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Purchased at: Kroger
Price: $3.59

I picked these up on a whim at the store earlier today and I don’t even know why. The picture on the box didn’t look appetizing and I hate Friday’s (but does ANYONE actually like it?). I go with my friends once a year and we always complain about how the food is mediocre and overpriced. But we keep on going, because, like the song in Fiddler on the Roof, it’s tradition.

The picture I took doesn’t look very good, either. They tasted better than I expected, though. The potatoes were nice and crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The middles were a little “al dente,” but that may have been my oven. And it wasn’t terrible, in fact it was just about what I would expect to get from a frozen TGI Friday’s appetizer.

The bacon was surprisingly good. I, like many other food bloggers, really love bacon. I’ve had frozen bacon before (in Lean Cuisines and vegetable mixes) and it’s always been lackluster. It’s usually kind of soggy and floppy and fatty. Not here. This bacon is crispy and salty. In fact, it was the best part of these potato skins.

I’ll admit it. The cheese sauce scared me a little. It was neon orange and shiny…which aren’t qualities I usually want in my food. Construction barrels? Perfect. Cheese? Not so much. But, guess what? It tasted damn good.

Are these amazing? No. Do the bacon and cheese make up for the mediocre potatoes? Hell yes.

2.5/5

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Purchased At: Target
Price: $4.49

Before I get on with my actual review, I’d like to apologize for disappearing for almost three months. I had a crazy summer and barely had any time to sit down to eat a meal, let alone take the time to taste anything or write an actual review. But I’m back! I’ve settled into my usual college routine (doing the bare minimum, skipping as many classes as possible, and catching up on TiVoed reruns of “According to Jim”) and should be good to go. Anyway…

Back in the early 90s when I was a youngin’, trips to the mall meant two things: playing on giant plastic breakfast foods set up across from Hudson’s and warm, delicious cinnamon-roasted almonds from a little cart. Now, nearly 20 years later, trips to the mall mean clothes shopping and blowing money I don’t have. The plastic breakfast food playplace is still there, but now I see it as a germ-infested nightmare. And sadly, the almond cart is gone.

These honey cinnamon almonds from Target’s Archer Farms line of food products are the closest thing I can find to those sweet, sweet almonds I remember from so many years ago. They’re sugary and sweet (which is unsurprising, considering 3 of the first 4 ingredients listed are sugar, corn syrup, and honey powder), but not overpoweringly so. The outside is crunchy and brittle and adds a nice texture against the almonds. I definitely taste the honey, but the cinnamon is a little more subtle. For $4.49, you get a 12-ounce jar of these bad boys. I have to pace myself when I eat them because they’re so awesome. If I’m not careful, I’ll eat them all at once.

5/5

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Purchased at: Target
Price: $2.31 (on clearance)

So, the bag of these that I picked up at Target had the word “NEW” stamped across the front, which seemed weird to me, because I picked them up from the clearance endcap in the grocery section (which is, quite frankly, one of my favorite sections of the entire store). This was last Monday, which was June 7th. The best before date? June 5th. I like to fancy myself as being pretty brave, so I decided to risk it.

First off, I hate when companies spell things with unnecessary letters as a way to be “cutesy” or something. There is no need to spell tortillaz with a z. An s would be sufficient. But I digress.

These things are made up of a mixture of puffed rice and corn (they’re air-baked instead of deep fried) and are Quaker’s attempt at making a healthy alternative to a nacho cheese Dorito. They’re the same size and shape as Doritos and they also seem to have the exact same bright orange cheese powder on them. How do they taste in comparison?

They’re a lot lighter and are, if I’m not mistaken, just thinner versions of the Quaker rice cakes. But they taste good, so I don’t mind. These things are a really good healthier alternative to Doritos. The cheese tastes exactly the same to me. They’re light and crispy and your fingers still get that orange cheese powder coating (which is either disgusting or lovely, depending on who you’re talking to. I tend to lean towards the “grossed out” side of things on this issue). The only thing that’s missing is the excessive grease that coats the inside of a Doritos bag, which also ends up on your hands/fingers when you’re eating them. I would definitely buy these again, because they’re a solid snack, even a week after their “best before” date.

4/5

Review: Pretzel M&Ms

June 8, 2010

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Purchased at: Target
Price: $.67

I’ve been on a mission to find these things since I first read about them a month or so ago, and I finally stumbled upon them at Target this afternoon. I was in the checkout lane and was just getting ready to pay for my stuff when the little blue bag caught my eye and I grabbed it as fast as I possibly could. The cashier gave me a weird look, and I just shrugged and said “I love chocolate covered pretzels.”

I could barely wait to tear into these things. I’m not a huge fan of sweets (I like them, but if I’m given the choice between something sweet or something salty, 99% of the time I will choose the salty), so the idea of M&Ms with pretzels inside of them really appeals to me.

These M&Ms are pretty big – about the size of the peanut M&Ms. And I might be crazy here, but I did think that the candy coating on the outside was thinner than it usually is. And there isn’t a ton of chocolate either. The pretzels have a nice crunch and aren’t overly salty, and the texture/flavor of the pretzels really works well with the chocolate and the candy coating. Texturally, they remind me of the crispy M&Ms (which I loved) that were out a few years ago.

These M&Ms are also a lot healthier than most items you’d grab from the candy display at the checkout line at a grocery store. One package only has 150 calories and 5 grams of fat, which isn’t too bad for a mid-afternoon sugar craving. I will definitely be buying these again if I can manage to find them anywhere else.

4.5/5

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Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Price: $2.99 (makes 16 cookies)

I’m going to be honest here. I’ve had this box of cookie dough in my freezer for about a year now. I made them a few times last summer, but then they got pushed all the way to the back behind a giant bag of ice and various other frozen foods. I rediscovered them yesterday, with only about 5 cookies missing from the box. I pulled them out and made two for a quick mid-homework snack.

The color of these cookies was a little bit off…they were sort of a greyish tan, though I’m willing to bet that’s my fault. I like soft cookies, so I underbaked them a little bit (the box recommends 12 minutes for soft/chewy cookies, and I went with 10). The edges got nice and crispy, but the middles were still raw and gooey. Just the way I like them! Cooking these things could not be any easier – you throw some parchment paper on a cookie sheet and plop however many preformed cookie dough balls onto it. Wait 10-17 minutes (depending on what texture/degree of crispiness you like) and, voila! Cookies. Hot and fresh from the oven. And you have zero dishes to do. Amazing.

How do they taste? Pretty good! The cranberries are a little sweeter than I would prefer, but it’s okay because there aren’t too many of them. If I had to guess, I’d say there were about 4-6 cranberries in each cookie, which is a pretty good balance. The oatmeal does a good job of counteracting the sweetness, and the dough is delicious. It tastes faintly of brown sugar and vanilla. I made two more for a snack today because I liked them so much when I rediscovered them yesterday.

If you’re in the mood for something quick, easy, and sweet, these cookies are great. They aren’t as good as homemade cookies, but they’re a great substitute if you’re running low on time (or if you only want one or two cookies).

3.5/5

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Purchased at: CVS
Price: $.99

I’m not a big fan of kettle cooked chips, but I was looking for something with a little bit of a kick to it when I was at CVS this morning. I finally narrowed it down to these chips and some cheesy bbq flavored Cheetos. I was intrigued by the Cheetos, but also slightly disgusted. The kettle cooked chips won out in the end.

These things smell AWESOME when you open the bag. There’s a little bit of spice, but not too much. They also smell salty and greasy, which happen to be my two favorite things about potato chips. There are little flecks of green on the chips, because, duh, they’re jalapeno flavored.

I would have liked a little bit more heat from the chips, though. The jalapeno flavor is bright and tangy, and the spice slowly creeps up on you. I never felt that they were too spicy, and it was a pleasant heat – not insanely uncomfortable or annoying at all. I was still able to taste the other flavors of the chips over the heat (salt, potatoes, possibly vinegar?). In fact, they were so good that my “I’ll just try one or two for right now” idea turned into “downing the whole bag in about five minutes.”

4/5

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Purchased at: Kroger
Price: $1.89
According to the bag… a light, crispy crunch! (Not much for a product description, huh? Maybe the taste speaks for itself.)

I love Quaker’s rice snacks – the caramel ones are awesome and I practically lived off of them during that week I tried (and failed at) Weight Watchers, because they’re sweet and I could eat them without feeling guilty. I also love creme brulee. How could these go wrong?

After opening the bag, all I could smell was vanilla. Artificial vanilla, but that’s what I was expecting. They smell heavenly. You know that vanilla sugar candle/body spray/lotion that every 14 year old girl loves and claims is her “signature scent” or something? Yeah, it smells like that. It’s fabulous. The smell alone made me want to dig in ASAP. And that’s exactly what I did.

The taste isn’t as overpowering as the scent, and that’s probably a good thing. The brown rice is the first thing I tasted, which may sound unpleasant, but it’s actually quite nice. After a few seconds, there was a faint vanilla/brown sugar flavor coming through. I was expecting these to be much sweeter (I thought they might taste a little bit like Trader Joe’s brown rice krispy treats – which are awesome, by the way – but they’re a completely different thing), but I really like the subtle flavors. A serving consists of 8 mini rice cakes, but I definitely ate more than that. They’re addicting. I devoured nearly half the bag while watching the Detroit Red Wings own the Phoenix Coyotes last night (probably not the most traditional game food ever, but definitely a guiltless one, with only 60 calories per serving). Their victory probably made these rice cakes taste sweeter than they really are, but that could just be speculation.

I loved these things. They’re sweet, but not too sweet. Definitely keep an eye out for these. (There’s also a new sea salt and cracked black pepper flavor, according to the website. My local grocery store didn’t have those in stock, but I’m betting they’re awesome, too.)

5/5