REVIEW: Keebler Limited Batch Cinnamon Roll Fudge Stripes Cookies

Keebler Limited Batch Cinnamon Roll Fudge Stripes Cookies

Those funny little tree dwelling elves at Keebler really caught my attention last year. After being pushed to the back of my junk food brain, they officially put Fudge Stripes back on the map with killer Birthday Cake and Peppermint flavors that stood up to all of the limited release cookies I had in 2016.

To the resounding excitement of cinna-sluts like myself all across the nation, they’re kicking off 2017 with a Cinnamon Roll rendition of their famous striped confections.

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Immediately the rich robust smell of cinnamon and vanilla icing float out of the cool brown package. The aroma mimics that unmistakable head-turning scent that wafts out all Cinnabon’s in the finest shopping malls of America, resulting in the starry-eyed activation of the salivary glands.

The crunchy snap of the cookie is more pronounced than your average Fudge Stripe, which tends to occupy that space right between a soft and hard cookie. Leading the flavor is a soft cinnamon rush that is beautiful and balanced by the the thick and smooth vanilla glaze. It has a little bit less of a buttery taste than the usual Stripes’ shortbread base, and the dark tan cookie is speckled with brown giving an even and full cinnamon burst in every bite.

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The overall flavor is less sweet than their standard cookie but also not too aggressively spiced. For people who love cinnamon, like myself, there’s enough to satisfy, but not so much that they would turn someone off who may be more adverse to a strongly spiced cookie. Taste-wise the product they are most reminiscent of are cinnamon Teddy Grahams.

Keebler Limited Batch Cinnamon Roll Fudge Stripes Cookies 4

Unlike an Oreo, there’s no real way to separate the baked base from the coating, but it’s pretty apparent that the cinnamon comes from the brown speckled cookie and the sweetness driven by the glaze. Surprisingly, the frosting flavor comes across much sweeter in the smell than it does on the tongue, which makes me feel like I could eat approximately 45 of these before any kind of “stop” registers in my brain.

For cookies that were baked inside of a tree, these are an impressive and satisfying take on one of Saturday morning’s greatest indulgences. Hopefully the Keebler clan can continue to channel their elfin voodoo and crank out a pancakes and syrup flavor so I will never have to cook breakfast again.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 11.5 oz package
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Perfect cinnamon bun smell. Amazing cookie crunch. Balanced cinnamon and vanilla flavor. Potential to save breakfast cooking time in the future.
Cons: Could use some yeasty bread “roll” flavor.

REVIEW: Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies

Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies

Candy Canes and Cookies.

It has a cute ring to it, doesn’t it? Like the title of a baking blog, or a children’s Christmas story, or even a specialty store that sells holiday-themed socks. But eaten together?

Sure, we’ve had Candy Cane Oreo Cookies, but a part of me has always felt the confection world should never be combined with the creaming method world. It’s sort of like fish and cheese. Conventional wisdom tells us these things just don’t “go” together, and far be it for drumming up iconoclasm once Christmas comes around.

Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies change all that. It really shouldn’t be a surprise; I mean, these are cookies baked by magical elves. Yes, they may live in a tree owned by Kellogg’s, but I like to think of the Keebler elves as cousins to Santa’s elves, except more proficient in cookie making than toy making.

And let me tell you something: The Keebler elves nail the cookie thing here, just like how Santa’s elves nailed my 1997 request for a Nintendo Gameboy. The familiar shortbread cookie base is crunchy, buttery, and not overpoweringly sweet; small bursts of red nonpareils lend a sweet sugar cookie vibe, while the white fudge coating further adds to the frosting-like texture of the cookie.

Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies 2

Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies 4

As for the peppermint taste, it’s right where it needs to be. The danger with peppermint anything is that the floral, light taste of mint overwhelms the taste buds and makes you feel like you’re eating a Tic-Tac. Thankfully, that is not the case with these cookies. The peppermint taste is there, but it’s not that rush of winter freshness that comes from binging on a box of candy canes (pro tip: not good). Instead, the floral taste gives a cool relief to the frosting-like white fudge, which has a rich vanilla sweetness.

Keebler Limited Batch Peppermint Fudge Stripes Cookies 3

While Keebler’s elves are clearly taking a page from Santa’s elves in the design of a Christmas themed cookie, what they haven’t managed to do is perfect a flawless packaging and delivery system. The same nonresealable package that plagues Fudge Stripes houses the limited edition cookie, while the white fudge coating had melted by the time I opened the package. The ensuing peppermint white fudge, while lickable and probably awesome on cupcakes, was stickier and harder to wash off my paws than the sugar coating of a half-eaten candy cane.

You gotta give it to the Keebler elves. After years of offering plain Fudge Stripes (which are delicious) they’ve tinkered their treehouse production facilities and expanded into pumpkin spice, birthday cake, cookies & creme, and now peppermint. I’m not saying these would be a great cookie to leave out for Santa, but yeah, with the frosted shortbread cookie vibe, crunchy vanilla, and peppermint sweetness, I am kind of saying that.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories from fat, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of sat fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, 0 grams of fiber, and less than 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 11.5 oz
Purchased at: United Supermarkets
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Fresh and floral peppermint taste that doesn’t linger on your tongue like a candy cane. Crunchy shortbread cookie with rich white fudge and crunchy vanilla flavor. Would make a solid seasonal ice cream sandwich base.
Cons: Keebler’s absolute reluctance to embrace resealable packaging. White fudge coating can melt and be messy. Limited appeal for non-peppermint lovers. The politics of elf family trees.

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: Angie’s Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn

Angie’s Holidrizzle Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn

Every time I see a bag of Angie’s kettle corn with the words “BOOM CHICKA POP” in gigantic type, 70’s porn music pops into my head. Why? Because “bow chicka wow wow” is like the emoji for porn movie music.

But I did not buy Angie’s Holidrizzle Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn because of the porn music bumpin’ in my head. I bought it because there hasn’t been an Angie’s Holidrizzle flavor that’s disappointed me, and I thought this flavor would continue that streak.

And you’ve probably figured out that by ending the previous paragraph with that sentence, I’ve pretty much told you I did not care for this hot cocoa and marshmallow-flavored kettle corn.

Opening the bag brings out a pleasant Cracker Jack—like aroma, but one opened bag and two minutes later I asked myself, “Where did Angie’s go wrong?”

The front of the bag says, “contains nothing but ingredients you’ll love.” Cane sugar…love. Popcorn…love. Sunflower oil…like. Palm kernel oil…like. Nonfat dry milk…like. Cocoa powder…love. Sea salt…love. Natural flavors…not sure what they are. Soy lecithin…I could go either way.

So I love most of its ingredients, but I don’t love its flavor. It just doesn’t taste right. It doesn’t come close to tasting anything like hot cocoa and marshmallows. At times, there’s a flavor that reminds me of toffee. But at other times, there’s a flavor that I would describe as sweet plastic. Maybe the kettle corn’s flavor is an abstract interpretation of hot cocoa and marshmallows, and the sweet plasticiness represents the marshmallow and its pliability.

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Where does this sweet plastic flavor come from? My guess is that I should be blaming the chocolate drizzle, which fortunately wasn’t liberally drizzled over the kettle corn. But once the chocolate drizzle melts away, it tastes like standard kettle corn.

Angie’s Holidrizzle Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn isn’t gross enough to make me throw away four-fifths of the bag, go back to Target to demand my money back, or use it as coal in a Christmas stocking to punish the naughty. After all, I did end up finishing the bag, albeit slowly. But out of all the new hot cocoa-flavored products I’ve tried this year, this has got to be my least favorite.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 cups – 140 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 3.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Angie’s Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn
Purchased Price: $3.29
Size: 4.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Not totally gross. Least favorite hot cocoa-flavored product I’ve tried this season. Contains ingredients that I love.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like hot cocoa and marshmallows. At times it has a sweet plastic flavor. Having 70’s porn music pop up in my head every time I see a bag of Angie’s popcorn.

REVIEW: Hershey’s S’mores Pudding

Hershey's S'mores Pudding

Every time I’ve had s’mores, whether it’s at a barbecue using the hot coals to toast marshmallows or at a Boy Scout camp I really didn’t want to be at and faked dehydration to try to get a one way ticket home, I used Hershey’s chocolate. And I’m sure for many of you that chocolate from Pennsylvania is also what you use for s’mores.

Hershey’s is taking advantage of its chocolate being the default candy choice for s’mores by using it to sell pudding that’s not made by Hershey’s, but Kraft.

Hershey’s S’mores Pudding is a layered dessert. The top layer, I assume by its color, is supposed to be marshmallow flavored. Also, the top layer, I assume because there aren’t any actual graham cracker bits in the pudding, is also graham flavored.

It has an airy texture that I believe Yoplait and Jif would call “whipped” and Jello would call “mousse.” Well, I’d like to call it not marshmallow-y or graham cracker-y.

The bottom layer is chocolate pudding made with real Hershey’s cocoa. Sure, I’ll believe what the packaging says, even though my tongue thinks it tastes similar to other chocolate pudding served in plastic cups with foil lids.

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When both layers are consumed together, it does remind me of s’mores eaten around the campfire in the middle of a forest, if those s’mores were made with just chocolate because someone forgot to bring marshmallows and graham crackers and it’s a pain to get them because we’re in the middle of a frickin’ forest, Steve.

The top whipped layer does change the flavor of the chocolate pudding, but not really in a good way. Oddly, the top layer has a bit of a cocoa flavor, which you’d think would enhance the chocolate pudding. But instead of enhancing, it lessens its flavor. I know that doesn’t make sense, but going camping with chocolate and no marshmallows and graham crackers also makes no sense, Steve.

Hershey’s S’mores Pudding is perfectly fine as a chocolate pudding and the two different textures are nice, but don’t expect memories of summer campfires to appear in your head as you scoop it into your mouth because I don’t think s’mores when I eat it. The only way you can experience s’mores with this pudding is if you rub some of it on your hands, making it appear to be as messy as eating an actual s’more.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 snack – 110 calories, 25 calories from fat, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 16 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 4% vitamin A, 4% calcium, and 2% iron.)

Item: Hershey’s S’mores Pudding
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 4 pack
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Fine as a chocolate pudding. Two different textures are nice. Barbecues.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like s’mores. Top whipped layer doesn’t enhance bottom chocolate pudding. Can’t tell Hershey’s cocoa is being used. Forgetting the marshmallows and graham crackers when going camping, Steve.

REVIEW: Little Debbie Pumpkin Spice Rolls

Little Debbie Pumpkin Spice Rolls

Little Debbie is a girl who’s got dresses for every season, every holiday, and every occasion. I can imagine her right now examining her extensive wardrobe of flavors. “No, a Boston Creme Roll won’t do for June, nor will a Strawberry Shortcake Roll quite capture September. I must put on something distinctly autumnal!”

Of course, something “distinctively autumnal” means changing out the vanilla cake with “pumpkin spice.” But is Little Debbie’s beauty only skin deep? Are all the dresses and flavors just scaffolds covering a stale, cloyingly sweet snack cake whose best days are long behind her?

Little Debbie Pumpkin Spice Rolls 2

Clearly, further investigation was in order. Each individually wrapped roll is easy on the eyes, their orange hue are attractive this time of year. A drizzle of icing and voluptuous cream filling practically spills out of the cake, and despite a $1.99 price tag and and no mention of pumpkin on its ingredient list, I fell hard.

But after trying them, I realized the rolls are all style and no substance. A pretty face but no personality. There’s pumpkin-flavored, pumpkin spice-flavored, and then there’s these; orange with specks of brown suggesting cinnamon and nutmeg which just aren’t there. Through many pumpkin seasons, I’ve learned few pumpkin products can ever live up to the platonic idea of a pumpkin pie. But as for the Little Debbie Pumpkin Spice Rolls, this brings pumpkin spice to a new low.

That said, I can’t turn away from Little Debbie. I can’t just shoot her a text and be like, “Hey, that’s cool, but yea, no.” To tell you the truth, I kind of liked them, albeit in a secret rendezvous, tell absolutely nobody about this sort of way.

The cake is at first dense, chewy, and hyper sweet, a common theme the icing carries on with a fake vanilla flavor. Yet the filling, normally a mix of confectioner’s sugar and cream cheese in traditional pumpkin or pumpkin spice rolls, is where it’s at.

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If I didn’t know better, I would have said Little Debbie robbed a Hostess plant, because the filling tastes exactly like what’s in a Twinkie. It’s lighter than you’d expect, but ooey-gooey just the same, degenerating into a cloying and sticky cream that has just enough artificial palm oil richness to make you sort of put it in the realm of Oreo filling.

Little Debbie: I’m on to your game. And frankly, all these bells and whistles of the seasons, the changing of the dresses, they work and they don’t work. Your Pumpkin Spice Rolls offer absolutely nothing seasonal, and although the Twinkie filling and super sweet cake may be enough to make schmucks like me enjoy them, they won’t be confused for an actual pumpkin spice roll.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 roll – 260 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 1.0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 270 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Little Debbie Pumpkin Spice Rolls
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 6 pack
Purchased at: United Supermarkets
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Twinkie-inspired cream filling. Super-sweet and ooey-gooey. Moist and dense cake. Giving into childhood cravings. Perhaps the first Little Debbie product I’ve found without partially hydrogenated oil.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like pumpkin or pumpkin spice. Very one note in sweetness. Not nearly as good as the pumpkin roll your mother made, or the one you bought at the Walmart bakery. Incredibly messy to eat.