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Showing posts from 2018

Chef's Cupboard Gourmet Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Canned Soup (Aldi)

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More of a bisque...and a surprisingly delicious one at that. I’m not really a soup fan, especially pre-canned ones, nor am I much of a fan of butternut squash. But after having a couple of teeth removed due to a massive infection beneath the gumline (perhaps a little TMI, but I don’t care if you don’t), I was naturally on a soft food diet for a few days. It’s times like these that make you realize just how few soft foods you have laying around the house at any given time. Wanting some soup, but not really feeling like going out to get some, my wife was generous enough to offer me her Chef’s Cupboard Butternut Squash and Red Pepper soup. I was initially hesitant, for the specific reasons mentioned in the first sentence, but finally conceded when my laziness got the better of me. And boy am I glad I gave this a chance. Well, I'd classify this more as a “bisque” than an actual soup, which is an idea I can get behind. And it’s a pretty darn good bisque, one that’s surprising

Chef's Cupboard Chunky Baked Potato With Cheddar and Bacon Bits Canned Soup (Aldi)

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It's decent, as far as mass-produced canned soups are concerned. I have denounced at least a couple of Aldi's other soup offerings over the years, and yet here I am, sitting with a bowl of yet another one. Why, you ask? I wanted something simple to make, and if soup is one thing, it's very simple to make. We were at the end of a shopping trip and I realized I didn't have much in the cart for “just me”, that is, lazy stuff that I can make for myself when my wife is gone for the evening. I thought of the usual suspects-- a frozen pizza, TV dinner, sandwiches—but I'd had too many of all of those things lately. And so I ended up staring down several cans of soup, with wildly varying degrees of acceptance: that one looks too gross, that one only looks okay, etc. until one of them spoke back to me and said, “I am the one you should take home with you.” The voice belonged to Chef's Cupboard's Baked Potato with Cheddar and Bacon Bits Soup. Potato soup by itsel

Season's Choice Quinoa Crunch Southwest Veggie Burger (Aldi)

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I think I'll just stick to their regular veggie burgers. As you all probably know by now, my wife leans toward the vegetarian side of life. She'll eat meat if it's around and she's hungry (or if she gets a craving for a burger or steak), but generally avoids it, especially in pre-packaged foods. Even though I am not one, I’m always looking for things in Aldi ads that will appeal to her. My latest find is Season’s Choice Quinoa Crunch Southwest Burger, a veggie patty that, unlike their Veggie Burger and Chipotle Black Bean Burgers, are a limited time Special Buy at Aldi stores. I liked the Veggie Burger and absolutely love the Chipotle Black Bean, so these had some pretty big shoes to fill in my book. I probably could have gotten a much better crunch on these if I had the patience to make them in the oven…but I don’t, so I settled for a much limper patty, courtesy of the ultra-convenient (and quick) microwave prep method. The dusting of quinoa on the outside

Season's Choice Curry and Vegetable Risotto (Aldi)

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Sometimes, taking a chance yields expected results. Well throughout some previous reviews, we learned that risotto is not a food I’m all that familiar with. Now I have to confess that Indian cuisine is something I’m far less experienced in. We even have a well-received Indian restaurant a few seconds from our house, but the fancy has never struck my wife or I enough to actually go and check it out. But since I tend to be more open-minded about foods, and my wife was off on vacation visiting her parents out-of-state, I figured this would be as good a time as any to see what vegetable and curry risotto was all about. It might just be the culture shock, but I have to say that I’m not very crazy about it. The vegetables and rice are very good, but the curry just kind of ruins it for me. Again, I doubt that a frozen meal is going to feature 100% authentic curry, but I must confess that I don’t know exactly how typical curry tastes. It certainly did grow on me slightly from the beginni

Nature's Nectar 100% Frozen From Concentrate Orange Juice (Aldi)

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Not great, but still good to have on hand as a backup for when you run out of refrigerated juice. I won’t bore you with personal details, but let’s just say that my wife and I have been looking at ways to cut costs recently. Whereas we used to be able to spend whatever we wanted at Aldi, now we’ve been reduced to using gift certificates my parents bought for us, and keeping our food budget to the bare minimum. One of the ways that we decided to do this, was to purchase frozen orange juice, instead of the pre-bottled kind, which would save us at least a couple of quarters per shopping trip. The end result was a mixed bag: She ended up loving the frozen kind, which isn’t surprising considering I found it to be more tart than OJ in a bottle (or carton), and she’s all over anything that’s tart. On top of it being too sour for me, I also thought it tasted more watered down than normal, which could be a side effect of having to add water to the non-concentrated pillar that comes out

Nature's Nectar 100% Juice Mango Tangerine (Aldi)

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This is a nice, flavorful change of pace from more "standard" juice fare. Lately, I’ve been trying to be a little more health-conscious, especially when it comes to juices. Nothing too extreme, because I figure every little bit helps (so I don‘t require anything organic), but whereas I used to just purchase whatever was cheapest, now I don’t mind spending a couple extra quarters to get full juice content. This way, I at least tend to avoid the plethora of added sugars that come with the “juice cocktail” territory. I’ve been pretty impressed with all of Aldi’s juices (most, if not all, of which are released under the “Nature’s Nectar” brand name) and make sure to have a little something on hand at any given time, either for straight-up enjoyment (apple, grape juices), or as a mixer in cocktails. So when I see them offering new varieties and flavors, I don’t usually hesitate to pick them up. Enter Nature’s Nectar 100% Mango Tangerine Juice. I’ve only recently become a m

Mama Cozzi's Sausage and Pepperoni Extra Large Thin Crust Take and Bake Pizza (Aldi)

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As delicious as it is salty and greasy. In the midst of a large fight with my wife, in which she left to clear her mind and hang out with family members and friends for a little while, I was abandoned at home with very little food in the house, and very little money in the bank account to get any. I brandied about the idea of getting a “hot and ready” pizza from Little Caesar’s, which I don’t mind eating once in a while, but since I already had to pick up a couple other groceries from Aldi, I just decided to pick up one of their take and bakes. Best of all, with a recent price cut just in time for the “big game”, most of their extra-large pizzas, which are two inches bigger than a similar pizza from Little Caesar’s, are the same price. Sounded like a no-brainer. Now I’ve had Mama Cozzi’s plain pizzas before, and as you can see from some previous reviews, I eat far too many of these things. While I think they tend to “hit” more than “miss”, we really have to be in the mood fo

Mama Cozzi's Tomato Mozzarella and Pesto 16" Extra Large Thin Crust Take and Bake Pizza (Aldi)

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This is a tasty special buy. My wife was sick a little while back, and nothing sounded good to her. Understandably, this means she didn't feel like cooking, and I wanted something that we could both possibly eat, so I grabbed this instead of my favorite Mama Cozzi take and bake variety: sausage and pepperoni. I figured that the tomato and mozzarella would keep the flavor a little lighter, while the thin crust would cut back on the heavy starch. She said it sounded good, took a couple of bites, and then got sick later (an event clearly unlinked to this pizza). So much for that. On the plus side, that just means I got to eat the whole thing, spread out over two days. I have to say that this exceeded both of our expectations, and my wife was actually bummed that she couldn’t keep it down. The tomatoes are juicy and wonderfully flavorful…I’d dare to say that they are pretty close to the taste of “fresh” tomatoes, at least as far as refrigerated, factory-made pizza is concerned. T

Mama Cozzi's Take and Bake Pepperoni Calzone (Aldi)

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As far as Aldi's non-pizza take and bake offerings go, this is one of the best. One day while perusing the Aldi ad, I saw that they would be offering some calzones. I made a mental note to be sure and grab those, but it got lost amidst all the other great things they were offering that week, and so I completely forgot (if only there was something invented on which I could take notes of these things so that I wouldn't forget...) They probably would have totally slipped off my radar had we not gone out of our way to a different Aldi other than the one we frequently patronize, in the hopes of finding some fresh sushi they were advertising. We never did find the sushi (bummer), but on the upside, I did happen to see these, which weren't at our usual store. I grabbed the pepperoni, while my wife stuck with the cheese.  As is the standard way I hear about something, my wife texted me to give me a rundown of her experience with her cheese calzone. First was something along the

Mama Cozzi's Combination Pizza Snacks (Pepperoni & Sausage) Pizza Rolls (Aldi)

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This picture is actual size. Holy hell has it been a long time since I’ve had pizza rolls. Knowing my wife would be working a lot of closing shifts in the coming months, I made sure to stock up on these, as a no-nonsense, quick snack/meal for myself when she wouldn’t be able to baby me with a fully-cooked dinner. The idea came to me right as we were getting ready to head for the checkout, and I saw another customer with them in her shopping cart--it wasn’t until I actually grabbed them that I realized just how long it had been…we’re talking at least five years. Prior to that, it was probably another five years, way back into my single years, when I regularly ate them out of convenience. Spreading them out on my flimsy foam plate quickly revealed that not much has changed in pizza roll technology over the years--they’re the same dough-covered pouches that they’ve always been. Mama Cozzi’s pizza rolls are pretty decently sized…at least as large as the national brand. They loo

Fit & Active Chocolate Mocha Protein Shakes (Aldi)

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A Special Buy item that really needs to be added to permanent inventory. I love protein shakes. I’m not sure that I really “need” them--I don’t work out excessively or diet, or even use these as meal replacements--but I like the idea that I’m at least getting some vitamins and minerals in an easy-to-drink, delicious chocolate product. Sadly, the only flavors on hand were vanilla (not my favorite) and chocolate mocha (not my favorite, as I hate coffee); but I generally like chocolate flavors, so that was the one I went with. The one thing I did not think about--I assumed the flavors were artificially created--is that, this being mocha, it might have actual caffeine in it, which it does. I have a certain sensitivity to caffeine, and while the myriad of energy drinks I’ve reviewed certainly indicate I don’t mind drinking it for a good reason (i.e., to stay awake during early morning hours at work), if I would have noticed it sooner, I probably would have just gotten the vanilla

Southern Grove Indulgent Trail Mix (Aldi)

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WARNING: DO NOT BUY THIS UNLESS YOU WANT TO BE FOREVER ADDICTED TO ITS RICH DELICIOUSNESS. It seems to be American culture that, whenever there’s a new health craze or popular healthy item, some company will come along and find a way to turn it into junk food. This way, they can take advantage of people who might not realize that what they are eating is not at all good for them, simply because it bears some resemblance (or shares a title) with something that’s good for you. Case-in-point: trail mix. The original combination of nuts, raisins, and crunchy chocolate candies is relatively plain, but very portable, relatively filling, and packed with energy-providing calories perfect for hikers, children, or really anyone on-the-go that’s in need of a quick snack. So of course companies decided throw as much unhealthy shit they could think of into a bag, put the word “trail mix” on it, and watch the sales grow. I wouldn’t have gotten caught up in all of this trail mix BS if it were

Journey to Greece Rosemary & Feta Kettle Chips (Aldi)

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There's nothing even remotely Greek about these, but it's a pretty good chip. As soon as I saw these in an ad, I knew these were down my alley. Rosemary is an underrated herb that I find myself enjoying the more and more I try it, while feta…well, feta’s a cheese, and you really can’t go wrong with most cheeses. You also can’t go wrong with $1.79 per 8.5 oz. bag, so that really sealed the deal.  Upon first laying eyes on these chips, I have to say, “wow!” One major complaint I have with most of the Aldi chips I’ve bought is that it’s hard to tell if you’re going to get a bag that’s loaded with seasoning, or one that skimps on it—the quality generally seems to be hit-or-miss, especially on the Special Buy’s. Since this is my first bag, I can’t say for sure if this is still the case or not, but this one definitely made a great first impression on me: each chip was absolutely loaded with dehydrated parsley flakes and a ton of cheesy goodness on top. If all the bags come o

Clancy's Buffalo Blue Cheese Krinkle Cut Kettle Chips (Aldi)

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If you love buffalo sauce, then these might just be for you. I have grown to really like blue cheese; for the first quarter of my life, I couldn’t go near the stuff. But through my wife I’ve really grown accustomed to cheeses that I wouldn’t otherwise eat, and now blue cheese has become one of my favorites. Her love of buffalo sauce has not rubbed off on me, however…I’ve never really liked that stuff. It’s not the heat that bothers me so much as the taste…most of them just remind me of cheap hot sauces, and those don’t appeal to me at all.  So then why would I even waste the time, and money, by getting these? Simple: Chip technology has certainly evolved in the last few years, but it can only go so far. While companies dream up big names and ideas for their chips, you can only be so accurate when you’re dealing with powdered seasonings. For example, a brand of “hot dog” chip I tried tasted like relish and other condiments, with no actual meat flavor to be found. One marketed its

Season's Choice Garlic and Herbs Homestyle Wedges (Aldi)

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Akin to what eating the Sahara desert would feel, and probably even taste, like. My wife and I were perusing the Special Buy cooler, looking for something different beyond the usual fries and onion rings to have as a side for our meal, when we found these. They looked good, and the price was right (somewhere around $1.99 if my memory serves me well) so into the cart they went! However, it was not without some slight reservation. My biggest complaint with just about every kind of potato wedge that I’ve ever had, is no matter how good the seasoning is on the outside, the middle is always dry and boring. And the middle of a potato is the biggest part. So you might have a flavor explosion upon putting it in your mouth, from the seasoning that adorns the exterior, but by the time you swallow, the boring, unseasoned potato innards have now replaced all forms of flavor. Was I right to worry about these, or did Season's Choice have another trick up their sleeve to prevent this from

Season's Choice Country Potatoes with Haricots Verts & Wild Mushrooms (Aldi)

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For the uninitiated, "haricots verts" is basically a fancy way of saying "green beans". (I had to look it up, too) I bought these, as I frequently do with special buy items, on a whim from Aldi a couple months back. And like many things bought on a whim, they just kind of sat in our freezer for a while, being passed over in favor of other things that we knew we would like. Much of my wife’s hesitation stemmed from her dislike of mushrooms, while my hesitation stemmed from a few recent frozen potato purchases not quite living up to expectations. The last few that we’ve had were very dry, and without a lot of flavor, a fatal double-whammy that I figured would end up characterizing these, as well, especially the more and more I put off trying them. Well finally one day my wife was gone for the night, I needed something quick and easy, and so I threw these in the microwave as a side to my main dish (potato-encrusted cod). Before we go any further, a word to those

Fusia Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce (Aldi)

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As long as you don't expect this to be a knockoff of the "rooster" brand, this is good stuff. There are those that believe thee original sriracha, manufactured by Huy Fong Foods, Inc. is the ONLY product that has the right to be called sriracha.  In fact, it even has the nickname “rooster sauce”, for the titular animal that appears on the front of the bottle.  I’m not a huge fan of hot stuff, which is to say, I don’t go around pouring hot sauce or anything of the ilk all over everything the way some people do, but I actually read about it in a Deadspin article of all places.  It discussed how the condiment was taking off, and suggested different ways of using it.  I don’t usually get caught up in mainstream media’s blatant advertising campaigns, but it just sounded so good, I had to track it down. And so I did.  It wasn’t hard--even back in 2012, it was still fairly popular and available in almost any supermarket.  Over the course of the next year or two, my wife and I

Specially Selected Roasted Garlic with Tomato and Basil Cheese (Aldi)

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Eh...tastes like cheddar to me. It’s virtually impossible to be married to the same person for more than five years, and to not be completely changed, at least in one area. Before I married my wife, I was not at all a fan of cheese. Well, not REAL cheese (save for mozzarella)--sure, I could enjoy that fakey pasteurized cheese, or 7-11’s nacho cheese out of the machine, but when it came to actual cheeses, I didn’t like them. Hell, I never had a grilled cheese sandwich beyond 10 years old, simply because I hated the ones my mom made so much (using the aforementioned fake "singles" and sandwich bread) that I idiotically assumed all of them tasted like that. I guess I conveniently forgot that there are just as many varieties of cheeses as there are breads...millions. It wasn't until my wife threw together a grilled cheese sandwich that I actually liked that I began to realize that. Slowly, though, my wife’s affinity for cheese has seeped into my life. At once repulse

Specially Selected Mild Black Bean and Corn Salsa (Aldi)

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I guess you could say the flavor of this salsa is jarring. Get it...because it's in a jar? Still not laughing? Fuck you then. It’s not very often that I buy supermarket salsa. The simple reasoning behind this statement is that my wife LOVES to chop up vegetables, and since that pretty much sums up the entire prep work required for salsa, it goes without saying that she loves making the stuff. And let’s be real here: fresh salsa is loads better than any form of the canned or prepackaged stuff. So I tend to avoid the canned salsa’s at the grocery store. But she’s never made a black bean salsa, nor even hinted about any interest in making one, so when I saw this at Aldi, I knew I had to pick it up and give it a shot. As it turns out, it was a good call; even my wife was interested in trying this (probably to see if it’s even worth taking the time to replicate; if she loves this stuff, I guarantee she’ll never allow me to buy another jar, because she’ll just make it herself). I h

Aftershock Red Sugar Free Energy Drink (Big Lots)

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A solid energy drink, though I also got a four-pack for $1.20, which always helps... As most shoppers of Big Lots can attest, it can be feast for famine when it comes to certain products; sometimes they have them, and other times they don’t. Beyond that, even if they have a certain kind of item, they might not always have a good brand, or an affordable option; I don’t think there is any one aisle in the store where this theory is more apparent than the drink aisle. And, drilling the list down to even further specifics, energy drinks. Unlike other things within their stores, there are no specific energy drinks that Big Lots carries in stock at all times. So if they haven’t had a buyout recently, then there’s generally very few (if any) to pick from. Ditto this if they receive in particularly good deals; I don’t seem to be the only one that frequently eyes Big Lots for my energy drink needs, because most brands don’t seem to last much longer than a couple of weeks. Well, my local

Outlaw Energy Original Energy Drink (Big Lots)

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Such an outlaw, that he tastes exactly like every other "original" energy drink out there. Reviewing energy drinks is as tedious for me to write them, as it has to be for you to read them. It’s shocking, and something I never quite realized, at just how similar all of the “original” ones taste. Sure, there are slight differences with flavor profiles--after all, they’re not going to taste EXACTLY the same, but what is it about the combination of apparently required energy beverage ingredients that forces all of them to taste so similar?  Outlaw Energy is no exception. While their “Passion Punch” tasted like a tropical fruit utopia (made up entirely of chemicals, with no actual juice anywhere to be found), the original tastes just like you would expect an “original” version of an energy drink to taste like. It’s not as tart as, say, Red Bull, but the same basic flavor profile is very similar to all the rest. If you’re new to energy drinks, you might get a kick out of i

Rip It Tribute Active Mandarin Lime Sugar Free Energy Drink (Dollar Tree/Various)

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Because nothing is more patriotic than using troops and the idea of war to sell a canned beverage. Thanks mainly to a bad batch of Rip-Its that I bought once from a local general store (they were well within their expiration date, but straight-up tasted like mold), along with some rather uninspired flavors, I have gradually found myself starting to hate the brand as a whole. And this is despite their affordable dollar price-point, which is even more appetizing considering a lot of energy drinks are way overpriced, so I try to stick with the budget ones. We purchased this at the same convenience store in Tennessee that provided us with Spider Berry Bite energy drink (also for a dollar; see review here ) - overall, they had more Rip-It flavors than I had ever seen before. A lot of them looked pretty lackluster and uninteresting, which honestly makes my apparent choice even more baffling: out of all of the cans that they had to offer, why in the hell did I pick the camo can? That most

Spider Widowmaker Berry Bite Energy Drink (Various)

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Not bad for a widely-available budget energy drink. Well here we have a little review that kind of goes against the grain from other ones. Typically, you will note, I stick to private labels from major discount/closeout retailers (specifically, Aldi, Dollar Tree, and Big Lots). That's never really been a concrete rule of mine, just something I've done to keep the focus kind of narrowed, both on behalf of myself, and readers. Well this time I'm throwing that idea out the window, to focus on an energy drink that I purchased somewhere in Tennessee, in a convenience store in the middle of nowhere. For a buck. Now full-sized (this one is 16 oz.) dollar energy drinks aren't really anything all that new: the Rip-It line generally retails for a buck and is widely available inside Dollar Trees', and other stores. But convenience stores aren't typically a good place to find a deal like this, so I figured I'd write about it, since it clearly fits in with the ove