REVIEW: Green Giant Veggie Rings and Fries

Green Giant Veggie Fries and Rings

Have you ever felt neglected or wanted more from your life? Or were you envious of the so-called cool kids and wondered why you weren’t one of them? If the vegetable world is any indicator, just keep the faith as soon the tide may change.

I mean, look at cauliflower. In my youth, it was the white broccoli that no one cared about. Not good enough to be showcased in those divine kid TV dinners, but also in the shadow of regular broccoli. My oh my, how things can change. Cauliflower is now the bell of the vegetable ball! It works as a mashed potato replacement or a base for pizza crust. If breaded and fried, it can even be a chicken wings substitute. WOW! You go, cauliflower! No one will ever doubt you again.

Cauliflower is the star ingredient in three new frozen Green Giant treats, with zucchini taking the reins for one as well. They are shaped like either rings or fries, seemingly so that they can replace your hankering for onion rings or French fries.

The packaging on all shouts that these are CRISPY & CRUNCHY. You will see below that the fries do a better job of achieving this. The fillings are also all very similar, more of a very slightly chunky puree. Akin to a potato mash, but not so heavy, with definitely a lighter hit to your stomach.

Cauliflower Three Cheese with Bacon Rings

Green Giant Veggie Rings Cauliflower Three Cheese with Bacon Bag

These have a nice crunch, but also a subdued flavor. It’s tough to tell that the cheese is there, so I’d like to adjust the description to a one or two cheese flavor. Three is definitely pushing it. I thought it was going to ooze out, but I found only one or two orange pockets of goodness.

Green Giant Veggie Rings Cauliflower Three Cheese with Bacon Closeup

The bacon flavor is a little more prevalent, and I can definitely taste the smokiness throughout. I didn’t see any actual pieces, but bacon is there in the ingredient list. Coupled with the breading, the puree’s creaminess, the smokiness, and the occasional burst of cheese, these were pretty good. Nice complex flavor!

Purchased Price: $2.09
Purchased at: Acme
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (About 3 rings) 210 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 330 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.

Cauliflower French Onion Rings

Green Giant Veggie Rings Cauliflower Frnech Onion Bag

These look similar to the one above, but with more herbs speckled throughout the filling. The French onion flavor is there, but it is at a level even less so than the cheese or bacon from the previous one. You definitely have to work for the taste, which is a tad artificial. It makes me long for an actual onion that I could slurp out of its deep fried shell. I was definitely missing onion rings while eating this one.

Green Giant Veggie Rings Cauliflower Frnech Onion Closeup

Purchased Price: $2.09
Purchased at: Acme
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (About 3 rings) 200 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 270 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.

Cauliflower Ranch with Bacon Fries

Green Giant Veggie Fries Cauliflower Ranch with Bacon Bag

The fries’ preparation requires double the amount of oven time from the rings, but it makes a huge difference. While they do come out a little on the oily side, it is worth it as they come out super crispy. In fact, with my first few cauliflower fries, I thought I was maybe eating actual French fries for a second!!!

Green Giant Veggie Fries Cauliflower Ranch with Bacon Closeup

The filling stays really creamy, and it is a nice contrast to the crunchy outside. But the flavors for this one are disappointing. I taste zero bacon, but the ranch does make an appearance.

Purchased Price: $2.09
Purchased at: Acme
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (About 11 fries) 170 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 320 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.

Zucchini Garlic and Parmesan Fries

Green Giant Veggie Fries Zucchini Garlic  Parmesan Bag

This last iteration uses zucchini as its base instead of cauliflower. It is a nice change of pace as you can really taste the zucchini. In contrast, cauliflower doesn’t have an intense flavor profile.

Green Giant Veggie Fries Zucchini Garlic  Parmesan Closeup

These are gloriously crispy like the other ones, and while there is a little bit of garlic, the parmesan is predominant and a bit intense. However, with everything going on, it actually becomes a little too salty, kind of ruining the entire experience.

Purchased Price: $2.09
Purchased at: Acme
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (About 11 fries) 180 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 360 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.

French fries and onion rings are safe atop their deep fried throne, but if you are looking to switch it up and get a couple of servings of veggies in there, these are a fantastic choice.

You can probably skip the French onion rings and zucchini fries. Go for the three cheese rings as these are best eaten on their own with their multi-layered flavor. And definitely pick up the bacon ranch fries but make sure you eat them with your favorite condiment.

Amongst all this dining on rings and fries, I hope potatoes and onions don’t get too jealous!

REVIEW: Ghirardelli White Chocolate Sugar Cookie Squares

Ghirardelli White Chocolate Sugar Cookie Squares Pouch

What are Ghirardelli White Chocolate Sugar Cookie Squares?

The latest addition to this year’s sugar cookie craze comes from none other than San Francisco’s own Ghirardelli Chocolate. Ghirardelli’s stocking stuffer-ready interpretation of the quintessential holiday treat combines rich white chocolate with cookie bits and festive sprinkles.

How are they?

Ghirardelli White Chocolate Sugar Cookie Squares Wrapped

For a company based on a reputation for high-quality chocolate, these cheery little squares definitely deliver. Unwrapping one of the extremely eye-pleasing twinkly teal wrappers gifts a lush and smooth white chocolate experience. It’s subtly sweet, crunchy, and creamy in a way that activates all of my mouth’s senses. Yet, it doesn’t feel too over the top or excessive like how white chocolate sometimes can.

Ghirardelli White Chocolate Sugar Cookie Squares Split

For how thin the squares are, there is a surprising amount of cookies embedded, and they manage their way into every bite. Although the label doesn’t indicate it’s flavored white chocolate, you could have fooled me with how much of a genuine cookie flavor sneaks through. It’s not just white chocolate; it really tastes like a cookie.

Anything else you need to know?

Ghirardelli White Chocolate Sugar Cookie Squares Unwrapped

Sugar cookies can run the gamut from soft to crunchy, sprinkled or frosted, buttery or sweet. While they have a very particular flavor, they’re also very versatile. The closest grocery cookie comparison I can give to these little squares is an extra creamy and rich Mother’s Circus Animal Cookie – and that’s a damn fine thing.

Conclusion:

Of the other sugar cookie-flavored varietals I’ve tried this year – M&M’s and Kisses – these are the best representation of a buttery and nostalgic sugar cookie. Joining the ranks of Sugar Cookie Pop-Tarts and Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch, Ghirardelli has nailed cramming Christmas magic into proper white chocolate.

Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 2.75 ounces
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (3 squares) 180 calories, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 16 gram of sugar, 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Smartfood Snickerdoodle Popcorn

Smartfood Snickerdoodle Popcorn Bag

What is Smartfood Snickerdoodle Popcorn

From the pre-popped popcorn giant Smartfood comes Snickerdoodle, a “limited holiday flavor” meant to capture the magical, Home Ec essence of buttery cinnamon-sugar cookies. It is not Smartfood’s only sweet popcorn offering. Its regular lineup includes kettle corn and a caramel/cheddar combo. But it ties with this year’s earlier offerings of Caramel & Cinnamon Apple Mix and Cap’n Crunch Berries Popcorn Mix in terms of ambitiousness.

How is it?

Perfectly mediocre, I’m afraid. While the concept is a wonderful one — soft, warm, cinnamon blasted cookies in popcorn form! — the execution is lackluster. There is no uniformity, really, with about every tenth piece achieving a perfect nirvana of true Snickerdoodle bliss.

Smartfood Snickerdoodle Popcorn Seasoning

The pieces that escape the cinnamon-sugar bath are bland and unseasoned, small, chewy bits of lightly salted styrofoam. Also disappointing is the lack of a discernible butter profile, a key component of the cookie experience.

Anything else you need to know?

Smartfood White Cheddar is wonderful, so I had high hopes for this. Alas, my heart was broken. Additionally, I had no idea that the brand also has Hot Buffalo and Sour Cream & Onion versions. Are these any good? I guess that’s more of a “anything else *I* need to know.”

Conclusion:

Lots of moderately sized cities seem to have “gourmet” popcorn shops these days, and, in my experience, most of these have some riff on the “cinnamon toast” popcorn variety. So do yourself a favor and get a bag of that, instead. Chances are, you’ll be much happier.

If you don’t have a gourmet popcorn shop, you should open one. And if you don’t want to do that, maybe go with a bag of Pop Secret and hit it with some of the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust we recently reviewed. I feel like that would still beat this.

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 6.25 oz bag
Purchased at: Hy-Vee
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2.5 cups) 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate

Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate Wrapper

What is Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate?

After last year’s introduction of Mint + Dark Chocolate, Kit Kat Duos are back with a second flavor, Mocha + Chocolate. It’s described as crisp wafers in mocha crème with coffee bits and chocolate.

How is it?

A small disclaimer that I do love, love, love coffee. Like I can’t function in the morning without a large cup to get me going. Then maybe I’ll have another to counteract the mid-day slump. Sometimes one more is calling my name so I can finish out the day. A late-stage one…you get the point!

I did enjoy the first Kit Kat Duos, but I would take coffee over mint any day of the week, so I was pumped for these. That being said and with my high tolerance/love for all things coffee, holy crap, these are fantastic.

Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate Fingers

The name Mocha + Chocolate is actually doing a disservice to these because the coffee flavor is so superb and way more prevalent than you would expect from the name. Of course, the chocolate is there, but these are coffee flavored through and through, and the flavor is so intense it could probably even be called Espresso + Chocolate. The profile actually comes remarkably close to actual chocolate-covered coffee beans in all their glory. WOW.

Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate Split

The crisp wafers have the usual great Kit Kat crunch, and even though I was excited about the coffee bits and thought they might provide a different level of crunch or texture, that’s not really the case as they pretty much get lost among the signature wafers. However, they might be the main factor contributing to the amazing flavor, and they do give the tops of the bars a nice speckled look.

Anything else you need to know?

Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate Ingredients

The ingredients list does show coffee, so heads up if you stay away from that glorious but addictive stimulant. These are also a permanent addition to the Kit Kat lineup, so you don’t have to rush out now to find them if you really want to try them.

Conclusion:

A behind the scenes secret is that I usually like to have at least two packages of something when I review it so I can take great pictures with one and thoroughly enjoy the other.

I have a confession, though.

These Kit Kat Duos were the first time I almost cleaned myself out of the product before my official reviewing even began! I had to hit up Walgreens again so I could get a few more while simultaneously praying that they were still in stock and that the masses hadn’t discovered these treasures. That’s how much I enjoyed these. They are Kit Kat’s version of chocolate-covered coffee beans and pretty much crispy chocolatey coffee heaven.

Purchased Price: $1.39
Size: 1.5 oz bar
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 Package) 210 calories, 12 grams of fat, 7g of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 2 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Box

I derive great joy from eating foods that are much too spicy for my taste buds and stomach. Call me a masochist, but I always aspire to be like the host of Hot Ones (Sean Evans) but usually end up with tears streaming down my face while blubbering, “..but it’s so good!!!” I’m going to come right out and admit that it was my first Paqui One Chip Challenge and that the reaper bested me. But keep reading for snot, tears, and antacids.

Paqui’s challenge first launched in 2016, and it’s come back every year. Over that time, it’s transformed from what could be mistaken as Flamin’ Hot Doritos to an all-black, super edgy form. Talk about a glow up. The Carolina Reaper, the world’s hottest pepper, has been the inspo and main pepper since Day 1, but the added pizazz this year is scorpion pepper and Sichuan peppercorn. I’m very familiar with Sichuan peppercorn’s delightfully numbing qualities, but had never tried scorpion pepper before.

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Wrapper

Upon opening the inner package housing the single tortilla chip, the first thing I noticed was the unpleasant pungent smell. It was unlike anything that had EVER passed through my olfactory epithelium. The sour smell paired with the visual of what looked like charcoal for seasoning added to my already mounting trepidation.

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Chip

The chewing experience was awful – not because it was immediately incredibly spicy but mainly because of the crumbly, stale texture. It felt like I was trying to chew through a mouthful of dried red pepper flakes.

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Inside 2

As for the heat, it was the type of spicy that renders any talking, let alone breathing, impossible without wincing and choking. It was a very agonizing and intense 15 minutes of snot, tears, and saliva – even with milk. However, it was followed by capsaicin-induced endorphins. What added to this feel-good was the slight tingle from the Sichuan peppercorn. It was like Wrigley’s 5 Gum commercial vibes, but with peppers. This deluded top-of-the-world feeling almost made me feel like I could take another chip!

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Inside 1

I’m glad I didn’t have another one on hand because it took a turn for the worst. Once the endorphins dissipated, I was left with lingering pain under my tongue and gums (oddly specifically just around my molars). Furthermore, my taste buds were absolutely blitzed. Everything I ate that day tasted less flavorful than usual. The cherry on top came three hours later. I was minding my own business when a roiling stomach pain came to play. It took a max antacid dose before I could begin to function again.

My ultimate measure, though, is how spicy it comes out the other end. Sorry not sorry for the TMI, but it’s important! It was surprisingly tame compared to the entire pre- and during-experience. Thank goodness.

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Banner

I don’t get to proudly declare myself as The Paqui One Chip Challenge Champ, but I think I held my own. Bring it on, 2021.

Purchased Price: $6.99
Size: .21oz (6g)
Purchased at: Plum Market
Rating: 10 out of 10 (for challenge factor, but 2 out of 10 for taste)
Nutrition Facts: (1 chip) 30 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 0 grams of added sugar, and 0 grams of protein.