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Freezerburns +1: My First Impressions

Two of my favorite online shows, Freezerburns and the Nostalgia Critic, have recently made their return to the internet.  While the latter, still charismatically portrayed by Doug Walker, remains in tried and true form, the former has undergone some noticeable adjustments.  As you’ve probably guessed, I feel compelled to acknowledge and address them.

For those who are unfamiliar, Freezerburns was a show dedicated to providing frozen food reviews.  These included “Fro-downs,” where similar dishes from various companies were compared, to testing certain meals when deep fried, to personal Top 5 lists, including the best frozen foods for when you’re snowed in.  However, when Greg, the show’s host and creator, took up the “Food Stamp Challenge,” things slowed down and change started to come in a way that fans are definitely reacting to.

The show is turning into a different iteration, called “Freezerburns +1.”  It appears that, for each episode, Greg will be taking a frozen meal and adding one “fresh” ingredient to make it better.  Our first taste (pun intended) has been through the addition of green peppers to a Newman’s Own skillet meal.

First, let’s run through what’s good about Freezerburns +1.  For starters, the production has definitely gone up.  Everything from the captured footage to the editing and instructions is clean and clear-cut.  The idea of adding something different to a meal so it can be improved is certainly interesting and creates a lot of potential.  However, this is also where the fundamental problem with the show’s new direction comes in.

Fans have already commented about how the look and feel of the show is different and (severely) lacking a key factor: Greg.  The man is someone who’s just enjoyable to watch.  He’s fun, oftentimes charismatic, descriptive and leaves an impression of someone who’s informed but also among the common crowd.  An everyday person could watch his videos and see exactly where he was coming from.  It was all the more reason Freezerburns worked and continued to bring in subscribers.

This new format, on the other hand, is incredibly formal and, dare I say, commercial.  Based on what we have so far, it’s less entertainment and more infomercial.  And I want to address the show’s new core issue in the concept of adding one ingredient to a frozen meal.  This isn’t an interesting, eye-catching premise.  Anyone can add a single ingredient.  It doesn’t make for interesting material.  The videos themselves seem like they’re going to be incredibly limited too.  The +1 in the show’s new title suggests that the inclusion of only one ingredient will be used and tested, which is hardly riveting.  I would suggest experimenting and relaying the results of multiple ingredients one at a time in a single video, but that would be time-consuming, not to mention hard on the wallet.

One more reason I can’t see this new format taking off is because really, if you’re going to add ingredients like green peppers (with olive oil, mind you), why don’t you just make the dish yourself?  You’re already taking the necessary steps by doing so with the green peppers in a separate skillet, so there’s little to deter anyone from going all-out.  Many times the reason people buy frozen meals is because they’re convenient and the closest we can get to affordable variants of the “real deal.”  Like many people, I work in retail and only get a half hour break per shift.  I don’t like buying fast food or ordering from nearby eateries since it’s often time-consuming, more expensive, and even worse for me.  Thus, I resort to frozen food meals that are relatively quick and convenient, by comparison.  Am I going to have the time or resources to do something similar to what was depicted in this latest episode?  Not in an everyday breakroom, I won’t.

My concerns for the future of Freezerburns (+1) are quite high.  People got excited to see the show come back because they thought they’d be getting a new and improved version of something they knew, something that worked.  The show functioned fine on its own and, thanks to an ever-changing and expanding supply of frozen food entrees, it meant there was never any concern for new material.  Freezerburns had personality and a unique flavor (again, pun intended), this does not.  This is more makeshift cooking from home than it is actual input on stuff people use and buy.  Sometimes changes can be interesting, but as both fans and Doug Walker himself learned with Demo Reel, “interesting” isn’t synonymous with “good.”

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Blog, Food, Impressions

 

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Russell Stover Big Bite S’mores Bar


Look at that mallow filling!

I’m what you’d call a messy individual.  As such, I always welcome a bit of extra convenience; the less I have to worry about, the better.  This is why I find Russell Stover’s Big Bite S’mores bar to be a bizarre addition to their line-up.  Okay, so I’m a bit behind with my review of this peculiarity.  But both this and the Big Bite Pecan Delight have made, well, big waves at my store, so even a late review was irresistible.

When I think Russell Stover, I think neat, elegantly assorted chocolates.  Along with Whitman’s Reserve and the like, they’re the richer sweets that stick their noses up at all those Snickers and KitKat flavors, be it here or in Japan, respectively.  Like so, the worst mess you should face with them is a sprinkle or two left in an otherwise empty spot.


Not quite the case here.

Now, when I think s’mores, I think nature.  I think of the night, when wolves and coyotes are deciding which fatty of our clique to indulge in; I think of mosquitos sucking your blood out because you’re not in a loving, sharing mood.  I also think about how your epic s’mores concoctions fall apart easier than lettuce and black olives slipping out of your Subway sandwich.

Needless to say, the fact these two worlds are being combined is what a stereotypical English instructor would call an aberration.  But it can work.  This is Russell Stover, after all, so whatever mess is left should be relatively negligible, right?


You got your crumbs in my filling!

A co-worker actually treated me to one of these before, saying they wanted see my reaction (smile).  Apparently there’s a ritual of enjoying this ever-degrading, mallow-y treat before gathering crumbs aplenty on the floor.

As for my initiation, I was quite pleased.  Everything about the bar was what I thought it should be.  The graham crackers could’ve been crispier, but the marshmallow filling was enjoyably chewy which, combined with Russell Stover’s wonderful milk chocolate coating, made for a scrumptious treat.  That chocolate covering feels thicker than it looks, as it seeps throughout the crackers and filling to the point that you know precisely where those 25 grams of sugar went.

The bar that I purchased (and saved) for my blog was similar, all told; except the graham crackers were on the soggy and stale side.  You know how store-brand graham crackers tend to feel chewy even when they’re right out of the box?  That’s what this was.  And since they’re the first things you bite into, it makes for an off first impression.  Until the rest of the bar works its magic, that is.  When your tongue and teeth begin savoring the real delights of this bar, the crackers become an afterthought.

In Short: Messy and inconsistent, but ever so tasty.

Purchased At: Walgreens
Purchase Price: $0.99 (on sale)

Other Reviews

Candy Blog: http://www.candyblog.net/blog/item/russell_stover_giant_smores_bar
Junk Food Guy: http://junkfoodguy.com/2012/09/17/russell-stover-big-bite-smores-awkward-mondays-the-sunday-after-a-wedding-and-announcing-retro-cereal-week/

Nutrition

Serving Size: 1 bar
Calories: 230 (60 from fat)
Total Fat: 7 grams (3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat)
Cholesterol: Less than 5 milligrams
Sodium: 140 milligrams
Total Carbohydrates: 42 grams (1 gram of dietary fiber, 25 grams of sugar)
Protein: 2 grams

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Blog, Food, Review

 

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Weekly Stumblings (12/10)

Here’s the latest in an ever-growing series of Weekly Stumblings.  I wonder how long it will be before I accidentally re-post something.

34 Two-Ingredient Recipes, because calling for any more than two demands a top chef: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1ayor4/www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/34-insanely-simple-two-ingredient-recipes/

That High, like an oven-baked cake flying over the Eiffel Tower: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/4AIYms/alligator-sunglasses.com/post/36982386878/that-high/

20 Christmas Food Hacks for when you skimp out this holiday season (if you haven’t already): http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/9pd69k/www.nceasyfood.org/top-awesome-20-christmas-easy-food-hacks/

A Psychological Cold Reading coldly reminding you that you are not unique: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/92cEAG/www.psychologistworld.com/cognitive/psychology_reading_test.php/

25 Tricks for You Daily Life.  You know, assuming your daily life is actually interesting: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/8JPsMM/www.fullpunch.com/random/25-simply-awesome-tips-and-tricks-for-your-daily-life.html/

A DIY Filmmaker’s Toolkit.  Now you can show all those billion-dollar hacks how to make a real movie: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/22CudP/wistia.com/blog/the-diy-filmmakers-toolkit?view=infographic/

And an R/C Car Race that might make Electronic Arts feel just a tad bashful: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1oblz7/carbuzz.com/news/2012/10/20/The-Greatest-R-C-Car-Chase-Ever-7711243/

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Blog

 

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Shoutout Blog

In lieu of Weekly Stumblings, I’m providing a shoutout for a few blogs and reviewers I follow and recommend.  You may follow a few of these already, others might be new to you.  Either way, this will give you an idea of what keeps me coming back and checking the internet.

The Impulsive Buy: This is probably the most popular of my shoutouts, and with good reason.  This food and drink site has gone as far as releasing many of their reviews in an e-book.  In addition to a plethora of reviews thanks to their wonderfully talented staff, they let followers play their part in the Spotted on Shelves section, which lets us know what items to keep an eye out for on shelves.  Also, if you have your own blog or website, they might give you recognition in their Week in Reviews section, where their reviews and others across the internet are given some attention.  The Impulsive Buy is really an all-encompassing site that the fatty in you should have no trouble falling in love with.

http://www.theimpulsivebuy.com/

Candy Blog: The aptly titled Candy Blog is also very comprehensive, offering what you’d expect from a blog of said name.  They haven’t been posting nearly as much recently, but their archives seem nearly endless, with almost every regular candy item having already received a review or some form of recognition.

http://www.candyblog.net/

On Second Scoop: In many ways, On Second Scoop could be argued as the quintessential ice cream blog, despite missing a few essential flavors or selections.  Nevertheless, the blog has held a good run and continues to update at least twice per week.  Be sure to check these guys out.

http://www.onsecondscoop.com/

The Ice Cream Informant: Of all the shoutouts here, I’d say The Ice Cream Informant is the most overlooked.  This one-person blog updates every other day to almost every day, providing plenty of reviews for eye-catching ice creams while being arguably the most up-to-date ice cream blogger I’ve found.  It’s a shame comments are so scarce for this blog, because it deserves more attention and discussion.  Definitely check this blog out, especially if you’re an ice cream fan (which means ALL OF YOU!).

http://www.theicecreaminformant.com/

Freezerburns: Greg of Freezerburns has been supplying reviews for frozen foods for well over 500 episodes and has gradually grown to have a bit of a presence on YouTube.  Referred to as the “frozen food master,” he’s given his own take on the convenient but generally subpar selections in the freezer aisles.  Additionally, he took part in the Food Stamp Challenge recently, where he survived off $20 of food for five days.  If you haven’t already and want to know where your $2-$5 should go for frozen foods, definitely have a look through his videos.

http://www.freezerburns.com/wordpress/

http://www.youtube.com/user/Freezerburnsdotcom

Mark Kermode: Now we’re moving into film reviewer territory with Mark Kermode, who I just recently came across thanks to YouTube reviewer recommendations.  Mark is the exact definition of a wholesome, professional critic who knows his vocabulary as well as his movies.  His thoughts on movies are less reviews and more impressions and almost thematic observations, which gives him a nice edge compared to his peers.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/markkermode/

Chris Stuckmann: Like other video bloggers on YouTube, Chris has done well to come into his comfort zone, offering a fairly steady stream of movie reviews that always start with a brilliant opening.  Like other film reviewers I’m mentioning here, he usually gets to see early screenings which, combined with the fact he feels less like a critic and more like an everyday person, makes him an ideal go-to reviewer.

http://www.youtube.com/user/ChrisStuckmann

Jeremy Jahns: Jeremy is in a similar boat to Chris with how his reviews have come into their own.  On occasional he’ll provide a videogame review or reporting from a convention, but he’s most often recognized as a film reviewer.  In many ways he’s more composed and maybe professional than Chris but both are terrific sources to tide you over (or make waiting around more grueling) for hotly anticipated movies.

http://www.youtube.com/user/JeremyJahns

Schmoes Know: And finally we have Schmoes Know, who provide probably the most movie reviews of anyone I’ve suggested here.  I’m not as big a fan of them as the above three, but they’re still very entertaining and, similar to Siskel and Ebert (and Roeper), the fact we always have both of them reviewing the same movie means they can play off each other very well.  They’re humorous and an enjoyable duo, so I give them a full recommendation.

http://www.youtube.com/user/schmoesknow

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in 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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Weekly Stumblings (9/13)

Ball Droppings: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/18ugm0/balldroppings.com/js/

Plot Scenario Generator: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/4h1II3/www.archetypewriting.com/muse/generators/plot.htm

Videogame Fonts: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/8VaXkB/www.howtogeek.com/howto/21794/desktop-fun-video-game-fonts/

The Floating Home: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2xm9Sr/www.sub-find.com/trilobis65.htm

Shelf Life Guide: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/3334nX/www.stilltasty.com/

Mac and Cheese Cups: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/22ZYjS/cupcakesandcashmere.com/mac-and-cheese-cups/

Silly Taco Bell Tweets (hey, their food sucks, at least they can do something else right): http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/3TQiIA/twentytwowords.com/2012/07/12/silly-tweets-from-taco-bells-corporate-account/

How Movie Theaters Should Be Laid Out: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1QyzZq/theoatmeal.com/comics/movie_theater_layout?boobsareneat

Great Resume Designs: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2FW2AD/www.youthedesigner.com/2011/06/21/great-resume-designs-that-catch-attention-and-got-people-hired/

And for my personal favorite of this week’s stumblings (going to be a tough one to top in the weeks to come): http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2ruTxe/img14.imageshack.us/img14/1500/pokemondrinkinggamev20o.png

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Blog

 

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Coming Soon (Late Summer to Early Fall)

Marathon Reviews: Monster Cereal

Marathon Reviews: Milky Way

Marathon Reviews: M&M’s

Critical Consensus with a Crate of Salt

More Epic Movie Scenes

The Blossom Experiment

Blu-ray’s We’re Still Waiting For

And many more!

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Blog, Uncategorized

 

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Hershey Chocolate Twizzler (Classic Twist) Review

Nutrition

Serving Size: 4 pieces (45 grams)
Calories: 160 (15 from fat)
Total Fat: 2 grams (1 gram saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat)
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 85 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 35 grams (less than 1 gram dietary fiber, 19 grams sugar)
Protein: 2 grams

Who am I kidding by extending my blog to food in addition to film?  What do the two even have in common?  I’ll tell you: Movies and food go hand-in-hand like standing and burning calories.  You don’t realize one is being done while the other occurs, but it does.  And it’s for that exact reason I give you my first candy review.  After all, nothing quite screams bloated caloric content quite like many of our favorite sugary sweets.

So it’s only fitting that my first candy review be for a product that’s similar to one of my once-frequent selections: Twizzlers.  Sure, cutting my weight in half leaves less time for overdoing my indulgences, but the memories stick.  I’ve tried a number of Twizzler variants, ranging from the classic twists, to the cherry peel-offs, one pack of the black licorice flavor, the sweet and sour mix and, my personal favorite, Rainbow Twists.  If there’s anything my stepfather and I can agree on, it’s that those are the real king of Twizzlers.

But while our opinions are (un)likely to incite horrific rage, we have a different flavor to attend to.  Because I could care less about who and what controls each branch of candy, I guess Twizzler and Hershey are owned by the same company.  That or they just decided to go for a spontaneous collaboration.  And here we have chocolate flavored Twizzlers.  What’s interesting is that instead of giving these an official name for the said flavor, they’re just called Twizzlers with Hershey chocolate.  I guess not every odd combination is worthy of an official sounding name.

Half the reason I bothered trying this flavor is because it was the only one left at a store I just got hired at.  The other half is because it would go towards a coupon I’d use on a future purchase.  Call me frugal, but when you get a paycheck every other week after three months of unemployment, tendencies really die hard.  And so I approached these with a sense of uninspired curiosity (how’s that for an oxymoron).  My relationship with Twizzlers has proven to go up and down at various points, so anything was open with this cocoa-enhanced flavor.

First off, the bag didn’t leave a particularly good first impression.  It felt stiff, as if it had been shrink-wrapped and the Twizzlers were stale; whereas the other flavors would actually bend when held at one end.  But the expiration date was still four months away, so they should be good, right?

Pulling the bag and a few sticks apart (laboriously, I might add), I readied myself for my first taste of these babies.  I should probably point out that, upon opening, I got a decent whiff of cocoa.  However, this quickly gave way to a more traditional licorice smell that only made me more skeptical.  Reason being that the black licorice flavored Twizzlers have a bitter, rather cringe-inducing flavor that actually counteracts what candy should do in the first place: keep you addicted.

So with a lingering feeling of trepidation, I took my first bite.  My response?

It’s funny, candy tends to be something that you can immediately come to a verdict on.  These Twizzlers left me chewing and taking subsequent bites simply to decide what I thought.  Which is to say that they’re not a very satisfactory treat.  In fact, calling them a “treat” is a bit of a stretch.  Okay, so they’re not as appetite-breaking as the black licorice Twizzlers, but these are a candy you’d keep eating out of false hope.  You want to get more chocolate, hope the next piece will provide you with more.  Instead you’re greeted with something so bland it’d make rice without butter or salt seem taste like a collage of sodium-enriched flavors.  I’ll say that these are more enjoyable than black licorice Twizzlers, if only for the lack of bitter flavor and aftertaste.  But given how unfulfilling they are (at nearly 5 grams of sugar per stick, I might add), they clearly aren’t going to be a repeat item when I sneak something into the movie theater.

The Verdict: Toss It in the Spill

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2012 in Candy, Food, Review

 

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Fiber One 80 Calorie Honey Squares Cereal Review

Nutrition

Serving Size: 3/4 a cup (30 grams)
Calories: 80 without milk (5 from fat), 120 with 1/2 cup of skim milk
Total Fat: 1 gram (0 saturated, trans and monounsaturated fat; 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat)
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 140 mg
Potassium: 70 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 25 grams (10 grams dietary fiber, 2 grams soluble fiber, 8 grams soluble fiber, 3 grams sugar, 12 grams other carbohydrates)
Protein: 1 gram

Fiber has become synonymous with healthy.  Apparently something that’s supposed to keep you on the toilet seat is the body’s best medicine.  After all, what else could prompt the creation of brands such as Fiber One and the ever so clever Fiber Plus?  But while General Mills don’t have a problem getting these healthier variants out, I’m left trembling in my bedroom corners wondering if I’ll ever see Count Chocula on any store shelf here in Stuart.

Casting my disappointment aside, I readied for what would definitely be another bland, flavorless cereal that would need select condiments to enliven.  The box seems to suggest strawberries, others might suggest blueberries (or both).  The little kid in me would just add mounds of sugar.

Opening the bag provides a subtle but surprisingly pleasant scent.  It’s not like taking a whiff of a scented candle to satisfy your strange addiction habit, but I can’t complain.  The cereal itself has a bit of a mini Captain Crunch look to it; you know, if the Captain wasn’t racist and actually let tanner beings share their space.  Taken dry, I was very surprised by the flavor and, even more so, by the sweetness.  I quickly did a double take and bulged my eyes at the 3 grams of sugar per serving.  “Too good to be true,” I thought.

Then came the actual bowl test, with the serving size being your usual 3/4 a cup.  It’s still way too small a size for anyone who isn’t anorexic, but when the cereal is only 80 calories per serving (dry), it’s a little easier to let the sizes slide.  Regardless of the milk you use, the cereal remains sweet and, dare I say, tasty on its own.  You won’t be comparing it to Frosted Flakes or Cinnamon Toast Crunch any time soon, but given it touches the sweet cravings more than Honey Nut Cheerios (with a third of the sugar content, mind you), it’s easy to be impressed.  And I’m not sure what magic the fairly reasonable list of ingredients is pulling, but the various corn items seem to combine and give the cereal a faint flavor that I’d compare to cinnamon.  Or maybe I’ve just been eying my friend’s boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch for too long without breaking the question.

The Verdict: Run Out, Buy Now

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in Cereal, Food, Review

 

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Jif Natural Creamy Peanut Butter Review

I love peanut butter.  Do you love peanut butter?  If you don’t love peanut butter, I’m not sure our friendship can endure.  There’s just something special–something magical–about how peanut butter tastes, how it mixes with anything to provide awesome combinations.  How can you not love peanut butter?

Whether it’s creamy or chunky, I love to grab some of these less than generously priced jars.  I’ll often apply it to my morning toast and slide a few banana slices on top.  Elvis Presley fans will surely know what I’m talking about.  Besides, who needs butter on their toast when they can have smashed and oiled peanuts instead?

So when I’m on the hunt for peanut butter at the grocery store, I like to consider different options.  Jif is a frequent go-to brand; Smuckers might be annoying to mix, but the flavor and texture is always worth it; and even the usual store brand peanut butter can hold its own.  That is, unless you get a crunchy Great Value jar at Wal-Mart (seriously, do they even cut those peanuts?).  And while I don’t always abide by online dieting advice, I’ll at least give some tips a chance.  So when I looked around the less expensive choices, I decided to go with Jif Natural for two reasons:

One, it has only five ingredients (?)
Two, how can you possibly screw up peanut butter?

There are a couple amusing things to note about this particular selection, one of which exists in the name: NATURAL.  Is there seriously anything at this point that isn’t natural?  Sand isn’t exactly the most appetizing thing to eat, but at least it’s a natural part of our wholesome earth!  The other part to note is that it says “no need to stir,” which I found to be a given with peanut butter until buying my first Smuckers jar.  Next thing you know Peter Pan will be telling us we don’t need to refrigerate our peanut butter.

Beyond the food label there isn’t much to (initially) distinguish this from the regular Jif peanut butter.  It looks the part when you take the cap off and definitely smells the part too.  When you dip in, however, the differences begin to show.  The texture is notably softer, looking a bit oily and wet after you’ve scooped a bit up.  This stuff literally looks like it could melt away at any second, but somehow manages to stay in place regardless of how you angle the jar.

After grabbing my knife and helping myself to a generous amount, I found myself smiling…for about three seconds.  Natural it may be, but this peanut butter is very deceptive.  The taste is far more subdued than I’d become accustomed to, and the texture dissolves even faster than those Listerine strips.

But maybe my salivation glands are overworking themselves, so why not put this jar to the combination test?  And what better, easier way than an open Elvis Presley sandwich?  As always, I applied a light amount since even a little peanut butter can go a long way.  I always toast my bread as it makes for a good melting test, which happened almost instantaneously.  Spreading quickly got to the point that I had to dip in again and again to cover each slice.  Follow that up with some banana slices, a good bite and I’m left wondering, “where the heck is the peanut butter?”

It’s pretty obvious that if I want to get results even close to standard peanut butter thickness and texture, I’m gonna have to significantly up the amount I apply.  Even then the bland taste and mist-like consistency would still leave me feeling less content.  If fewer ingredients mean more to you than actual satisfaction, then go ahead and make your swap.  But then you’ve officially decreed yourself a heretic in my books.

The Verdict: Toss It in the Spill

Nutrition

Serving Size: 2 tablespoons (33 grams)
Servings Per Container: About 15
Calories: 190 (130 from fat)
Total Fat: 16 grams (3 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat)
Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
Sodium: 80 milligrams
Total Carbohydrates: 8 grams (2 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar)
Protein: 7 grams

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2012 in Blog, Food, Review

 

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