REVIEW: Domino’s Chicken Apple Pecan Salad

Domino's Chicken Apple Pecan Salad

A short list of things I never imagined I would do in my lifetime:

  1. Meet Hulk Hogan at a rave
  2. Go nude skydiving
  3. Date a vegan
  4. Help an Eskimo run the Iditarod
  5. Get a salad from Domino’s

So full disclosure, numbers one through four have not happened…yet. Number five, unfortunately, did happen.

Usually the single man’s trip to Domino’s ends with a medium pizza that will get finished in one night. It usually has ham and pineapple on it and it is usually eaten in the company of Wes Montgomery albums and good vodka. Sometimes, though, you have to switch things up.

The Domino’s salads come prepackaged, and when I say prepackaged, I mean factory sealed and then shipped to Domino’s stores. At least that’s what I read.

Factory fresh salad…YUM!

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Besides being factory sealed, it is also a salad you have to put it together yourself. How dare they make us do work!

This isn’t the worst tasting salad, but for the price, it didn’t seem worth it in the end.

The main culprits are the spring mix and the chicken. I know greens aren’t supposed to be flashy but the greens in this salad, even with the Ken’s Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing, just weren’t good. I think the factory seal takes some of the freshness away.

The chicken didn’t seem to lose freshness but it didn’t matter, it was like that semi-grizzle-y chicken Subway had years ago. Tastes like nothing and you get those pieces you can’t chew cleanly through, and nobody likes those.

Nothing was really wrong with the cheddar cheese and apples. Those probably had the freshest taste to them, and if those are your freshest ingredients, your salad is in trouble. The cranberries were few in quantity and you won’t complain about it. The salad didn’t need them.

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Cover all this with Ken’s Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette and the result is just so underwhelming. The dressing doesn’t have a strong enough sweet-tart taste that a normal balsamic would, and in the case of this salad, more flavor was needed to cloak its shortcomings.

The only part of the salad that stood out was the pecans. I would buy the salad again just for those, no joke. They were so sweet; I think they may have been candied. They reminded me of pralines you find in ice cream.

If I were you, I’d fork over the extra two bucks and get a salad from Panera that you will actually enjoy.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 serving (2 per salad) – 190 Calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 350 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 14 grams total sugars, 13 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $6.49
Size: N/A
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Pecans are otherworldly good. Crazy low in calories.
Cons: Spring mix and chicken leave much to be desired. Dressing isn’t flavorful enough. Not meeting Hulk Hogan at a rave.

REVIEW: Quaker Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Life Cereal

Quaker Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Life Cereal

Let me be honest with you all – I think I’m basic.

Each year I eagerly anticipate the arrival of the cool autumn air and the changing of the leaves. Fall brings with it an excuse to wear my large collection of flannel shirts, strap on my boots (they’re not Uggs….yet), and head out to the countryside to pay extra money to pick my own apples that end up being smaller than anything I could buy at the grocery store.

And while some folks may believe that apple cinnamon is the quintessential fall flavor of choice, I am here to proclaim my love for anything and everything that is pumpkin spice. Sure, the latte has run through my veins from September through November in the past, but the grocery aisles have been my go-to for orangey and spicey products in recent years. 2015 brought us pumpkin spice kale chips (for basic vegans), pumpkin spice eggnog (for basic holiday combiners), and even pumpkin spice vodka (for basic drunks), and if you’ve read TIB in the past few weeks, you know that 2016 is shaping up to offer even more nutmeggy goodness.

As such, I jumped at the opportunity to review Pumpkin Spice Life Cereal. To be honest, I found it hard to believe that such a classic cereal would get on the pumpkin spice train, but the more the merrier. Next stop, my mouth. CHOO CHOO!

Life was never my first choice of cereal as a kid. I mean, when you’re competing with Cap’n Crunch and Count Chocula, a picture of wheat squares on the box wasn’t really appealing. As I grew older and wiser, my palette learned to appreciate Life and its cooler younger brother, Cinnamon Life. I eagerly dove into Pumpkin Spice Life, hoping that I’d be able to welcome it to the family with open arms.

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Upon opening the box, I was concerned that I’d mistakenly grabbed a box of traditional Life in error. Pumpkin Spice Life is relatively dull in the package, even though the box screams OMG THERE’S FALL IN HERE. The cereal offers nothing that will remind you of a pumpkin pie baking in the oven or the colors of the changing leaves. In fact, I was only able to discern any sort of cinnamon or nutmeg scent when I brought a spoonful of cereal right under my nose, and it was a very weak smell at that.

My bites of the cereal were similarly bland. The flavor of Pumpkin Spice Life, like regular Life, is very grain heavy, with notes of oats and wheat at the forefront. The tastes of cinnamon and nutmeg are only faintly evident, but become amped up with the inclusion of milk. A word to the wise though – once you add milk, you’ll need to finish your bowl quickly, lest you enjoy cereal that is the consistency of mashed potatoes.

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The best part about pumpkin spice flavored products is that they typically bring a strong punch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice right from the beginning. You want to feel like you’ve been slapped in the face with your Thanksgiving dessert spread, and Pumpkin Spice Life isn’t going to give you any of that. Unless you’re a fan of muted fall flavors, I don’t suggest you play the game of Pumpkin Spice Life.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 120 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 13 oz box
Purchased at: Star Market
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Witty board game references. Good for fans of regular Life. Flannel shirts worn unironically.
Cons: Hey Mikey, he hates it! Barely discernible pumpkin spice flavor. Mushy in milk.

REVIEW: Great Value Late Night Cravings Donut Cheeseburger

Great Value Late Night Cravings Donut Cheeseburger

I’ve never wondered what a sponge that’s been used to clean a frying pan tastes like. But thanks to the grease-soaked donut used as a bun for Great Value’s Late Night Cravings Donut Cheeseburger, now I know.

You may think the paragraph above is hyperbole, but the translucent paper towels in my kitchen’s trash think otherwise. Every time I picked up the burger and put it down, the soggy cake donut made my fingers look and feel like they’re combatants in a baby oil wrestling battle royale.

If that’s not enough to encourage you to avoid this microwaveable burger, then maybe the amount of saturated fat it has will cause you to think twice. ONE burger has 90 PERCENT of your daily recommended intake of saturated fat. Not even eating one-fourth of a stick of butter will get you to 90 percent.

Now if that’s not enough to make you say “whoa” to buying this donut cheeseburger, then maybe the way it made my kitchen smell like grease and burnt meat as it was being heated up in the microwave will.

And, if not that, maybe saying the donut hole looks like a butt hole will.

Do you still want to buy it?

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I’ve made a few donut cheeseburgers over the years when the food stars align because someone happened to bring donuts to a cookout. I’ve also eaten a few microwaveable cheeseburgers because if you run a blog about processed food for over a decade, you’re bound to eat a few. Both are serviceable, but this microwaveable donut cheeseburger is not.

Besides the grease-soaked cake donut, the cheeseburger comes with a slice of American cheese, hot pepper berry bacon jam, and chopped beef steak. Yes, “chopped beef steak” appears to be a fancy name for beef patty because it tastes like a beef patty, albeit a thin, dry beef patty.

The cheese doesn’t do anything flavor-wise, but its color prevents the burger from looking even more depressing. It adds a little contrast. Without the cheese, looking at this burger’s doom and gloom colors of brown, black, purple, and grey would’ve brought me down to a level of depression that makes me wonder if I should ask a psychiatrist if Zoloft Is right for me.

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The one ingredient that gave me the most worry before putting the burger into my mouth was the hot pepper berry bacon jam. But it ended up being the least scariest ingredient of the whole burger. The topping tasted more like a sweet barbecue sauce and it, along with some sweetness from the cake donut, helped make the sandwich taste like a BBQ burger and somewhat tolerable. But it’s not enough to overcome the soggy, greasy cake donut.

As much as I didn’t enjoy Great Value’s Donut Cheeseburger, I applaud the smart, and I assume munchies-driven, folks who developed it. Creative. Yes. Will I eat the second one that came in the box? No.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 sandwich – 610 calories, 350 calories from fat, 38 grams of fat, 18 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 1040 milligrams of sodium, 270 milligrams of potassium, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 21 grams of sugar, and 20 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $6.44
Size: 2 sandwiches
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Hot pepper berry bacon jam tastes like barbecue sauce. Creative.
Cons: Greasy, soggy cake donut. One has 90 percent of your daily saturated fat. Donut hole looks like a butt hole. Makes my kitchen smell like grease and burnt meat.

REVIEW: Crystal Pepsi (2016)

Crystal Pepsi (2016)

Full disclosure: I’m a Coke person. But I like Pepsi.

The sweetness of a cherry Pepsi contrasts particularly well with the sodium bomb of an extra crispy two-piece KFC meal, flanked with a side of comfortingly bland mac and cheese. And on Friday nights before I knew anyone with a car, Pizza Hut would deliver a meat-lovers pizza to the house, accompanied by bulbous onyx two-liter tanks of soda—always Pepsi.

I just like gross, adult stuff now: Bitter, sour, spicy, stuff that tastes like medicine, Coca-Cola. I like the harsh carbonation of Coca-Cola. If we’re picking teams, I’m Team Coke. But Pepsi is fine. And I definitely got my mother to buy me Crystal Pepsi multiple times the twenty-or-so odd years ago it was available.

Crystal Pepsi is back. It’s visually striking, the label’s bold blue and red logo against a foggy clear backdrop. The nostalgia factor is enough to get one buy out of me, but even on pure aesthetics, it’s compelling. A 20-ounce bottle of regular Pepsi looks like a familiar product. A 20-ounce bottle of Crystal Pepsi looks like the absence of Pepsi. It looks naked, vulnerable, honest even. It looks like it’s missing something. And it is.

Crystal Pepsi (2016) 3

What Crystal Pepsi lacks is the almost-metallic taste that hits the back of the throat that regular Pepsi has. It’s hard to tell if the subtraction of the caramel coloring is the reason for this, but without the light medicinal quality, it kicks the balance of the drink into being really sweet. I would say too sweet. If you took a poll of what people thought of OG Pepsi, I think a lot of the answers would be “sweet,” especially in comparison to Coke. So this is even more than that.

At first taste it has the same sugary hit of Pepsi regular. Without the complexity of the rest of Pepsi regular, though, it seems like the soda boosts into maple syrup, lip-curling sweetness territory. I would have assumed a taste test between Crystal and regular would have been at least interesting, but it’s really not difficult to tell them apart. It’s an entirely different beast. It carries the lightness of a ginger ale with the sugary ceiling of an apple juice.

Crystal Pepsi (2016) 2

Crystal Pepsi also has a smoother finish, and the carbonation is less harsh than most other sodas, so the texture in the mouth is also not compensating for the added perceived boost in sweetness. The sugar contents compare to regular Pepsi, however, and the ingredient differences are “gum arabic” and “sodium citrate.” Sure. Who knows what that means. Crystal Pepsi does now contain caffeine, which it didn’t have in the 90’s. So for people looking for a weird ass coffee replacement, that’s good information. “Nothing better in the morning than a cheese Danish and a mug of hot Crystal Pepsi.”

With 90’s nostalgia in full swing, Pepsi is surfing the trend wave. I mean, look at that label. I can’t remember if this is how Crystal Pepsi tasted like this in the 90’s but if it did, it was too sweet then. I probably just didn’t care. I was too busy playing pogs at Taco Bell while listening to Dookie. Now I sit in my breakfast nook and do my taxes and listen to a self-made Train’s Greatest Hits. And I drink Coke. Diet Coke. You got me to buy one, Crystal Pepsi. But I think that’s all you’re gonna get.

(Nutrition Facts – 20 oz – 250 calories, 0 grams of fat, 90 milligrams of sodium, 69 grams of carbohydrates, 69 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: 20 fl oz
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Nostalgia factor. Nice looking label.
Cons: Too sweet.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Swedish Fish Oreo Cookies

Limited Edition Swedish Fish Oreo Cookies

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Dr. Ian Malcolm famously spoke this line in Jurassic Park, and ever since, it echoes in my brain whenever a particularly weird, strange, or repulsive snack food is released. But I bet even Dr. Malcolm would choose an ocean cruise in a plesiosaur’s stomach over a tall stack of Swedish Fish Oreo Cookies. Nabisco might as well have printed the word “WHY?” on the side of every wafer.

But I plan to eat these Oreo cookies with an open mind. Why?

Because I may not be a Jurassic paleontologist, but I am a self-described gummy-ologist. I’ve documented every species of gummy bear. I once caught a 30-pound blue gummy shark with a single gummy worm. Heck, I even rallied for gummy octopus rights when I discovered their intelligence was nearly on par with humans.

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But Swedish Fish Oreos are an entirely different creature. Even though they have Oreo’s iconic, pleasantly crunchy, and cocoa buttery chocolate cookie wafers, Swedish Fish Oreo have a unique creme filling the world hasn’t tasted since the Paleozoic era.

Or so I’m assuming, since the decision to make Swedish Fish Oreo could’ve only been made by either a Neanderthal or a giant roulette wheel in Nabisco’s office.

See, this creme isn’t perfectly pillowy, soft, and squishy. It’s a little more sticky, chewy, and dare I say…slimy. It cracks and falls apart like a child’s Play-Doh diorama of the Berlin Wall, and each Oreo I opened contained a different Rorschach test image in its pasty folds. Below I see Donald Trump angrily looking out a castle window:

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The creme’s taste, though, is just like Swedish Fish. It has potent, puckering pops of candied cherry and a slightly off-putting finish of waxy gelatin. I could probably recreate it with a box of Swedish Fish and a blender, but like shooting fish in a barrel, eating fish in an Oreo is way easier.

I can’t say if it’s more pleasant, though. Eating the cookie and creme together, I can really only taste the overpowering cherry creme. There’s a processed chocolate aftertaste, but even then, it has to battle for supremacy with the cherry cough syrup layer that the creme plastered on the back of my throat.

I really wanted to like Swedish Fish Oreo, but the “crispy fruit medicine puree” textural contrast is too much for even a quasi-licensed gummy-ologist. I thought dunking them might intensify the chocolate flavor, but I worried that dipping these bizarre things in milk might make the beverage renounce Oreo as its favorite cookie.

So since I already felt ridiculous, I dipped ‘em in Kool-Aid instead.

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Surprisingly, it wasn’t even bad. When soggy, the cocoa wafers are “activated,” and the whole Oreo starts to taste like a vaguely pleasant Dirt Pie.

Remember Dirt Pies? Those chocolate pudding cups with scattered Oreo crumb soil and gummy worms on top? The desserts you haven’t had since your cousin’s 4th grade Halloween party? They’re delicious, and after squinting my eyes and eating a juice-soaked Swedish Fish Oreo, I relived a little of that nostalgia.

For 99 percent of people, these cookies will be a major “no.” The texture’s weird, the flavor’s medicinal, and the smell would scare a coyote. But for those rare one percent who are eternal kids-at-heart and want to scratch a doozy off their “Culinary Adventure Bucket List,” then oh boy, does Nabisco have an Oreo for you.

As for me? I’m just gonna lay down and dream about Dirt Pies for a week.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 35 milligrams of potassium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 10.7 oz package
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Wistful Dirt Pie memories. Completing my Gummy Pokédex. Cookie creme ink blot tests. Googling pictures of plesiosaurs to cleanse my palate.
Cons: Chemical cherry fish paste. Chocolate flavor that disappears faster than Houdini. Scraping the bottom of the flavor idea fish barrel. “Oreo: Milk’s Recently Divorced Cookie.” The falling Frankenstein piñata that broke my nose at my cousin’s 4th grade Halloween party.