REVIEW: Devour Chicken & Waffles

Devour Chicken & Waffles

One of the saddest frozen meals I’ve ever put into my mouth was the Hungry-Man Selects Boneless Fried Chicken & Waffles. After being punished by radiation, the waffles were soggy and the breaded chicken patties were limp and lacked any discernible crunch. Eggo waffles and Burger King chicken nuggets would be a significant upgrade.

With my previous frozen chicken and waffles experience tattooed onto my head, I purchased this Devour Chicken & Waffles frozen entree with the expectation that it might be slightly better. According to the box, the frozen food features “premium crispy breaded white meat chicken patty strips served with Belgian waffle sticks and a side of syrup for dipping.”

After opening the box, I saw a ray of sunshine. Actually, it was a ray of gray, which usually means sadness, but in this case it was the opposite. The interior of the box was lined with the gray, slick material used for microwaveable crisping trays. Seeing it gave me a glimmer of hope that these chicken and waffles would be okay.

Although the photo below of burnt-looking waffles might make you think otherwise. But I assure you, they might be burnt-looking, but they’re not burnt-tasting.

Devour Chicken & Waffles 2

The crisping tray makes a significant difference when it comes to texture. The waffle sticks have a slightly fluffy interior and a crispy exterior that makes them feel as if they’ve been through a toaster cycle. And the chicken strips have a lightly crispy texture that’s similar to fast food chicken nuggets.

The chicken strips have enough flavor that they could be eaten without dipping them into the syrup, but the same can’t be said about the Belgian waffle strips. They’re bland compared to other frozen Belgian waffles I’ve had.

But thank goodness for the included Heinz Breakfast Syrup. It tastes as generic as its name, but it does bring a satisfying sweetness to this meat and carbs affair. And there’s enough of it to dip all the waffles and chicken.

However, everything is not all sugar, chicken breading spice, and everything nice. If you let the waffle sticks sit out too long, they go from being crispy and fluffy to dry and crunchy.

Overall, I enjoyed Devour’s Chicken & Waffles. I don’t know if it’s the best microwaveable chicken & waffles offering, but it’s definitely better than the rock bottom experience of Hungry-Man’s attempt at the sweet and savory dish.

(Nutrition Facts – 620 calories, 190 calories from fat, 21 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 1150 milligrams of sodium, 83 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 36 grams of sugar, 24 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 9.25 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Better than Hungry-Man Selects Boneless Fried Chicken & Waffles. Crisping tray works! Chicken can be eaten on their own. Enough syrup for waffles AND chicken.
Cons: Belgian waffle strips slightly bland. If sits out too long, the waffle sticks turn dry and crunchy. Might not be filling for some people. Hungry-Man Selects Boneless Fried Chicken & Waffles.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies

Hostess Limited Edition White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies

Ever since I was young, I’ve been a sucker for ghost jokes.

For example:

Where do ghosts buy their junk food?

At the ghost-ery store.

What’s a ghost’s favorite fruit?

Boo-berries.

What does a ghost barista offer its customers?

Scream and sugar.

Okay, those weren’t funny at all. No wonder none of my classmates laughed at my jokes throughout school. What the hell was I thinking for all of those years? Is this why I went to prom alone two years in a row? What am I going to find out next, that I DIDN’T look totally cool sipping on my Ecto Cooler juice box while all of the upperclassmen were drinking out of flasks?!

Hostess Limited Edition White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies 2

Luckily, Ghostbusters is back in theaters to grace the world with the ghoul-related humor we so desperately need, and I clearly cannot provide. To celebrate the new movie, Hostess has introduced Limited Edition White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies (there’s also a Key Lime Slime flavor). Wouldn’t you know it, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man himself adorns the face of the box, and each rotund white Twinkie pays homage to him, too. The colorful packaging describes this Twinkie variety as a “white fudge covered sponge cake with marshmallow topping and creamy filling.” Now, if THAT doesn’t make you want to buy these Twinkies then…well, then you probably don’t look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Good for you.

Biting through the firm-yet-forgiving outer shell of frosting, I was instantly met with a heavy white chocolate flavor. It’s more than just “sugar” and clearly distinguishable from milk or even dark chocolate, but its exaggerated sweetness is almost unpleasant. If anything stands out over the taste of the white fudge, it’s the sponge cake itself. It’s the classic Twinkie cake: buttery and very sweet. There’s very little saltiness or other flavor to distinguish it from the rest of the Twinkie.

Hostess Limited Edition White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies 3

The filling, which is the same standard Twinkie cream filling — not marshmallow flavored — was barely noticeable. This was disappointing, because it’s the only ingredient that stood a chance to provide some balance in flavor. There is also an unexpectedly thick marshmallow layer between the sponge cake and the white fudge frosting, which seemed to provide a certain creaminess among the saccharine frenzy going on here. Still, it was hard to tell because all of the ingredients are basically just sugar.

Hostess Limited Edition White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies 4

The real distinction of the marshmallow layer is its texture: it’s chewy, stretchy, and almost tough. This stuck out as an unpleasant surprise for what is usually a very soft, fluffy cake. Between the firm white fudge coating, the leathery marshmallow topping, the cushiony cake and the wispy filling, the texture of this Twinkie was a truly repugnant experience. For a junk food reviewer, that’s saying something.

What’s odd is that these White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies actually do achieve what they advertise, and for that Hostess deserves some credit. These are Twinkies, draped in a flavorful white fudge coating, and featuring an obvious marshmallow layer. The problem is that all of those ingredients combine to form a sugary monster not even Peter Venkman could vanquish. And that’s something to be afraid of.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 190 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 23 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 15.55 oz box (9 cakes)
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Hefty marshmallow layer and decent white fudge taste. Familiar Twinkie goodness. Ecto Cooler. Bill Murray.
Cons: Sweetness of white fudge, marshmallow, and sponge cake is overwhelming. Textural nightmare. Eating Twinkies until you look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Terrible ghost jokes.

REVIEW: General Mills Strawberry and Blueberry Tiny Toast Cereals

General Mills Strawberry and Blueberry Tiny Toast Cereals?
Toast is so en vogue right now. You’ve got your avocado toast, your restaurants that only serve toast, and your beer made from toast. Hell, at this point, you’d half expect toast to start singing “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It).”

Toast wasn’t always the critical darling it is today. For years, it perched precariously on the side of breakfast platters everywhere, only there to sop up the remnants of runny yolks (or last night’s bad decisions, if you know what I mean).

But then, in 1984, the cereal wizards at General Mills introduced Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and the rest was history. What then followed were years of toast cereal offshoots like French Toast Crunch and Peanut Butter Toast Crunch, which led me to believe that General Mills should just change their name to “That Cereal Company That Only Makes Toast Themed Cereal.”

Enter Strawberry and Blueberry Tiny Toast cereals to prove my point.

In what is apparently General Mills’ first new cereal brand in fifteen years (I know, I was just as surprised as you), Strawberry and Blueberry Tiny Toast cereals were developed to have an “all-family appeal.” I’m not sure where General Mills finds their test families, but I imagine that the folks who thought this cereal would appeal to everyone are the same folks who think Pop-Tarts are a good source of your five-a-day.

Upon opening the box, the tiny toast cereals have a scent reminiscent of fruit and cream instant oatmeal. While it’s totally artificial, it brings back memories of all of the times in college I didn’t have the time or the initiative to make a more nutritious breakfast. Then upon pouring it out, I was greeted by an adorable bowl full of tiny pieces of toast. We’re talking Honey, I Shrunk the Kids tiny here. Rick Moranis would be proud.

General Mills Strawberry Tiny Toast Cereal

The look of the cereal is a different story, as the specks of fruit on each piece of tiny toast look a little more like measles and mold than anything natural. If Cinnamon Toast Crunch is the “taste you can see,” this cereal is more like the “taste you should see a doctor about.”

As a cereal purist, I first tried both cereals sans milk. Upon scooping out my first bite, I noticed the toasts had a dry and dusty appearance, which was affirmed when they immediately dissolved on my tongue. While the texture isn’t the most pleasant (think arid desert), the taste is much better, with both giving off muffin-like oat flavors mixed with the fruit.

General Mills Blueberry Tiny Toast Cereal

Tired of the Sahara-like climate inside my mouth, I drowned the cereals in milk. Let me tell you – Milk. Is. A. Game. changer. The milk immediately fluffs up the tiny toasts, giving them a more pleasant appearance and mouthfeel, and making the cereal much more enjoyable to eat. It’s like that Lubriderm commercial where they apply it to an alligator – it works that well.

Overall, the Tiny Toast cereals are a pretty good, albeit artificial, addition to your balanced breakfast. Let’s just hope that General Mills doesn’t come out with a crappy sequel.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 120 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99 each
Size: 11.1 oz box
Purchased at: Star Market
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Blueberry)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Strawberry)
Pros: R&B jams. “Honey, I shrunk the breakfast.” Muffin-like fruit flavor. Moisturized with milk.
Cons: Need for cereal antibiotics. Dusty texture sans milk. Remembering bad decisions.

QUICK REVIEW: Rockstar Ginger Brew Energy Drink

Rockstar Ginger Brew Energy Drink

I took a deep breath and braced myself before my first sip of Rockstar Ginger Brew Energy Drink. With the name “Ginger Brew,” I expected the beverage to burn like every ginger beer I’ve tried.

And I expected I’d say “Mmmm” and pretend to be cool because I was drinking a ginger beer, but screaming internally from the ginger burn going down my throat.

But there was no burn, grimaces, silent screaming, tensing of muscles, or calls out to mommy, because I should’ve realized that “Ginger Brew” could also mean ginger ale. Yes, Rockstar has created an energy ginger ale. So while the ginger may help settle your stomach, the caffeine will do the opposite to your heart.

Actually, ginger isn’t listed as an ingredient. Instead, it’s under the mysterious “natural flavors.” But that’s also the case with big brand ginger ales, like Seagram’s and Canada Dry.

The ginger flavor is as light as an elf’s breath. It’s so light that if I didn’t know it was a ginger ale, I would’ve thought it was a regional citrus soda with a silly name like Quenk. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rockstar Ginger Brew is a slightly tweaked version of Rockstar Revolt Killer Citrus.

Rockstar Ginger Brew Energy Drink 2

Overall, it’s still a decent tasting energy drink that’s not overly syrupy like other Rockstar varieties. If the ginger flavor was slightly more intense, I would’ve like it more. It’s easy to drink and I’d definitely buy it again if I need to slam down 160 milligrams of caffeine and settle my tummy.

Purchased Price: N/A
Size: 16 oz. can
Purchased at: Purchased on eBay (currently an amp exclusive flavor)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (8 ounces) 140 calories, 0 grams of fat, 10 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 32 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, 100% niacin, 100% vitamin B6, 100% vitamin B12, and 100% pantothenic acid.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Mushroom Swiss Burger Pizza

Papa John's Mushroom Swiss Burger Pizza

Papa John’s seems hellbent on deconstructing already-existing fast food sandwiches and turning them into pizza. They are the Dr. Frankenstein of dough. And, as with the infamous doctor, things don’t always go well.

For instance, there was the time they tried to turn a Philly cheesesteak sandwich into a pizza, and they also did it to a double cheeseburger. Both of these were, in my opinion, failed attempts. Oh, sure, Papa John could shout “IT’S ALIVE!” But at what cost?

To my taste buds, I mean. The price is on their menu.

I feel like right after the God of Burgers created the cheeseburger and then added bacon to it, his next creation was the mushroom Swiss burger. I’m not sure why it was that combination that came up next, but it seems to be menu item #3 on a lot of burger restaurants’ lists.

Papa John's Mushroom Swiss Burger Pizza 2

Papa John’s says that “Our New burger pizza comes with beef, crimini mushrooms, onions, cheese made from mozzarella and Swiss cheeses, with creamy garlic sauce.”

I’m not a mushroom expert, but the mushrooms that came on my pizza looked like what I would call “pizza mushrooms”. Are criminis always used for pizzas? I don’t know, but the ones on my pizza tasted like pizza mushrooms. Which is fine, I suppose. There was also a healthy coverage of them.

What there was not a lot of was burger pieces. I feel like if you’re going to make a pizza specifically designed from a burger, you should get at least one burger piece per bite. That was not the case with my pizza. However, the umami from the mushrooms helped balance that out a little.

The onions were, of course, rather floppy, but they added a nice kick of flavor to the pizza. As for the Swiss, I feel like it added an extra dimension to the cheese profile. I also feel like that sentence smelled just a tiiiiny bit like bullshit. My mind could have been tricking me into thinking that the Swiss was there; I honestly can’t say for sure.

Papa John's Mushroom Swiss Burger Pizza 3

Call it trivial if you like, but I think the biggest victory of this pizza was Papa John’s choice to use garlic sauce. They must have tweaked the recipe since its application on the Philly Cheesesteak Pizza, because this time it did not taste like bile. It had a nice creamy texture and the taste of garlic was present but not overwhelming.

This was a critical decision, because using tomato sauce would have made the pizza impressively boring, and using the weird “zesty burger sauce” they had on their Double Cheeseburger Pizza would have been disgusting because that shit tasted like hot Thousand Island. So again, good call, Papa.

The Mushroom Swiss Burger Pizza is by far not Papa John’s worst limited time pizza, but I wasn’t exactly blown away by it. There were lots of mushrooms, but they were the same kind of mushrooms you’d get on a usual pizza as far as I could tell, and the burger – kind of an important part – was sparse. I’m not entirely sure I could taste the Swiss, but if I did, it was okay? The real saving grace here was the creamy garlic sauce, which really brought the pizza together and gave it that little something special that it otherwise definitely would have lacked.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/6 of a small pizza – 240 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 500 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 9 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $12.00
Size: Small
Purchased at: Papa John’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Creamy garlic sauce brings it all together. The God of Burgers. Plenty of mushrooms. Garlic sauce doesn’t taste like bile this time.
Cons: Sparse burger pieces. Being the Dr. Frankenstein of pizza. My stupid brain could have tricked me into tasting Swiss. Just a bit boring.

REVIEW: Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza

Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza

Over the years, competitors have come out swinging – stuffing crusts with hot dogs, creating delivery cars with pizza ovens, and paying Peyton Manning.

Last year, Little Caesars tried to play ball with the Bacon Wrapped Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza. Dialing it back, Little Caesars’ latest contribution to realm of ridiculous pizza innovation is their new Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP!DEEP! Dish Pizza. I’ve learned from my day job that if you throw the adjective “premium” in front of your product or offering, it’s a sure win!

Continuing to sip on my haterade, I conclude from the rectangular box that my pizza isn’t round. What! Choquée! The box does proudly tout that Little Caesars is America’s Favorite Detroit-Style Deep Dish Pizza. Detroit is home to a lot of great things like the Detroit Lions, so what could go wrong here? Kidding.

Because Little Caesars is carry-out only, the eau d’pizza had about 20 minutes to permeate my car. I’ll give Little Caesars this – if they bottled the tantalizing pepperoni aroma, I’d buy it. When I got home, I expect it to look as glorious as it smells but the squares look really plain, small, and sad. Product description reads: “Four corners of perfection weren’t enough, so we gave you eight!” Honestly Little Caesars, I would’ve been fine with one, good round pizza.

Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza 3

While I can look past size, the pepperoni pieces were clearly just haphazardly thrown on. It looks like the one time I tried to play ring toss inebriated. I do appreciate that the pepperoni wasn’t marinating in a puddle of oil like competitors’ pepperoni pizzas.

While the overall pizza is hardly as ooey-gooey as it is in the ads, two slices down and I’m heavy breathing. I find myself feeling relieved that the cheese isn’t molten lava because it’s as if an entire cheese wheel was melted down and stuffed into the contents of this square dough. It’s like the dough and cheese have fused into one; I’m not quite sure where one begins and the other ends – there’s cheese on top, cheese in the middle, cheese in the crust. Alls I know is that my stomach is stuffed like this pizza.

Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza 4

I’m amazed that a single square slice somehow holds everything with such grace – no collapsing soggy crust whatsoever like other competitors’ stuffed crusts and not dry and hard like some Sicilian-style pizza I’ve had. Conclusion: Stuffed Crust DEEP!DEEP! Dish Pizza is the Spanx of pizzas. Like Spanx, it’s somehow containing and holding in all the cheese. The little muffin top forming over my jeans is a stark contrast to the pizza’s remarkable composure. Damn, I knew I should’ve worn my stretchy pants.  

This really does remind me of elementary school cafeteria pizza. But, this conjures fond memories for me like a square pizza patronus (where my Gryffindors at?!). Like all elementary school meals, it looks unappetizing and has way too much sodium; but if you count the pepperoni as your daily serving protein and tomato sauce as your daily serving of vegetables, you have a square meal. Get it? *buh dum tss*

Square pizza = square meal. Ha! No? Okay, fine. Fair.

Dad jokes aside, I will admit it’s not the best pizza I’ve ever had, but it’s definitely one of the better fast food chain pizzas. I still think that pizza shouldn’t be square but the this one can be the exception.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Purchased Price: $10
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Little Caesars
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Eau d’pizza could be bottled and sold. Spanx of pizzas – will induce heavy breathing. Square pizza patronus.
Cons: Deceptive – doesn’t look as good as it smells and cheese isn’t ooey-gooey as advertised. Square.