Betty Crocker Ultimate Fudge Brownies

I have never really been a fan of frosted cakes. Sure, it’s been force fed to me my entire life, but I’ve never really been gripped by its supposedly tasty talons. It’s always been boring and nauseatingly sweet, leaving me with a plate full of uneaten frosting. The only time I plan on enjoying cake is when a stripper pops out of a giant one at a bachelor party. This is why Betty Crocker’s Ultimate Fudge Brownies seemed like it would be a great buy as I combed through the cake aisle.

Brownies are basically cakes for badasses. They are dense, satisfying, and don’t need fifteen pounds of frosting to taste good. Please note the lack of rainbow-colored pastels and shaved coconut. Indeed, these brownies do not fuck around. They are a perfect vessel for real goodies like ice cream and chopped walnuts. When you think about it, why would anyone prefer a plain cake? Would anyone care about the birthday cake if it wasn’t an empty palette that candles fit perfectly on? I would heavily campaign for the “Birthday Brownie,” but I’m afraid it would sound like I was promoting some deviant sexual act.

It comes as no surprise that the good folks at General Mills took the opportunity to pimp out Betty Crocker and have her hock these brownies. If you didn’t already know, Betty Crocker is a fictional character invented in the 1920’s so that housewives would learn their roles and get in the kitchen. I wish I was kidding. The actress portraying her would dispense valuable baking and homemaking advice for the captive audience. In reality, Betty Crocker is just as real as the Chupacabra, Batman, and your favorite porn star’s boobs.

Fake or not, Betty does a pretty good job of preparing a delicious brownie mix. Is it an “ultimate” one? Well, it comes reasonably close. Since little things tend to bother me far more than they ever should, the fact that they even call it “ultimate” is a bit annoying. The flavor of chocolate can never just be “chocolate” any more. No, it has be “double fudge,” “chocoholic,” and even the curiously named “fudge pack” that I’ve steered clear of. Betty Crocker takes this to a new extreme, as the Ultimate Fudge Brownies utilize the cocoa bean in every form imaginable to create the desired effect.

Not only is the brownie mix itself already infused with cocoa powder, but a bag of mini chocolate chips is included in the box. Once all of the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together, an included packet of Hershey’s syrup is squeezed in for good measure. This is because Betty decided that the brownies really needed the extra sugar. It doesn’t say it on the box, but if you have any leftover fondue from last week’s dinner party, they want you to mix that in too.

Despite my complaining about the convoluted preparation, they do come out hot and tasty from the oven. They are very rich and melt in your mouth, as all good chocolate products should. There is a nice hint of molasses flavor which keeps the brownies from being too sweet. With a sippy-cup full of milk, I can mow through quite a few brownies in one sitting. Be careful, though, all of the molten chocolate syrup and chips will almost certainly burn you horrendously if you decide to eat it too soon. I doubt Betty Crocker’s advice would be able to help you then.

Item: Betty Crocker Ultimate Fudge Brownies
Price: $2.99
Purchased at: Albertsons
Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: Brownies are delectable and hot. Miniature packets of syrup and chocolate chips are fun. Strippers that come out of giant cakes. Competent and efficient housewives.
Cons: Amount of chocolate makes you question if eating is worth almost-certain diabetes. Plain cake sucks. Betty Crocker isn’t a real person.

REVIEW: Kid Cuisine Bug Safari Nuggets

Kid Cuisine Bug Safari Nuggets

Kid Cuisine is the only nationally sold frozen dinner brand that is marketed towards, and most likely made by, latchkey children. It’s only fitting that a person like me with the attention span of a child would review one of its meals. You can never accuse Ace of not loving the kiddies.

Wait, that came out wrong. I meant to say that I love making young children happy…(fuck! Abort! Abort!). Damn it, you know what I mean.

Kid Cuisine was on ultra-clearance at the local supermarket. At about a third of their regular price, I couldn’t help but be curious enough to pick a few boxes up. Most people would see this as a bad sign of things to come, but not me. This is mainly because I’m an idiot, but I also had the thought that perhaps these meals were so good that it would be a crime to keep them on the shelves. I mean…the penguin looks like it’s having so much fun swinging on the jungle vine. Sure, it’s absurd, but is it any more ridiculous than a movie about surfing penguins? This is the stuff I think about as the meal heats up.

Hunger and low self-esteem are a great combination for frozen dinners, so I was actually anticipating its arrival out of the microwave. Unfortunately, the meal is not fantastic fare. Even as far as processed chicken nuggets go, these rank pretty low on the ladder. These are the chicken nuggets that other chicken nuggets beat up on the playground.

The fact that they feel the need to take on the form insects is obviously a case of severe overcompensation. By the time they come out of their microwave cocoon, they are dry and flavorless. I guess all is not bad, though. Mothers can find solace in the fact that the chicken is real “white chicken breast nuggets” and none of that filler crap. Never mind the fact that it’s shaped like a fucking butterfly — as all natural and wholesome foods are.

I would bet everything I own that there was a frozen food convention some years back where it was decided that macaroni and cheese had to be 95% water and 5% soggy mealworms. Kid Cuisine does their best to conform to the standards and offers up a meager helping of the orange and runny mess that they insist is pasta. Iron Chef Mario Batali must be rolling over in his grave. Well, he’s not actually dead yet, but judging from his expanding beltline I’m banking on this review being accurate within the next 10 years.

Kid Cuisine meals are never complete without one or two hilariously gimmicky ideas that are used to make the meal fun. Only Kid Cuisine can try and make ketchup cool, and they do their best by putting it in a sealed plastic pouch that is supposed to be used for nugget decoration. People…IT’S A FUCKING KETCHUP PACKET.

How they managed to pitch this idea as a selling point is beyond me, but I guess that’s why I’m not making six figures a year doing marketing. It’s almost as gimmicky as if they released Michael Jackson onto the reality show Kid Nation and let the pieces fall where they may. Along with the ketchup, some bug-shaped gummy snacks are included to ensure that the children learn how to ingest insects at an early age.

The best thing I can say about Kid Cuisine is that they appear to have good intentions. They keep me sane because they don’t spell their name Kid Kwizine. They have mazes and other games for kids on the boxes. Until their penguin becomes a sexually suggestive Bratz-like mascot, and you better believe this will happen, they deserve to be commended. Just not on their food.

Item: Kid Cuisine Bug Safari Nuggets
Price: 2 for $1.67
Purchased at: Stater Bros.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Kids will probably like it. Edible even though it’s not the greatest. Fun and wholesome mascot that apparently encourages dangerous physical activity.
Cons: Bland and dry nuggets. Passing off a ketchup packet as a cool treat. Encouraging children to eat insects. Michael Jackson on Kid Nation. Bratz.

REVIEW: Hormel Compleats Roast Beef and Gravy

If a complete dinner in less than two minutes doesn’t appeal to you, then you’re either lying to me or to yourself. People barely have time to put on their pants before they get out of the house, a problem that has cost me several hundred dollars and a few restraining orders.

Hormel understands and they have introduced a line of Compleat meals that come out hot and ready in 90 seconds. That’s how long it used to take me to spike my ridiculously bad Asian hair in junior high (Note to self: travel back in time and slap self). By any standard of convenience, taking a box out of the cupboard and microwaving it the length of a couple commercials is pretty damn easy. But as exciting as it may seem, not all things turn out the way you want them to.

Shocking, I know.

You mean a 90 second meal doesn’t set the culinary world on fire? Well, no, unless that fire is started by me after I take my molotov cocktails over to the Hormel factory. Everything about this meal is offensively horrible in the worst way imaginable. Even worse, the cooking directions are all off. I can deal with crappy food, but when the crappy food comes out so cold that I keep having to taste it to see when it’s ready, I just begin an all out vendetta with the thing.

All in all, it probably took five solid minutes to heat the thing through. By that point, the edges of the mashed potatoes were crisp and the center was unpleasantly tepid. I understand that contrasts in texture makes food interesting, but the principle doesn’t exactly apply here.

So now that I figured out that it really takes the same amount of time to cook as a regular frozen dinner, it had to be really damn good to not make me chuck it at the neighbor’s annoying dogs. I’m sad to say that it disappointed me deeply.

The meat was dry, almost like beef jerky, and came apart in flakes. Yes, flakes. You know, like how really well cooked fish does, but only completely awful and from a cow. Not only is that disgusting, it is confusing to the taste buds.

The gravy wasn’t any better. In fact, it was completely tasteless and worthless. The mysterious sauce was watery and contained only hints of beefy goodness. It’s hard to describe…the best way I can describe it is that it tasted like “brown” with perhaps some celery thrown in. It covered the beef and a sizable bed of mashed potatoes.

I was actually pleasantly surprised with the potatoes at first because they were lumpy like homemade mashed potatoes. This was before I realized that it was just undercooked potato flakes that were just dense and mealy. My disgust at this revelation was the breaking point. In my growing hysteria, I threw the bowl against the wall and watched it slowly drip down towards oblivion. You’ll have to take my word for it, but it was very dramatic.

All in all, my hopes were crushed and it will be a long time before I can truly dream again. It was a lesson learned the hard way: gourmet meals aren’t cooked in 90 seconds. Especially ones that appear to be designed for bomb shelters and emergency kits.

Item: Hormel Compleats Roast Beef and Gravy
Price: $2.04
Purchased at: Wal-Mart
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: You can use the plastic bowl as a 7 layer dip container after you’re done.
Cons: Cold and flavorless food. Spiky hair. Ridiculous promises regarding cooking length. Public indecency.

REVIEW: Banquet Southern Fried Fried Chicken Classics

I don’t know a lot about the South, but if the Food Network has taught me anything it’s that the food is good because it has a lot of soul in it. Sort of like Shang Tsung from Mortal Kombat, I guess. Other than that, my knowledge of the region is limited to popular culture. It would be far too irresponsible to fill this review with southern stereotypes. I could talk about how Michael Vick and Miss South Carolina have set any progress back about 150 years, but all of that would be too easy, ignorant, and fun.

It’s a lot better to focus on the positive, like this tasty meal from our friends from Banquet, which I have a sordid and confusing past with. It’s filled with twists and turns and maybe even a few liaisons with other brands. Banquet started selling their fried chicken meals with one big thigh instead of a drumstick and a wing. That crushed my saturated fat and cholesterol-filled soul. For the past several years, I have felt betrayed. Even though I received fewer grease burns from eagerly picking up chicken pieces, eating was never quite as fun or interesting.

However, Banquet has now unveiled two new chicken meals that have found a way into my heart. They have this southern fried chicken meal, which is something I’ve been waiting for my whole life, and one featuring two drumsticks. I can only imagine that they’ve been keeping all of the spare drumsticks in some warehouse for the past 5 years. Since I didn’t feel like eating chicken that has been around since I was in high school, I opted for the southern variety.

If you’ve ever looked at a supermarket ad, you will notice that Banquet is perpetually on sale at 10 for $10. While this is awesome for the person on a budget, it also causes a great deal of shame at the checkout line when your cart is a sea of red boxes and everyone else has real groceries. I usually throw in a bell pepper so I don’t feel as bad, but the cashier sees right through me.

I will never understand why the company calls itself Banquet. Obviously, you’re not meant to serve it at an actual banquet. Are you supposed to sit on your beanbag chair and pretend to be at a fancy affair as you shovel corn into your mouth? I have come to the conclusion that Banquet exists to humiliate me.

After a few hours of stewing and self-loathing, I get over my paranoia and start to enjoy the meal. The chicken actually tastes pretty good out of the microwave. Obviously, it isn’t crispy, but it’s also nice and peppery. This is a welcome change of pace from the ultra-salty fried chicken in the regular meals. Instead of corn, you get a decent amount of green beans. I’m not sure if green beans are more southern than corn, but at least it’s edible, which is far more than I can say about the corn in these meals. A cup of fake mashed potatoes rounds out the meal quite nicely.

If there’s anything bad I can say about the meal, it’s that it costs 25 cents more than a regular Banquet meal. However, not even my cheap ass can reasonably complain about the price hike. In fact, even the biggest college lowlife can afford the extra quarter for a frozen dinner.

Unless you’re from the South.

Just kidding.

Item: Banquet Southern Fried Fried Chicken Classics
Price: $1.25
Purchased at: Stater Bros.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tasty, flavorful chicken that will actually remind you of good fried chicken. Side dishes that are actually edible. Great value for the price.
Cons: Not even close to banquet-quality food. Southern stereotypes. The humiliation of a diet consisting of 95% frozen dinners. An extra 25 cents per meal.

Goldfish Flavor Blasted Blazin’ Buffalo Wing

September is upon us and many of us are going back to college for another semester of higher education and even higher bong hits. For a lot of people, school is an amazing wonderland that enriches the mind with knowledge and experience. If you are one of these people, I despise you — yet long to become you.

My days are mostly spent staring blankly like a grouper fish while my professors tell unfunny jokes. It has already come to the point where they barely register in my melted mind.

Melted is the key word here, as the recent heat wave has made walking around both uncomfortable and embarrassing. As I drag myself into class, I can’t help but think that looking like I’ve just run a marathon in a rubber suit raises some eyebrows. I no longer find it disturbing that I regularly fantasize about destroying the sun and gleefully frolicking amidst an Ice Age utopia.

So it’s strange that one of my new favorite snacks promotes the virtues and value of heat. Indeed, the Blazin’ Buffalo flavor of Goldfish has been both a tasty and satisfying snack whenever I feel the need to crunch on something. I’m probably ten years above the target market, but I can’t resist a snack that actually smiles back at me as I’m eating it.

The flavor appealed to me because I’ve been looking for something to curb my hot wing addiction for quite some time. Since football season is now coming back in full gear, I decided that buying the Goldfish for a little over a buck was a good choice to make for my wallet.

Ordering wings at my favorite place costs $35 for a tub of 50 and isn’t something I can really afford on a regular basis. It had gotten to the point where I had to sell my body for bottles of blue cheese. Actually, it never got that far, but it would make for a funny story.

So does the taste of these lovable crackers actually come close to buffalo wings? Well, sort of. It’s not actually all that spicy, certainly not spicy enough to warrant a “Blazin'” label. Thankfully, it’s also not as salty as the other “Flavor Blasted” varieties that taste as though they’ve been invented for the sole purpose of giving children high blood pressure.

Overall, it’s a tasty snack because it has a decent amount of buffalo wing flavor while still maintaining the addictive qualities of Goldfish crackers. It’s nothing to get too excited about, but at least I can now proudly hum the Goldfish jingle to myself as I’m slowly roasting in a poorly ventilated classroom.

Item: Goldfish Flavor Blasted Blazin’ Buffalo Wing
Price: $1.29
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: Tasty buffalo wing flavor that isn’t overbearing. Great snack for kids, kids-at-heart, and kid lovers. Happily dancing in a frozen tundra.
Cons: Not as spicy as I would like it to be. Eating a children’s snack as a young adult. Sweating a lot more than other people. Prostituting my body for condiments.