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?

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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.

REVIEW: Combos Sweet & Salty Chocolate Fudge Pretzel

Combos Sweet & Salty Chocolate Fudge Pretzel

What the heck took so long?

Combos have been around since the mid 70s, but have only really ramped up production on their “sweet” varieties in the past year. I loved the Caramel Crème and Vanilla Frosting flavors, so why wouldn’t I snap-buy Chocolate Fudge? Seriously, how are these just coming out now after all these years?

Combos have been a staple of my diet since I was a kid. I’m pretty sure my typical lunch in high school was a Twix, a bag of Combos, and a Snapple. Times – and my metabolism – have changed to the point I can’t even remember the last non-sweet Combos I ate. I missed you, Combos. It’s good to have you back in my life. Let’s see if Chocolate Fudge can live up to my hype.

Well, they nailed the “salty” part of the name. Unfortunately, they slacked on the “sweet” part. I’m not 100 percent positive they delivered on the “chocolate fudge,” but you better believe they came through with the promise of “pretzel.” And you can “quote” me on that.

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You know what you’re gonna get from a Combos pretzel – it’s crispy, salty, and hollow – not the greatest pretzel in the world, but not the worst. For some reason, I didn’t remember just how salty they were. I guess I just figured a lot of the sodium was coming from the cheese filling.

I would say the only pretzel snack that packs more saltiness per piece is those terrible sticks I used to get in my elementary school lunch. Ya know, the ones in the yellow box? The ones I can easily Google the name of, but choose not to because I want you to dive into your memory bank and reminisce about simpler times. I’m sure it’ll pop into my head by the end of this review.

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The filling here tastes like a run of the mill chocolate icing… I think. It’s pretty dull. There is not nearly enough chocolate flavor. It gets lost in the salt and gives each piece a smokey burnt taste. I’ve gone on record as loving burnt snacks in the past, but when you’re promised a sweet element, it’s not nearly as enjoyable. I don’t normally crave more sweetness, but it definitely would have helped here. There wasn’t enough balance between the salty, crunchy pretzel and the smooth, sugary filling. I definitely recall Caramel Crème and Vanilla Frosting being sweeter.

I could be nitpicking. I understand these are a pretzel based snack, but the lack of a strong flavored filling really let me down. You’d get the occasional chocolate heavy piece, but it was almost instantly masked by the salt. More chocolate “fudge” flavor and I would have rated these 9 out of 10 pretty easily.

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Still, Combos are a classic snack, and the bag is just small enough to kill in one sitting, which leads me to more nitpicking. You know I love picking at the nits.

Sometimes serving sizes get on my nerves. Forgive the pun, but they really need to stop trying to sugar coat it. This bag shouldn’t be listed as six servings. Just make it a two serving bag and stop trying to bamboozle people by slapping a “130 calories” stamp on the front of the bag. No one is reaching into a bag of Combos and thinking, “Oh boy, these are good for me!” Who eats one ounce of anything? If I had to wager a guess, one ounce is like eight Combos. I can eat eight slices of pizza, why exactly am I stopping at eight Combos?

But I digest…

You kind folk came here to read a review about the taste of new Sweet & Salty Chocolate Fudge Combos, and I’m loading this article with way too much filler… unlike the Sweet and Salty Chocolate Fudge Combos. *fake golf swing.*

So all in all, these are good. They could have been great. You’ll still have no problem polishing off the entire bag. They probably aren’t going to curb your sweet cravings, but they might do fine as a savory snack replacement.

Combos has now blessed us with Caramel, Vanilla, and Chocolate. I’m anxiously awaiting the inevitable Peanut Butter revival. And after that, I want a mixed bag of all of them. Let’s turn these into the new Oreos and just go balls to the wall on potential sweet flavors.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 130 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 260 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 6 gram of sugars, 2 grams of protein, and 2% iron.)

Item: Combos Sweet & Salty Chocolate Fudge Pretzel
Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 6 oz. bag
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Good, but not great. Bag goes down easy. Good crunch. Chocolate and pretzel are a great mixture no matter what. Grade school memories. The occasional chocolate heavy piece.
Cons: Overly salty to me. Not enough filling. Overall weak chocolate taste. Not as good as other sweet Combos flavors. Customer bamboozling, My real golf swing. Took to long to produce. Bachman Pretzel Stix

REVIEW: Keebler Jif Cookies

Keebler Jif Cookies

If it’s really true that “Choosy Moms Choose Jif,” then that raises some interesting questions about these new Keebler Jif Cookies. Namely: with so many cookies to choose from, what do Keebler Elf mothers pack for their kids’ lunches?

All lingering questions regarding Keebler biology aside (if E.L. Fudge cookies are anatomically correct, then how can the Elves reproduce with fudge for guts?), my guess is that it’s these peanut buttery delights.

Why? Because eating them is like taking a nostalgic trip back to elementary school lunchtime. Allow me to guide you through the simulation:

As Mrs. Hartwell continues to drone on about the importance of “the cursive capital I,” all you can think about is how the letter kinda looks like an octopus holding a cup of tea. So you stare at her bizarre facial mole until the third period bell rings, heralding in the best part of the day: lunch. As everyone clamors to the haphazardly cleaned tables, you explore the depths of your Tiny Toon Adventures lunchbox. Tossing aside a Grape Capri Sun (Pacific Cooler is a way better flavor) and egg salad sandwich (shudder), you strike brown gold: a Ziploc full of Keebler Jif Cookies!

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With a scent like the oily innards of a Reese’s Cup wafting out of the baggy, you catch the hopeful stare of Benny Thompson. No way are you trading your cookies for his Fruit Roll-Up this time. You bite into one of the bumpy, fudge-coated rings (but not before wearing it like a mock pinky ring, as it’s perfectly sized for your young hands) and release an exaggerated “Mmmm!” Benny hides his jealousy with a Fruit Roll-Up.

They certainly aren’t attractive cookies, with the glossy fudge and protruding nuts making them look like something that Scooter, your family Basset Hound, would leave behind for the neighbor kids to put in a flaming paper bag. The fudge melts fast, too, so you hope no one misinterprets the brown smudges on your hands.

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Analyzing every layer reveals the treat as deceptively complicated. The cookie center is crispy and airy with a pleasant taste of cocoa. This is surrounded by a layer of diced peanuts that add a contrasting crunch texture and a bit of earthy saltiness to balance the resounding sweetness of the fudge, which is a bit overbearingly rich in that “you’ll be tasting this on your tongue for hours” kind of way. It’s strong enough to override the unique creaminess provided by the thin layer of Jif peanut butter inside, which is a shame, because the rare instances when the Jif’s nutty gooeyness shines through are the cookie’s most memorable parts.

After school, you immediately raid the cupboards before mom gets home. As any child would, you experiment and craft a sinful PB&J hors d’oeuvre that looks vaguely like Jabba the Hutt.

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Cookies like these naturally evoke such childlike creativity. Yes, it’s ridiculous, fattening, and a bit unnecessary, but it’s also the kind of experience you’ll remember fondly in 10 years.

At the end of the day, that’s just what these cookies are: an enjoyable escapade, but a forgettable flavor. As good as it is, it’s been done before: when absentmindedly stuffed into your mouth, the many flavors amalgamate and ultimately remind you of two very familiar ones: it’s just like a Keebler Fudge Stripe and a Little Debbie Nutty Bar made sweet, sweet love and had salty-sweet children.

Not that your elementary school self understood how that works, right?

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 170 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of total fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Keebler Jif Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.78
Size: 8 oz./15 cookies
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Jif peanut butter MVP. Fun contrasting textures. Evoking childlike whimsy. “Jabba the Peanutt.”
Cons: Not enough Jif. Loses complexity when crammed in mouth. Fudge fingers. Distracting moles. Egg salad.

REVIEW: Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies

Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies

Like Salted Caramel, Maple Bacon, and Sriracha, Red Velvet is a food trend which will not go away until it’s been flavorized into every edible object this side of gluten-free dog treats. While I’m quite positive this has driven some of you mad, I’m more than willing to accept and embrace this necessary step in flavor evolution.

Sneer all you want about how diet yogurts and Pop-Tarts can never match the mellow cocoa flavoring and rich cream cheese frosting of an actual slice of homemade Red Velvet Cake, but unless you possess a time machine allowing you to conveniently travel back to the 1930s or 1940s, I’m going to call you out as just another fan of the latest bastardization of the classic southern cake.

And you know what? I’m totally cool with that, just like I’m totally cool with the idea of the Keebler Elves adapting their classic Fudge Stripe cookies to Red Velvet. These are magical elves, after all, and there are far worse food trends they could be adapting for cookie construction.*

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At first glance, the fudge stripe template seems a curious choice to adapt Red Velvet to. Fudge is supposed to be dense, super chocolaty, and for lack of a better word, fudgy.

Meanwhile, even bastardized conceptions of Red Velvet carry a certain connotation of a light cake crumb and more restrained cocoa flavor. But when you think about it, good old Ernest J. Keebler’s reasoning checks out. Not nearly as iconic at E.L. Fudge yet distinct enough from your garden-variety Chips Deluxe, the Fudge Stripe begs for a makeover, or at the very least a new twist on the contrast of artificial chocolate glaze and crisp shortbread.

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If nothing else, the little men slaving away in those treehouse factories certainly craft an aesthetically pleasing product. Lined in a perfect row of red and white, as if drizzled with a cream cheese and buttercream fondant by skillful elfish hands, the cookies look appetizing enough to devour in one fell swoop. It’s a thought not completely unrealistic, if only for the obsolescent non-resealable packaging. Really, Ernest J.? You’ve created a magical factory in a tree capable of mass producing cookies yet you can’t prevent my cookies from going stale? Priorities man, priorities!

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The white coating is predictably waxy—the kind of artificial, “look that’s going to be your arteries!” stuff that we’ve been told to avoid, but still secretly love. At first, it’s slow to yield a distinct flavor, but after several licks and precise, tiny bites, the faux-glaze takes on a unique flavor. I’m reminded quite a bit of the yogurt coating of the raisins in one of my favorite cereals (Basic 4—completely underrated) but also pick up a hypersweet note of white chocolate and an element of cream cheese.

Beneath the glaze is the shortbread cocoa cookie. Crunchy with a superfine crumb, there’s both a distinct mellow cocoa element but also a deeper and richer chocolate flavor. You won’t mistake it for dark chocolate, but sure enough, the semisweet chocolate listed on the ingredient list makes itself known, giving each cookie an over-the-top chocolate flavor which pairs wonderfully with cream cheese glaze.

I have to admit though, there’s an odd acidity in these cookies which tempers the chocolate; a sensation which makes me almost pucker. Sharp to a point but still very sweet, there really is a distinct Red Velvet flavor that goes well beyond just mellow cocoa and red food coloring. Truth be told it’s sort of unexpected (who ever heard of a crunchy Red Velvet cake, for one thing!), yet somehow satisfyingly addictive. One might, when considering the hands which built it, even call it magical.

I wasn’t expecting to like the Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies as much as I did. I know, I know. Who am I to doubt whatever source of supernatural craftsmanship guides the Keebler elves. Yet lulled to sleep by countless Red Velvet flavor imposters, my expectations were dimmed, so much so that when one of the most accurate representations of the flavor in mass produced form graced my lips, I was blown away. Red Velvet Oreos, you ask? I’m not holding my breath just yet, because as far as I’m concerned Ernest J. and the magical elves have crafted a near-perfect Red Velvet cookie.

*Kale, for instance.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 130 calories, 6 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, 11 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 11.5 oz.
Purchased at: Mars Grocery Stores
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: ACTUALLY TASTES LIKE RED VELVET. Mellow cocoa crumb. Unexpected chocolate depth. Addictively complex cream cheese/buttercream/white chocolate glaze. Needed makeover for a classic cookie.
Cons: Possibility of Red Velvet flavored gluten-free dog treats. Seventeenth century cookie packaging. Will turn your arteries into waxy faux cream cheese filling.