In honor of “back to school” time, here are a few items I picked up at the grocery store that’ll cut down on all that gas wasted sitting in line at McDonalds’ drive-thru.
• “Breakfast cereal as candy” (also known as a low-fat stoner food alternative to Twinkies) is nothing new. The introduction of Cookie Crisp in the mid-’70s paved the way for sugary “dessert for breakfast” cereals like the new Cupcake Pebbles from the Flintstones-endorsed Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles makers, complete with Bam-Bam and Pebbles partying it up on the front (must be the sugar buzz). A strong odor of birthday cake greets you upon opening the box and the tiny flakes with pastel flecks are also quite cake-like. Concerned about the lack of nutrients? The box assures it’s “wholesome, sweetened rice cereal” and an “excellent source of Vitamin D,” so I’m pretty sure it’s just like granola.
• No milk? Oversleep and gotta push junior out to catch the bus? Jimmy Dean Sausage has you covered with its new Jimmy D’s Griddle Sticks, a sausage link on a stick wrapped in pancake batter.
Don’t freak out — it’s turkey sausage. The pancake is slightly sweetened, so, while maple syrup dipping sauce might get your tyke a little more energized for school, it’s not totally necessary. The sausage is the high-quality meat product Jimmy Dean is known for. Meat-haters, step off: Jimmy Dean (who surely ate sausage every day of his life) made it to 81 and always looked really happy in his TV commercials.
• I thought Lunchables — initially portable, high-fat cheese/meat/cracker trays — were for business folks on the go or drunk people at convenient stores. Turns out that parents toss these things into kids’ lunchboxes. The line has expanded and been imitated — along with nachos, you can now grab pizza Lunchables. I tried the pizza-based Armour rip-off “LunchMakers,” which features two small “doughs” (like tiny pita breads, but gross), a sauce pack, shredded mozzarella and “Pepperoni Flavored Sausage,” which is as disgusting as it sounds. There’s also blue Hawaiian Punch and a small bag of Skittles (for the fruit). I have a deeply held belief that pizza should be cooked. This experience strengthened that belief ... though it will prepare your kid for college when cold pizza will often be breakfast, lunch and/or dinner.
• Carnival food is delicious, so why deprive your child by limiting it to trips to the carnival? The TV-dinner-for-kids line of Kid Cuisine, housed in colorful boxes with cartoon characters and games, feature a main dish with a couple of sides (to their credit, there’s often a vegetable, but that’s cancelled out by the other side — a dessert, usually pudding, a brownie or candy). The Carnival Corn Dog offers your child a chance to eat like a carny, with fries and a corndog, chocolate pudding with sprinkles and tiny marshmallows and corn. The ’dog is perfectly disgusting, just like a real carnival corndog but without that element of danger, where the risk of death hovers just like on the rides. The fries are carnival-authentic in their sogginess and the corn is disappointingly corn-like (would it kill them to use sweetened cream corn?). The hot pudding tastes like a brownie that was abandoned 45 seconds into the cooking process. The biggest downside is the overcomplicated preparation directions. Five to 7 minutes cooking time? And I have to remove the pudding’s sprinkle packet before cooking? I’m not Martha Stewart!
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