REVIEW: Honey Maid S’mores Cereal

Dunking a graham cracker into a tall cold glass of milk is one of the quintessential nostalgic past times of childhood. Maybe it’s because they aren’t chocolate or filled with crème, but for whatever reason I was allowed to eat graham crackers way more often than normal cookies as a child, and for me they are the ultimate companion to milk. I could do without milk and cookies in every other application, I’ll take some black coffee instead, but milk belongs with graham like Curry belongs on the Warriors, and the two compliment each other in soft subtle ways like no other. The top dawg brand of them all, of course, is Honey Maid, and in its glorious shadow all other crackers taste like mere imitators. It’s time for all other cereal’s to feel like imitators too, because the big boy has come to play with Honey Maid S’mores Cereal.

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REVIEW: Kashi Cinnamon French Toast

My experience with Kashi cereal goes something like this: I was told I needed to get some more fiber in my diet so I bought a box of GOLEAN Crunch! I had a serving or two, it tasted pretty good, and then I proceeded to have the most intensely loud and continuous gas of my life for the next two hours. I’m not kidding, I farted for HOURS, and I had my roommates try the cereal to make sure I wasn’t insane. Shortly after munching, they proceeded to audibly explode. I tried it again a couple of days later, and sure enough, I erupted just like before, and I decided in that moment to stay the hell away from Kashi…until now. Brand new to the healthy cereal aisle, and impossible for my cinna-dar to ignore is Kashi’s Cinnamon French Toast.

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REVIEW: Cinnamon Toast Crunch Blasted Shreds

In the history of the breakfast cereal universe there may be nothing more boring than Shredded Wheat. Okay…there’s Grape-Nuts, but I actually find something endearing and delicious about those little fiber-packed granules all soaked and sloshy in milk. But in all seriousness, Shredded Wheat is real damn drab. The mini variety with a coating of “frosting” over the top are a definite improvement, but would anyone really take those over Lucky Charms, Honey Bunches of Oats, Fruity Pebbles, or even good ole’ Cheerios? Most likely not, but General Mills, as clever and crafty as ever, are turning to the age old solution of curing boredom at any given time or event – getting absolutely blasted. That’s right, just like your introverted uncle at the quinceañera, welcome to the party Cinnamon Toast Crunch Blasted Shreds.

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REVIEW: Limited Edition Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms

Frosty the Snowman is my dude. I’m not sure if it’s normal for kids to latch onto Christmas characters like they would superheros or athletes, but as a youngster I certainly did, and Frosty will forever hold a place in my heart. Every time he came back to life was another chance for a birthday party, and birthday’s mean cake, and cake means fun, and thus, Frosty beats Rudolph. While the latest seasonal release from General Mills may not have an actual Frosty tie-in (Frosty has a button nose and is always smokin’ a pipe), it is proudly reppin’ one of his relatives, and my internal nostalgia switch began to melt as soon as I saw the swirly blue box for Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms.

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I’m gonna cut straight to the chase on this one – these Lucky Charms are not that spicy. The flavor is nearly identical to the established one kids (and adults?) have been chowing down on since 1964 – slightly sweetened toasted oats and crunchy dehydrated marshmallows. The key difference here is mostly aesthetic, as the usual array of rainbow colors have been replaced by cool wintery shades of blue and white. Snowmen, snowflakes, and snowballs cheerily swim in milk channeling a cool December day instead of the multicolored ending of a leprechaun hunt.

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I’m kind of surprised the cereal pieces don’t have any bite, since the box touts “frosted cinnamon oat cereal” very proudly, and I get zero cinnamon. That being said, there is a bit of cinna-flair in the marshmallows. When I get a spoonful with three or more winter-clad ‘mallows I get a sweet hit of cinnamon, but it’s very brief, and nowhere near the intensity of Pumpkin Spice Cheerios, Gingerbread Spice Life, or Cinnamon Pebbles. As for the vanilla, I think it goes without saying marshmallows have a vanilla-y flavor automatically, and I don’t detect any more or any less vanilla than I normally would from a box of Charms.

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Look, this cereal may not have the big cinnamon flavor that I had hoped for, but I cannot deny that Lucky Charms are still, in fact, magically delicious. The slight presence of spice in the marshmallows takes nothing away from the original recipe, and adds just a touch of holiday whimsy the ‘mallow-heavy bites. I’m slightly disappointed but I’m charmed by Lucky, and I’m a sucker for anything with cinnamon in it, even if it’s just a gentle whisper.

Rating: 8/10

Found at: Target ($2.99)

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REVIEW: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios

If I could eat Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups every day for breakfast and not feel like a pile of garbage, I probably would. My fantasy was somewhat fulfilled as a youngster when I was beckoned to the TV as another young white boy hollered at me “It’s Reese’s…for breakfast!” My head turned and my life changed, when Reese’s Puffs cereal was gifted to the world in the mid-90’s. From that moment on the Puffs became one of my favorite cereals, and up there with Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Count Chocula, it has maintained a stronghold on my nostalgia-fueled favorites as I’ve gotten older. Whether tugging at our Reese’s Puffs memories or just realizing PB and chocolate is one of the greatest flavor combo’s ever, Cheerios came strong this autumn with a new member of their preferment lineup – Chocolate Peanut Butter.

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The cereal has a great, sweet peanut butter-y aroma mixed with the whole oat goodness you know and love from Cheerios. Visually they’re very appealing with an equal amount of tan PB and brown chocolate O’s mingling together to create a wholesome version of one of the greatest duos of all time.

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What’s most impressive about eating these Cheerios is the authentic peanut butter slick that coats the pieces of cereal. Peanut butter is the third ingredient on the label, and I was pleasantly surprised that the PB presence pushes beyond flavor and translates to a wonderful fatty texture as well. The pieces taste like peanut butter and chocolate but also very distinctly Cheerios, and much like Honey Nut and other sweetened varieties, the sugar content isn’t so much that it takes away from the base flavor of the notoriously heart healthy breakfast option.

In milk the peanut butter mouthfeel is much less apparent, but the smoothness is still in tact with the natural texture of the milk. Once fully submerged in the cold creaminess the lower sugar content as compared to Reese’s Puffs is more obvious, and it eats a lot more like an “adult cereal” than a cartoon kiddy classic. There’s a nice, genuine bitter cocoa flavor that pops up over the PB and compliments the fatty nutty qualities really well. The chocolate and peanut butter are balanced with neither really taking the other one over, and every bite has a solid distribution of both flavors.

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Are Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios better than Reese’s Puffs? Nah. Nothing can top those sweet crunchy balls of goodness; but this is a great addition to Cheerios’ strong lineup of cereals that still feels more responsible than eating candy for breakfast. And the milk that’s leftover after a hearty bowl? Pure bliss.

Rating: 8.5/10
Found at: Safeway ($4.99)

REVIEW: Boo Berry Monster Cereal

Few things signify the start of the junk food spooky season like the arrival of Count Chocula. The count is one of those rare figures that pops up only during the dimly lit autumn months and vanishes as soon as the winter garland gets hung. Unlike a lot of seasonal products, Count Chocula isn’t a twist on an already existing item, like the myriad of cookies and crackers that get pumpkin’d or dyed Halloween colors; he is solely a haunted cereal spokesman and does not exist outside of the realm of spook. Being that I adore autumn, the Count was one of my favorite cereals growing up, and the fall snack season wouldn’t be complete without at least one box.

As much as I loved the Count, I wasn’t a big fan of his pal Franken Berry, and realized this year that I completely overlooked his other sidekick, Boo-Berry, entirely! To be fair, he did join the gang a little later, two years after the Count and Frank began their alliance, but as the first blueberry cereal to ever hit shelves in 1973, it’s finally time for me to give Boo his due.

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The cereal is made up of the same fun Pac Man-esque ghost-shaped puffed corn and multicolored marshmallows as the Count, but with a blue hue and a unique set of monster marshmallows. The ‘mallows look to be ghosts and uhhh…spooky blue and purple blobs? I’m not entirely sure what General Mills was going for with these shapes but the colors look good and pop against the dark pieces of cereal.

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The best way to describe eating this cereal dry, and I know this isn’t helpful to most, is nostalgic. There’s a generic sweetened corn cereal flavor that is very particular – a nondescript artificial berry mixed with grain and a solid toothy crunch. It isn’t overbearingly sweet, and the fruit flavor is fine, although not very true to anything that actually grows out of the ground. I imagine this is the same general flavor they rolled out in ’73, and hey, for what it is, it’s not bad at all.

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In milk is when Boo really starts to shine. The crunchy aerated marshmallows get slightly softened and their sweetness pairs up wonderfully with the more subtle cereal pieces. I’m not sure if it’s the seasonal nature of the entire brand, but the monster cereal marshmallows taste fresher and fluffier than a lot of their competition. The blueberry flavor is there, although very mild, but for what it lacks in fruity depth it makes up for in sheer fun factor. While it isn’t nearly as bold or crave-able as the chocolatey Count, Boo-Berry brings the same spooky crunchy feelings that I loved as a child into my Sunday morning mellow flow with eerie conviction.

Rating: 7.5/10
Found at: Target ($2.49)

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REVIEW: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Life

My life at the moment feels like a constant joyous swirl of pumpkin spice, which makes my repeat purchase of Pumpkin Spice Life all that much more fitting. I ate Life from time to time growing up, but it didn’t have the big sugary appeal of Reese’s Puffs or Cookie Crisp, so I haven’t revisited it much as an adult. Last year when this cereal dropped I made my return to the Life brand, and much like the PS Cheerios, when I saw them this season I felt the need to try them again, and gotta bring my thoughts to the skillet.

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This cereal isn’t nearly as spicy as its direct Cheerios competition, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t just as tasty. The little criss-crossed squares don’t jump with cloves and nutmeg, but they do have a sharp cinnamon presence and wonderful creamy, almost buttery essence that makes them really enjoyable to eat. Dry they have lots of crunch and embrace the brighter, sweeter side of cinnamon, even though a serving only clocks in at 6 grams of sugar. When milk is added the creaminess gets kicked up a notch and the cinnamon flavor doesn’t fade – it simply stays a cool, mellow, calming spicy presence that is downright pleasant to eat.

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The flavor, while it isn’t very intense, reminds me a bit of pie crust that has just a touch of pumpkin pie filling on it. While I haven’t had Cinnamon Life in quite awhile, I imagine this is very similar, yet the bowl screams autumn, and I don’t recall getting those vibes from the purely cinnamon version. There’s an upper register pop to this cereal that’s unique, almost like a spicy spark going off on my tongue, and it happens with every bite.

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I’ll be honest, there isn’t a ton of bold pumpkin flavor in Pumpkin Spice Life, but there’s a perfect balance of toothy, spicy, earthy, and delicious that makes it incredibly palatable and hard to stop eating. It isn’t aggressive but it’s refined, and sometimes subtly can be a real treat.

Rating: 8/10
Found at: Target ($2.99)

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REVIEW: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios

There are some companies that beat around the pumpkin plant when it comes to their spicy autumn products, but let me assure you, Pumpkin Spice Cheerios is not one of them. Picking them up in the store I could smell the cloves through the box, and at the cash register I had to check myself to see if I was buying a box of cereal or a box of cigarettes. For the spicy earthy aroma of cloves to permeate not only the plastic bag, but the cardboard, and then float the three feet from my hand to nose, is insanely impressive, and General Mills deserves a resounding slow clap for their pumpkin prowess.

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It’s no surprise that opening the actual bag reveals a wash of fragrant spicy autumnal goodness on top of earthy whole grains. There’s a very pleasant, squashy pumpkin presence in the mix that when I sniff deep with my eyes closed I can envision hay stacks at the pumpkin patch.

The flavor starts with Cheerios’ signature hearty oat-y crunch and gradually evolves into a smooth and sweet pumpkin with notes of honey, reminiscent of its big Honey Nut brother, before finishing strongly with pronounced cloves, cinnamon, and a touch of nutmeg. The clove flavor is intense, but it isn’t over the top, and as with most cereals the nose is a touch more dramatic than the actual bite.

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In milk, as expected, the clove-leaning flavor drops down a bit, and the creamy pumpkin honey notes are amplified, but the flavor overall is incredibly well-rounded with spicy cinnamon delight. The moisture awakens the bouquet of fall spices and ties them together with a beautiful orange bow, making for a bowl that should be agreeable to most palates and not just fiends like myself. Cheerios are some of the most classic in the game when it comes to a quick morning fix, and their ability to hold up to milk is proven and no different here. They work perfectly when submerged in the cold creamy stuff and cradle my spoon like a cozy autumn scarf in the most satisfying way.

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Whether you’re a certified cinna-slut spice junky, or just want a fresh spin on your breakfast cereal, this is one seasonal release that’s worth your time, and will get you in the proper mood for carving that jack-o-lantern in, ya know…six weeks.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: Target ($2.99)
Quick Nutrition: 3/4 cup – 110 cal – 2g fat – 120mg sodium – 22g carb – 2g fiber – 8g sugar – 2g protein

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REVIEW: Honey Bunches of Oats Pecan & Maple Brown Sugar

I’ll never forget when I was first introduced to Honey Bunches of Oats. Although I don’t remember the exact day, I remember being taken aback by a cereal that was a legitimate bridge between the sweet technicolor bowls I always wanted and the boring brown clumps my dad tried to force feed me. Honey Bunches represented a turning of the tides, an exercise in compromise, and a cereal that was legitimately tasty without any marshmallows. I loved the original Honey flavor and Almond, and have dabbled in the various berry editions as well, but when Post dropped their latest creation I knew I had to try it. Honey Bunches of Oats Pecan and Maple Brown Sugar combines all of the best elements of breakfast (except donuts) and puts them into one crispy crunchy bowl.

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The cereal is a tonal range of tan colors and has a relatively short list of ingredients to achieve this brown-bo of sorts. There’s straight ahead corn flakes, lightly sweetened corn flakes, some somehow crisped up looking whole oats, and those beautiful little pecan bunches. Some of the bunches are more granola-heavy and some of them have more visible pieces of pecans. The mixture carries a lovely sweet and nutty maple pecan scent with a cutting undercurrent of corn.

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Tasting the cereal dry is everything I want it to be – crunchy, nutty, maple-y, and only slightly sweet. As with all Honey Bunches varieties the different elements compliment each other very well and balance each other out for consecutive cohesive bites that pop with the occasional big cluster. I’m not sure how they do it but I always felt there was a creaminess to Honey Bunches cereals that not many other had. Maybe it’s the inclusion of small pieces of nuts, but I get a wonderful smooth vanilla presence here that I also get in the original Almonds flavor and it’s a real treat.

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Bringing milk to the party softens some of the sweet maple notes and drives up the corn-y flake flavors. While I feel like the sweetness was perfect in the dry cereal, with the additional moisture I could use just a touch more sweetness, especially in regards to the maple, to hold up to the sogg-ing effect of the milk. The corn flakes are very thin and soften pretty quickly, while the clusters hold their own and stand strong against the milk. The more that I eat the cereal the more I realize I want more pecans. The pecans are mostly in small pieces and end up getting lost in the flurry of milk and flakes. I wish they were bigger and I wish the corn flakes got less floppy but I also wish my bowl would refill itself automatically because I just love eating this stuff.

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Honey Bunches of Oats are a classic cereal that should hypothetically please all palates at the breakfast table. I love the maple flavor in this new version but don’t think I would put it above the OG Almond because of the backseat the pecans take as compared to the prominent amount of almond slivers in the classic blue box . All in all you will not be disappointed putting this cereal into milk, onto ice cream, or simply into a ziplock bag for snacking all day long.

Rating: 8.5/10
Found at: Safeway ($3.99)

REVIEW: Cap’n Crunch’s Limited Edition Blueberry Pancake Crunch

Pancakes have played a pivotal role in my culinary journey.  They were the first thing I ever learned to cook when I was five years old, are the breakfast I have every Christmas morning, are my most often customized and changed entree, and the only reason why I own a plug in griddle.  I even memorized the recipe from the Joy of Cooking book, which I have since adapted and incorporate blueberries whenever I can get my hands on them.  Blueberries work so well in pancakes that I often wonder if they were created solely to be cooked in cake or muffin form, so I was elated to learn that the Cap’n had caught onto this perfect combo and wanted to package the flavor in cardboard form to deliver Cap’n Crunch’s Limited Edition Blueberry Pancake Crunch.

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Opening the box delivers a big sugary aroma with the sharp undercurrent of maple syrup.  It’s hard to explain exactly how the two smells work together, but there isn’t a specific blueberry essence as much as there is just standard breakfast cereal “sweet”.  Trying the cereal dry has a satisfying sweet and slightly salty crunch, with some but not a ton of distinction between the tan and blue colored corn and oat balls.  You would think that the two different colors would function similarly to the Cap’n’s crunch berries, but they taste much more like each other than they do two separate flavors.  There’s a touch more maple in the tan balls and a hint more berry sweetness in the blue ones, but still no dominant blueberry flavor, especially when compared to a cereal like Tiny Toast.

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Adding in some milk really drives the maple smell to the foreground and I’m excited.  The moisture from the milk helps bring the flavor together and definitely reminds me of a maple-y pancake, although not one studded with my favorite baking berry.  As the blue cereal balls towards the bottom get more soaked in milk they give off more blueberry vibes and I’m starting to see the full flavor be revealed before me.  Interestingly, as I sit contemplating over my empty bowl the flavor that lingers in my mouth IS blueberry, which is pleasant, but a bit of a surprise considering it didn’t play too big of a role during most of the chomping.  The leftover milk has absorbed a good amount of the maple flavor and tastes like cold creamy syrup, definite A+ cereal milk satisfaction.

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I’m not going to be unreasonable, but it’s worth noting that none of the other nuances you would expect from pancakes like butter, eggy-ness, or buttermilk can be found here; but there is a golden sheen from the maple that will remind you of the classic griddle cake.  Is it as delicious as a piping hot short stack bursting with berries and drowning in syrup?  No, of course not, but it is a maple-forward cereal with some berry boost and a satisfying sugar snap that is right up there with Peanut Butter Crunch as some of the Cap’n’s finest work.

Rating: 8.5/10

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