Mr. Tidbit meets Mr. Peanut, plus quinoa


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Peanuts on parade

Mr. Tidbit’s policy of (limited) intellectual honesty calls upon him to acknowledge that he has occasionally prepared to train the searing spotlight of the Tidbits column on a peculiar grocery item only to find that he bought it so long ago that it has already disappeared from stores. When he discovers that situation, he usually just deletes the information about the product from his list of Tidbits possibilities and eats (or otherwise disposes of) the product itself. Sometimes, though, in trying to find out whether it has come to that, he discovers a new, even more ludicrous product.

Such is the case with Planters “limited edition” S’Mores Mix, a bag of “roasted peanuts, chocolate candy pieces, dark cocoa almonds, marshmallow pieces and yogurt-coated graham cracker pieces” that he bought a while ago and that he found to be both very tasty and totally unlike S’Mores. He was about to say just that, but — aware that he’d had the bag a while — he checked and found that the limit on its edition apparently had passed: The product was utterly absent both from the store where he had found it and from the Planters website.

But there — and, thank goodness, in stores, too — he discovered a set of four Planters “dessert-inspired mixes” even sillier than S’Mores: Banana Sundae, Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie and Turtle Sundae.

How silly are these nut mixes? Banana Sundae mix consists of “honey roasted peanuts, chocolate candy covered peanuts, vanilla yogurt covered peanuts, strawberry yogurt flavor covered peanuts and banana chips.” The most prominent component of Oatmeal Raisin Cookie mix is “oatmeal flavor covered raisins.” In addition there are yogurt and graham covered raisins, cinnamon toasted almonds, pecans and raisins, the latter raisins apparently utterly without such enhancements as “oatmeal flavor cover.”

At the discount store where he found them, the six-ounce bags of dessert-inspired mixes were $2.99. Although none of them is labeled “limited edition,” Mr. Tidbit somehow doubts they’ll long endure.


Quinoa strikes again

New from Kellogg’s Special K brand are two kinds of Tasty Grains multigrain crackers with (of course, since it’s 2016) quinoa: Sea Salt Original and Parmesan Sesame. Both contain whole wheat flour, enriched wheat flour, brown rice flour, quinoa flour (finally!), whole grain barley flour, degerminated yellow corn flour and lots more. Oddly, the Parmesan Sesame crackers contain Romano cheese too — and more of it than Parmesan.


Kraft-Heinz Devours and a couple of cookies

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Kraft-Heinz goes “ooey gooey”

What Mr. Tidbit believes to be the first major product introduction from newly merged Kraft-Heinz Foods is a set of 12 Devour frozen entrees, which aren’t intended to appeal to the self-righteous. You know where the American consumer is said to be heading — fewer ingredients, emphasis on healthy nutrition? This ain’t there. Mr. Tidbit might have felt that he was being a little hyperbolic if he went much further than that, but here are quotes from Devour’s own website:

“We know cravings. It’s our mission. Our expertise. And with our arsenal of creamy, crispy, cheesy, spicy, sweet, and smoky there’s no craving we can’t take care of.”

Also  “[We use] the most craveable tastes and textures in every meal, like ooey gooey cheese, spicy sausage and crispy bacon you just won’t find in other microwavable meals.”

And they don’t go all Lean Cuisine when they put it together, either.

Examples, with key nutrition info, the better to astonish the more numerate reader: Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese (460 calories, 30 grams of fat [11 saturated], 1770 mg sodium), Lasagna Alfredo with Bacon & Sausage (570 calories, 37 grams fat [14 saturated], 990 mg sodium), and Chicken & Waffles (with syrup for dipping), (620 calories, 21 g fat [4 g saturated], 1150 mg sodium and an impressive 83 g carbohydrate [36 g sugars]).

Thin cookie Ahoy!

Following the very successful Oreo Thins (which Mr. Tidbit has called “the potato chip of Oreos”) a year ago, Mondelez now gives us Chips Ahoy! Thins. (As always, Mr. Tidbit rushes to note that the exclamation point is part of the name, not an indication of his level of enthusiasm.) But where Oreo Thins feel like an entirely different product from regular Oreos, Mr. Tidbit would say that Chips Ahoy! Thins are pretty-much just thinner and crisper Chips Ahoy! cookies.  Perfectly nice, maybe easy to overdo because they seem fairly insubstantial, but Chips entirely Ahoy! (There’s a cinnamon sugar version, which . . . has cinnamon sugar.)

And another Oreo

Mr. Tidbit is a little surprised that he is placing this item last, but maybe he is (finally?) no longer surprised that there’s yet another new Oreo. Anyway, the limited-edition Oreo now debuting is Fruity Crisp (between Golden Oreo wafers and with a few rice crisps in the filling). Imagine a Kool-Aid Tropical Punch cookie.



Cheez-It goes sandwich; Lance gets bold


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Sandwiched by Cheez-Its

The world of cheesy lunchbox snacks has a new entrant: Cheez-It sandwich crackers. The standby brand here, Lance, has been around forever, although many people who buy the cello-wrapped six-packs of little cheese or peanut butter cracker sandwiches singly or in boxes of eight might never have noticed their name.  Keebler was already in this business, with a number of cheese/ peanut butter sandwichettes including some on little Club crackers. Nabisco’s Ritz is in this business too, with cheese, peanut butter and cream cheese fillings, and Frito-Lay’s many Munchies extend to a peanut butter and chocolate item.

But Keebler’s Cheez-It entry, while not stepping out of the cheese category, makes it much more particular with Italian 4 Cheese, in addition to Spicy Queso and Classic Cheddar.

Ever the skeptic, Mr. Tidbit dragged himself through nine wide lines of all-caps tiny type and verified that the filling in the Italian 4 Cheese version contains Cheddar, ricotta, Romano and mozzarella cheeses.

These Cheez-It entries are a little pricey. At one store, the Lance 11-ounce boxes of eight 1.37-ounce cello-packs are $3.39 (31 cents an ounce), the same size boxes of Keebler’s Club cracker sandwichettes are $3.19 (29 cents an ounce), the essentially same size Ritzes are $2.99 (28 cents an ounce) and the Munchies — also essentially the same size — are only $2.29 (21 cents an ounce). The box of Cheez-Its contains only six 1.48-ounce packs, totaling just 8.9 ounces, and at that store sells for $3.59 (40 cents an ounce).


A bolds departure?

Mr. Tidbit was walking away from the sandwichette department when he noticed that Lance had already fired back, with Bolds (plural), the only one of which he found was Buffalo Ranch, which seems to not include any cheese (or peanut butter) at all, but comes in the same 11-ounce 8-pack box at the same price. But at the Lance website, those don’t exist and instead there are three other new Lance Bolds, all cheesy: pizza, Buffalo wing blue cheese and bacon Cheddar. Mr. Tidbit must report that the “bacon” consists of imitation bacon bits and natural bacon flavor. These Lance Bolds come in an 8.25-ounce box that contains only six 1.37-ounce packs, so although Mr. Tidbit hasn’t yet seen them in stores, he’s confident that when they arrive they will cost more per ounce. Stay tuned.


Don’t care for Oreos? How about Oreo dirt?

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Never in Mr. Tidbit’s wildest dreams had he imagined being able to discuss three new Oreo products at the same time. (Mr. Tidbit has very tame dreams.)

Choco Chip Oreos

New limited-edition Choco Chip Oreos are Golden-type Oreo wafers blessed with tiny dots of what might be crumbs of chocolate Oreo wafers, or bits of “choco chips” (whatever they are), sandwiched around “Choco Chip flavored creme” (whatever that is, it too contains tiny dots, but in this case Mr. Tidbit feels safe in assuming that they are Choco Chips, whatever they are).

As odd versions of Oreo cookies go, this one ranks pretty far down on the weirdometer from such eye-openers as Key Lime Pie, Gingerbread and Candy Corn, to say nothing of “Rainbow Shure, Bert!” [Yes. Shure, Bert!] If you ask Mr. Tidbit (and even if you don’t) this filling tastes more like maple cream than like anything that might reasonably be called Choco Chips. (And back in early 2014, when Cookie Dough Oreos appeared, Mr. Tidbit thought that filling tasted like sweet instant coffee.)

Oreo Dirt Cups

It’s hard to keep straight which Kraft brands split off under the Mondelez label, as Oreos did, and which went with the Kraft operations (which are now Kraft-Heinz), as Jell-O did. There might well be some remaining fellow-feeling across that void, though, as one of four new Jell-O Creations (odd little kid-oriented dessert kits) is Oreo Dirt Cups. This simple version of the Halloween standby consists of small cups (not provided) partly filled with chocolate pudding (mix provided; you add milk), topped with Oreo crumbs and then adorned with gummy worms and such.

The other three are S’Mores Cups (chocolate pudding mix, graham cracker crumbs and little marshmallows), Beach Cups (vanilla pudding mix, graham cracker crumbs and gummy sea creatures), and Princess Cups (strawberry pudding mix, white cookie crumbs and princess gummies). All four are meant to answer anguished parents’ plea: “How can we get our kids to eat their dessert?”

Oreo Churros

And from J&J Snack Foods, a company that has nothing to do with Oreo but is using the name under license, come frozen Oreo Churros with “Real Creme filling” that you can see sticking out of the ends of the churros. Bake or deep-fry them (Mr. Tidbit notes that the “Real Creme filling” survives this), then optionally roll them in “Oreo Crumb Sugar topping.”

Prego Farmers’ Market and the cautionary tale of Mr. Tidbit’s step-grandfather


Prego goes to the Farmers’ Market

Today Mr. Tidbit wishes to begin by telling a tale relayed to him many years ago by his father, whose stepfather (let’s call him Bob) ran a general store in Pawnee, Oklahoma, in the early 1900s:

As Mr. Tidbit recalls the story, Bob sold coffee beans out of a big bag for 10 cents a pound. One day he put out two more bags, marked 8 cents a pound and 12 cents a pound, and filled both with the same 10-cent beans. He suggested to some folks that the 12-cent beans were really great, and why not give them a try? To other folks he mentioned that the 8-cent beans were almost as good as the 10-centers, and why not give them a try?

He reported that many of the folks who tried the 12-cent beans said they were better than the 10-centers, though a little pricey, and that many of the folks who tried the 8-cent beans thought they were OK, but not as good as the 10-centers.

That said, let’s consider Prego’s new line of Farmers’ Market somewhat upscale pasta sauce, described on the website as “made with ingredients you would find at your local farmers’ market.” Mr. Tidbit thinks that calling the new line “Farmers’ Market” suggests that: (1) somebody at Prego’s parent Campbell’s Soup knows how to use apostrophes [Who was that masked man? I wanted to thank him]; and (2) that it is a roundabout way of invoking the notion that many grocery firms attempt to call forth with the word “simple”:  That all the ingredients are foods.

By looking at the new sauces in the context of Bob’s coffee beans, Mr. Tidbit doesn’t mean to suggest that the Farmers’ Market sauces aren’t better than the regular Prego sauces. The tomato basil Farmers’ Market sauce, for example, contains actual onions, basil and oregano (and olive oil) instead of the “natural flavoring” (and canola oil) in the regular Prego version.

Bob’s experiment might, however, shed some light on whether folks think Farmers’ Market (in a 23 1/2-ounce rectangular canning-type jar with cup and ounce quantities molded into the side) is worth $3.49 (14.9 cents an ounce) at a discount store where regular Ragu (in a featureless 24-ounce jar) sells for $1.99 (8.3 cents an ounce). Mr. Tidbit suggests that the 79 percent higher cost per ounce is probably lots more than the increased cost of ingredients.

(Mr. Tidbit  points out that he is not related by blood to Bob)