tastes like the same one used in the Limited Edition Jelly Donut Oreo. While I didn’t care for it with that cookie, I like it in this one. While it has an artificial raspberry flavor when eaten alone, it’s turns into a generic berry flavor when eating a whole cookie.

When the two cremes come together in one bite, it brings a smile to my face because the cookie hits the PB&J flavor target. There’s the right balance between the two cremes, one flavor doesn’t overwhelm the other. These cookies make Smuckers Uncrustables seem more like Unbearables. The Golden wafers are great as the “bread” for these cookies because, while sweet, they’re also mild enough to allow the cremes to shine.

These cookies are delightful, so much so that I’d bet money we’ll be seeing these as a permanent or returning flavor in the future. Also, let me include more praise by stating this is one of my Top 5 favorite limited edition Oreo cookies.

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While wonderful, I do have some minor issues with it. The way the creme layer is forces us to bite into a particular side to get both flavors in our mouths. Approach it from the wrong side and you end up with all peanut butter or all jelly. Of course, one can overcome that by shoving the whole cookie into your mouth like a competitive Oreo eater.

Also, raspberry jelly is an odd choice. If I was playing Family Feud and Steve Harvey asked me “Name me a jelly flavor you’d put on a PB&J sandwich,” I’m sure answering “raspberry” wouldn’t be any help towards getting to 200 points.

So to all who have been burned by previous Oreo flavors, the Limited Edition PB&J Oreo is one helluva “I’m Sorry” card from Nabisco.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 25 milligrams of potassium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: Too much from eBay
Size: 10.7 oz. package
Purchased at: Kroger (by eBay seller)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Does PB&J well. Peanut butter reminds me of Nutter Butter. Jelly creme works better with this cookie than Jelly Donut Oreo. Possible future varieties, like strawberry jelly, grape jelly, or crunchy peanut butter creme.
Cons: Raspberry jelly seems like an odd choice for jelly. Creme is half peanut butter and half jelly, not two layers on top of each other. Currently a Kroger-exclusive.