Sunday, February 22, 2015

Kitchen Living Digital Scale (Aldi)

Poor photo, but you get the idea.
As I think I’ve alluded to in previous posts, my wife and I started a candle business a couple of years ago.  Since our business is very small “scale” (pun intended), we decided that we just needed a basic kitchen scale to measure out our wax.  Lo and behold, Aldi happened to be offering one just when we needed it!  Without much hesitation, we decided to pounce on it.

Their Kitchen Living scale retails for $10, and works well for us.  While I haven’t had this nearly as long as I had the monitor featured in my previous review, I can say that after a year, it’s still holding up very well, and has given us no problems; the digital readout is clear and very easy to read, and the weights are very accurate, allowing us to make candles with very little wax waste.

Really, all I needed was a very basic kitchen scale, and this even goes beyond that.  For its price, it has quite a few features, including weights in ounces or grams, a mode for weighing milk (in ounces or milliliters), and a separate mode for weighing water (also in ounces or milliliters).  I never stray from ounces in the “weight” mode, but it’s good to know that if I ever needed to weigh something else, it would have me covered.

There is a 7 lb. weight limit, which is just about the only downside, though in all honesty, I’ve never even come close to exceeding that.  This means that if you’re looking to weigh heavier objects, this probably won’t be for you, although if you know you’re going to be weighing heavier items, you’re probably not looking at kitchen scales to begin with.  Once our business picks up, we’ll probably have to look at other options, but for right now this one is perfect and gets the job done well.  The fact that the top is made of glass could also be a problem, at least in households with children, or clumsy owners.  That being said, the glass top also makes it very easy to keep clean, which is another plus.

Overall: 8.5/10.  I’ve only owned this for a year, but it gets some pretty consistent use, and has not faltered.  The digital readout is very clear, and easy to read, and most importantly, the weights are very accurate, allowing us to make candles without a lot of wax waste afterwards.  It has several modes, allowing you to weigh in ounces, grams, or milliliters, and it even has separate “milk” and “water” modes.  I probably could have gotten away with an even more no-frills scale, but for $10, this one has been worth its “weight” for us (pun intended).  Highly recommended.

Medion Akoya P53002 19" Widescreen LCD Monitor

A faithful companion for seven years.
When I first bought my HP computer (after ruining my Sony VAIO desktop) about seven years ago, I happened to have a super-old, bulky monitor from the ‘90s.  Refusing to join the modern age, when that one died, I frantically searched used computer stores for the cheapest replacement I could find, opting to spend $10 on a similarly-bulky, and awkwardly heavy replacement.  Part of this was out of necessity--my wife and I had just gotten married, and she had a terribly low-paying job at a popular coffee chain, so we couldn’t afford much--but it was also out of my notorious love of penny-pinching.

Flash forward about a year; Aldi was selling a 19” Medion widescreen monitor for $150.  While even back in 2008, this wasn’t a spectacular deal, it was decent enough to capture my attention, and I thought long and hard about buying it to finally replace my unreliable old-school monitor for Aldi’s slim LCD.  But there were a couple things that made me hesitate.

Unlike private-label foods, where many of them are created in the same factories as their name-brand counterparts, private-label electronics can be a little harder to make heads-or-tails of.  Sure, some of them are also made in factories owned by the bigger brands, but you especially have to be careful, especially if it’s really cheap, because you might be getting some thrown together crap from China, that will fail before you even have time to realize what‘s happening.  To combat this, I always research potential purchases online, to see what other users of the product thought about it.  Well, that’s where things got a little more interesting, as I couldn’t find any information on the monitor whatsoever, and could barely even find info on Medion, the company, as a whole.

Ultimately, I decided to take the plunge and give it a shot, mainly aided by their 2-year warranty.  Hey, at least I knew, worst-case scenario, that I wouldn’t have to buy a monitor for another two years!  Well, I’m happy to say it has far exceeded that:  About seven years later now, and it’s still holding up just as well as it did the day I brought it home.  To be perfectly honest, I’ve never had a problem with it at all, and there’s no reason not to believe it can’t last at least a few more years.  The picture is crisp and clean, and not even a single pixel is out of place.  I can’t really vouch for all Medion products simply based on this one (though I almost did buy a Medion computer to go along with it), but in this day and age, where it seems everything is made to fail right after the warranty expires, I have to say I’ve easily gotten my money’s worth, and then some.

Overall: 9/10.  I’ll admit, I took a leap of faith when purchasing this monitor, as there was no information on it available online, and barely even any information on Medion as a whole.  But this has far exceeded my expectations; going on seven years later, and this thing still works like a charm.  Not even one pixel is out of place, and the picture is still every bit as crisp and clean as the day I bought it.  I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase another Medion-branded item in the future, especially since finding out they were acquired by Lenovo in 2011.  Definitely worth the asking price, though Aldi stores in the U.S. don’t seem to carry electronics very often.

UPDATE #1: My how online searches evolve! Now, a simple search of the company tells us they are a German-based electronics company (see any similarities to Aldi?) owned by Lenovo. That probably wasn't the case when I got this monitor, but that's where we stand now. I'm not sure how much I trust Lenovo, having only purchased a refurbished laptop from them that died within the year (only piece of pricey tech I've ever bought that died within the first year), but seeing as how their products never make it to our local store, that makes the decision not to buy from them much easier.

UPDATE #2: It's now June, 2019 and this is still the monitor I use on a daily basis. It's been over a decade now without even a dead pixel to show for its age. It really turned out to 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Mama Cozzi's Dip-N-Strips Pizza Strips: Pepperoni and Cheese (Aldi)

A stupid, unnecessary idea that actually tastes really good.
One thing I can’t stand about products these days, is many of them seem to be geared toward making life almost too easy.  Thanks to technological “advances” like smartphones, you can literally control the lights in your house, turn on the television, order a pizza, watch movies, etc., all without leaving the couch.  And then we wonder why everyone’s getting fatter, but that’s an entirely different story altogether.

Speaking of getting fatter, this trend seems to be spreading to our foods.  Case in point, Mama Cozzi’s Pepperoni Dippin’ Strips (the cheese is pictured above, but they're really both interchangeable).  Now why is such a product necessary?  Probably because it takes too much effort for the average American family to pick up a pizza cutter, and manually slice the pizza into semi-even slices, or at least that’s the thought process from some corporate bigwig.  But that’s an entirely different story altogether.

Anyway, you just toss these in the oven for about twenty minutes, pull them out, and the pieces pull apart.  It’s really that simple.  And for all my bleak rambling about how computers are taking over the world (they are), I have to say that this is a really delicious pizza, at least for what it is.  While there’s not a  lot of pizza sauce on each slice, the box also comes with two dipping sauces:  A delicious, sweet marinara, and a Papa John’s-style butter garlic, so you can fill in the blanks with your favorite sauce.  Both are absolutely fantastic, go great with the strips, and unless you like more sauce than actual pizza in each bite, there should be plenty of sauce to go around for the whole thing.

The crust gets crispy around the edges, but the middle part is almost alarmingly soft.  I don’t know that I would call it “doughy”, because it clearly gets cooked, but it’s fluffy and light and doesn’t feel like there’s much substance there.  It didn’t really bother me, but it almost feels like you’re eating cheesesticks more than an actual pizza.  That being said, there’s a lot of pizza here, and it should comfortably feed a family of three with little problem.

My only complaint is that $5, at least to me, seems like a slightly excessive price for this, especially with Mama Cozzi’s take and bake pizzas dropping down to the same price range.  This is just pepperoni and cheese on a crust…aside from the enclosed dipping sauces (which can’t cost more than pennies per box to produce), there’s nothing different from any other frozen pizza on their shelves.  It might be a tad bigger, but not substantially enough to justify the price hike.  If the price would come down even just a dollar, I feel like it would be more in line with similar products.  That’s just a minor gripe, because these things are way better than they should be, but I think it’s still a valid concern.

Overall: 8/10.  I didn’t know that pizza slices were so large and cumbersome that we had to replace them with strips, but these are actually pretty darn good.  The inner crust is very soft, while the edges bake up nice and crispy, which is kind of an odd combination, but it works.  There isn’t a lot of pizza sauce on each strip, but that can be changed by dipping them into one of the two included dipping sauces, which consist of marinara, and butter garlic.  Both are very delicious, with the marinara treading lightly into “sweet” territory, while the butter garlic tastes like a standard butter garlic, which is perfectly fine for me.  The only downside is the $5 price tag, which does seem a little high for what you get.  Still, if you like pizza, this is worth a shot…it really is surprisingly delicious.

NOTE: I was going to write up separate reviews for the cheese & pepperoni versions, but they're so similar (same included dipping sauces, same texture, etc.), it's not worth taking the time.  Both versions are really interchangeable, so if you prefer cheese pizzas, or just don't like pepperoni, you can't go wrong picking that one up instead.

Mama Cozzi's 14" Beer Brat BBQ Traditional Crust Take and Bake Pizza

It's not nearly as bad as it sounds.  I promise.
I have a confession to make:  I’m kind of a food masochist.  The grosser something sounds, the more excited I am to try it (within reasonable limits).  So when I saw Mama Cozzi’s BBQ and Beer Brat take and bake pizza in the latest Aldi ad, I knew I had to try it.  But not because it sounded good; not by any stretch of the imagination.  Instead, I wanted to try it because the combination sounded so heinously awful that it had to be better than what I was picturing.  At least, that’s what I hoped.

Really, this pizza can best be described as Aldi‘s take and bake Hawaiian pizza, only with brats (?) substituted for pineapple.  Oh, and no ham.  So I guess they’re not so much alike after all.  But I know the question that’s on your mind:  How in the world does a brat taste on a BARBECUE-based pizza?  Perhaps surprisingly, pretty damn good, to the point that I’m giving serious thought to the logistics of adding barbecue to a brat sometime.

If you’ve had their aforementioned Hawaiian pizza, then you’ll know what this sauce tastes like…it’s the exact same kind.  It’s pretty sweet, but I didn’t think it was overly so, making it the perfect companion to the salty, shockingly flavorful brat.  The brat slices are pretty thick, and there’s plenty of them on top of the pizza, so you won’t have to ration them out to make them last.  I’d say on average, there were three large brat pieces per slice of pizza, which should be plenty for most people. 

Then again, for what you’re paying, there better be lots of meat:  Coming in at $6.99 for a 14” pizza, this is one of the more expensive (if not thee most expensive) take and bake pizza options I’ve seen Aldi offer (for those unfamiliar, most of their 16” extra large pizzas are $6 or less).  While that’s still in the ballpark of similar supermarket take and bake offerings, it might be a little much for what will amount to little more than an experiment for some people.

Overall: 7.5/10.  I’m going to say that if you like brats, and you don’t mind barbecue sauce on a pizza, you should probably go ahead and give it a shot.  The vegetables play a nice supporting role to the main star (who I heard can be a real “brat”, haha…sorry), and the sauce provides a nice bit of sweetness to the saltiness of the meat.  This is not something I would care to eat very often, but you can only have so many pepperoni and cheese pizzas before you want something different, and this definitely provides plenty of the “different”.  For what it’s worth, we wouldn’t hesitate to purchase this pizza again the next time it’s offered.  The biggest downside:  At $6.99 (for a 14” large pizza), this is one of the most expensive take and bake pizzas I’ve seen Aldi offer; that might be a bit too steep to encourage those on the fence to make the leap.  But if you’re curious, and can afford it, I’d say go for it.