REVIEW: Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch

My seven year old son is clearly a college “dudebro” in training. His perfect day involves lying on the couch in his underwear watching cartoons and playing video games. His favorite bands are Fall Out Boy and Green Day. He’s earned the nickname “Dude Imperfect” for his desire to watch, recreate, and innovate sportz trickshot videos.

His eating habits are the most reflective of his inner fratboy. However, as he’s a decade away from the Freshman Fifteen, no junk food seem to put a pound on his lanky frame. This is most evident in his Doritos Locos Tacos appetite, and he was rush-week excited to try the new Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch.

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I prepared four pieces in the toaster oven and eight pieces in the conventional oven.

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Slightly smaller in diameter but four times as thick as traditional Doritos, these snacks are sprinkled with something breadcrumb-ish, as well as a muted version of the expected red and green Cool Ranch seasoning.

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The pieces looked practically the same fully cooked, except that some interior cheese spurted out of every piece onto to the pan via both cooking methods. The cheese did remove easily and remain on each piece, resembling a cross between a mohawk and a pizzelle.

The whole family weighed in positively. Comparisons to pizza rolls and mac ’n’ cheese bites were both apt. The consensus views:

  • Same from the toaster and conventional oven
  • Not crisp like a chip
  • Tasted like Cool Ranch, but should have been seasoned more liberally
  • The interior cheese has nice salty flavor and softer textural elements, but the product failed entirely to deliver on the graphic shown on the box of stretchy pull-apart cheese. In fact, the autopsy photo below indicates a nearly hollow product with slight remnants of cheese clinging to the outer walls.

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Despite the noted shortcomings, we all enjoyed these. As predicted, the future Epsilon Kappa Gamma founder was the most effusive, instantly rating them a 10/10 and subsequently remarking they would have earned an 11/11 had the center cheese been as displayed.

He clearly hasn’t developed certain college attributes yet, including a sense of cynicism that regresses most every experience toward the mean. After all, he’s 7 — and so is the rating for this product.

(Nutrition Facts – about 3 pieces – 270 calories, 140 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 690 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.98
Size: 15 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Compares favorably with other breaded appetizers. Cool Ranch taste. Tasty interior cheese. Potential scholarships in dizzy golf and slip ’n’ slide football.
Cons: Too little interior cheese. Not enough Cool Ranch seasoning.

REVIEW: Great Value Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups Stuffed Donut Bites

Great Value Late Night Cravings Stuffed Donut BitesMy family settled in for some Friday night television, and the kids chimed in with dessert requests. I popped off the couch with a potential solution: Great Value Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups Stuffed Donut Bites.

The frozen product did not require thawing, but my 12 year old still had to remain patient throughout the half-hour process of preheating the oven, the 15-minute cooking time, the recommended cooling time, and the glazing process. By that point she seemed eager to dig in, but was rather nonplussed by what she had been waiting for.

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She adeptly recognized one of the key problems — the holes were nearly all stuffing, with just a thin donut shell on the outside — and she wished for more donut, less interior. Anyone expecting a jelly Munchkin analogue will be thrown off.

There are two methods when consuming these:

1) Bite into the middle and have the innards spill every which way.

2) Stuff the whole confection in one bite, overfilling your mouth with a 70/30 peanut butter/chocolate sludge.

Method two is comparable to putting a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in a blender, but considerably less appealing. I did appreciate the presence of a few pieces of peanut chunk within the mess, but they mostly seemed to be calling out for refuge as if they had never passed their Guppy swimming class at the local YPCA.

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Neither of us enjoyed the flavor of the barely-there donut or the wannabe filling. Donuts are normally pretty good by default, but this version did not taste good at all.

A lot of things here just don’t make sense. The labor involved is no more difficult than making a frozen pizza or slice n’ bake cookies, but these are not a quick snack. The expectation would be that enjoying these straight out of the oven held some advantage over a fresh version being produced, but the heat was at fault here.

I bagged the fully-cooked leftovers and put them in the fridge. I tried them the next day and preferred them cold as the filling had more time to settle, but they were still no better than adequate.

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There’s also the issue of the glaze packet, one-third still unused. What could I have done differently to use up the excess glaze? Elect one donut hole queen for a day and pour it a bath in a finger bowl?

The cost of these stuffed donut bites is equally distressing. I suppose there’s some cache to having a frozen dessert (especially with microwave directions for post-bar hunger pangs), but when a cup of 10 Munchkins at Dunkin’ Donuts is $1.99, 14 of these for $4.94 is not great value.

The 12 year old was still hungry, and she did return to the kitchen – to grab herself an apple instead. She made the right choice.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 pieces with 2.5 tsp of icing – 210 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 0 grams of monounsaturated fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 35 milligrams of potassium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.94
Size: 16.79 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Real peanut appearances. Glaze tastes fine. Best served cold. Kids that eat fruit by choice.
Cons: Some assembly not usually required for donut holes. Excessive glaze provided. Goopy filling when warm. Not enough donut in each bite. High price tag. Kids that pester you to make dessert, then instead choose to eat the fruit that was there the whole time.

REVIEW: Velveeta Original Stuffed Grilled Cheese

Velveeta Stuffed Grilled Cheese

The combination of pale crust and it laying in a pool of its orange innards, made my microwaved Velveeta Stuffed Grilled Cheese look like the victim in a Law & Order crime scene. The vic, I mean, the snack looked like the Hot Pocket’s little brother.

I thought, “It looks bad, but maybe it tastes good.”

Nope.

The crust was gummy enough that it felt like I was chewing on raw dough. The cheese, which I scraped up and dumped onto the cheese pocket, had that familiar Velveeta flavor, but it was gritty for some reason. Then I thought, “Okay, the first bite was bad, but maybe the second will be better.”

Nope. It was still bad.

I didn’t want to eat another bite. I didn’t even want to look at its pale crust. To psyche myself up, I yelled, “Do it for science!” But I ended up throwing away the rest of it. I’d show you photos of the microwaved stuffed grilled cheese, but I do not want to ruin the rest of your day.

Fortunately, there are two other ways to prepare them — toaster oven and conventional oven. I went with the toaster oven because I thought a conventional oven was overkill for these.

If there’s a downside to using an oven it’s that the instructions say you have prepare two stuffed grilled cheeses at the same time. So if you have no friends, family, roommates, or neighbors you’re friendly with, you’re going to be eating both of them and the 80 percent of your daily saturated fat they have.

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But, that’s not a completely bad thing. Because while they’re barely edible when microwaved, they’re downright delicious when prepared in a toaster oven. The crust had the crunch and butteriness of the toasted bread of grilled cheese sandwiches. And the cheese, which stayed in the crust, was warm, gooey, and tasted like good ol’ pasteurized prepared cheese product. Every bite I took reminded me of the grilled cheese sandwiches I’d make for myself when my parents felt I was responsible enough to use a stove at age 26.

If my review has convinced you to purchase a box of Velveeta Stuffed Grilled Cheese, I beg of you, please prepare them in the toaster oven or regular oven. Don’t be impatient and cook them in the microwave. Patience is a virtue. And patience is a Velveeta Stuffed Grilled Cheese you’ll want to eat.

Purchased Price: $6.34*
Size: 6 sandwiches
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 sandwich) 240 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 630 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

REVIEW: Great Value Late Night Cravings Double Decker Chicken & Bacon Sandwich

Great Value Late Night Cravings Double Decker Chicken & Bacon Sandwich

Great Value’s Late Night Cravings Double Decker Chicken & Bacon Sandwich looks like it belongs under the heat lamp at a gas station convenience store. The KFC Double Down-inspired sandwich features smoke-flavored bacon and American cheese between two breaded crispy chicken breast patties.

After microwaving it, cheese oozed out from almost every angle and down onto the plate. The sandwich’s cheesiness is because there are actually three slices of American cheese stuck together to make it look like one. BONUS!

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With every bite there’s a little bit of everything initially — some seasoning from the chicken patty’s breading, a bit of smokiness from the bacon, and a little tang from the cheese. But that gets shoved aside by a wave of saltiness.

My dogs, who like to lick my arms after a run, would say this sandwich is way too salty. One has over 2,000 milligrams of sodium. The KFC Double Down is a healthier option with 1,380 milligrams of sodium. Yes, I just typed the words “KFC Double Down is a healthier option” and you are not in a bizarro dimension.

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With every bite, all I could think of was salt. Salt shakers. Salty sea water. A horse salt lick. The Morton’s Salt Girl. Veruca Salt. Salt from Salt-N-Pepa. I’ve had fast food burgers with more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium, but they didn’t taste as salty as this sandwich. But, let’s be honest, it shouldn’t be surprising the combination of breaded chicken, three cheese slices, and bacon would create culinary salt lick.

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But there’s more to complain about than its saltiness. The chicken patties along their edges were as dry as stale bread; it’s pricey for just two small sandwiches; and its microwave instructions are more complex than they should be. It involves taking apart the sandwich, heating just the chicken, reassembling the sandwich, heating the whole thing, and letting it stand for a minute to cool and to allow you say “YOLO” or push aside any doubts, regrets, or doctor’s warnings.

If there’s one major plus it’s the addition of the paper sleeve with each sandwich. I thought it was for crisping the chicken in the microwave, but it’s just a plain paper one to help hold the sandwich as I ate it, since the “bread” is freshly microwaved chicken patties.

But a courteous attachment isn’t enough for me to recommend the Great Value Late Night Cravings Double Decker Chicken & Bacon Sandwich.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 sandwich – 610 calories, 380 calories from fat, 42 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 11 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 13 grams of monounsaturated fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 2090 milligrams of sodium, 280 milligrams of potassium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 34 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $6.44
Size: 2 sandwiches
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Paper sleeve included to prevent burnt fingers. A flash of decent flavor with every bite.
Cons: Salty. Pricey. Salty. Dry chicken patties. Salty. Its microwave instructions. Salty. Too much cheese. Salty.

REVIEW: Totino’s Supreme Stuffed Nachos (2016)

Totino's Stuffed Nachos Supreme

If ramen noodles are the Usain Bolt of cheap eats for students, drunkards and poor folks the world over, then Totino’s is surely…whoever happens to be the second fastest guy in the world.

Okay, now some of what I’m going to say will sound made up, but unless Wikipedia is riddled with errors (which has never happened), this is the God’s honest: Totino’s was founded in Minneapolis in 1951 (!) by Rose and Jim Totino (!!) as a take-out pizza joint (!!!). They eventually expanded to a full-service restaurant (!!!!) that finally shuttered its doors in 2011 (!@#$%!!).

I know, right?

Anyway, in 1993, Pillsbury-owned Jeno’s pizza rolls (first created by Jeno Paulucci in 1968 as “an egg roll filled with pizza ingredients”), were rebranded as Totino’s, and the rest is history.

If you are alive, and human, you have had a Totino’s Party Pizza (the idea of throwing a party involving Totino’s never ceases to make me laugh). You have also had Totino’s Pizza Rolls.

The “pizza” is by no means a real pizza; now, that’s not to say it’s bad. It is a small, crispy disk of bread-like material covered with an amalgamation of hydrogenated oil-based cheese substitutes, flavorless ketchup, and salt-bits masquerading as various types of meat toppings. It regularly retails for $1.39 in my area, and can often be found as a 10/$10 deal.

It has its place as a late-night regret.

It is also a wildly successful brand, producing 240 MILLION discs per year.

So it is no wonder that they would also try to corner the market on another beloved American institution, the frozen, pocket-based delicacy. Not that this is their first attempt. The ORIGINAL Stuffed Nacho from Totino’s was introduced in 1996 and then discontinued, leaving a trail of heartbroken and hungry snack aficionados in the wake.

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The Totino’s Stuffed Nacho is a triangle pizza roll filled with nacho-inspired ingredients. For the sake of this review, I went with the “supreme” variation. The box promised me “taco seasoned chicken and beef pizza topping, red bell peppers, jalapeños and cheddar cheese rolls in a crispy crust.”

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The first thing you should know is that you can’t taste ANY of it. There was no heat from the jalapeño, no sweet tang from a red bell pepper, no possible way a chicken ever saw the killing room floor. There may have been cheese, but only in the way that we know God loves us.

The shell was different from a standard pizza roll in that it was corn-tasting. Not in an ACTUAL corn tortilla respect — and not even in a corn chip way — but in the way that Nestle manages to conjure a vague corn-ambiance from its Beef Taco Hot Pockets effort.

The beef too was not unlike the aforementioned BTHP. It was a chewy approximation of meat, but if you received something like it anywhere other than here (Taco Bell included), you’d curse out the proprietor and demand a refund. It has that signature taco taste, though, achieved through “spice” (a real ingredient on the label), as well as onion and garlic powders.

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Anyway, does this taste like an elf in the Totino’s factory magically impregnated a pizza roll with a plate of delicious nachos? Not a chance.

Would I buy them again, however? Eh, maybe. They seriously weren’t awful — in the same way that pizza rolls and Totino’s pizza discs aren’t awful. But at $4.59 (!) for a 34 count box (NOBODY NEEDS THAT MANY OF THESE THINGS!!), it’s prohibitively expensive. You know, for the target demographic: students, vagabonds, and drunks.

(Nutrition Facts – 6 rolls – 220 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 420 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.59
Size: 17.4 oz box
Purchased at: Hy-Vee
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Vague taco qualities. You don’t have to think much about it. Nice face-stuffing quotient
Cons: Pretty one-note. Idea of “nacho pocket” isn’t a bad one, but execution on this offering lacks. Per Wikipedia, Consumer Reports rated Totino’s as “only fair for nutrition.” Because, duh.