Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cracker Jack'd Hearty Mix

I purchased two packages of Cracker Jack'd Hearty Mix on the same shopping trip as the Cracker Jack'd Power Bites from the other post. The flavors are Peanut Butter and Chocolate & Cheddar BBQ. It's important to note the Hearty Mix is not the Cracker Jack snack with high levels of caffeine; it's the Cracker Jack'd Power Bites which have the caffeine of one cup of coffee.

This is what the Peanut Butter And Chocolate Hearty Mix and the Cheddar BBQ Hearty Mix have in common:
A black and beige pouch with a more mature / grown up feel. Cracker Jack's famous mascots Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo are replaced with a smarmy, older Sailor Jack who resembles either Don Rickles or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.  New Bingo is channeling the mean dogs from the movie UP.
- A tall 3 oz pouch. Not resealable. Easily tips over.
- Not listed on Frito Lay's website right now
-"Snacks With Impact."
- "Fills you up."

Cracker Jack'd Hearty Mix: Peanut Butter & Chocolate
- " Artificially flavored snack mix."
- "Savory peanut butter and chocolate flavored and coated oat clusters, mixed with honey roasted and salted peanuts."
- Smells like peanut butter fudge and honey roasted peanuts
- Peanut butter coated oats = Tastes like peanut butter fudge. Delicious! The oats drag down the clusters, though. Peanut butter + oats = "Am I eating a peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread ?"
- Chocolate covered oats = Chocolate was smooth and creamy. Oats were a better match with the chocolate than with the peanut butter.
- Not enough of the peanut butter or chocolate clusters.
- Both types of oat clusters were too small. Many clusters had broken into Dippin' Dots sized pieces in transit (I'm guessing.)
- Plenty of peanuts

Cracker Jack'd Hearty Mix: Cheddar BBQ
- "Tangy cheddar and bbq flavored oat clusters, mixed with salted peanuts and smoked almonds."
- "Flavored snack mix."
- Flavored with brown sugar, tomato powder, onion powder, cheddar cheese, natural smoke flavor, molasses, romano cheese, garlic powder, rosemary
- Smells like honey roasted peanuts and bbq potato chips
- Smoked almonds = Decent amount. Bbq seasoning attached to some of the almonds.
- Good amount of peanuts. Bbq seasoning properly coated the peanuts.
- Tangy cheddar and bbq flavored oat clusers = Has the smoky, mouthwatering taste of Lay's bbq potato chips. But the orange color and chunky shape are off-putting; it resembles crushed up cat chow. The crushed oats are too small and messy.
- Bbq flavoring and oats = Total mismatch of flavors and textures. I like oats with my cereal and desserts, not with potato chip flavoring.

I wasn't terribly thrilled or disappointed by Cracker Jack'd Peanut Butter and Chocolate or Cracker Jack'd Cheddar BBQ. They're both just missing a certain je ne sais quoi at the moment. There's obviously room for improvement, though.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cracker Jack'd Power Bites

Many of you read this article last year, which announced a caffeinated version of Cracker Jacks was rolling out soon. Your reaction was probably either (1) "OMG, we're all gonna die from caffeine poisoning and junk food" or (2) "Heck yeah, I want to try that!" I am firmly in the pro-coffee + chocolate camp for sure.

Cracker Jack'd Power Bites come in two flavors: Cocoa Java and Vanilla Mocha. Neither product is listed on the Frito Lay website at the moment. I found this snack on Walgreens' candy aisle, next to their 99 cent packs of Nice! brand nuts and sesame sticks.

This is what the Vanilla Mocha and Cocoa Java products have in common:
- A short, black and beige pouch with a more mature / grown up feel. Cracker Jack's famous mascots Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo are replaced with a smarmy, older Sailor Jack who resembles either Don Rickles or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.  New Bingo is channeling the mean dogs from the movie UP.
- "Snacks With Impact."
- 2 ounces of candy (14 rock sized pieces)
- Both pouches stand up, but are not resealable. Resealable would definitely be better, since this is a rich candy you won't polish off in one sitting
- The ratios of chocolate-to-cookie and coffee-to-chocolate are just right.
- Warning label 1: "Coffee: Equal To 1 Cup. Contains Caffeine."

- Warning label 2: "Contains 2 Tbsp of ground coffee per package, the amount used to brew a typical 8 oz cup of coffee."
- Warning label 3: "Contains caffeine. Not recommended for children, pregnant women or people sensitive to caffeine."

Cracker Jack'd Cocoa Java Power Bites
- "Crunchy chocolate and coffee flavored bites made with real coffee."
- "Artificially flavored coated wafers."
- Smells like yellow cake with chocolate-coffee frosting.
- Power Bites have a java flavored chocolate coating. The filling is a ball of chocolate crunchies without java (think crushed Oreo cookies). Heavenly combination!
- Have a darker shell than the Vanilla Mocha Power Bites.
- Similar flavor to chocolate covered coffee beans

Cracker Jack'd Vanilla Mocha Power Bites
- "Crunchy vanilla and coffee flavored bites made with real coffee."
- "Flavored coated wafers."
- Smells like yellow cake and milk chocolate candy bars
- Mocha is more subtle in this vs the java in the other Power Bites. It's almost a mocha hot cocoa flavor.
- Filling is somewhere between shortbread and an oatmeal cookie. It doesn't add much oomph to the mocha chocolate coating. A stronger flavored cookie would have been better.

Between the two varieties of Cracker Jack'd Power Bites, my favorite is Cocoa Java. It's much more craveable to me. But obviously I wouldn't say no if someone handed me Vanilla Mocha Power Bites, either. Vanilla Mocha was good; the cookie part just needs a little more tweaking.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Slim Fast Nacho Cheese Snack Bites

Since it's January, all the new diet foods are hitting store shelves. I saw Slim Fast Nacho Cheese Snack Bites in several different stores, which piqued my interest. With only 1 gram of sugar and 100 calories a serving, the snack bites seemed worth trying.

Slim Fast Nacho Cheese Snack Bites are made from whole grain yellow corn flour, brown rice flour, cheddar, dried onion, dried tomato, dried garlic and sour cream. Each box has five .84 ounce mini packets of snack bites. The chips are sort of shaped like Bugles Corn Snacks. They're thicker and crunchier than chips or crackers but  less so than beer nuts or Combos Pretzel snacks. 

The snack bites have an odd seasoning. It starts out as sort of pizza flavored and then turns into an almost-but-not-exactly-there Doritos taste. For the first couple of pieces, the snack bites tasted good. After a few more samples, it melded into just "meh, it's okay." To be blunt: Slim Fast Bites are the kind of food you buy while waiting around at the mechanic's shop, when you're too hungry for gum alone but are forcing yourself to refrain from having a big Honey Bun and a soda. And then you find yourself saying on the way out "Ugh, I need to brush my teeth to get rid of this taste. Or at least stop at Sweet Tomatoes for lunch. I'm starving. All I had were snacks I really didn't enjoy." 

Slim Fast Nacho Cheese Snack Bites are okay, not great. Plus the $4+ price tag is steep. The grade I'd give would be a C. 

Jolly Rancher Chews: Tropical Flavors

Since this is nostalgia day here at AMW: Raise your hand if you adored Jolly Ranchers as a kid. Remember swapping Jolly Rancher candies with your friends, to ensure everyone got their favorite flavors ? Good times, right ? Jolly Rancher is one of the few hard candies I've truly enjoyed eating, even as an adult.

Naturally I was thrilled to see there's a chewy tropical version of Jolly Ranchers available. The tropical flavors are pineapple (yellow), strawberry kiwi (pink), lemon lime (green) and tropical punch (red). There were thirteen pieces in the box. I would classify the tropical chews as a tastier version of Starburst Fruit Chews.

Lemon lime (green) = Has the same yummy lemony-lime taste as Gatorade Gatorgum. Too bad there's only one lemon lime piece in the whole box. Booo. Side note: Someone bring Gatorgum back, pretty please. 

Strawberry kiwi (pink) = Smells like a strawberry Starburst or Betty Crocker strawberry icing. Tastes like a watermelon scented candle. Yuck! I spit that flavor out immediately.

Pineapple (yellow) = Doesn't have much of a scent. Tastes like cheap pineapple soda. I'm on the fence between "it's okay" and "no more, I'm good."

Tropical punch (red) = Tastes like Hawaiian Punch. I'm not a fan of the drink, but in candy form it's very delicious!

Here are my suggestions for improving Tropical Flavor Jolly Rancher Chews:
- Ditch the strawberry flavor.
- Add more lemon lime pieces
- Tinker with the pineapple flavoring a little more
- Make the chews a little less sticky. I put four pieces onto a plate for a picture; they actually stuck to the plate within one minute of me setting them down. Also, the chews really glom onto your teeth.

Ferrera Pan: Boston Baked Beans

The Original Boston Baked Beans
Candy Coated Peanuts

I used to love Boston Baked Beans, the candy coated peanuts, when I was a child. I have fond memories of eating Boston Baked Beans on the drives home from t-ball games. Any time someone mentions that candy, I think "Oh wow, I haven't had any in ages. I sure could go for some now."

Nostalgia plus a 25 cent price tag convinced me to buy a mini box of Boston Baked Beans this month. When I nibbled on the peanuts and red confectioners glaze, my excitement dimmed. I realized Boston Baked Beans taste like Brach's Maple Nut Goodies, which I don't care for. Apparently that's a theme this month. I guess some things are better left as good memories in the past. 

Cheez-It Cheddar & Barbecue Snack Mix

I am a lifelong fan of Cheez-It crackers. Who doesn't love that cheesy, crunchy, slightly salty goodness ? Naturally I just had to try Cheez-It Cheddar & Barbecue Snack Mix when I saw a few bags at a convenience store.

There are five components to the Cheez-It Snack Mix: Cheez-It crackers, mini pretzels, bread slices, wheat squares and pretzel slicks. (I don't think two types of pretzels was necessary) It is seasoned with paprika, cheddar, parmesan, salt, molasses, tomato powder, garlic powder and onion powder. Cheez-It Barbecue Snack Mix sort of smells like the Chex garlic seasoning packs grocery stores out here give away.

The barbecue flavor was smoky and craveable. Unfortunately, that taste only clung strongly to the Cheez-Its; it didn't stick on the other four types of snack pieces. I think this snack mix would be better with just the barbecue Cheez-It crackers alone. Also, I noticed a metallic aftertaste every time I snacked on the Cheez-It Cheddar & Barbecue Snack Mix. Did anyone else experience that, or was it just me ?

Snickers Marathon: Smart Stuff Trail Mix Bar

This is the Snickers Marathon Smart Stuff Bar that I got grabby handed for in the previous post. Karma decided to teach me a lesson about being too impulsive (TM My Name Is Earl). Here's the problem: It's comprised of multigrain crisps, milk chocolate, dried cranberries, toasted oats, caramel, peanuts, soy protein crisps, dried blueberries and almonds. Blueberries + chocolate = a super perfumey flavor that masks all the other flavors. Really, just the cranberries alone would have been fine; there was actually only one tiny strip of cranberry in the entire Snickers Marathon Bar. Definitely not my cup of tea. So yes, Karma, I promise to have a little more self control next time I go shopping. 

Boyer Milk Chocolate Mallo Cup

"Made in the USA"

The other day, I was at a convenience store shopping for treats for the blog.  I saw a stack of Boyer Mallo Cups next to the cash register. I actually blurted out "OOH, MALLO CUPS! I'LL TAKE ONE OF THESE, TOO!...OOH, SNICKER'S MARATHON. I'LL TAKE THAT....IS THAT  A BASKET OF KENTUCKY FUDGE ? WHAT FLAVOR IS THIS ? I CAN'T TELL --- *notices cashier's dead stare* Cough cough, um, which button do I press for credit ?" Apparently I have the same attention span and self control my cats have when I fill up their food bowls. Oops. That aside, I bought the Mallo Cups because I always hear people squeeing about "Those are hard to find but so delicious, too!"

Each packet has two milk chocolate cups with whipped creme centers. Bits of coconut are in the chocolate. The filling is really gooey marshmallow. Without the coconut, the chocolate and the marshmallow aren't standouts. But after taking a bite of all three flavors together, I did experience that sugary kid on Easter morning satisfaction that comes from indulging in chocolate, marshmallow and coconut all at once. I would probably only buy Mallo Cups to fill Easter baskets, though. I don't crave marshmallow the way many other people do.

Random bonus shot: Mallo Cups come with play money cards, which can be redeemed for prizes or cash. This 5 point card stated I need 500 points (100 Mallo Cup purchases) to receive a $1 rebate check. Oy vey, that's crazy

*ETA: After I wrote this post, I noticed Boyer had a picture of Butterscotch Smoothie Peanut Butter Cups on their site. For real ?! Be still my heart!

Grandma's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

When I was a kid, my dad used to sell Grandma's Cookies and drinks on the side. Mom would then pack some of those cookies in my lunchbox. Let me tell you: I hated those cookies. They had an unappealing aftertaste that I couldn't stand. I also felt that Grandma's Cookies were too dry. 

After seeing Grandma's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk in various stores recently, I thought "Oh yum, peanut butter and chocolate sounds delicious. But I bet those cookies are still awful tasting. It's not worth the disappointment." And yet I obviously caved, as you can see. 

I was surprised to discover the cookies tasted completely different than the ones from my childhood. There are two cookies in every packet. Each peanut butter scented cookie was soft and moist, without being messy and crumbly. There were plenty of rich chocolate chunks, too. The aftertaste was buttery. 

Grandma's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies were a pleasant surprise for me. I would buy these again. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Butterscotch And Biscuits

As I said in a previous post, I have been craving butterscotch like crazy. What tipped me from "butterscotch sounds nice" to "MUST HAVE IT NOW" was buying the so-so Butterscotch Krimpets last year. This week I finally got to splurge on high quality ingredients to make three butterscotch recipes:

Butterbeer Ice Cream Sandwiches from Cherry Tea Cakes

Butterscotch Brownies with Brown Sugar Frosting and Pecans from Caramel Potatoes

Ruth's Diners Mile High Biscuits from Deals To Meals

A couple of tips before you start these recipes:

- The brownies, ice cream and frosting require making hot caramel. These desserts are best made when small children are not underfoot. You cannot walk away from the stove for just a minute.  Don't stand too close to the stove, because hot caramel splatters easily. You will need to have every ingredient pre-measured or the caramel will burn / or harden.
- It took me two tries to make the Brown Sugar Frosting. The first time, I followed the instructions to boil the caramel. The caramel became dark and chewy. It had to be thrown out. The second time, I took the pan off the stove as soon as a few bubbles appeared, instead of letting it boil further. Then I followed the rest of the steps to the letter. That batch of frosting turned out perfect. I don't know if it's my stove temperature or if I misunderstood the recipe. Either way, the frosting and the brownies are to die for!
- I don't have an ice cream maker yet. So the Butterbeer Ice Cream didn't come out completely smooth, even when I followed another website's instructions to stir the freezing ice cream every hour to break up the ice crystals. I had expected that to happen, with or without the stirring. But the flavor was on point. So I will reuse this recipe when I finally get my ice cream maker. The recurring comment in the AMW family was "It doesn't have enough butterscotch flavor. It's really good, though." Next time I'll double the amount of caramel in the recipe. It was also suggested that I add bananas and pecans, so I'll include those, too.
- I didn't bake the shortbread cookies from the Butterbeer Ice Cream recipe, since I was already making brownies.
- Let me tell you how good the Butterscotch Brownies are. On their own, it's like having shirtless Jeff Goldblum show up at your door. With the Brown Sugar Frosting, it's like shirtless Jeff Goldblum came to your house and said "I hope you don't mind, I brought my friend Craig Ferguson along."'
- I bought a bag of Hershey's butterscotch chips for the ice cream. The chips tasted too much like Brach's Maple Nut Goodies. I left those out of the ice cream mix.
- Mile High Biscuits are the first flaw-free biscuits I've ever made. Seriously, don't skip the advice to use cold butter and refrain from overhandling the dough. Preheating your oven and preportioning your ingredients are crucial here, too.
- Don't cheap out on the ingredients. Normally I have fat free milk, some sort of buttery spread and maybe some dry coffee creamer packets on hand. But for these three recipes, I bought high quality European butter, full fat milk, heavy whipping cream and real vanilla. I think it made a huge difference in the taste and textures.

Kellogg's Special K Brownie Bites *Updated*

"These fudgy mini-brownies are soft in texture and rich in flavor. They're made with 100% real cocoa, which makes them 100% delicious!"

"Delicious, bite-sized brownies baked with real milk chocolate and white chocolate chips. Brownie has a moist, chewy and soft texture combined with a delightful vanilla and butterscotch flavor for a great taste and texture combination."

I received an email the other day which mentioned Kellogg's has come out with Special K Blondie Brownie Bites and Special K Fudge Brownie Bites. I was psyched, because (1) prepackaged chocolate brownies that taste good are hard to find (2) butterscotch brownies are even more difficult to procure than chocolate brownies and (3) I have been craving butterscotch. I have been checking grocery stores and drug stores, hoping to find a  couple boxes. Nope, not one box at Walgreen's, Walmart, Publix or Winn Dixie. I've been down the pharmacy aisles, the endcaps, the cookie aisle, the baking mix aisle and the granola and cereal aisle. Still nothing. Kellogg's has a "find a store that carries this" page, but it claims no stores within 15 miles of my house have it. Like a dagger to my heart, I tell you!

So I finally caved and bought one box of Special K Blondie Brownie Bites and one box of Special K Fudge Brownie Bites online. Which means tomorrow I'll find a huge display of them for $2.50 and feel silly. But whatever. As long as I get my brownies I'll be a happy girl. I'll post a review after the boxes arrive.  

**1/24/2013 Update

The Kellogg's Special K Brownie Bites arrived today.

Blondie Brownie Bites
- Six .74 oz pouches.
- Each pouch is 100 calories.
- Package claims "made with real chocolate"; vanilla extract, semisweet chocolate, molasses and white chocolate are on the ingredient list
- Strong, delicious butterscotch and vanilla cookie dough smell in the box, before even opening the pouches.
- Tastes like half baked cookie. Is too doughy. Not even close to being a brownie
- Vanilla is very heavy. It masks the white chocolate chips, semisweet chips and butterscotch
- Heavy vanilla flavor clings to the mouth too long afterwards

Fudge Brownie Bites
- Six .74 oz pouches.
- Each pouch is 100 calories.
- Package claims "made with real chocolate"; semisweet chocolate and cocoa are on the ingredient list.
- Fudgy smell, similar to Little Debbie Fudge Brownies.
- Closer to a baked brownie texture than the Blondie Brownie Bites.
- Aftertaste similar to that of the original Snackwells Devil's Food Cookies, albeit less strong (I don't care for it in either case).
- Can definitely taste the semisweet chocolate chips. Not high quality chocolate, though

The Fudge Brownie Bites had 11 pieces. The Blondie Brownie Bites had 10 pieces. Both treats are tiny. Kellogg's wasn't kidding about these being "bites."

The fudge pieces seem better a tad bit better than the blondies. But I wouldn't buy either variety again. I'll stick with Fiber One 90 Calorie Chocolate Chip Cookies and Fiber One 90 Calorie Chocolate Fudge Brownies. The Fiber One snacks are much more decadent and make me feel I'm treating myself to real sweets. The Special K Brownie Bites leave me deprived; they come across as half-as-good substitution, which is no fun for anyone cutting calories.