REVIEW: Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal

Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal

Churros existed before I discovered them in 2009, or so I’m told. But that fateful March afternoon in a Barcelona café was a personal turning point. As in – I turn my head any time I hear the word now. “Did someone say churros?” I ask, more a plea than a question.

When Cinnamon Pebbles cereal was announced last month, it was immediately linked with churros. Blog posts breathlessly asked if the breakfast flakes would taste like them. News articles suggested making Cinnamon Pebbles-covered churros.

My churro buds were aching when I ripped open the box of Cinnamon Pebbles. The scent was definitely cinnamon, but not churro-y. It was familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it reminded me of.

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I threw a dry handful into my mouth. The size, weight and texture are the same as the classic Pebbles varieties. Then the taste revealed itself. These were not Churro Pebbles. They were the simple cinnamon sugar of my youth.

I instantly flashed back to 8 years old, finding an ancient shaker of Domino’s “Sugar ‘n Cinnamon” in the back of the kitchen cabinet. I started dumping clumps of cinna-sugar (emphasis on the sugar) over my plain Rice Chex cereal. That is precisely the taste of Cinnamon Pebbles.

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The cereal absorbed milk quickly, in typical Pebbles (and most rice cereal) fashion. The flavor stayed pretty true wet or dry, which makes me think it’s really baked in, not just a coating. It did impart some cinnamon-sweetness and a beige tint to the leftover milk, but visually not the party of brown flecks I expected.

While I loved the cinna-sugar/rice cereal combo in 1984, and eating it now was a bit of fun nostalgia, it’s 2017 and tastes have changed. Flavors have gotten more complex, exotic and sometimes silly. Hence, I can’t say that this cereal was exciting or “new.” It needed a hook to make it more modern.

Cinnamon Pebbles might have been greatly improved by adding a dash of red pepper, so I set out to do just that. I spread a layer of the cereal on a cookie sheet, sprinkled a mixture of water, ground cayenne and roasted Saigon cinnamon on top and gave it a quick toast in the oven (250 degrees, 5 minutes or so).

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The results were beyond my expectations. The extra cinnamon knocked down the overwhelming sugar and the red pepper brought a delayed warmth that hit just as I was ready to take the next spoonful. This was a cereal worth buying again.

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I also tried using the Cinnamon Pebbles as a pie crust. Filled with devil’s food instant pudding and a bit of cayenne, it was an easy and decent approximation of churros and chocolate.

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(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup cereal only – 120 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 11 oz. box
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Yep, they’re Pebbles alright! Pleasant throwback cinna-sugar flavor.
Cons: Too simple for novelty-seekers. Needs something to offset or amp up the cinnamon.

REVIEW: Keebler Cereal

Keebler Cereal

Those crafty Keebler elves!

Not content with just a good portion of the snack aisle (they make Town House crackers, too?!) or hollowing out trees for mass cookie production, they have decided to expand their reach by entering my morning time with the debut of their eponymous cereal. They are so excited by it, actually, it doesn’t need any wildly descriptive title as it is simply just called Keebler Cereal.

Thank goodness the packaging shows the actual product so you know that it is chocolatey cookie based like their Chips Deluxe line rather than Sandies shortbread. PHEW! However, there is a red flag on the top flap noting that I need to “SHAKE IT UP!” as the “Cookies may have settled.” Uh-oh. Upon opening the box it is worse than I imagined as there is nary a cookie in sight even after examining all sides of the inside bag.

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After a good, hearty shake the “real mini chocolate chip cookies” do reveal themselves as promised but the ratio is off. They are present but not predominantly and this is in addition to the fact that they are nearly half the size of the chocolatey puff pieces they are paired with. I wonder what kind of math curriculum the elves have in school because whatever it is it needs to be reevaluated.

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The taste of the cookies is okay with a nice milk chocolate richness that definitely comes through upon chewing, even though they are probably better suited for a snack mix than a breakfast cereal. The other pieces are mediocre, just kind of generic chocolate puffs that are very similar to those in other kid’s cereals. They remind me of the bagged bargain ones you have to buy on the bottom shelf while waddling like a penguin through the aisle as the memorable commercial dictated.

Eating the cereal with milk offers a better experience as you get a nice blast of chocolate every time you stumble upon one of the cookies amongst the puffs. However, I noticed that while eating my way through the bowl there seemed to be even fewer cookies than I had started with.

I did a test by putting one cookie and one puff in milk and stirring vigorously. Upsettingly, the cookie started to dissolve while the puff stayed intact. I was expecting Keebler magic, but not like this!!!

Better luck next time elves.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 130 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 2 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.39
Size: 11.2 oz. box
Purchased at: ShopFoodEx.com
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Rich chocolate flavor from real cookies. Keebler venturing into other grocery aisles.
Cons: Questionable elf math skills. Boring chocolate puff pieces that make me think about waddling like a penguin in a grocery store. Unintended cookie disappearing acts.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Cinnamon Frosted Flakes

Kellogg's Cinnamon Frosted Flakes

As far as I’m concerned, Tony the Tiger is going through something of an identity crisis. Not only has Kellogg’s changed his look to be more “accessible” (like a talking Tiger was accessible to begin with), but his parent company has been rolling out all kinds of flavor variations.

On one hand, I guess Cinnamon Frosted Flakes shouldn’t surprise us. Both Tigers and Cinnamon are native to Bangladesh, and having already cycled through marshmallows, chocolate, and marshmallows and chocolate, it makes sense for Kellogg’s to hit us with a subliminal geography lesson. I wasn’t crazy about Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows, nor did scream gr-r-reat! for the now-defunct Frosted Flakes with Energy Clusters.

So I’ve got good reason to be skeptical of the addition of cinnamon to Frosted Flakes. I say this with 28 years of cereal eating under my belt, literally. Despite the popularity of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, cinnamon-only flavored cereals don’t have a good track record. Cinnamon Burst Cheerios lasted for all of two seconds, while Cinnamon Jacks, Cinna-Crunch Pebbles, and a host of other cinnamon cereals have been relegated to the lonely eulogies written on MrBreakfast.com.

I do not join these individuals in mourning.

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If anything, cinnamon can be overpowering if applied in the wrong context, which is exactly the case with Cinnamon Frosted Flakes. The cinnamon flavor is floral and spicy, somewhere between the flavor of cinnamon gum and the aroma of a cinnamon-scented candle. The weird thing is that it takes a second to activate, and when it does, it’s more of an aroma and sensation than a taste.

And boy is it strong.

The characteristic sweetness of Frosted Flakes is still there, but before the sweetness dissipates, it’s overwhelmed by the authentic cinnamon flavor. The problem isn’t that it doesn’t taste like cinnamon; the problem is that it tastes too much like cinnamon, so much that the malted sweetness and slight corn flavor that are present in Frosted Flakes get lost.

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The effect is not so extreme in milk, but that in and of itself doesn’t make Cinnamon Frosted Flakes desirable. There’s a decent cinnamon run-off into the milk, and the trademarked soggy corn sweetness of Frosted Flakes is still there, but the flavors of frosted flakes and cinnamon just don’t go together.

Clearly, something isn’t working in the grand scheme of Tony the Tiger’s life. The thing is, I have no idea why this is, except to suggest that this is some kind of mid-life cereal crisis that doesn’t need to be. We can all agree that Frosted Flakes are gr-r-reat!, but frankly, the new flavors, including Cinnamon Frosted Flakes, are really just “oh-oh-oh-kay.”

(Nutrition Facts – 29 grams – 110 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 150 mg of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugars, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.98
Size: 26.8 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Authentic and floral cinnamon flavor in every spoonful. Better than the now defunct Simply Cinnamon Corn Flakes. Subliminal geography lessons.
Cons: Cinnamon flavor dominates the subtle malt and corn flavors of the flakes. Like eating a cinnamon-flavored candle. More an aroma than a true flavor. Lacks the buttery “toasted” flavors of Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Cinnamon Chex.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows

Kellogg’s Limited Edition Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows

Kellogg’s Limited Edition Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows remind me of my fourth grade Stormtrooper Halloween costume.

Like eight-year old Adam in awe of the theatrical release of the Stars Wars Special Edition movies, Tony the Tiger’s latest creation sets out to trick-or-treat with only the utmost respect for the ethos of Halloween.

Problem is, there’s some stiff competition. In my case, it was Luke, who ironically decided to trick-or-treat as a Stormtrooper the same year I did (Like, really? Your name is Luke and you decide to go as a Stormtrooper?)

Anyways, Luke’s costume kicked the crap out of mine. He was the kid with the lights and sound enhanced Stormtrooper carbine, specially crafted armor, and an actual helmet like those people who go to ComicCon. I, meanwhile, had a mask attached with a string, a cheap white smock with some black lines on it, and (because my parents hated weapons) a pillowcase stuffed with candy as my only armament.

In other words, Luke was the Count Chocula to my Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows, which, while okay, are quickly defrocked as an imitator to the chocolaty standard of limited edition Halloween cereals.

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To Kellogg’s credit, Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows get the job done as a snacking cereal. There’s a savory and sweet thing that goes on with the cocoa-glazed flakes, which still have that crunchy, malted corn aftertaste of original Frosted Flakes. But the cocoa flavor is mild and varies from flake to flake, while the marshmallows are just bad. Sure they look cool; a deconstructed skeleton beats the ambiguously-shaped blobs that Count Chocula claims are bats, but the Frosted Flakes marshmallows lack a sturdy texture ideal for snacking or a long soaking in milk.

And it’s in milk that Tony the Tiger’s Halloween cereal is stripped of its chocolate costume. The cocoa quickly flows off the flakes, but the end-milk, while darkly colored like a Halloween night, tastes nothing like the cocoa-infused milk left behind by Count Chocula, Cocoa Puffs, or other tier one chocolate cereals. Combined with the marshmallows, it’s just a hyper sweet bowl of milk with faraway (far, far away) notes of cocoa powder.

Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows are an okay novelty cereal that will do in a pinch, but like that flimsy Stormtrooper mask and loose-fitting “armored” smock that I wore for Halloween as a kid, the cereal is too easily unmasked. And with the chocolate covered spirit of Halloween in good and cocoa-powder stained hands with Count Chocula, Chocolate Frosted Flakes with Marshmallows probably won’t be making a repeat appearance in my pantry next year.

(Nutrition Facts – 30 grams – 100 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 150 mg of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugars, and 1 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.74
Size: 9.5 oz. box
Purchased at: United Supermarket
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Enjoyable cocoa and milled corn flavor when eaten as a snack. Marshmallows provide a needed textural contrast to the crunchy frosted flakes. Creative use of a marshmallow artwork.
Cons: Not as chocolaty as Count Chocula and leaves nonexistent chocolate end-milk. Marshmallows aren’t as sturdy as Count Chocula. Wait, are the skeletons from people Tony the Tiger ate? My stupid fourth grade Halloween costume.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Cereal

Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Cereal

Pumpkin spice presents an existential crisis for the creative writer.

There is only so much that can said about it. What there is to say has been said before, said again, and then said in a different way. Chances are the same trite expression about pushing autumn in August, or the long litany of pumpkin spice products now available to us, is currently being wrestled onto the page of another food blog. We, the pumpkin spice addicts of America, have long since typed our love affair with the orange gourd and its seminal flavors into a monotony of clichés.

This is a damn shame, because when done right, pumpkin spice should not be reduced to a cliché.

Take the new Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.

This is limited edition cereal to end all limited edition cereals; the kind of product that’s worth stocking up on from the beginning of August and then rationing out through the polar onslaught of December and humid days of July.

To be fair, we should have expected this much. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios were announced back in the spring when Strawberry Cheerios came out, and given the success of the spring flavor, Cheerios let us know they’re not doing this LTO thing half-ass.

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Case in point, Pumpkin Spice Cheerios don’t taste like cinnamon. The flavor isn’t the cheap heavy note of cassia, nor is it the honey or brown sugar sweetness that often comes along for the pumpkin spice ride. Likewise, this is not the repackaged taste of Honey Nut Cheerios or Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios are pumpkin spice Cheerios. There’s the sweet fragrant note of nutmeg, the aromatic warmth of clove, and, yes, the flavors of cinnamon and ginger.

Lest you think this is just a pumpkin spice flavor, there is some serious sweet pumpkin flavor going on in each of those oat rings. The addition of real pumpkin in the ingredients makes a world of difference when eating the cereal in milk, where the sublime essence of pumpkin desserts comes to life.

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Yes, sublime essence. Think of it as that moment when crust component, pumpkin component, and dairy meet. Here the warming and exotic notes of spices co-mingle with the sweetened taste of pumpkin and the richness of milk. A hearty crunch filled with sweetened dairy and a bit of milkfat greets eats spoonful, and in that moment the eater relives everything that is right about the cool breeze of October and the multicolored leaves that drift to the ground.

I may have chomped down on my first bite on a 95-degree day in west Texas, but if I would have closed my eyes and blasted a fan in my face then I’m pretty sure I could have fooled myself into believing it was autumn. It sure tasted that way.

Based on the rapidly growing list of pumpkin spice cereals entering the market, we’ll soon have the proverbial cornucopia to choose from. I don’t doubt many of these cereals will be good, but few, I’m willing to bet, will be able to match the appeal of Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 grams – 110 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 120 mg of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.98
Size: 21 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Outstanding representation of the complexity of pumpkin spices that exceeds the dull and heavy cinnamon flavor sometimes assigned to pumpkin spice. Sweet, hearty taste of oat base. Wonderful rich flavor in milk that tastes like the edge of a pumpkin pie or bar.
Cons: Could be a tad sweeter and have a “glaze” like Honey Nut Cheerios. The creative struggle to explain the appeal of pumpkin spice.