REVIEW: Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Cocoa Puffs Cereal

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Cocoa Puffs Cereal

The competitive world of junk food has given us tons of oddball mashups that seem to come out of nowhere — Swedish Fish Oreo, Root Beer Float Chips Ahoy, Jolly Rancher Sour Green Apple Pop-Tarts, and the list goes on and on.

Sometimes those products work, and sometimes they taste like absolute garbage. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, there are some combinations that make so much sense that it’s unreal they haven’t been done before. It took General Mills 59 years to put their top dog cereal masterminds together to release the insanely obvious and new for 2017 Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Cocoa Puffs.

The concept is very straightforward. Take the already established cocoa-y cocoa puffs and add some circular dried marshmallows to the mix. There’s not too much to break down here, as anyone who has ever had Cocoa Puffs (everyone?) will know exactly what they taste like — a light chocolate flavor with hints of crunchy corniness.

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The mini marshmallows are nothing fancy, and in the scheme of hot cocoa they shouldn’t be. They’re aerated and sweet with a much more mallow-y texture once they’re submerged in milk.

The two flavors work together very well — simple, but effective. The added sweetness and slight touch of creaminess does remind me of sipping a steaming cup of winter’s finest and makes the bowl a bit more intriguing than your usual Cocoa Puffs.

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The already light cocoa flavor is very much akin to the kind found in instant hot chocolate packets, and as a result, General Mills has stumbled into success. Not to mention the milk it leaves behind with the added sugary sparkle of the marshmallows is straight up rich chocolate perfection.

The immediate comparison is Count Chocula, my favorite chocolate cereal. While this is definitely similar, it still isn’t quite as good. I slightly prefer the texture of the Count’s cereal pieces, and the combination of both regular and chocolate marshmallows makes Mr. Chocula still a bit more complex and delicious – winning the battle of holiday choco-mallow cereal supremacy if that were ever a thing.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 100 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 12.75 oz. box
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Light chocolate Cocoa Puffs flavor naturally fits hot cocoa theme. Marshmallows make everything better. Amazing cereal milk.
Cons: Holiday magic still can’t take down the count.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms Cereal

Limited Edition Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms

Guys, wow. This is big. This is Lucky the Leprechaun (aka Sir Charms, which is how I will now and forever more think of him) doing a Babe Ruth point to the center field bleachers.

Since its debut in 1964, Lucky Charms has changed its marbits (another LC name I was unaware of until now, and love almost as much as Sir Charms) quite often, reflecting holidays and general times-a-changin’. I still remember my world being somewhat rocked when red balloons came out in 1989. In my defense, I was eight; my world was rocked on pretty much a daily basis.

But the oats, the oats were a constant. Minus the no-brainer introduction of Chocolate Lucky Charms in 2005, it’s always been oats and marbits, living harmoniously together in a well-balanced ratio.

But now, in this year that has been so tumultuous, so uncertain, Sir Charms comes along and brings us a gift: Limited Edition Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms.

Gosh darn, if that isn’t a lovely winter wonderland of a box. It’s October as I write this, but I’m hearing jingle bells instead of spooky ghosts. You truly are magic, Sir Charms!

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And that magic continues on the back. There are several fun puzzles to solve, although I could have done without the snowman with no eyes. There’s also a riddle: “If snowmen can’t take baths, how do they keep clean?”

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There are only three unique marbits in this limited edition cereal, but surprisingly, they differ from 2005’s Winter Lucky Charms, although they are much less varied. While not explicitly listed on the box, it appears they were going for a snowball, a snowflake, and a snowman. What actually came out was a generic aspirin, a rejected asterisk and…listen guys, I’m trying to keep it clean here because this is such a darn cute box of cereal. A bowling pin? Does that work?

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Upon opening the box, it smelled only of oats. Which was a bit of a relief, since I didn’t want to be blasted with cinnamon. Tasted dry, it came off as a nice, warm cinnamon paired with a hefty amount of sugar – sort of like a Cinnamon Toast Crunch Light.

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In milk, the cinnamon flavor almost entirely disappears, much to my disappointment. The marbits fulfill the vanilla part, but I wanted more of that warm cinnamon flavor. I was hoping for an oat-y Cinnamon Toast Crunch with bonus marshmallows, but I got a mostly regular Lucky Charms with a hint of cinnamon instead.

That said, Lucky Charms rock, and adding a touch of cinnamon makes them a little bit better. Plus, we got some special winter (they tried) marshmallows, and the cereal milk was a very light cinnamon vanilla flavor, which was lovely.

Limited Edition Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms didn’t charm my pants off. It could be better. But a new LC is special in and of itself, so they get some extra points for trying.

By the way, did you figure out the answer to the riddle?

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 110 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 55 milligrams of potassium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugar, 11 grams of other carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein,.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 11.5 oz. box
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: A new Lucky Charms flavor. Learning about “Sir Charms”. Hints of warm cinnamon. Great box design. Tasty cereal milk.
Cons: For once, I wanted a stronger cinnamon flavor. Snowmen with no eyes. Vanilla seemed to only come from marshmallows. Marbits shapes are…questionable.

REVIEW: Post Shredded Wheat Frosted Cinnamon Roll Cereal

Post Shredded Wheat Frosted Cinnamon Roll Cereal

I can’t help but stare at the Post Shredded Wheat Frosted Cinnamon Roll Cereal box for two reasons.

  1. From afar the cereal pieces look as if they’re the children of a block of dried packaged ramen noodles and a Twinkie.
  2. The white creamy centers in those cereal pieces on the box do not show up in the actual cereal pieces. In tiny print, it says, “enlarged to show detail.” Unfortunately, a detail is wrong.

What’s not wrong is the aroma that comes out after opening the package. It’s a nice sweet cinnamon smell that I’d love to wake up to every morning. However, the cereal itself is not one I’m sure I’d wake up for.

As you can read on the box, the part of a complete breakfast has whole grain wheat, no synthetic colors, and is “bursting with vanilla flavored chips.” It’s frosted on one side and cinnamon is an ingredient. Now, this sounds like this could be a decent cereal, and, I’ll be honest, it is when eaten dry.

The cinnamon flavor isn’t as pronounced as its aroma, but the frosting, vanilla-flavored chips, and cinnamon do a great job at acting as the Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac to deal with the depressing blandness of the shredded wheat.

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But I do wish Post upped the cinnamon dosage. It’s not Cinnabon level of cinnamon, it’s more like licking the bottom of the box a Cinnabon came in after someone else licked it. The frosting and vanilla chips add a generic sweetness and artificial vanilla-ness that help the insoluble fiber go down. The chips aren’t like what’s shown on the box, they’re more like white blobs with a texture that’s more crunchy than creamy.

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While fine when eaten dry, a problem arises when it sits in milk for a few moments, which is a situation cereal finds itself in 9 out of 10 times. The dairy bath causes the pieces lose ALL THEIR FLAVOR and turn a decent cereal into a depressing one. Now you’d think those vanilla chips might save it, but even their flavor disappeared. Actually, my mouth couldn’t even feel those chips in the soggy pieces. It’s as if they dissolved in milk.

If you’re going to eat these as a dry snack, you’ll enjoy them. They have a hearty crunch and a decent, sweet flavor. But, while milk helps strengthen bones, it hurts this cereal by washing those good things away.

(Nutrition Facts – 22 biscuits – 220 calories, 2 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 10 milligrams of sodium, 49 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 16 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 15.5 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Tastes good dry. Uses actual cinnamon.
Cons: Flavor washes off when sittin in milk for a few moments. Could use more cinnamon flavor. Deceptive image of cereal pieces on box. Looks like a dried ramen block and a Twinkie had a child.

REVIEW: Post Honey Maid S’mores Cereal

Post Honey Maid S mores Cereal

I think everything is better with a brand name.

An Oreo Blizzard beats a chocolate sandwich cookie Blizzard ten times out of ten; a Lucky Charms milkshake kicks the crap out of a marshmallow cereal milkshake; and an Arby’s sandwich on a King’s Hawaiian bun is far superior to a sandwich on a sweet enriched roll that may or may not have come from a rock in the Pacific Ocean.

Don’t ask me about the logic behind this phenomenon. It might be proprietary recipe secrets. It might be social conditioning. It might just be that you’d have to be an idiot to roll out something called a “marshmallow cereal milkshake.”

Honey Maid S’more cereal follows much of the trend, which is surprising because it’s made by Post, which previously bought Mom’s Best, which owns Malt-O-Meal, which produces both a mediocre Cocoa Puffs imitator and a pathetic Golden Grahams doppelganger.

Oh, and by the way, a s’mores cereal.

I’ve never had the Malt-O-Meal cereal with the same name, but I have had many other Malt-O-Meal cereals and consider them hastily assembled Halloween costume versions of their General Mills, Kellogg’s, and Quaker counterparts. Knowing this, I was not expecting much from this s’mores cereal.

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Sampling the pieces individually didn’t do much to change my outlook. The marshmallow pieces were okay but nothing special, like a 6-6 college football team that limps into a bowl game. Meanwhile, the chocolate cereal pieces (which look and taste like Malt-O-Meal’s Cocoa Puffs imitator Cocoa Roos) are about as dreadful as a chocolate cereal can be, with virtually no cocoa flavor and too much sweetness.

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Eaten alone, the only redeeming element is the Honey Maid graham pieces, which have a deep graham flavor and light crunch that’s distinct from the glazed molasses sweetness of Golden Grahams.

But a funny thing happens when you shove a handful of the mix in your mouth. It starts to taste like s’mores, and out of nowhere a light cocoa flavor emerges in the background.

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I attribute this 100 percent to a dusty coating that covers all the pieces. It’s not unlike the peanut butter coating that covers Reese’s Puffs, but instead of tasting like powdered chocolate peanut butter, it tastes like powdered S’mores. The coating is especially tasty in milk, which seems to coax more cocoa flavor out of the chocolate cereal pieces, and gives the graham pieces a delectable, milk-infused sogginess.

Even though the chocolate flavor is a letdown, Honey Maid S’mores is a slightly better than Smorz (which I gave a 6) but not as good as Krave S’mores (which I gave an 8). Is it because of the Honey Maid Graham Cracker pieces?

Well, it’s not because of some generic graham cracker pieces.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup without milk – 120 calories, 25 calories from fat, 2.5 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 1 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.98
Size: 21 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Authentic honey graham flavor. Campfire coating binds flavors together with a deep burnt sugar taste with hints of cocoa. Very good in milk. Correct spelling of S’mores. Avoiding the tempting Hamilton Porter S’mores reference from The Sandlot.
Cons: Less cocoa flavor than a tootsie roll. Only adequate as a snacking cereal. The reasoning behind Cocoa Roos. Brand name food collusion.

REVIEW: Apple Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal

Apple Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal

The best way to start your morning?

Cinnamon.

Naturally sweet and spicy, it helps boost brain function, improves blood circulation, and can even prevent cancer! A doctor also once told me that if I ate an apple every day I would never have to come back to his office, so, an apple caked in cinnamon must be the answer to all of life’s problems. Seemingly hearing my call for health help, General Mills has added Apple Cinnamon Toast Crunch to their Toast line of breakfast cereals.

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Tasting the cereal dry, the first thing that jumps out at me is this stuff does not have the big crystallized sugary pop of its father and cinna-GOAT, Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Although I could already tell this just from looking at them, the texture is exactly the same as the now buried Tiny Toast line – puffy and crunchy loaf slices with a relatively soft chew that is generally pleasant for a kiddy cereal.

The flavor is headlined by a solid authentic apple flavor that if I had to guess was modeled after a red delicious as it isn’t too tart or sweet, but definitely juicy. The cinnamon takes more of a backseat, with just a slightly spicy finish that gives a bit of a robust and rounded flavor without being too aggressive.

The two work really well together and are pretty seamless like fresh apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon. Despite being able to see some sparkly sugar on the surface of the toasts, I think more sweetness would have really helped give the cinnamon more sparkle and driven the overall flavor to new heights.

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Adding milk to the equation amplifies the apple and further subdues the cinnamon, adding in a new tart layer that more closely mimics a granny smith than the red delicious I initially tasted. The flavor switch here is kind of surprising, as I’m used to milk driving the sweetness or freshness of a cereal rather than actually changing the way my mouth interprets it. Unfortunately, it fades pretty quickly in the milk, as the liquid rips off the cereal dust and sogs up the pieces much faster than I would like.

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All in all this is an okay cereal, one that would be acceptable with a different namesake but doesn’t live up to the fame and glory of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It doesn’t pack the true berry flavor of Blueberry Tiny Toast (which is now Blueberry Toast Crunch, and one of my favorite new cereals of last year), and is just above its strawberry sibling for being an option that is suitable but not one I feel the need to buy again if not on sale.

It does, however, whoop Apple Jacks in the realm of solid apple flavor, and if that was a favorite of yours growing up, you may have found a new best Sunday morning friend.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 120 calories, 25 calories from fat, 3 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 11.1 oz. box
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Bright juicy apple flavor. Fascinatingly transforms in milk. Better than Apple Jacks.
Cons: Needs more cinnamon sparkle. Needs more sugary sparkle. Gets soggy in milk real fast.

REVIEW: Malt-O-Meal Cookies and Cream Cereal

Malt-O-Meal Cookies and Cream Cereal

In the late 90s, I can remember watching The New Addams Family on Fox Kids on summer afternoons, and there were lots of Oreo O’s commercials with Bessie the cow. Until last summer, it was the only cereal I ever knew of that had a Fourth of July version. But then, as you likely know, the cereal was discontinued in the States, and everyone was sad.

Luckily, Malt-O-Meal has brought it back! Except now it’s called Cookies and Cream.

One of the requirements for reviewing this cereal was that I had to miss Oreo O’s. In full disclosure, I missed Oreo O’s before it went away. After it had been out a few years, they decided to add marshmallows to it. Even as a chubby adolescent who cared nothing about nutrition, I thought that was too much sweetness.

Thankfully, this doesn’t have any marshmallows. When I first tasted a piece dry, it totally seemed familiar, as if I’d just had Oreo O’s last week. In reality it’s been nearly two decades. So, if you miss Oreo O’s, rejoice! This is as close as it’s going to get.

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Pouring milk over them is really the way to eat it, and it tastes just like I remember. It’s one of those cereals where I feel like I could eat bowl after bowl. At the same time, though, there’s something not completely satisfying about it. Maybe it’s because it’s so airy and has giant holes in the middle, so it’s not terribly filling.

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The leftover milk looks like cookies and cream ice cream and has a sweetness to it, but not the same level of chocolatiness you’d get from Cocoa Puffs or Count Chocula.

When I brushed my teeth immediately after eating the cereal, my toothpaste spittle also looked like cookies and cream ice cream. (I was going to include a picture but decided not to. You’re welcome.)

So if you want the Oreo O’s experience again, definitely pick this up. It’s a worthy replacement.

If, however, you’ve never had Oreo O’s, it’s less important for you to try this. It’s a tasty, passable cereal, but don’t expect it to be like other chocolate cereals. It’s basically cookie-flavored Froot Loops. Does it taste like Oreos? I don’t think so, but it is reminiscent of them. And one cup of cereal still has fewer calories than two Oreo cookies.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cup (30 grams) – 120 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 45 milligrams of potassium, 26 grams of total carbohydrates, less than one gram of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $5.48
Size: 34 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like Oreo O’s. No marshmallows. Leftover milk looks like cookies and cream ice cream. Fewer calories than actual Oreos. 90s nostalgia.
Cons: Not very filling. Rough on the roof of my mouth. More sugar than most name-brand cereals. Doesn’t taste like actual Oreo cookies.