REVIEW: DiGiorno Pepperoni Crispy Pan Pizza

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working to uncover a massive conspiracy in the frozen food industry. I’m almost ready to blow the cover off this whole thing.

Between you and me, I think DiGiorno is a front for the Italian mafia.

What’s the evidence, you ask? First, obviously, the name. “DiGiorno” clearly sounds like a nephew of Vito Corleone. Second, the entire concept of DiGiorno pizza is that you can toss it in the oven and fuhgeddaboudit!

Now, here’s the last piece of the puzzle: the name of DiGiorno’s latest product, the Crispy Pan Pizza. I’ve got to figure out whether the “Crispy” title is authentic, or just one of those ironic gang nicknames, like when a tall guy goes by “Shorty,” or that hefty member of the crew who’s known as “Slim.”

In related news, I just realized why my college Chemistry professor always called me Einstein.

DiGiorno’s new Crispy Pan Pizza comes in four varieties: Pepperoni, Four Cheese, Supreme, and Three Meat. I’m telling you, this mob rolls deep. But I don’t have the time (or room in my stomach) to investigate all four members of the Crispy Pan Pizza gang, so I’ll just go with Pepperoni.

The Crispy Pan Pizza features DiGiorno’s usual mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and preservative free crust, but what makes this product different is the included single-use baking pan. It’s designed to make the edges of the pizza brown and crisp while leaving the rest of the crust soft and fluffy. After 22-24 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees, it’s time to see if that baking pan is the real deal, or just a cheap marketing scheme created by some wiseguy.

Well, what do you know? The pizza emerged from the oven perfectly golden brown with a crispy, caramelized layer of cheese stretching to the edges of the crust. The good news: this baking pan works as advertised. The bad news: “Crispy” isn’t just an ironic nickname, and my entire conspiracy theory is sunk.

As for the rest of the Crispy Pan Pizza, it’s pretty much standard DiGiorno fare. The sauce is plentiful, sweet, and slightly zesty. The cheese is relatively lacking and doesn’t have that authentic fresh cheese “pull,” but hey, it’s a frozen pizza. DiGiorno’s pepperoni is par for the course when it comes to frozen pizza toppings —- meaty, pretty salty, and somewhat spicy, too. All of these toppings rest nicely atop the thick and pillowy pan crust, which is buttery in flavor without being too oily or greasy.

I bought the DiGiorno Crispy Pan Pizza to expose a modern day Italian mafia, and all I got was a delicious frozen pizza. The toppings are all DiGiorno’s above average quality, and the pan crust is impressive by frozen pizza standards. It’s a little on the pricey side, but I’d say it’s one of the better frozen pizzas you’ll find.

Oh, and that conspiracy I mentioned earlier? Let’s just fuhgeddaboudit.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/5 Pizza – 430 calories, 200 calories from fat, 22 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 620 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 18 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $8.49
Size: 1 lb. 10 oz.
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Baking pan works as advertised. Tasty crust and flavorful sauce. Watching “The Godfather” to do research for a junk food review.
Cons: Not enough cheese covering the pizza. A little pricey. That moment when you realize being called Einstein wasn’t a compliment.

REVIEW: Dairy Queen Reese’s Extreme Blizzard

Dairy Queen Reese s Extreme Blizzard

I think Tony Hawk deserves an apology.

When I was a teenager, Tony Hawk—one of the greatest skateboarders of all-time—was practically synonymous with the word “extreme.” He flipped around halfpipes and grinded on rails with ease. Heck, the guy even risked his own health to land a two-and-a-half spin jump, perhaps the most extreme skateboarding trick ever performed.

And for what? To have Dairy Queen soil the word “extreme” with its new ice cream creation?! Look, DQ, “extreme” is a title that’s earned, not just a word that you can slap on something that’s been stuffed with candy. By that measure, the following things would also be “extreme”: a piñata, an Easter basket, and me after stress eating fun size Kit Kats while binge-watching House of Cards.

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Undue title aside, the new Dairy Queen Reese’s Extreme Blizzard has caught my eye like a well-executed 360 kickflip. It’s the Blizzard of the Month for April, and it features Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Reese’s Pieces, mixed with peanut butter and chocolaty topping in DQ’s signature vanilla soft serve.

Dairy Queen Reese s Extreme Blizzard 3

Locating a couple of spoonfuls without any candy pieces wasn’t an easy task, but I wanted to see if the peanut butter and chocolaty toppings really had any effect on the flavor of the vanilla soft serve. To my surprise, they actually do. In my experience, many standard Blizzard flavors seem to have the same decent (but rather boring) vanilla base. That’s not the case here. The ice cream is heavy on the peanut butter, sweet and fairly salty, and then finishes with a noticeable cocoa flavor.

I would love to comment on the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but I got maybe one-fourth of a peanut butter cup in my entire small Blizzard. I’m unsure if there were truly that few cups put in the Blizzard in the first place, or if there had been more but the blending process obliterated many of them.

Either way, the lack of Reese’s Cups in my Reese’s Extreme Blizzard left me extremely disappointed. (See what I did there?) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are known for their perfect balance of chocolate and peanut butter, and that flavor balance was sorely lacking in this Blizzard.

Dairy Queen Reese s Extreme Blizzard 4

On the other hand, there are a ton of Reese’s Pieces throughout the Reese’s Extreme Blizzard. Some are whole and virtually frozen solid, others are a bit more ground up and provide a lighter crunch. The Reese’s Pieces do provide a bit more sweetness, but on the whole their peanut butter flavor is pretty redundant with the richness of the ice cream.

All in all, I’d say the Reese’s Extreme Blizzard is basically just a Reese’s Pieces Blizzard with an extra squirt of peanut butter topping. It’s an enjoyable treat, but it falls well short of “extreme” in my eyes.

I’m sorry, Tony.

(Nutrition Facts – Small Blizzard – 730 calories, 270 calories from fat, 30 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 340 milligrams of sodium, 88 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 85 grams of sugar, 17 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.89
Size: Small
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Strong peanut butter flavor. Lots of Reese’s Pieces for added crunch. Tony Hawk, extreme skateboarding legend.
Cons: One-fourth of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Candy’s flavor was redundant with ice cream. Me, extreme stress eating legend.

REVIEW: Milka Oreo Choco-Mix

Milka Oreo Choco-Mix Snack Mix

For my entire adult life, I have maintained that the Spice Girls will forever be Europe’s greatest contribution to the United States. Let’s face it, “Wannabe” was the biggest radio hit in 1997. These days, I only hear it while sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s office. And every time, I have to endure the subsequent joke from my dentist to open my mouth and say “zig-a-zig ahh.” Every. Single. Time.

While the only notable thing I’ve done lately is spend an entire day watching “Spice World,” the folks at Mondelez are making a splash by bringing another group of marquee stars from overseas. Milka Oreo Choco-Mix is the third part of the treat trifecta — treat-fecta? -— from the Milka and Oreo brands, the others being the Big Crunch Bar and Chocolate Candy Bar. It’s got mini Oreo and Golden Oreo cookies, Milka chocolate buttons, and candy coated chocolate pieces. Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and schedule my next dentist appointment now.

Milka Oreo Choco-Mix Snack Mix 2
?Opening the bag of Milka Oreo Choco-Mix to a visage of only Oreos brought a wave of conflicting feelings. On one hand, I’ll never complain about a surplus of Oreos. But on the other hand, what happened to the other stuff? I soon discovered that the lighter ingredients had settled to the bottom, and all I had to do was jostle the bag. The Spice Girls once exclaimed, “slam it to the left…shake it to the right!” Fun fact: they were actually singing about Choco-Mix.

Milka Oreo Choco-Mix Snack Mix 3

Let’s deconstruct Milka Oreo Choco-Mix for a minute. The mini Oreo sandwich cookies are the familiar Oreo flavors you know and love. The mini classic Oreos have a slightly bitter chocolate cookie, while the mini Golden Oreos use a sweeter, vanilla-flavored cookie. Both contain the same sweet, sugary creme. The candy coated chocolate pieces are identical to M&M’s: creamy milk chocolate, with a crunchy candy shell. If those pieces use higher quality Milka chocolate instead of Mars chocolate, I didn’t taste a significant difference.

Speaking of that higher quality Milka chocolate, it’s scattered throughout this Choco-Mix in the form of round, thin discs. The chocolate is rich and creamy, and hands down better than anything we have here in the United States. The discs are light and firm, providing a crisp bite that melts instantly in your mouth.

Milka Oreo Choco-Mix Snack Mix 4

To my surprise, the separate ingredients actually come together quite well. I was half-expecting a handful of Milka Oreo Choco-Mix to simply devolve into a mouthful of sugar, but the components manage to play off of each other without getting lost. The bitter classic Oreo cookie is a good counterpart to the sweeter chocolate candies and sugary Oreo creme. The golden Oreo cookie introduces a vanilla flavor to avoid going too heavy on the chocolate. The crunchy cookies, hard candy shells, and creamy chocolate create a nice variety in texture.

But even though Milka Oreo Choco-Mix works well, it seems one-dimensional after a handful or two. I found myself yearning for more variety—for example, through the addition of nuts (candy coated chocolate pieces with peanuts, perhaps) or different flavors of Oreos (cough mini Reese’s Oreos cough). And the proportion of the ingredients leans heavily toward the Milka discs, which can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t get an even handful.

Milka Oreo Choco-Mix Snack Mix 5

Milka Oreo Choco-Mix is a solid snack mix and a welcome addition to the candy aisle. I’m hoping that in the future, we’ll see new versions with even more ingredients and Oreo flavors. For now though, it’s worth the extra dentist appointment.

I can’t wait to hear “Wannabe” again.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/4 cup – 200 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 20 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein.).)

Purchased Price: $3.50
Size: 6.17 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Good combination of flavors and fun textural variety. Excellent, high-quality chocolate. The Spice Girls are first-ballot Rock and Roll Hall of Fame candidates.
Cons: Taste becomes slightly redundant after a couple of handfuls. Might contain too many Milka discs. Could benefit from addition of new ingredients or Oreo flavors. Corny dentist jokes.

REVIEW: Pepperidge Farm Toasted Marshmallow Milano Cookies

Pepperidge Farm Toasted Marshmallow Milano Cookies

I’m starting to think I might have the wrong mailing address for Santa Claus.

You see, twenty years ago, I sent Santa a letter asking for a Super Soaker CPS 2000. All of the kids in my neighborhood were getting one, so I just had to get one too. I’d be blasting my friends in the face with ice cold water in no time!

But there was one problem…the Super Soaker CPS 2000 never came. Surely there was just a mistake at the North Pole Postal Service—they’re very busy during this time of year. So every December since, I’ve written Santa a letter asking for a brand new Super Soaker CPS 2000. You’re probably thinking, “Ben, you loser, you’re an adult! You can’t go around playing with Super Soakers, even if you do get one.” Ha! The joke’s on you. I’m a grown male who still writes letters to Santa Claus. Do you really expect me to care about what people think of me playing with a Super Soaker? Who’s the loser now?

Just to make sure Santa stops by my house this year, I’ll be leaving him these new Pepperidge Farm Toasted Marshmallow Milano Cookies. I hope Santa isn’t a s’mores lover; these cookies aren’t made to include any graham flavor whatsoever. Instead, Toasted Marshmallow Milano cookies are just regular Milano cookies with an additional marshmallow-flavored layer.

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Well, at least I think there’s an additional marshmallow-flavored layer. Toasted Marshmallow Milano cookies have a sugary, creamy flavor to them, but it’s hard to tell whether that’s distinctly “marshmallow” or if it’s just coming from the milk chocolate layer. Either way, it’s certainly not toasted. I’m not saying Pepperidge Farm had to dip each of these cookies in liquid smoke — that would actually be pretty disgusting — but with a name like “Toasted Marshmallow,” I would hope that these Milano cookies could have some semblance of being toasted.

Pepperidge Farm Toasted Marshmallow Milano Cookies 3

I searched for a toasted flavor in the cookie, too. No luck. It’s just the same standard Milano cookie, like a lighter shortbread. Its rich, floury-yet-buttery flavor is good, but it dominates the overall flavor of the cookie. Aside from a few lucky bites, the cookie tends to overpower the flavors within — and that is the real problem with Toasted Marshmallow Milano cookies. You can taste “marshmallow” and milk chocolate, but never together. In short, these cookies are pretty good, but not nearly as great as they could have been.

If the last twenty years have taught me anything, it’s how to deal with failed expectations. But as Pepperidge Farm just taught me, two can play that game.

Pepperidge Farm Toasted Marshmallow Milano Cookies 4

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 130 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 7 oz. package
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Marshmallow and milk chocolate layers are sweet and creamy. Familiar rich, buttery cookie. Learning life lessons. The North Pole Postal Service.
Cons: Not toasted. Shortbread cookie dominates the overall flavor. Still wishing for a Super Soaker CPS 2000. Passive-aggressively leaving one cookie for Santa Claus.

REVIEW: Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies

Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies

Hi, everyone.

I’m here to accept this Cookie of the Year award on behalf of Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies. They couldn’t be here because…well, because I ate all of them.

First off, I’d just like to congratulate and thank the other nominees. I’m not really sure who any of you are, because this award is entirely made up by Nestle Toll House, but you all did a great job this year and should feel really proud. Except for you, Swedish Fish Oreos. You were not nominated for this fake award and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies 2

Next, I want to thank “break and bake” technology. Thanks to you, making sugary, fattening cookies is SO much easier! No more worrying about whether I have enough flour on hand or if the eggs have expired…I can just open the package, break the premade dough along its perforations, and 10-11 minutes later I have some perfectly baked cookies. And another 10-11 minutes later, I have a stomach ache from inhaling those perfectly baked cookies.

The sugar cookie dough is really what made this whole thing possible. It’s sweet and buttery, with just a hint of floury goodness. Its performance doesn’t take any risks, but it doesn’t have to. It’s the same sugar cookie flavor we know and love from Nestle Toll House–a real classic.

Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies 3

The Butterfinger Baking Bits did a pretty good job in the starring role, too. Their stick-to-your-teeth presence is definitely noticeable, and shows their peanut buttery range through a dynamic sweet and salty combination. As enjoyable as that peanut butter element aspect is, I really wish there had been more of it from start to finish. It just popped up here and there, upstaged by the fantastic sugar cookie dough. But those occasional cameos are really satisfying when they do happen.

I’ve got to say, I’m a little surprised that the milk chocolate took such a minor role in this whole project. When it’s there, it’s creamy and sweet, but I was hoping for a lot more of it. When I think of Butterfingers, I think of a crispy peanut butter center enveloped in a creamy milk chocolate coating. This cookie nailed the peanut butter part, but didn’t quite reach its full milk chocolate potential. With a better peanut butter-to-chocolate ratio, I have no doubt this cookie would go down as one of the all-time greats.

Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies 4

Having said that, Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies wouldn’t have won this award without good reason (okay, actually, they did). The sugar cookie dough does an incredible job carrying the cookie, and the Butterfinger Baking Bits mimic the inside of a Butterfinger candy bar quite well. The milk chocolate flavor is a bit underwhelming, but hey, not everybody can be the star of the show. Let’s all raise a glass of milk to the 2016 Cookie of the Year: Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies.

Thank you for allowing me the honor of devouring them.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cookie – 80 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protei.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 16 oz (makes 24 cookies)
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Sugary and rich sugar cookie dough. Peanut butter flavor shines through sweet and salty buddy cop duo. Baking Bits stick to your teeth just like an actual Butterfinger. Giving acceptance speeches just for eating cookies.
Cons: Totally made-up award. Milk chocolate flavor could have been better. Swedish Fish Oreos.