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: DiGiorno Pepperoni Pizza Buns

DiGiorno Pepperoni Pizza Buns

DiGiorno’s Pizza Buns are like mini cinnamon buns. Except instead of cinnamon, sugar, and frosting, there’s meat, cheese, and sauce.

When I first saw these, I thought it was a silly and horrible idea. But that’s based on my experience with a similar product — Target’s Market Pantry Pizza Spirals. They. Were. Horrible. They didn’t heat up well, even in an oven, the dough was chewy, the pizza filling was mushy, and they made me cry.

So let’s find out if DiGiorno’s Pizza Buns will make me do the opposite of crying, which is shaking my buns.

DiGiorno Pepperoni Pizza Buns 2

It’s available in many varieties, but I decided to go with pepperoni. The snack also features mozzarella cheese, a chunky tomato sauce, and preservative free dough. The cheese is on top, while the pepperoni pieces and sauce are between the layers of spiraled dough. Each bun is about two inches wide and, as you can see above, pre-burnt on top.

DiGiorno Pepperoni Pizza Buns 3

Like products that come with microwave and conventional oven instructions, the latter always does a better job. But the microwaved ones are above decent. They don’t have a slight crispy exterior, like the oven prepared ones, but they don’t end up tough or dried out either. The microwaved dough is soft and easy to bite through.

Usually, I’d say, if you’re willing to wait, go for the oven. But for these Pizza Buns, the time spent waiting might not be worth it.

Now I’m happy to report they’re 100 times better than Market Pantry’s Pizza Spirals. They’re good enough that I don’t want to throw them away or write an angry letter to Target corporate soaked with my tears.

DiGiorno Pepperoni Pizza Buns 4

The pepperoni has a slight spicy kick and the sauce, while not chunky, does have a nice sweet tomato flavor. Since the cheese is on top, it’s pre-burnt. So no gooey cheese.

While tasty, a serving of Pizza Buns isn’t a filling snack. A serving is two buns and there are three individually wrapped pairs per box. A pair is a lot lighter than a Hot Pocket and a little bit less than a serving of six Pizza Rolls. Also, the Pizza Buns don’t have as bold of a flavor as the other two frozen pizza snacks.

Well, at least it doesn’t have a molten filling that burns my mouth like the other two.

So I’m kind of torn about DiGiorno’s Pizza Buns. They taste fine, but they’re not exciting enough to make me shake my buns.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 pizza buns – 200 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 mud 410 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 8 oz. (3 pairs)
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: A decent amount of pepperoni per bun. Nice sweet tomato sauce. Better than okay when microwaved. No molten filling to burn my mouth. 100 times better than Market Pantry’s Pizza Spirals.
Cons: Doesn’t have as bold of a flavor as other frozen pizza snacks. Comes pre-burnt. No gooey cheese. Not a filling snack. Doesn’t make me shake my buns.

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.

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 2

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

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 3

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 4

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.

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 6

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.

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 5

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.

Great Value Late Night Cravings Stuffed Donut Bites 2

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.

Great Value Late Night Cravings Stuffed Donut Bites 3

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.

Great Value Late Night Cravings Stuffed Donut Bites 4

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.

Velveeta Stuffed Grilled Cheese 2

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.