REVIEW: Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

1 Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

Ah, the end of summer. A magical time when sleeves appear on clothes again, Halloween candy starts popping up in store aisles and I can finally turn the oven on and bake again (without feeling like I’m living inside it). Thankfully, Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites hit shelves in near-autumn, when I could truly enjoy them.

2 Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

On first look, the sparkling sugar coating promised on the package was nowhere to be found. I guess sugar crystals would likely dissolve after just a short thaw, but still – bummer. When tempted with glitter/twinkle/shine/sequins/shimmer, I take it hard when real life comes up short.

3 Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

After the suggested eight-minute oven bake, the aroma was subtle – enveloping the stove area with a “something’s baking” cinnamony scent. The bites looked exactly the same after baking – I photographed them with my oven mitt in the frame to tell the before & after shots apart.

4 Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

The cinnamon coating gave the bites a density and a flavor kick, but it was more like a crust than crunch. Flavor and texture-wise, the outer shell of the bites screamed “Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls” with that familiar doughy feel. The tops even looked like those cinnamon shards that get half-stuck to the roll below it when you separate them from the exploding cardboard tube. I am a huge fan of the rolls, so I was happy with this development.

5 Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

Inside, the warm cinnamon filling stayed put and didn’t ooze out when cracked open. (I’ll let you decide if that’s a good thing or not.) It was slightly thicker than pudding and had a lovely cream cheese-like flavor taking second billing behind the star of the show, cinnamon.

6 Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

The biggest issue here was the lack of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in these Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites. They didn’t have the eggy undertones of the cereal or the grit of the cinnamon sugar. We need Maury to run a DNA test!

The box has oven and microwave directions, so I nuked a batch too. This only takes 30 seconds and while the taste is the same, the texture changes. The al dente feel is instead a soft bite and moist top.

7 Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bites

I tried to turn that into a positive, however. With Halloween right around the corner, I deployed my collection of candy eyeballs and edible whatnots. The sticky surface was perfect for grabbing and holding decorations. They also add a crunch that the bite itself doesn’t have.

Overall, I thought these were fun, easy and delicious – a great treat to make with kids. If you want them as-is, take the time to bake them. If you want to glam them up, put ‘em in the blaster.

(Nutrition Facts – 4 bites – 180 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 380 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 13 grams of sugars and 3 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 8.8 oz. box (18 bites)
Purchased at: ShopRite
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: More like Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll Bites, amiright? Fun size & shape, nice cream-cheesy filling. Oven and microwave options. Begging for H’ween decorations.
Cons: Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, you are NOT the father! Don’t ever promise a glitter girl sparkle and not deliver.

REVIEW: Mac n’ Cheetos Mac & Cheese Snacks (Creamy Cheddar & Flamin’ Hot)

Mac n Cheetos Mac  Cheese Snacks  Creamy Cheddar  Flamin Hot

The Cheetos brand has been on fire recently (pun intended, of course.) Its Mac & Cheese snacks have been rolled out at Burger King twice. There have been bizarre genius marketing tactics, like Cheetos-branded toilet paper and most recently a pop-up restaurant in New York. Since the restaurant is only a three-day event and I live hours away, though, I have to settle for the next best thing, Mac n’ Cheetos Mac & Cheese Snacks from the freezer aisle!

I tried them when they first launched at BK so I was excited to indulge again, especially with a new flavor. The shape is still a chunkily shaped cylinder with a slight curve and when preparing these snacks Frito-Lay really wants you to work for them as there are no microwave instructions. This does mean, though, that the outsides continue to be crispy and crunchy without being too greasy, which I was expecting.

Mac n Cheetos Mac  Cheese Snacks  Creamy Cheddar  Flamin Hot 2

The insides are full of mac and cheese creamy goodness and I mean that in every sense of the word. It’s an intense cheddar cheese flavor, very rich actually, and with the pasta it does somewhat reach into being quite heavy for a small bite.

However, when it’s bordering on too much, the outside breading always counteracts to save it. They work together really well and I always got a little jolt of excitement when seeing the round end of a macaroni piece unearth itself. The Flamin’ Hot ones have the same cheesy flavor on the inside but with a nice, albeit small, kick of heat from the outside breading.

Now, you’re probably thinking, ”Wow, Leonard is really digging these. I need to stop everything and run out to find these immediately!!!!” There’s no bones about it, these are great mac and cheese snacks and if that’s all they were I would be a very satisfied repeat customer.

Mac n Cheetos Mac  Cheese Snacks  Creamy Cheddar  Flamin Hot 3

However, Chester Cheetah is on the packaging and that’s when everything starts to crumble. The shape and even coloration are very uniform, which is a stark contrast from the original Cheetos snacks. The Flamin’ Hot do get some points for being closer, though, in appearance, with an almost glowing red hue. However, they also get points docked for the spice level. They should almost be called simmering ember instead as the heat is nowhere near the level of their bagged counterpart.

Sure, these are “dangerously cheesy” on the inside but not on the outside where I really wanted them to be. In fact, I couldn’t even find any Cheetle dust on my hands after eating these, which is a signature trait of the Cheetos eating experience. Instead there were just breading particles.

On a scale of 1 to 10 for how dirty my hands were with 1 being I just laid out china for a dinner on a yacht and 10 being I just finished finger painting with a toddler, my hands were maybe only a 5. I even tried licking the breading and got no cheese flavor. I was dangerously disappointed and sad. I don’t even have orange paw-printed toilet paper to wipe away my tears.

(Nutrition Facts – About 3 pieces – Creamy Cheddar – 260 calories, 13 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein. Flamin’ Hot – 240 calories, 11 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 650 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.98 each
Size: 14.4 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Creamy Cheddar)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Flamin’ Hot)
Pros: Great generic mac & cheese snacks. Crispy outsides and creamy insides really working together. Macaroni noodles occasionally making an appearance.
Cons: No Cheetle Dust. Dangerously small resemblance to actual Cheetos snacks. NO CHEETLE DUST. Temporary pop-up restaurants that aren’t local.

QUICK REVIEW: Kellogg’s Despicable Me Chocolatey Chip Banana Eggo Wafflers

Kellogg s Despicable Me Chocolatey Chip Banana Eggo Wafflers

These Kellogg’s Despicable Me Chocolatey Chip Banana Eggo Wafflers aren’t shaped like Minions. That’s sad because, like Tic Tacs, their pill-like shape SCREAMS Minions.

So no Wafflers shaped like Bob, Carl, Chris, Darwin, Dave, Donnie, Eric, Henry, Jerry, John, Jorge, Josh, Ken, Kevin, Lance, Larry, Mark, Mel, Mike, Norbert, Phil, Paul, Steve, Tim, Tom, or Tony.

But I’m forgiving the brand a little because these Wafflers are not bad, with or without syrup. Now, if you’re familiar with Eggo Wafflers, you know they’re packed with flavor. In this case, it’s chocolatey chips and banana purée, so syrup isn’t necessary. Sure, you could add some, after all, they’re waffles with pockets to hold syrup, but they’re fine without.

Kellogg s Despicable Me Chocolatey Chip Banana Eggo Wafflers 2

Kellogg s Despicable Me Chocolatey Chip Banana Eggo Wafflers 3

They don’t make your toaster’s immediate vicinity smell like the yellow-skinned fruit while between the heating elements. But if you bring it up to your nose like you’re a monkey determining whether or not you have a banana in your hand, it’ll have a natural overripe banana aroma. The fruit puree baked into the waffle gives the breakfast item a pleasing natural flavor. So you fist-shaking Banana Runts haters, might not hate this.

The chips are exactly like what you’d taste with Chocolatey Chip Eggo Waffles — a slightly unnatural chocolate flavor. They’re not evenly spread across each waffle bar (yes, that’s what Kellogg’s called them), so some bites will be all banana.

I like these Chocolatey Chip Banana Eggo Wafflers, and I’m sure Bob, Carl, Chris, Darwin, Dave, Donnie, Eric, Henry, Jerry, John, Jorge, Josh, Ken, Kevin, Lance, Larry, Mark, Mel, Mike, Norbert, Phil, Paul, Steve, Tim, Tom, and Tony would also like them.

Purchased Price: $4.49*
Size: 16 waffle bars/10.7 oz. box
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2 waffles/4 waffle bars) – 230 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 320 milligrams of sodium, 60 milligrams of potassium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

REVIEW: DiGiorno Pepperoni Crispy Pan Pizza

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working to uncover a massive conspiracy in the frozen food industry. I’m almost ready to blow the cover off this whole thing.

Between you and me, I think DiGiorno is a front for the Italian mafia.

What’s the evidence, you ask? First, obviously, the name. “DiGiorno” clearly sounds like a nephew of Vito Corleone. Second, the entire concept of DiGiorno pizza is that you can toss it in the oven and fuhgeddaboudit!

Now, here’s the last piece of the puzzle: the name of DiGiorno’s latest product, the Crispy Pan Pizza. I’ve got to figure out whether the “Crispy” title is authentic, or just one of those ironic gang nicknames, like when a tall guy goes by “Shorty,” or that hefty member of the crew who’s known as “Slim.”

In related news, I just realized why my college Chemistry professor always called me Einstein.

DiGiorno’s new Crispy Pan Pizza comes in four varieties: Pepperoni, Four Cheese, Supreme, and Three Meat. I’m telling you, this mob rolls deep. But I don’t have the time (or room in my stomach) to investigate all four members of the Crispy Pan Pizza gang, so I’ll just go with Pepperoni.

The Crispy Pan Pizza features DiGiorno’s usual mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and preservative free crust, but what makes this product different is the included single-use baking pan. It’s designed to make the edges of the pizza brown and crisp while leaving the rest of the crust soft and fluffy. After 22-24 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees, it’s time to see if that baking pan is the real deal, or just a cheap marketing scheme created by some wiseguy.

Well, what do you know? The pizza emerged from the oven perfectly golden brown with a crispy, caramelized layer of cheese stretching to the edges of the crust. The good news: this baking pan works as advertised. The bad news: “Crispy” isn’t just an ironic nickname, and my entire conspiracy theory is sunk.

As for the rest of the Crispy Pan Pizza, it’s pretty much standard DiGiorno fare. The sauce is plentiful, sweet, and slightly zesty. The cheese is relatively lacking and doesn’t have that authentic fresh cheese “pull,” but hey, it’s a frozen pizza. DiGiorno’s pepperoni is par for the course when it comes to frozen pizza toppings —- meaty, pretty salty, and somewhat spicy, too. All of these toppings rest nicely atop the thick and pillowy pan crust, which is buttery in flavor without being too oily or greasy.

I bought the DiGiorno Crispy Pan Pizza to expose a modern day Italian mafia, and all I got was a delicious frozen pizza. The toppings are all DiGiorno’s above average quality, and the pan crust is impressive by frozen pizza standards. It’s a little on the pricey side, but I’d say it’s one of the better frozen pizzas you’ll find.

Oh, and that conspiracy I mentioned earlier? Let’s just fuhgeddaboudit.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/5 Pizza – 430 calories, 200 calories from fat, 22 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 620 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 18 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $8.49
Size: 1 lb. 10 oz.
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Baking pan works as advertised. Tasty crust and flavorful sauce. Watching “The Godfather” to do research for a junk food review.
Cons: Not enough cheese covering the pizza. A little pricey. That moment when you realize being called Einstein wasn’t a compliment.

REVIEW: DiGiorno Pepperoni Pizza Buns

DiGiorno Pepperoni Pizza Buns

DiGiorno’s Pizza Buns are like mini cinnamon buns. Except instead of cinnamon, sugar, and frosting, there’s meat, cheese, and sauce.

When I first saw these, I thought it was a silly and horrible idea. But that’s based on my experience with a similar product — Target’s Market Pantry Pizza Spirals. They. Were. Horrible. They didn’t heat up well, even in an oven, the dough was chewy, the pizza filling was mushy, and they made me cry.

So let’s find out if DiGiorno’s Pizza Buns will make me do the opposite of crying, which is shaking my buns.

DiGiorno Pepperoni Pizza Buns 2

It’s available in many varieties, but I decided to go with pepperoni. The snack also features mozzarella cheese, a chunky tomato sauce, and preservative free dough. The cheese is on top, while the pepperoni pieces and sauce are between the layers of spiraled dough. Each bun is about two inches wide and, as you can see above, pre-burnt on top.

DiGiorno Pepperoni Pizza Buns 3

Like products that come with microwave and conventional oven instructions, the latter always does a better job. But the microwaved ones are above decent. They don’t have a slight crispy exterior, like the oven prepared ones, but they don’t end up tough or dried out either. The microwaved dough is soft and easy to bite through.

Usually, I’d say, if you’re willing to wait, go for the oven. But for these Pizza Buns, the time spent waiting might not be worth it.

Now I’m happy to report they’re 100 times better than Market Pantry’s Pizza Spirals. They’re good enough that I don’t want to throw them away or write an angry letter to Target corporate soaked with my tears.

DiGiorno Pepperoni Pizza Buns 4

The pepperoni has a slight spicy kick and the sauce, while not chunky, does have a nice sweet tomato flavor. Since the cheese is on top, it’s pre-burnt. So no gooey cheese.

While tasty, a serving of Pizza Buns isn’t a filling snack. A serving is two buns and there are three individually wrapped pairs per box. A pair is a lot lighter than a Hot Pocket and a little bit less than a serving of six Pizza Rolls. Also, the Pizza Buns don’t have as bold of a flavor as the other two frozen pizza snacks.

Well, at least it doesn’t have a molten filling that burns my mouth like the other two.

So I’m kind of torn about DiGiorno’s Pizza Buns. They taste fine, but they’re not exciting enough to make me shake my buns.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 pizza buns – 200 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 mud 410 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 8 oz. (3 pairs)
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: A decent amount of pepperoni per bun. Nice sweet tomato sauce. Better than okay when microwaved. No molten filling to burn my mouth. 100 times better than Market Pantry’s Pizza Spirals.
Cons: Doesn’t have as bold of a flavor as other frozen pizza snacks. Comes pre-burnt. No gooey cheese. Not a filling snack. Doesn’t make me shake my buns.

REVIEW: Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch

My seven year old son is clearly a college “dudebro” in training. His perfect day involves lying on the couch in his underwear watching cartoons and playing video games. His favorite bands are Fall Out Boy and Green Day. He’s earned the nickname “Dude Imperfect” for his desire to watch, recreate, and innovate sportz trickshot videos.

His eating habits are the most reflective of his inner fratboy. However, as he’s a decade away from the Freshman Fifteen, no junk food seem to put a pound on his lanky frame. This is most evident in his Doritos Locos Tacos appetite, and he was rush-week excited to try the new Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch.

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 2

I prepared four pieces in the toaster oven and eight pieces in the conventional oven.

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 3

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 4

Slightly smaller in diameter but four times as thick as traditional Doritos, these snacks are sprinkled with something breadcrumb-ish, as well as a muted version of the expected red and green Cool Ranch seasoning.

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 6

The pieces looked practically the same fully cooked, except that some interior cheese spurted out of every piece onto to the pan via both cooking methods. The cheese did remove easily and remain on each piece, resembling a cross between a mohawk and a pizzelle.

The whole family weighed in positively. Comparisons to pizza rolls and mac ’n’ cheese bites were both apt. The consensus views:

  • Same from the toaster and conventional oven
  • Not crisp like a chip
  • Tasted like Cool Ranch, but should have been seasoned more liberally
  • The interior cheese has nice salty flavor and softer textural elements, but the product failed entirely to deliver on the graphic shown on the box of stretchy pull-apart cheese. In fact, the autopsy photo below indicates a nearly hollow product with slight remnants of cheese clinging to the outer walls.

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 5

Despite the noted shortcomings, we all enjoyed these. As predicted, the future Epsilon Kappa Gamma founder was the most effusive, instantly rating them a 10/10 and subsequently remarking they would have earned an 11/11 had the center cheese been as displayed.

He clearly hasn’t developed certain college attributes yet, including a sense of cynicism that regresses most every experience toward the mean. After all, he’s 7 — and so is the rating for this product.

(Nutrition Facts – about 3 pieces – 270 calories, 140 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 690 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.98
Size: 15 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Compares favorably with other breaded appetizers. Cool Ranch taste. Tasty interior cheese. Potential scholarships in dizzy golf and slip ’n’ slide football.
Cons: Too little interior cheese. Not enough Cool Ranch seasoning.