QUICK REVIEW: Jack in the Box Southern Style Biscuits (Bacon, Egg & Cheese and Sausage, Egg & Cheese)

Jack in the Box Southern Style Biscuits (Bacon, Egg & Cheese and Sausage, Egg & Cheese)

Purchased Price: 2 for $4.00*
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Bacon, Egg & Cheese)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Sausage, Egg & Cheese)
Pros: Reasonably priced at 2 for $3 (or $4, if you live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean). The biscuits are tasty and have a nice, mild buttermilk flavor. It’s available all day. The Sausage, Egg & Cheese is better than the Bacon, Egg & Cheese because the sausage does a better job of trying to get its flavor past the biscuit. Biscuit doesn’t have a lot of trans fat like a particular fast food chain’s does.
Cons: I understand the biscuit is the highlight, but it shouldn’t overwhelm the other ingredients, especially the sausage and bacon. Jack in the Box bacon is subpar and wasn’t spread evenly on my sandwich. Egg flavor and it’s butteriness isn’t there thanks to the biscuit. Biscuit falls apart a bit too easily.

*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.

Jack in the Box Southern Style Biscuits Sausage, Egg & Cheese

Jack in the Box Southern Style Biscuits Bacon, Egg & Cheese

Nutrition Facts: Bacon, Egg & Cheese – 410 calories, 227 calories from fat, 25 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 242 milligrams of cholesterol, 1176 milligrams of sodium, 188 milligrams of potassium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of protein. Sausage, Egg & Cheese – 534 calories, 340 calories from fat, 38 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 264 milligrams of cholesterol, 1240 milligrams of sodium, 228 milligrams of potassium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 18 grams of protein.)

REVIEW: General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal

General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal

Hear that? That’s the dead echo of all the New Year’s resolutions I’ve fulfilled.

Indeed, aside from taking a multi-vitamin, my plans for non-stop, full-throttle self-improvement don’t seem to always follow through, and what starts in January as, “I’m going to plant a window garden and read Plato’s The Republic and stop a forest fire with my mind!” translates in May to, “Maybe I’ll take out the trash. But it’s raining. So I’ll do it later. Maybe.” What is it that gets my bedraggled mind so trampled in this mellifluous maelstrom of mediocrity?

After decades of research, I have uncovered that its motion begins right here at the breakfast table. Yes, America, it is at this temple of Early Risers and Eager Minds, where caffeine, cholesterol, and morning cohesion come together to form a somewhat put-together portion of myself, and yet I’ve recently cast the breakfast table aside, trading it in for those five extra minutes of sleep before I hop out the door trying to put on my left shoe, looking as coordinated as an intoxicated platypus. But 2014’s a new year and I’m going fuel my brain with more than Nutri-Grain. Just in the nick of time, General Mills is handing out one more Big G cereal for 2013: Chocolate Toast Crunch.

General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal The Chocolate Cereal Proposal

“Naturally flavored chocolate”? Hmmm… sounds shady. I can see we may be headed into precarious territory. We better put on our Danger Pants.

Danger Pants buckled and spoon in-hand, I burst open the bag and am met with a familiar scent. A scent of cocoa power and sugar and cereal-saturated chocolate milks of yore, whispering secrets of Cocoa Puffs into my nostalgia-seeking nose. While I’m a little freaked out that a cereal can whisper, I reach down shovel in the first spoonful.

Starting off on a solid foundation, I’m pleased to find that the texture of these 1/2-inch bites holds the same half-crispy, half-crunchy experience as its Crunch Toast counterparts. The surface of each 4-sided geometric shape is crosshatched with small ridges, allowing for an excellent play on texture while also making your bowl look like its filled with dollhouse-sized textured wallpaper samples.

General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal Cocoa bits right out of the bag

Fortunately, these taste nothing of wallpaper. Living up to the old slogan, each shrunken bit of toast holds a thick, brown-tinged, sugary crust of “the taste you can see.” The pleasant grit from this cinnamon-cocoa sugar is like an edible hug: full of a cocoa burst and a slightly warm cinnamon end, it harkens back to memories of a cinnamon sugar doughnut, only thinner, crispier, and generously dunked in cocoa. The cocoa is of a lighter, alkali-processed sort. The bitterness from a darker, Dutch cocoa might have added a nice bitter, coffee-ish contrast to the sugar, but to nitpick over what could’ve been is about as useful as making a workout video for Santa Claus. (He has a “bowl full of jelly.” That’s just how it is. Says so in a poem.)

Not only do these crunchy wheat-and-rice bits prove themselves of high quality in their dry form, but they also hold up admirably when saturated with leche, the sugared cocoa generously dispersing itself as it colors the milk with its chocolatey, cerealy-ness while still leaving enough of the coating clinging to the cereal itself. The resulting milk brew has a cocoa level on par with Cocoa Puffs/Pebbles, yet the cereal’s shape is notably sturdier, allowing you to choose whether you want to slurp or spoon the last of your bowl. Either way, you’ll have cocoa to the final gulp.

And that reminds me: since the cocoa isn’t shy here, it has the power to play well with other flavors. Maybe try it with some almond milk, or, if you’re feeling zesty, reach for the strawberry milk or Espresso Gelato. It’s okay. Go wild. You have your Danger Pants on, remember?

General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal The Taste You Can See!

On my list of things to improve in the world: diesel fuel, laptop speakers, standard-issue toilet paper. I never imagined cocoa cereal would or could be on this list, let alone that it may stand up against my all-time-favorite, discontinued-in-America Oreo O’s, and yet General Mills, being the daring lunatics they are, gave it their best heave-ho. While not surpassing the O’s, the risk paid off. It may not be the first time I’ve have cocoa for breakfast, but somehow the crunch of the wee little rectangles combined with the cinnamon-cocoa sugar reminds me of a churro and made this one of the more successful pairing of grains and chocolate I’ve had the fortune to scarf down. Some may call the General crazy for bringing out such a fantastic new Toast Crunch on the cusp of the New Year, but what is “crazy”?

Well, if these toasty squares have anything to do with it, it’s a different way to see ourselves, be ourselves, to go out and live in a new and exciting way, and these cocoa-cinnamon squares? They inspire me to do just that.

So, who’s crazy now?

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup (31 g) – 130 calories, 35 calories from fat, 4 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 85 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 13 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 12.7 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Crispy-crunchy. Nifty ridges. Crusty cocoa-cinnamon coating. Taste you can see. Churro in cereal form. Makes good chocolatey cereal milk. Encourages breakfast-related resolutions. Reason to eat more gelato. Brave lunatics. Danger Pants.
Cons: Reminds me how I miss Oreo O’s. Laptop speakers. Standard-issue toilet paper. Delusions of whispering cereal.

REVIEW: Post Honey Bunches of Oats Morning Energy Chocolatey Almond Crunch Cereal

Post Honey Bunches of Oats Morning Energy Chocolatey Almond Crunch Cereal

Because I’m not one myself, I can’t be absolutely certain what kind of cereal Power Rangers go shopping for. That being said, I’d imagine they’d probably be among the first to buy the new Honey Bunches of Oats Morning Energy Chocolatey Almond Crunch.

Morning Energy Chocolatey Almond Crunch has all the nutritional components that allow Powers Rangers to summon Megazords and head-butt endless armies of Putty Patrollers. Each serving has important, energizing vitamins and minerals in addition to 2/3 of your daily dose of whole grains, not to mention six grams of protein to help fit into those slim-fit leotards for another busy morning battling a golden-armored lion people thing in the streets below Beverly Hills.

I won’t lie—that kind of energy supply is usually beyond the scope of what I look for in a cereal. Given that the most activity I get on an average morning comes from carefully timed strolls to the reception desk’s candy jar at the office, you might even say a cereal with 220 calories a serving is a bit overkill for someone who couldn’t execute a round-house kick in Mortal Kombat 3, much less morph into the Red Ranger.

Still, I’m not going to discriminate when it comes to adding chocolate to the hugely popular Honey Bunches of Oats line, especially since its been three or four years since Post pulled the plug on Honey Bunches of Oats with Real Chocolate Clusters, which before its discontinuation was one of my most loved “adult” cereals.

At first, I was skeptical. I may have loved the “real chocolate” clusters in the original chocolate rendition of Honey Bunches of Oats, but if there’s a synonym for “half-ass” in the cereal world, it might just be “chocolatey.”

At best the chocolatey pieces of partially hydrogenated oil and corn syrup in cereals like Special K Chocolatey Delight are a distraction; at worst, they’re enough to make Willy Wonka think about getting into the plastics industry. Styrofoamy, flat-tasting, and about as rich as the hobo you give your spare change to, those imitation squares of “chocolate” thankfully don’t show up in the new Chocolatey Almond Crunch flavor. Instead the tiny pieces of not-quite chocolate “chocolate” have a firm texture and semi-sweet flavor. It might not be Godiva or even Hershey’s quality, but for a cereal the substitute does the trick, even taking on an element of richness when eaten with whole milk.

Post Honey Bunches of Oats Morning Energy Chocolatey Almond Crunch Cereal Wet

The small “chocolatey” bricks are only a supporting element to the cereal, however, which brings together the classic, slightly malty honeyed glaze of whole grain flakes with the superior crunch of oat clusters the size of asteroids. And yes, these free-falling bricks of cocoa powder and toasted oats are definitely asteroid like. I encountered several large clusters in a random pour, and enjoyed the distinctive crunch and deep cocoa powder flavor both with and without milk.

Post Honey Bunches of Oats Morning Energy Chocolatey Almond Crunch Cereal Dry

There’s a brown sugar taste to them, but the cocoa powder is what dominates, blending in smoothly with the buttery anise undertones of slivered almonds. In that respect, the cereal reminded me a lot of Fiber One’s Nutty Clusters & Almonds, except with a much pronounced and irregularly shaped cluster and a cocoa flavor. Bits of crisped rice, barley, and wheat germ make an appearance as well, giving each spoonful a slightly exotic and toasted multigrain note that balances the 12 grams of sugar per serving.

Clearly, I’m very high on this cereal, although not nearly as high as Bulk and Skull were on a regular basis during the first three seasons of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Not only does the Morning Energy variety pack more cocoa and chocolate flavor than the old Honey Bunches of Oats with Real Chocolate Clusters, but they have a seriously “mealtime” feel to them which actually backs up the overt nutritional marketing ploys.

That being the case, you’ve been warned; as a granola-type cereal, there’s definitely a health halo involved here. Before I knew it I had munched my way through half a box, and all I had to show for this supposed influx of energy was three trips to the office candy jar and not a single withering Putty Patroller to my name. Still, I figure cereal sales can’t be upheld by a band of five ridiculously good-looking multicultural karate experts and faux superheroes.

So even though I may not be actively stopping the imminent takeover of the planet earth by Rita Repulsa, I like to think my newfound brand loyalty to the Morning Energy line might just keep Post from discontinuing their Chocolatey Almond Crunch flavor, thus ensuring that when future generations of Power Rangers head to the supermarket, they won’t be made to settle for the empty sugar crashes inspired by all the usual suspects.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cup – 220 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 150 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams potassium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 5 gram of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugars, and 6 grams of protein.)

Item: Post Honey Bunches of Oats Morning Energy Chocolatey Almond Crunch Cereal
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 12.5 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Great “meal” cereal. Classic Honey Bunches of Oats taste with malted cocoa and chocolate flavor. Oat clusters the size of asteroids. Buttery almonds. Actually enjoyable multigrain element. Actively supporting your local Power Rangers.
Cons: “Granola” effect kills health appeal. Chocolate pieces still not as good as actual chocolate chips. Searching for Bulk and Skull on YouTube.

QUICK REVIEW: Tostitos Fajita Scoops Tortilla Chips

Tostitos Fajita Scoops

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 9 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Nice smoky aroma. Its garlicky, oniony, and peppery flavor reminds me of a canned chili (I can’t remember what brand). Most flavorful Tostitos I’ve ever had. Shape makes them great for dips. Red peppers in the chip. Some chips have a kick (thanks jalapeño). The Asian in me is excited about the soy sauce used to make them (I can kind of taste it, but it might be my mind thinking it’s there because I know it’s there).
Cons: Not all the chips in the bag have a kick to them. The flavor noticeably diminished as I ate more in one sitting. Being too cheap to buy dip. The exclamation point after Scoops. Shape makes them look like they would make good pasties, but rough corn chip texture would be tough on nipples.

Tostitos Fajita Scoops Closeup

Nutrition Facts: 1 oz/10 chips – 130 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Post Limited Edition Cocoa Pebbles Xtreme Cereal

Limited Edition Post Xtreme Cocoa Pebbles

Few cereals are extreme enough to warrant dropping a vowel from their names, but Post seems to think their new Cocoa Pebbles Xtreme cereal is worthy of the honor.

The limited edition cereal was only available at my local supermarket in a family size box, containing four more ounces than a standard box. The cereal claims to be even more chocolatey than normal Cocoa Pebbles, which means that the cer— hoooooold up.

What are you trying to pull here, Post? The nutritional facts on this box are identical to those found on a box of normal Cocoa Pebbles. The ingredients lists are strikingly similar, except the Xtreme variety lacks a single ingredient present in the original: a preservative known as butylated hydroxyanisole. (Yum.)

Well, well, well, it seems Post has taken me for a fool. At this point, I’m fairly confident they’ve simply repackaged normal Cocoa Pebbles in a fancy new box in an effort to sell more cereal to hyperactive, sugar-addicted children. I’ll be surprised if this Xtreme version is any different from the standard variety. A simple side-by-side comparison will reveal the truth.

Limited Edition Post Xtreme Cocoa Pebbles Comparison

Pouring out a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles Xtreme next to a bowl of the normal type, we find my hypothesis was as wrong as watching the movie Teeth with your family. (“That’s not her mouth, grandma.”) The Cocoa Pebbles Xtreme are noticeably darker in color than the normal variety. I’m stumped as to how Post Foods managed to accomplish this when the nutritional facts and ingredients are nearly identical, but it seems Post’s R&D team has been workin’ up some food wizardry in the kitchen. (Foodzardry, anyone?)

Cocoa Pebbles Xtreme smells quite similar to cocoa powder — the scent is slightly more chocolatey than the normal variety, which possesses a more noticeable puffed rice aroma.

In taste, the Xtreme variety is the clear victor.

Limited Edition Post Xtreme Cocoa Pebbles Closeup

The contrast between the two cereals is more apparent than I had expected. A spoonful of both Xtreme and normal varieties of Cocoa Pebbles begins with a grainy puffed rice flavor and a sharp crunch, slowly developing a sweet cocoa flavor as the cereal is chewed. However, the Xtreme has a much stronger cocoa flavor toward the end of the bite. Its chocolate flavor seems more mature and refined in comparison to the regular variety, which merely evokes a sweetness reminiscent of white sugar.

Cocoa Pebbles Xtreme cereal is further improved by the addition of milk, which really absorbs the cereal’s cocoa flavor. As I slowly approached the end of my bowl, I grew eager to test the claim on the front of the box, which boasts the cereal “turns milk xtremely chocolatey” and “it’s like an xtreme milkshake.”

My mind began to wander, imagining the full potential of an “xtreme milkshake.” Exactly how many boys could be brought to the yard by an “xtreme milkshake”? An xtreme number, for sure.

Limited Edition Post Xtreme Cocoa Pebbles Milk

Good gravy, it’s gorgeous!

The milk left at the bottom of my bowl has turned the most beautiful shade of brown I’ve ever seen. Its flavor reminds me of chocolate milk made with a bit too much chocolate syrup, but with the aftertaste of Cocoa Pebbles.

Does it taste like a milkshake? Not quite, and though it only seems slightly more chocolatey than the milk left behind by normal Cocoa Pebbles, it’s satisfying nonetheless.

With its more substantial cocoa flavor, Cocoa Pebbles Xtreme cereal is a significant improvement upon the normal variety. Its only flaw is that it feels more like a snackfood than a breakfast cereal — a fault that plagues many of the sugary options found in your local supermarket’s cereal aisle.

I’m sorry I doubted you, Post. Our relationship has been tense ever since you discontinued Cröonchy Stars cereal, but maybe this is the start of a glorious new beginning. You’ve managed to enhance Cocoa Pebbles, and for that, I applaud you.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup without milk – 120 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 50 milligrams of potassium, 25 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugars, 15 grams of other carbohydrate, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Post Limited Edition Cocoa Pebbles Xtreme Cereal
Purchased Price: $3.59
Size: 15 oz. box
Purchased at: ShopRite
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: More chocolatey than the normal variety. Even better in milk. Leaves chocolate milk in bowl. Bringing an xtreme amount of boys to the yard.
Cons: Nearly identical nutritional facts and ingredients as regular Cocoa Pebbles? Feels more like a snack than a breakfast cereal. Watching Teeth with your family.