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Blue Bell Mint Cookies ‘n Cream Review (On The Ice Cream Informant)

Once again, Chad (aka The Ice Cream Informant) has featured a review of mine, this time of the new Mint Cookies ‘n Cream ice cream from Blue Bell.  The link to the review can be found here.

Here’s the original review, along with the images.

There are two things I can’t seem to tear myself from. Most recently, it’s been Blue Bell ice cream, despite my last two ventures being completely skippable. The other is mint-chocolate treats which, given my childhood obsession with mint chocolate chip ice cream, shouldn’t be too surprising. Maybe it’s more than mere coincidence then, that Blue Bell would come out with a Mint Cookies ‘n Cream flavor to adorn their gold rim.

Blue Bell already have a traditional Mint Chocolate Chip flavor, but now we’re tossing cookies ‘n cream into the mix. For some strange reason, the pint is even more scant on details than Rum Raisin was, which is to say it has no details at all. Only when I seek out Blue Bell’s web site do I find that it’s a “smooth mint ice cream combined with mint creme-filled chocolate cookies and semi-sweet chocolate chips.” Fine by me, because without such guidance I might’ve suspected the cookies to be completely mint flavored, which would be interesting in theory if boring in execution.
But we have an ice cream to devour here, and even with a trench on the edge, I’m ready for that mint scent to grace my tongue. I dig in and am greeted by a brief, initial stiffness that quickly gives way to a medium-light body. The mint flavor is decidedly tame, offset by plenty of chocolate chips and more than a few Oreo imitators. These range from little crumbs to smudges and even entire chunks. It’s nice to see that Blue Bell didn’t skimp out on the mix-ins here, because even though “mint” is the first word for this flavor, it’s the chocolate that steals the show. I think it’s a good decision, since the ice cream has just enough flavor to balance the experience and hold everything together.
Blue Bell had me worried for a bit. After two lackluster offerings, I really wanted to find something that would restore my faith. I figured something similar to my favorite flavor as a kid would be the perfect chance for me to truly praise them again. I’m happy to say this is the case, with two classic selections coming together for a little something new and old at the same time. And yes, I’m already missing that lovely, green pint.
Question of the Day: What was your favorite ice cream as a kid?
 
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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Blog, Food, Ice Cream, Review

 

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Godiva Liqueur Review (Chocolate & White Chocolate)

Chocolate Liqueur Review

Great, now I’m reviewing alcohol.

I originally thought I’d be subjecting a more conventional bottle to my scrutiny, but while shopping, a couple little devils caught my eye.  For the longest time I’ve been curious about Godiva’s chocolate liqueur, but couldn’t see myself justifying the $30 price tag they come with.  This isn’t so much because of the beverage itself, but because of what other drinks I could mix it with in my collection (or lack thereof).  So I took the sampler’s route and bought a 50 milliliter bottle of the regular chocolate and white chocolate flavors.

It’s been a long time since I had Godiva chocolate, but given their name and reputation, this should be an interesting treat.  The bottles look nice, dark and elegant, almost like some high-class chocolate syrup.  Sometimes a really nice bottle is all it takes to catapult my attention.

Aesthetically, the regular chocolate variant looks like perfect chocolate milk, complete with a silky appearance and almost irish cream-like scent.  As I take an initial sip, the burn from the alcohol faintly lingers about my throat while the chocolate flavor gives off a mild personality.  The burn comes up more as I work my way, but becomes nonexistent on the finish.  I can’t help but think of irish cream mixed with chocolate syrup while I finish what little I have.  This is definitely something that could stand on its own as a post-dinner drink, like eggnog except you’re not limited to one time of the year.

White Chocolate Liqueur Review

Now, I love white chocolate.  I think it’s a bit of an unsung sweet that, when good, holds up on its own.  When paired with the right stuff it’s incredible, but they aren’t always so clear-cut.  It’s kind of like how I view Jameson whiskey–you really need to know what it can and can’t go with.  Needless to say, my hopes are quite high for this one.

Other than the white label, the bottle itself for this sample size is interchangeable.  A bit coy, really.  Once again, we’re talking silky smooth texture here, like a slightly thicker milk.  The burn from the alcohol is far less apparent to me, which is fitting with the mild flavor of white chocolate.  Much like how the chocolate flavor makes me think of irish cream, this one simply makes me think of milk (white chocolate milk, anyone?).  Because the flavor is so unimposing, I don’t really register the fact it’s white chocolate until the finish.

It’s probably my own bias, but on their own, I prefer the white chocolate flavor.  That said, I’m still pretty dry on recipes either of these could be used for, especially the white chocolate variant.  Other than a coffee or milk-esque drink, my creative juices simply aren’t flowing.  I enjoy both on their own, but I’m not so sure I’d shell out the price tag for a whole bottle of either one.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Alcohol, Blog, Review

 

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M&M’s Marathon

A bag of M&M’s is like a bunch of little engines that could, mustering through as you crush their feeble little lives away.  Individually they’re among the smaller candies, but even with the same flavor per bag they consistently work some (black) magic.  Skittles might have variety going for them, but would you still eat a whole bag if they were all grape flavored?  I know I wouldn’t.

I haven’t been much of a candy eater as of late, but with Fall in session it means us Americans can feel less guilty about our sweet tooth fetish.  As much as anyone likes M&M’s, I tend to regard them as more of a (dessert) mixer.  Ice cream, cookies and a thick cake perhaps; that’s where the real M&M magic can be worked.  But we’re not here to mix M&M’s, we’re just here to eat M&M’s.  Today we have eight varieties and, to avoid cluttering, I’m going to forgo nutritional information.  Besides, who cares about nutrition when tossing bite-size sugar bombs over your greedy little tongues?

M&M’s Milk Chocolate

First up we have the classic M&M’s Milk Chocolate in the instantly (and boringly) identifiable dark brown bag.  The great thing about M&M’s is that even their thin shells seem to keep the chocolate intact, almost completely eliminating the possibility of a melted bag.

What makes these little buggers work is the crunchiness of the shell combined with the chocolate filling melting around your teeth.  It’s a tried and true consistency that, while very basic, remains fulfilling when you’re craving a simple treat.  Unlike a standard Hershey bar where your mouth has to act as an oven to melt the bar until you’re bored of the taste, these are more about instant gratification.

In Short: Sometimes all you need is something basic.

M&M’s Peanut

Next up is the other key staple in Mars’ M&M’s line up: M&M’s Peanut.  Anyone who knew me through high school knew that I was completely adamant about any form of nut.  Anyone who put nuts on my brownies might as well put them back in the oven until they burnt.  As such, Peanut M&M’s were irrelevant to me; they could’ve been discontinued and I’d have been content.

Since then I’ve grown more of an enjoyment for peanuts.  In fact, I’m surprised at just how addicting they can get.  Peanuts seem to go away very fast, just like bite-size candies.  I guess that’s the point of Peanut M&M’s: Bite-size snacks to leave you hungry and wondering where the hell your money went.  These are also the largest of the M&M’s I tried for this blog, so there are far less per bag, which again only screams inherent disappointment.

Taking a bite, I get the impression more chocolate wants to come out, but the peanut blocks it.  I think many guys have had a similar experience, whether or not you’re a virgin (leave me alone).  Many types of nuts have a nice, salty taste to them, so the sweet and salty factor should work here.  Maybe not to classic status like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but something to a similar effect.  This is not the case.

That said, given how much the peanut takes up, I’m actually surprised at how much of a chocolate layer there is.  Going through more I’ve found that it varies a bit, but I still think the potential and magic of Peanut M&M’s remains lost with Harry Potter’s relatives.

In Short: I’ll eat them, but I won’t buy them.

M&M’s Peanut Butter

As I said, peanuts were never really to my liking as a kid.  Peanut butter, on the other hand, was the nectar of the gods.  Before I can even literally remember, peanut butter was essentially my source of protein since I apparently avoided meats like the plague.  I’m just glad that part didn’t become a piece of foreshadowing for my future.  And since we all know that peanut butter goes with chocolate like cars and overpriced maintenance, M&M’s Peanut Butter was definitely among my most highly anticipated variants.

So I had to remind myself going in…what’s the difference between these and Reese’s Pieces?  Just that the shells have more color variety?  Bring up the medal for Mars, everyone!  To my surprise, these are quite bigger than regular M&M’s and even Reese’s Pieces.  And yes, I did try some of those not long before this blog as part of an (un)intentional reference.

These M&M’s nail the sweetness of chocolate and peanut butter building off of each other to a satisfying end, but for some reason they don’t quite have that sweet magic Reese’s Pieces do.  And since these are bigger, that’s a bit of an issue.  Even more so is that you can enjoy more Pieces for about the same (if not less) guilt of the M&M’s Peanut Butter.  Still a good candy, but if you have a choice, go for the true Pieces.

In Short: Good but inferior.

M&M’s Pretzel

We’re already working with the salty and sweet magic of M&M’s and peanut butter, so what other option did Mars have to give us?  Pretzels, of course!  As a kid I loved pretzels.  At least, the fresh and soft ones with plenty of salt, anyway.  Hard, store bought pretzels are just weak.  They’re a step above standard potato chips in that you don’t feel totally guilty eating them, but that’s not saying much.  Scratch that, they’re TWO steps above potato chips.  You know why?  Because there’s less air per bag and more solidified empty calories.  Suck it, Lays!

Chocolate covered pretzels seem to be a bit of an unsung classic combo nowadays.  I’ve already taken big notice of them in the seasonal desert sections of supermarkets, but never see anyone buy them.  I even made some white chocolate covered pretzels to snack on in college, using melted Hershey’s Bliss.  They tasted great, but I had to be kept in the fridge to avoid melting.  Why white chocolate?  Because Flipz, the most recognizable brand in chocolate covered pretzels to this kid’s mind, have amazing white chocolate covered pretzels, but the regular chocolate version literally tastes like wood.

Hopefully Mars and M&M’s can handle regular chocolate on their pretzels a bit better.

While these are about half to two-thirds the size of a Peanut M&M and have even less pieces per bag, these are easily the best option for the more nutritiously discerning buyer.  You get less than 200 calories and less than 20 grams of sugar per bag, which isn’t a bad snack while on a boring register shift.

Taking a half bite to see the ratio, it’s a similar story to the Peanut M&M’s, except the chocolate seems to play a bigger role here.  I want to say that has to do with the fact pretzels are less tightly packed, if you will, than peanuts.  As such, the chocolate is able to seep through and compliment the faint saltiness.  The crunchiness feels just right too, since the pretzel bite crumbles apart and continues to mix with the melting chocolate.  It’s a very pleasant experience.

In Short: Gives the oldies a run for their money (and flavor).

Coconut M&M’s

Mars really like to play inconsistent games with me.  Peanuts and pretzels?  Whatever.  Peanut butter?  Hellz yeah!  Coconut?  Might as well give me a side of asparagus.

That’s a bit much, but if there’s one flavor from my childhood I haven’t had too much of a change of heart in, it’s coconut.  I always found it incredibly bland and, to put in the words of one of this century’s best characters, “I hate coconut, not the taste, the consistency.”  Coconut is pretty much a less awesome version of dark chocolate in that I’ll only tolerate it if mixed with something very good.  Speaking of which, that’s a pretty decent combo for two unremarkable flavors.

Something that makes me sad about this M&M marathon is that it’s taken this long to get to a white M&M.  I guess it’s true, racism is A-okay whenever directed at whites.  Something else I’ve noticed is that all the other M&M’s are bigger than the traditional ones, even if they use a basic flavor enhancer.

And when I say basic, I mean basic: The coconut doesn’t play very much of a role here, being the recessive flavor.  In other words, I actually kind of dig it.  Part of the problem with my general coconut experience is that any time I try it, it’s the dominant flavor.  I’d rather it be secondary or used only for an aftertaste, which it does here.  If you love coconut, you’ll probably be underwhelmed.  If you don’t like coconut but are feeling adventurous, these might be worth a shot.

In Short: These work some reverse logic on you.

Mint Chocolate M&M’s

Once again, Mars have pulled the rug underneath my aching feet.  Except this time I anticipate a soft landing into ice cream rather than a bloody concussion on my forehead.  Why ice cream?  Because mint chocolate chip was always my go-to flavor as–you guessed it–a kid.  So imagine my excitement upon seeing the Mint Chocolate M&M’s.

Like peanut butter and pretzels, mint and chocolate are among the best of the classic flavor combinations.  You could make a good contest for which seems to mix better, peanut butter with chocolate or mint with chocolate.  But my excitement came to a “whoa, whoa” when I saw these M&M’s use dark chocolate instead of the standard milk chocolate.  The milky lover in me is feeling very wary.

Like the other M&M flavors, these are considerably larger than regular M&M’s.  It’s like flavors are to M&M’s as steroids are to humans.  Arrogant candy sibling jerks.  But the point at hand is the candy and, similar to the coconut flavor, the mint here takes a backseat to the chocolate, which in my case is less fulfilling than I’d like it to be.  That said, the aftertaste is more pronounced, so I’m left clinging to the mint flavor more than the coconut.  This is a nice combination that I’m sure fellow mint and chocolate lovers will like, but it ultimately leaves too much of a so-so impression.

In Short: You’re better off with a pint (or gallon) of ice cream.

Candy Corn M&M’s

And finally we have what I’m sure half my tiny selection of readers will consider the true rotten apple of M&M’s in the candy corn flavor.  Unlike all the others, this one is made with white chocolate.  I suppose this is to better compliment the aforementioned flavor.  I don’t know, has anyone tried candy corn dipped in milk chocolate?  Japan ought to know, they get all the awesome stuff first.

For reference, I have Brach’s candy corn to compare these too.  As far as I’m concerned, candy corn receives way too much hate.  I’d be lying if I said it’s spectacular, but there are far worse crimes, even in the candy world.  Those who say candy corn is something that keeps life from being good should stomach their way through a Hershey’s Air “Delight” bar and then tell me how cruel the world really is.

Candy corn itself has a subtle build up of mellow cream-like sugar that seems to get sweeter the more you chew it, which makes for a surprisingly enjoyable treat.  That is, in moderation of course.

There are various variants of the picture used on Candy Corn M&M wrappers for our red M&M friend; mine doesn’t seem too happy.  I’m nervous.  Taking these buggers out of the bag, it’s all but confirmed that every non-traditional M&M flavor wants to make the Milk Chocolate M&M’s seem anorexic.  Hey, America loves special flavors and we’re the fattest country in the world, it’s only fitting!

Taking a half bite to see the inside, it’s completely white, a big contrast to the dark brown of chocolate.  After looking at so much chocolate, I’m surprised by just how interesting a creamy white color can be.  As for the taste?  I definitely pick up the white chocolate, which is a nice plus for me.  The candy corn flavor itself?  Just like the mint and coconut flavors–a mild to moderate aftertaste.  What I like about these is that they’re the creamiest of the M&M’s, which is fitting given the fat and sugar inducing double whammy of Fall and Winter is upon us.  Will candy corn lovers enjoy this?  Maybe, but I think most anyone who likes white chocolate can dig these.

In Short: You might be (pleasantly) surprised.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Blog, Candy, Food, Review

 

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Marathon Reviews: KitKat

I was never much of a KitKat fan growing up.  Then again I wasn’t much a fan of anything outside the most sugar and chocolate-drenched concoctions.  A regular Hershey bar sometimes quenched those cravings; I always forgoed the dark, nut or air-filled variants (Cookies n Cream is another story).  When you’re a kid, you want the exciting stuff, something KitKat never had.

So why honor something I’ve no fond memory of with a comprehensive blog?  My best retort is that lowered standards really do things to a man.  Not low enough to the point of trying or enjoying Ramen noodles per se, but if you’re like me and have tried losing weight, you know you’d better damn well open up.  So go figure that, in the past couple years, I’ve found myself enjoying an occasional KitKat.  And by occasional I mean once every eight months or so.

But enough about my lovely success story, let’s have a look at our real stars.

KitKat really aren’t doing much in the creativity category.  Sans three popular flavors and a typical selection of sizes, what do they offer that’s so different?  I may be pre-critical, but even Milky Way jumped at more opportunities in the past who-knows-how-many decades.  And let’s be honest, who (voluntarily) buys Milky Way?  I should probably get off this tangent.

KitKat

Nutrition

Serving Size: 1 package (42 grams)
Calories: 210 (90 from fat)
Total Fat: 11 grams (7 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat)
Cholesterol: Less than 5 mg
Sodium: 30 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 27 grams (less than 1 gram dietary fiber, 21 grams sugar)
Protein: 3 grams

Tearing the wrapper off our classic KitKat unveils the nice, clean look these bars are known for.  Whatever the guys at Hershey do to make these appealing certainly works, since I can’t recall ever opening an unappealing KitKat.  If only they could do similar work with excess skin from those who lost weight “too fast.”  But don’t even get me started on how many times I’ve had a deformed Hershey bar or Reese’s, those are a whole other ballpark.

The wafer-to-chocolate ratio is nice and balanced, which is helped by the fact thin traces of chocolate sneak in-between layers of wafer.  I still think it’s crazy that something as boring as wafer, even mixed with the awesomeness of milk chocolate, comes out so well.  It shouldn’t be this good, but for some reason it is.  The sweetness is just right, which is probably why it works so well (those 21 grams of sugar).  In fact, if it weren’t for the fat and inherent consequences that come with all sweets, I’d call this a sinless treat.

A standard KitKat proves to be something that works well and simply makes sense.  At the same time, I can’t call it one of the best candies out there.  It’s like chocolate cake with vanilla frosting: good (maybe even great) on its own but, as we all know, yellow cake with chocolate frosting is better.

The Verdict: Grab It On Sale

KitKat White

Nutrition

Serving Size: 1 four-piece bar (42 grams)
Calories: 220 (100 from fat)
Total Fat: 12 grams (8 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat)
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Sodium: 45 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 26 grams (0 grams dietary fiber, 18 grams sugar)
Protein: 3 grams

Now we have KitKat White, which certainly has a more eye-catching wrapper than the standard KitKat…if only for the fact it’s white instead of the standard red/orange wrapper.  I’m a bit of a sucker for white chocolate, despite the fact it’s so plain.  It’s like vanilla ice cream in that you don’t think much of it on its own.  But when that stuff is mixed with the right ingredients it becomes a right mouthgasm.

However, things aren’t always what they seem.  We have supposed ice creams being “frozen dairy desserts” (I’m looking at you, Edy’s) and here we have a KitKat bar simply called “KitKat White.”  And unlike the standard KitKat which reads “Milk Chocolate,” these simply say “Crisp Wafers ‘n Creme.”  What’s more is that there’s no sign or mention of ANY chocolate in the ingredients.  Disappointment has already settled in.

One funny note is that regular KitKats read a serving size as “1 package” while White goes an extra mile to say “1 four-piece bar.”  I guess we’re supposed to take comfort in being compensated via the wrapper print.

Stripping the candy bar(s) I immediately noticed the coating has some thin spots.  I’m not sure if this is also the case with regular KitKats, but if it is, the chocolate does a good job covering up traces of laziness.  As I already mentioned, white chocolate is amazing when mixed with the right stuff.  But again, it’s a plain flavor which is being mixed with the boringness that is wafer, so I became increasingly hesitant.

It’s very tough to pick up the taste of the creme coating until you start getting the aftertaste.  But while you’re chewing the bar itself the wafer actually overpowers the creme.  That alone should speak all you need to know.  I always love a smooth, creamy taste, but this one isn’t nearly as good of a match as milk chocolate KitKats.  It isn’t bad or even remotely repulsive, but my fellow white chocolate comrades can easily live without this candy.

The Verdict: Toss It In the Spill

KitKat Dark

Nutrition

Serving Size: 1 bar (42 grams)
Calories: 210 (100 from fat)
Total Fat: 11 grams (7 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat)
Cholesterol: Less than 5 mg
Sodium: 30 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 27 grams (less than 1 gram dietary fiber, 21 grams sugar)
Protein: 3 grams

And here’s KitKat Dark, whose announcement of permanency on store shelves sent some people into a gushing (like Gusher) phase.  Hardcore Candy Blog followers will know what I’m talking about.  Once more, there’s different wording for the serving size on these packages, simply reading “1 bar.”

I’ll be honest, much like regular KitKats, I was never a big fan of dark chocolate.  In most regards I’m still not too keen on it.  But like white chocolate, when mixed with something good, I’ll enjoy it (dark chocolate raspberry cupcakes, anyone?).  Looking at the nutrition of all three KitKat bars, it saddens me that a bit of chocolate and wafer is enough to give you more than a day’s worth of saturated fat.

But shrug all that aside upon unwrapping the KitKat Dark, as you’re immediately greeted by a prominent dark chocolate smell.  I was also glad (and surprised) to see the dark chocolate looked the part too, since the chocolate is far more black than the milk chocolate KitKats.  Upon biting, I felt the bar was a bit firmer than the others, which might have to do with a thicker covering.  The flavor itself is a fairly decent chocolate taste and certainly has more character than KitKat White.  I’m no closer to boarding the dark chocolate wagon than I was before, and while I had more inclination to finish the Whites, KitKat Dark does work better for what it is.

The Verdict: Grab It On Sale

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Blog, Candy, Food, Review

 

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Special K Fruit & Yogurt Cereal Review

I’m sure like most kids at the time, if you’d asked me what I thought of Special K cereal, I’d give you a typical “it stinks” response despite having never tried it.  Growing up, I looked at it as the cereal of adults.  Though if marketing and advertisements say anything, it’s a cereal aimed at women who hope to scrape by each day without ever being full.  Since it’s become a bit of a go-to cereal for me these past few months, I suppose I’m just getting in touch with my feminine side.

In all honesty, if Special K had a creepy mascot and used semi-interesting box covers, kids would probably be all over them.  They have multiple (sugary) flavors, multiple carbs and aren’t nearly as boring as those paper flavored circles known as Cheerios.

Special K fit comfortably into the usual cereal mold by offering the front cover claim that their cereal is “made with whole grain” and is a “good source of fiber.”  You know what else has 3 grams of fiber?  A serving of Jiffy Pop.  I guess it’s time to weigh my breakfast options.

As with the other Special K flavors, the fruit & yogurt variant has a faded color to indicate what corresponds with it.  Since most of the box is still white, that must mean the flavor remains your generic Special K flavor (in other words, flaky Cheerios).  The cereal description says it comes with fruit clusters and yogurt-coated clusters, but if proportions are any indication, the fruit clusters might as well be called crumbs.  It’d be like taking the remains of your Nature Valley granola bar and dipping them in red and purple food dye.

Even before biting in, you can probably tell the white yogurt clusters are where the bulk of the cereal gets its 10 grams of sugar.  This could be marketed very easily to kids by swapping “yogurt” and “clusters” with “sugar” and “puffs.”  Now all you need is a pedophile mascot.

There’s not much of an aroma to the cereal when you take a whiff of it.  The scent is definitely oat-ey, but in a processed sort of way (I wonder why).  Now the recommended serving size, as with most cereals, is 3/4 a cup.  But let’s be honest, how many of us actually abide by those tiny serving sizes?  I just dump in what I think is a reasonable amount for me.  Then there’s the type of milk you use, which can easily double the nutritional facts, especially when the only kind in your household is whole milk.

The cereal is quick to moisten from the milk, but it retains just enough crunchiness to avoid feeling cheap and tasting stale.  Speaking of taste, the sugar is quite enjoyable.  Not in a fruity sort of way, just a sugary sort of way.  What little fruit flavor there is is fairly subdued, almost taking a back seat to what I’m sure is the yogurt clusters slowly fading into the milk.  There was still a bit of crunch left over, even after being submitted to my slow eating habits.  What’s nice is the flakes are a good variety of sizes, although that all but changes when you reach the last fourth of the entire bag.  But that’s often when cereal is the sweetest, so who am I to complain?

Special K take little to no risks, and their cereal quality reflects that.  This fruit & yogurt blend isn’t their tastiest flavor, but it’s at least more fun on its own than many other sugary, frosted cereals.  If you want a sweet flavor that’s just a bit more smooth than it is eye-popping, then keep an eye out for it.  Just be sure you get it on sale, because $4-$5 for one of these boxes is just…no.

The Verdict: Buy It On Sale

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2012 in Cereal, Food, Review

 

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