REVIEW: Skippy Graham Cracker P.B. Bites

Skippy Graham Cracker P.B. Bites

Let’s get one thing straight. Skippy’s Graham Cracker P.B. Bites aren’t “bites.”

They’re balls.

Which is fine, because the country is in love with balls right now. You’ve got Pokemon Go, baseball season, Powerball, and the Olympics crowding the scene, but Skippy’s Graham Cracker P.B. Bites are what you should be focusing on.

Skippy introduced their P.B. Bites line about a year ago with Double Peanut Butter and Pretzel varieties, and they’ve proven to be a hit with the public. I’d never noticed the P.B. Bites previously because choosy reviewers like me choose Jif, but for TIB I decided to give it a shot and picked up a pack of their new Graham Cracker variety.

The P.B. Bites come in small cup-holder sized containers, because I assume Skippy thought people might take a swill of these during the morning commute. While I advise against that (due to the legal threat of causing something similar to a Pokemon Go-induced car accident), the peanut butter poppers are certainly portable and are easy to take to work or school.

Upon opening the package, I was hit with a strong wave of peanut butter scent. The smell is of a nicely roasted peanut butter, and gave off none of the artificial notes you may typically find in the peanut butter candy at the bottom of your Halloween spoils.

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The P.B. Bites glisten in the light (note to self: make Mom a peanut butter diamond necklace for Christmas), and that sheen is indicative of the oily nature of the balls. Since the bites’ exteriors are coated in peanut butter, they’re soft and tacky to the touch and can only be handled for a few moments before eating (lest you want to have a real big mess on your hands). Thankfully though, the bites aren’t sticky, so you’ll be able to pop a few before getting club hand.

While you may expect the P.B. Bites have a little bit of chew to them, this is furthest from the case. The soft peanut butter exterior of the balls melts away to reveal a small, crunchy graham cracker center. The peanut butter tastes surprisingly more natural than what you typically expect from a jar of Skippy, with a deep peanut flavor. And while peanut butter from the jar has a tendency to collect on the roof of your mouth, I am pleased to share that Skippy’s P.B. Bites do no such thing. Glass of milk be gone!

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Regrettably, while the Bites’ crunch is satisfying, the tiny graham cracker center lacks any discernible flavor and is overwhelmed by the peanut butter. This makes sense, because I can imagine if I covered myself in peanut butter and ate myself, I’d be incredibly delicious. And while the bites may not provide any graham cracker flavor, you’ll find yourself not caring because the rest of the bite is just so damn good.

Overall, with their natural flavor and pleasing crunch, Skippy’s Graham Cracker P.B. Bites are a pleasant snack that any peanut butter connoisseur would appreciate. Just don’t try to throw one at a Charizard.

(Nutrition Facts – 15 pieces – 160 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 6 oz. tub
Purchased at: Star Market
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Pop ‘em in your Pontiac. Natural peanut butter taste. Satisfying crunch. Good for people with Arachibutyrophobia.
Cons: Melts in your hand and also in your mouth. Tiny, flavorless center. Thoughts of self-cannibalism.

REVIEW: Pillsbury Limited Edition Peanut Butter & Strawberry Toaster Strudel

Pillsbury Limited Edition Peanut Butter & Strawberry Toaster Strudel

For the better part of four years as a TIB reviewer, I have maintained a nearly impeccable streak that few writers in the colorfully chemical world of nutritionally devoid junk food can lay claim to.

I have kept poop references to an absolute minimum.

There have been one or two Fiber One one-liners, maybe some vague references to flatulence, and the occasional, you know what that looks like…, but never have I just come out and said something I’ve eaten looks like poop and pretty much tastes as vile as you could imagine. In other words, like, yeah…

But like Jerry Seinfeld’s barfless streak, Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak, and Don Gorske’s Big Mac streak, my ability to hold out from using the most primal of negative food metaphors has expired. I believe the technical term for moments like this is that the shit has hit the fan.

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Skippy Peanut Butter (left) Peanut butter-flavored icing (right)

There is just no other way to describe the artificial peanut butter flavored filling of the Pillsbury Limited Edition Peanut Butter & Strawberry Toaster Strudel. That I am supposed to refer to this brown goo as icing just makes me want to throw up.

Icing is something you want to nibble off a day-old glazed donut; icing is what made Santa Claus fat in the process of hundreds of years of sugar cookie eating; icing is not, and never shall be, a cloying fake peanut butter taste that leaves you with a metallic and bitter alcohol flavor in your mouth when you should be enjoying a PB&J.

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If you’re a baker, you might recognize the flavor I’m talking about. It’s the flavor of imitation peanut butter extract; noticeably synthetic, with a cough-syrup like alcohol aftertaste, it’s made all the worse by a horribly out-of-place sweetness. There’s no saltiness, no lip-smacking fatty mouthfeel, and definitely no roasted depth. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the Pillsbury Doughboy is allergic to peanuts.

Oh yeah, and the icing looks like poop.

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Thankfully, the D.I.Y. nature of the Toaster Strudel provides a saving grace. Since the packets of the icing are separate, one can simply avoid them like one would avoid, well, foods that are known to cause gastrointestinal distress. Eaten completely without peanut butter, the toaster strudel is fine: The strawberry jelly is admirable for a frozen product, while the flaky layers provide buttery croissant notes.

Adding your own peanut butter makes the pastry delicious, but you’ve probably figured that out by now. Humans have only been enjoying the combination for a gazillion years*, and the slightly caramelized edges of the golden-brown strudel give the combination an unexpected richness that will make you want to start making PB&Js out of croissants.

Overall, the spokesman and chief baker for Pillsbury didn’t just forget to put on a pair of pants, he forgot to put actual peanut butter in his peanut butter and jelly Toaster Strudels.

What follows is one of the more disgusting visuals in frozen breakfasts, not to mention an abrupt goodbye to one of the best streaks in junk food blogging. It’s a shame, really, because all other things being equal, the Toaster Strudels aren’t so bad. Just make sure you get rid of the “icing” ASAP and have jar of Jif close at hand.

*approximate

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pastry with icing – 180 calories, 6 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 180 mg of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugars, 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 11.7 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: A fine and scrumptious flaky layered pastry without the poop-inspired peanut butter flavored icing. Surprisingly balanced buttery crust with sweet, gooey strawberry jelly. More substantial eating than a Pop-Tart.
Cons: The absolute vilest and most repulsive peanut butter flavored product I have ever put into this temple I call my body. Peanut butter icing tastes like a 50-50 mix of sweet and low and peanut butter flavored extract. Poopless review streak coming to an ignominious end.

REVIEW: Pillsbury Girl Scouts Thin Mints Brownie Mix

Pillsbury Girl Scouts Thin Mints Brownie Mix

Before we begin, let me say this: don’t Google “Pillsbury Doughgirl.”

I did so with the intention of cracking some joke about how the Pillsbury Doughboy shouldn’t be allowed on this box of Girl Scouts Thin Mints Brownie Mix, but instead I learned three things:

  • Yes, there was a female “Poppie Fresh” mascot introduced in the ‘70s, but fans still weirdly debate whether she’s the Doughboy’s wife or sister.
  • It only takes creepy internet photographers two Google image search results to make these mascots’ relationship disturbingly erotic.
  • The Urban Dictionary definition of “Pillsbury Dough Girl” would make even George Carlin blush.

So excuse me as I unplug my computer and mourn the loss of my innocence by cramming an 8”x8” rectangle of baked chocolate mint goodness into my mouth.

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The brownie mix itself is pale brown and floury: the kind of messy stuff you’ll inevitably end up wearing like a cocoa powder apron. It tastes like a pulverized Junior Mint mixed with beach sand.

The recipe is so easy a blob of anthropomorphized crescent roll dough could make it. It only requires water, oil, and an egg, so just raid your nearest public swimming pool, Jiffy Lube, and McDonald’s All-Day Breakfast to procure the necessary ingredients.

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After the specified 50 strokes of a spoon, what’s left is a decadent and thick chocolate batter studded with little square chocolate chunks. I popped a solid chocolate square in my mouth, and it popped back with a rich, slightly bitter chocolate mint bite —- a lot like an Andes Mint.

With a perfect golden ratio of chocolate to mint, the batter tasted so good raw I didn’t want to bake it. But salmonella might’ve been what killed the Pillsbury Doughgirl, so I let it sit in the oven for 30 minutes while wondered — in a chocolate daze — whether that minty fresh brown batter is what courses through the Doughboy’s veins to keep him Poppin’ Fresh.

When I finally opened my oven, a gust of mint chocolate scented air smacked me like a water balloon filled with Shamrock Shakes. After my bubbling cocoa lava brownies cooled, I dug in with the voracity of a cartoon caveman.

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Yep, these taste exactly like Thin Mints. Like any sane human, I prefer my brownies gooey in the middle and crispy on the crust, and this helped recreate the “crisp cookie enrobed in creamy chocolate” textural contrast of the famous Girl Scout Cookie.

These Thin Mint Brownies lack a lot of the traditional vanilla-tinged, eggy fudge flavor of other brownies, mostly because the pleasant and pervasive buzz of peppermint usurps its place. The milk chocolate and sweetened cocoa brownie base, meanwhile, is still appropriately moist, and the formerly solid chocolate morsels provide welcome land mine bursts of magmatic, minty chocolate liqueur.

I can’t recommend these brownies to everyone, because loving mint is an obvious prerequisite. Girl Scout Cookie consumers tend to be loyal to a specific cookie, and because Thin Mints are tied for 3rd in my book — right behind Do-Si-Dos and my personal, peanut buttery Tagalong messiahs — I thought these brownies were just slightly above average.

On the other hand, those who can casually empty a roll of Thin Mints like it’s a peeled banana will give satisfied merit badges to these complexly chocolatized delights.

Wait, how half-baked and dumb do I have to be to think “chocolatized” is a real word? Did the Doughboy put another “special green” ingredient in these brownies?

(Nutrition Facts – 1/12 package, as prepared – 190 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 14.1 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Authentic Thin Mint texture. Ooey-gooey-kablooey chocolate morsel explosions. Declaring “Tagalongology” as my official religion. Chocolatize me, Cap’n!
Cons: Fudge droughts. A criminal lack of Do-Si-Do brownies. Feeling half-baked after eating half-baked brownies. The number of red squiggles spellcheck gave this review.

REVIEW: Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition S’mores Rolls

Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition S'mores Rolls

The Pillsbury Doughboy is back at it again but this time on the s’mores bandwagon and he’s totally woo-hooing for the wrong team! Like most bandwagoners, it’s not entirely his fault. He’ll soon realize that s’mores-flavored products are quickly joining the ranks of other craze-du-jour-flavored products. Cue the lineup of failed Pumpkin Spice, Red Velvet, Apple-flavored products because it’s all hype & poor execution, buddy!

I’m sad to share that the Limited Edition Pillsbury Grands S’mores Rolls are no exception. To sum up the experience: shaky start, better second half but ultimately still couldn’t deliver.

Here’s the play-by-play:

After the satisfying Pillsbury packaging pop, a pungent chocolate-esque smell creeps its way into my olfactory receptors. I say chocolate-esque because it smells like most artificial packaged chocolate smells: sickeningly sweet and nothing like what real chocolate smells like. Offensive foul for the Doughboy.

As the dough oozes its way out of the popped container, I am geeking out a little bit about the icing packaging. I was wondering how Pillsbury would fit icing in their neat cylindrical package. While it does mean I’m one roll short, the icing itself is packaged like it’s a part of the dough roll – in a small, plastic cylindrical container at the end. Clever!

Of course, I can’t help but try the white icing goop. It unfortunately and fortunately doesn’t taste like anything. I say unfortunately because if this is supposed to be the marshmallow part, it fails miserably like an airball. I also say fortunately because I’ve been known to eat all icing before it actually makes it onto the baked good.

The naked, uneven dough plops look really unappetizing on the baking sheet. They’re different sizes because it was hard to rip apart evenly. Sloppy pass here, Pillsbury.

The packaging says to bake for 23 – 29 minutes so I set my oven timer for 26 minutes – middle ground is safe right?! While the rolls were baking, the chocolate filling actually started to smell like my favorite thing in the world: fresh baked cookies! I could smell the chocolate filling warming up from artificial chocolate to rich deliciousness.

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After some risin’ and golden brownin’, the rolls come out looking way better than how they looked going in. However, I immediately notice that it’s a little crispy on the outside. This could absolutely be user error, but this never happens with the biscuits!

Before I begin the daunting task of icing the 350 degree Fahrenheit swirls, I try the roll sans icing. Gnawing my way through the sweet chocolate filling, I notice that there’s a slight savoriness to the dough itself – very reminiscent of Pillsbury biscuits. That biscuit-like savoriness proves to be the saving grace for the tasteless icing. When I do canvas on the icing, like Durant and Westbrook, the icing and more-savory dough work real well together.

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However, the icing to roll ratio is completely off; I only got through about three rolls before I ran out of icing. When I ran out, I turned to ice cream instead. I’m all about textures and temperatures and ice cream is the perfect complement. Icing, schmicing!

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While Pillsbury has a strong overall record, the Limited Edition Pillsbury Grands S’mores Rolls just can’t pull off the W. The dough itself is hard to work with and over bakes way too easily. Its teammates – chocolate filling and icing – can’t make up for the dough’s overpowering oafishness. As Limited Edition S’mores Rolls fades into irrelevance, I’ll be posted up at Cinnabon. Better luck next limited edition season!

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Roll with Icing – 300 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 540 milligrams of sodium, 54 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 17.5 oz.
Purchased at: Vons
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Rolls come out looking & smelling way better baked. Smells like fresh baked cookies! Savory dough works well.
Cons: Artificial chocolate = offensive foul for the Doughboy. Naked, uneven dough plops. Icing, schmicing!

REVIEW: Betty Crocker Krispy Kreme Cake Mix

Betty Crocker Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Cake Mix with Original Doughnut Glaze

In my eyes, there are only two kinds of ring-shaped confections. There are donuts, and there are doughnuts.

Donuts fit the technical definition of “sweet fried dessert made from yeast or cake,” but only doughnuts have that extra bit of greatness that sets them above other pastries. It could be a magical moistness, or perhaps a glaze that caresses my arteries with a loving embrace of death that whispers, “Shhh, no more tears. Only dreams now.”

The divine tastiness of doughnuts is right there in the name. DoUGHnuts: the very same ecstatic and nearly orgasmic “UGH” that I emit when biting into a decadent doughnut.

So that’s my one question for Betty Crocker’s Krispy Kreme Cake Mix. Is it gonna be a donut…or a doughnut?

The mix can be made into a cake or several cupcakes, but since I’m a grown ass man and not an elementary school kid forced to bring in treats for his own birthday (seriously, what’s up with that tradition?), I’m going to make a sheet of buttery flour that’s big enough to double as a pillow.

Betty Crocker Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Cake Mix with Original Doughnut Glaze 2

When it comes to baking, I’m a little less Wolfgang Puck and a little more Wolfgang “F*** It,” so I’m glad I only have to toss water, eggs, and oil into the mix and go (dough)nuts with a whisk.

I spend 40 agonizing minutes watching my oven gestate and give birth to a warm, custard-colored baby. It’s just like any real birth, only with more drool and a slightly lower chance of me soiling myself from exertion.

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It’s a boy! Err…maybe a girl. Who cares: I’ll name it Kris.

Time for glazing. The box insists with odd specificity that I must squeeze the glaze pouch ten—count ‘em—ten (10) times before opening. I don’t want the vengeful ghost of Betty Crocker to bludgeon me with a stale Honey Cruller, so I follow orders.

The charming white goo inside tastes just like Krispy Kreme’s infamous glaze: a perfect, slightly gritty mix of sugar, corn syrup, milk, and magical unicorn blood (probably). It takes all the restraint I have to not plunge a Capri Sun straw into the pouch and suck it dry until I die shortly after.

Betty Crocker Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Cake Mix with Original Doughnut Glaze 4

After I glaze it like the world’s largest Toaster Strudel, my cake baby is ready for eating. Please don’t mention that last sentence at my future wife’s baby shower.

So what’s the verdict?

Dough yeah, baby.

The cake’s fluffy innards may be light and pillowy like most Betty Crocker cakes (and not at all like an actual doughnut), but the flavor differentiates itself with a noticeable sour cream tang and a pleasant lemon zest finish.

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The real winning part of the cake is the gooey, sticky meeting point between golden browned cake and glaze. It does an admirable job of mimicking the fried and mouth-watering exterior of a Krispy Kreme. In fact, it’s so good that I was tempted to scalp my cake and eat just the top layer like a greedy child licking the creme from an Oreo.

With that being said, I was ready to give this cake mix top marks. But then I remembered that I could have walked down the grocery aisle and bought a half dozen actual Krispy Kremes for the same price, which would’ve been a whole lot more sour cream tang for my buck.

So while this Krispy Kreme mix rises above Betty Crocker’s other cake mixes, it doesn’t quite reach the level of the real, doughnutty thing.

If you wanna rise that high, Betty, you’re gonna need a lot more yeast.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/9 of cake as prepared – 280 calories, 100 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 230 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams dietary fiber, 28 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein..)

Item: Betty Crocker Krispy Kreme Cake Mix
Purchased Price: $2.69
Size: 16.3 oz. box
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Getting as close to a doughnut as a cake can possibly aspire. Golden brown cake scalps. Cryptozoological glaze. Watching the miracle of birth at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cons: Still just a cake wearing a doughnut Halloween costume. Over-airy cake guts. Possibly divisive lemon flavor. Feeling glazed & confused after too much sugar.

REVIEW: Pepperidge Farm Limited Edition Banana Chocolate Milano Cookies

Pepperidge Farm Limited Edition Banana Chocolate Milano Cookies

As I sit here gazing out at mounds of dirty snow piled as far as the eye can see, I dream of a better place.

So disillusioned, I choose to believe a bite into Pepperidge Farm’s new Banana Chocolate Milano cookie will result in a reverse York Peppermint Patty effect and I will be whisked away to beautiful Milan, Italy.

Perhaps one single bite will send me to a tropical island, where I can pluck ripe bananas straight from a tree. We’ll soon find out.

It seems wild to call a cookie that is shelved right next to fish-shaped crackers aimed at children “decadent,” but that’s the word that comes to mind when I think of a Milano.

I’m of the opinion you can’t screw up a Milano. I’ve tried plenty of varieties and liked em all. I’m also a massive banana groupie (that doesn’t sound right) so I have no doubts these would be winners.

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I don’t know what it is with Pepperidge Farm’s packaging, but I never seem to open it properly. After tearing the bag to shreds, I was hit with an unmistakable banana scent that perked me up. It reminded me of the smell when you walk into a bakery. I was now ready to be whisked away.

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When I took the first bite into the wafer, nothing happened. The world isn’t fair.

It tasted as if the wafer had a bit of banana flavor baked in. But I couldn’t really tell if it was the banana filling bleeding through. I’m pleading ignorance here. I think it just tasted that way since it’s such an airy wafer. That’s one of the best parts about Milano, the crunchy, but not at all dense cookie.

I put it in my mouth and inhaled it like a total weirdo. Who does that? I essentially tried to smoke a cookie. I can tell you there is a nice banana…um, air when you try to smoke a cookie. Don’t smoke cookies, kids.

It wasn’t until I hit the center that the banana flavor come out in full force.

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There’s a thin layer of banana filling with the familiar chocolate layer. It had a similar texture to the chocolate. The bag actually refers to it as “banana flavored chocolate.”

Here’s my question: Where has “banana flavored chocolate” been my entire life? This was a revelation for me. I mean, I’m sure plenty of products have used a similar substance before, but why wasn’t I aware of it? I feel like I’ve missed so much. “Banana flavored chocolate” is awesome. I want more of this banana chocolate concoction in my life.

The banana is strong but not overly so. I think banana bread is very dependent on texture, but these should remind you of that flavor. Few things top a nice fresh slice of banana bread, but these are a great attempt at imitating the flavor in cookie form, with the added bonus of chocolate mixed in.

After the initial tasting, I kept a few aside to have with my morning coffee, and it was naturally a delicious pairing. Banana Chocolate Milano Cookies are a home run. As far as I’m concerned, Pepperidge Farm still hasn’t made a bad Milano.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Pepperidge Farm Limited Edition Banana Chocolate Milano Cookies
Purchased Price: $3.59
Size: 7 oz. (about 16 cookies)
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Banana flavored chocolate. Milano’s consistency. Airy wafer. Great for dipping. No artificial flavors or preservatives. A short reprieve from the winter blues.
Cons: No instant transportation properties in each bite. A rapidly growing cookie smoking habit. Fear of missing out on more banana flavored chocolate treats. Pain in the neck packaging. Limited edition.