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Showing posts with the label pantry

Cheese Club Shells and Cheese Cups (Aldi)

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A pretty tasty knockoff. Aldi always carries the cupped version of the typical noodled macaroni and cheese, and they also always carry the large boxes of the shells and cheese.  But they don't always carry a combination of the two, so when I laid eyes on this in an Aldi advertisement, I was chomping at the bit to go and get them.  I like their typical mac and cheese cups as an occasional snack, but the shells and cheese variant has always been my favorite, even dating back to when I had the national brands as a child (hey, I'll eat virtually anything on someone else's dime). The cupped version is surprisingly similar to its single box counterpart, as each individual 2.39 oz. cup includes its own cheese sauce packet, rather than the cheese powder included with the regular noodles.  Here it's not such a big deal—since these are made to eat on the go, even the powdered versions don't require any additional ingredients—but I always prefer the taste of the sauce to the p

Specially Selected Slow Cooked Broccoli & Cheddar Soup (Aldi)

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Does not live up to expectations. I avoid supermarket soups for the most part, mainly because of the high sodium content. I know, I know, lots of things have high sodium content these days, but with many of the canned kinds, the salt seems to carry most of the flavor. Therein lies the problem for me. I skimmed past these a few times over the years, until my wife fell in love with the national brand of “tubbed” soup, made by a company with “bread” in their name, and where you can expect to pay upwards of $20 just for a solo lunch. Considering she held that product in such high esteem, I decided to give this a shot, since it seems to be a private label version of that. Each soup retails for $2.49, which is a decent price considering all the soup you get. To me, soup is just kind of something you eat with a meal; to others that is the meal. Either way, I think there’s enough here to satisfy people on both sides of the fence. In fact, I was pretty much sick of it by the time I reached the

Sobisk Peanut Butter Breakfast Sandwich Biscuits (Dollar Tree)

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Wow...DT really defies the odds with this one. This product was involved in a mystery at our home: The day I brought these home, I went to get something out of the freezer, and saw this box sitting in there. My first reaction was that I probably did it, because I’m known for doing brainless things, but on this occasion, I specifically remember my wife being the last one to touch it: she took it out of the bag before exclaiming how much our four-year-old son would enjoy them. It was after this that I saw them sitting in there. I started to take them out, but then remembered that my wife is one of those people who like to freeze candy bars and other random objects because she likes what it does to the taste, or texture (depending on the item). I figured this was just another one of her little quirks, and put it back in the freezer. They sat in there, untouched, for almost a week, before she sees them in there, and immediately accuses me of doing it. Uh oh, the plot thickens! So who was

Sunny Farm Mixed Fruit in Black Cherry Gel Fruit Cups (Dollar Tree)

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It's edible, which means it's better than I thought it would be. Aaaah, fruit and gel bowls. For some reason, they used to be one of my favorite snacks to have in the house, but high prices for the name brand forced me to give that up. Then, when Aldi started carrying them a few years back, I jumped on the chance to try one...and was vastly disappointed. It was atrocious. They've gotten a lot better since, but just that history is enough to make me never even think to get them when I'm there. Enter Dollar Tree, the foremost purveyor of fine, inexpensive foods. Actually, most of the edible stuff I've gotten from there has been pretty terrible, and the thought of getting something even Aldi had troubles with made me twice as nervous. But what kind of reviewer would I be if I refused to try things, or let personal preferences get in the way? Actually, I was very, very apprehensive about trying it, especially when I saw that you get three cups for only $1. Thirty three

Baker's Corner Hush Puppy Mix (Aldi)

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There's enough batter in here for a lot of tasty hush puppies, if that's your kind of thing. Hush puppies, in my opinion, are pretty dumb. They’re like an underground side dish…offered in enough places that you’ll eventually run into them and be reminded of their existence, but offered in so few that it might be months, maybe even years, before you do. My main qualm with them is that, even when prepared properly, they are completely boring, and there doesn’t seem to be many ways to dress them up (besides dipping them in sauces). This is why I go out of my way to avoid them, whenever possible. However, one of the great things about being married, is that you will often find your partner frequently has tastes that go completely in the opposite direction of yours. Because of this, as well as the rule that married couples must constantly be in a state of “compromise”, common courtesy suggests that you will probably find yourself eating, or at least supporting the purchase of, t

Paulie's Pasta Shells and Cheese (Dollar Tree)

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Not too shabby for only a buck. The last time I tried macaroni and cheese from Dollar Tree, it was about four years ago. The shells were just fine, but the cheese was even more neon than the name brand stuff, and its consistency was more similar to paste, than liquefied cheese. In case you were wondering, yes, the taste was just as bad as it looked…why do you think it’s been four years since the last time I tried it? But then I saw smiling, cartoon chef Paulie in the upper left hand corner of this box, and I knew from his convincingly drawn-on smile that he didn’t have anything to hide. So I ponied up a dollar and bought a box. After all, not even Aldi and their perfected supply chain process can provide shells and cheese for a dollar; if Paulie could pull his off, by golly, this would be an amazing deal. Does he succeed? Well yes, but as it turns out, that rat bastard’s smile really is hiding something after all. On the side of good: the pasta shells are just what you w

Thai Smile Spring Onion Rice Noodle Soup Bowl (Big Lots)

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"Thai Smile" sounds like a slang term for a torture technique. My wife and I were going through a phase of intense brokeness when I went to Big Lots, looking for something really inexpensive that I could eat as a snack. I tend to like snacking throughout the day, and will often have a quick little something right when I get home; I get home so early on most days, that dinner is still at least three hours away, and I can’t always wait that long. Most of the things they had looked either too expensive, unappetizing, or a blatant combination of both-- until my eyes settled on soup bowls by the terrifyingly-named company, Thai Smile. I always liked the “instant lunch” noodles (the ones in the Styrofoam plastic cup, complete with dried peas and carrots), and this looked to be a slightly more advanced version of that. When you open the bowl, you’ll find three packets, all of which are curiously (and idiotically) shoved underneath the noodles: a packet of seasoning, a pa

Thai Smile Tom Yum Thai Rice Noodle Soup Bowl (Big Lots)

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I'm just going to assume "Tom Yum Thai" is the name of the guy who invented it. A while back I made the tough decision to ignore the terrifying brand name “Thai Smile”, and purchased their Sweet Onion noodle soup bowl. I had no expectations going in, since the bowl was only $1, but it ended up being pretty good, much in the same way that ramen noodles are good: they are dirt cheap, and edible. I would definitely get that variety again, but then I saw there was another option: Tom Yum Thai. Unlike “sweet onion”, which is pretty straightforward, I had no idea what Tom Yum Thai even alludes to as a flavor; even after trying it, I have to say I still don't. As with all of these cheap soup/noodle bowls, the main flavor you're going to get is that of excessive salt forcing its way into your body, where it will attempt to slowly kill you from within. The next sensation caught me a little off guard, and that was of my mouth immediately catching fire. At first I though

Specially Selected Pesto Macaroni & Cheese (Aldi)

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Bland and salty. I would say that I’m not that big of a fan of pesto, though the only times I’ve ever had it, involved buying it from the supermarket.  And that can be enough to ruin just about anything.  Yet I have reviewed both of Specially Selected’s other gourmet macaroni and cheese products (you can see those reviews here), so I figured I might as well go ahead and complete the trifecta. True to form, I wasn’t really a big fan.  There’s just something about pesto that doesn’t do anything for me, which is certainly odd, considering I like just about all of the ingredients separately.  Of course, like I said, I’ve never had the fresh stuff, and I’m sure something is lost in the translation of shoving it into a boxed, factory-made macaroni and cheese product. The pestos I’ve had can best be described as “bland and salty”, a combination that you don’t hear of too often; this one is certainly no different.  There’s definitely a cheese flavor, courtesy of the accompanying c

Priano Roasted Garlic and Cheese Risotto (Aldi)

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Proof that some amazing things can come out of a box. I’ve had risotto once in my life; ironically, it was at a fancy restaurant that specialized in “small plates”, and their risotto (bacon risotto with an egg cooked exactly to 62 ½ degrees) was ironically one of their most popular dishes. I figured that would be as good a way as any to get my first taste, so I plunked down $11 for the right to try it. It was easily the worst plate of the evening. But since that was my first try, I thought that maybe I just wasn’t into risotto. This prejudice toward the food continued when my wife informed me she was buying a box of Priano’s Garlic and Cheese Risotto, an Italian Special Buy at Aldi stores. I merely scoffed, told her that risotto sucked, and that it was a waste of money, and then we continued our shopping trip, never speaking about it again. Flash forward to about a week later, when my wife informed me while I was at work that she had made it--and that it was incredible. Again,

Chef's Cupboard Chunky Clam Chowder (Aldi)

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Not worth it. I used to eat a lot of canned soups back in my bachelor days, because they were cheap, and very easy to make.  The older I’ve gotten, I’ve started paying at least a little bit more attention to what I put in my body, and so when I saw the ridiculously high level of sodium content in just about all brands of soups, I made a vow to cut back.  And cut back I did…this bowl of clam chowder was the first bowl of supermarket soup I’ve had in well over a year. But we were completely broke, and I wanted something I could just throw into the microwave, so I broke down.  When I was single, I remembered really enjoying Aldi’s Clam Chowder (which goes under the Chef's Cupboard brand moniker), so I opted for a can of that.  My wife won’t go anywhere near this stuff, so I knew I was free to enjoy it all to myself. Pouring the can into a bowl, I was actually surprised at just how…chunky everything is.  Some soups tend to be watered down, but this is filled with huge chunks

Snow's Ocean Classics Clam Chowder (Big Lots)

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Not worth it. Sick with a sinus infection, but not wanting anything to do with the boringness that is chicken noodle soup, I decided to throw reason to the wind and grab a can of this from my local Big Lots.  Though I didn’t have much hope for it initially, a quick scan of the ingredients actually had me a little excited:  Fresh clams and clam juice is listed first?  Potatoes second?  Heavy whipping cream’s up there?  Hmm…maybe this stuff won’t be so bad after all! While “bad” might be a bit of a stretch, it would be an even farther stretch to call this stuff “good”.  Like most canned soups, it’s packed to the gills with salt, but unlike similar soups, it somehow could use a boatload more, because this stuff is ultra-bland.  The texture of the soup itself is pretty spot-on, and the use of heavy whipping cream is pretty evident.  But for having so many clams, you really won’t notice that much as you down the can, mainly because they’re cut up into such small pieces that you will

Fresh Finds Premium Shells and Cheese (Big Lots)

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Not bad, but not the best deal around. I loved the name brand shells and cheese dinner when I was a kid, but mainly because it was a treat.  My mom was a single mother and didn’t have much money at all, so usually she would buy the cheap elbow macaroni and cheese stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked that too, but the shells were always so much creamier, cheesier, and delicious. Well I was in a pinch one night, with no car (it was in the shop) and nothing to eat for dinner, when my wife took me to Big Lots to get a couple of things.  I opted to look for dinner there, too, which is no small feat; aside from fifty different types of noodles, and another fifty different types of pasta sauces, BL doesn’t offer much in the way of comprehensive dinners.  Still, fast food didn’t sound good, and going to the supermarket is one of my least favorite things to do in the world, so I figured I could suck it up and make do for one night. After looking at the unappetizing all-in-one meals th

Tuscan Garden Lightly Salted Crispy Onions (Aldi)

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Virtually the same as their regular crispy onions, repackaged and upcharged for your convenience. This won’t be a review so much as a confession:  I’ve been duped.  I’ve been duped by the very supermarket that I have trusted for several years.  I’ve been duped in a way that’s even worse than the time I accidentally picked up the name brand honey nut cereal because Aldi so cleverly put it right next to their brand.  And what is the item that has so cleverly deceived me?  Why, it’s none other than this bag of crispy onions. Look at it.  Looks innocent, doesn’t it?  Yet concealed within its 3.5 oz. packaging lies a horrible, horrible secret.  One that will no doubt alienate the entire fan base Aldi has strived to collect throughout the last few difficult years.  And yet, I should have seen it.  I should have paid attention to the signs and the clues that were right under my nose the entire time.  But I didn’t.  Not until it was too late. What has rubbed me in such a curious manner

Fusia Sesame Teriyaki Noodle Bowl (Aldi)

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If the package looks like this at the store, DO NOT BUY IT. From Fusia, the makers of the previously-reviewed Kung Pao Noodle Bowl , along with every other Asian-inspired dish from Aldi, comes their Sesame Teriyaki Noodle Bowl.  How does it stack up?  Let’s get right down to it. I was a little nervous about the “teriyaki” in the title, because teriyaki is not a flavor I tend to enjoy all that much; a hesitation brought about by the teriyaki stir fry my mom used to make when I was a kid growing up.  Like the stir fry, I expected this to be overly salty, with a heavy “soy” flavor; imagine my surprise when I discovered that it’s actually sweet!  I found it to be a pleasant sweetness, but that might not tell you anything, because as anyone who reads this blog knows, I have a palate that heavily favors sweet things.  For a second opinion, I asked my wife what she thought…and she agreed with me that the sauce was absolutely delicious.  So see?  It’s not just me after all! For those t

Fusia Kung Pao Noodle Bowl (Aldi)

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I probably could have cropped a whole 'lot of hardwood out of this picture... While Aldi has a few Asian foods available all the time, I do look forward to their “Asian Week”, where they offer several additional Chinese foods as special buys.  A lot of the items are just typical, run-of-the-mill Asian offerings: frozen sweet and sour chicken, varieties of egg rolls, or wok sauces to make your own Chinese entrees at home.  Most of the things that I’ve tried are good, but nothing outstanding; roughly the same quality you can get at any of the take-out Chinese restaurants that no doubt line your city. Then there’s Fusia’s Kung Pao Chicken Noodle Bowl, a non-frozen pantry item that cooks up in just two minutes.  In fact, that’s the main reason I purchased it the first time; it was simply a matter of convenience, something I could toss in the microwave if I needed a quick snack after a long day at work.  But now it’s one of my favorite items in the entire Fusia line, and one

Specially Selected Truffle Macaroni and Cheese

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Definitely not the blue-box macaroni and cheese you grew accustomed to! It should only take you one, maybe two reviews before you realize that I do not have anything close to a refined palate.  I can’t pick apart certain flavors when given a complex dish, nor can I swish around wine and tell what vintage it is.  The only way I know to enjoy food is to put it in my mouth and rely on what my blue-collar taste buds tell me.  At least, that’s usually how it works. I’ve eaten half of the bowl, and I still can’t even tell what I think of Specially Selected’s Truffle Macaroni and Cheese.  I will say that it cooks up nice and creamy on the stovetop, thanks partly to the packet of cheese powder and dried mushrooms that comes inside the box.  As you probably know, “truffle” is basically code for “mushrooms”, and while I’m not a fan of mushrooms, I felt like the combination could be pretty delicious.  And as the cheese sauce starts to thicken a bit more, it seems to explode with more flavo

Specially Selected Mascarpone and Sun-Dried Tomato Macaroni and Cheese (Aldi)

No image available at this time. A few days ago I tried Specially Selected’s Truffle Macaroni and Cheese, a review which you will find paired up with this one.  But the one I was secretly most excited for was this one, which my wife picked up during the same trip.  I’m not one for mushroom (though I did end up liking it quite a bit), but the combination of cheese and tomatoes have never let down anyone. I’m not too familiar with my cheeses, especially “exotic” ones like mascarpone, so I can’t say with exact certainty that’s what this smells like, but this dish is packed with an overwhelming smell of cheesiness.  Like the truffle mac, once cooked, it’s smothered in cheese, with the added benefit of having little bits of sun-dried tomatoes, instead of mushrooms.  But this isn’t just one of those women that are just good looks and no personality…no, this has the taste to match. It’s absolutely exploding with a decadent cheesy flavor, and “decadent” is a word I usually reserve for desserts

Goldfish Mac & Cheese (Nacho Cheese, Cheddar, and Butter Parmesan) (Dollar Tree)

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We reviewed all but the Cheesy Pizza, which sounds just absolutely disgusting. While the Goldfish name certainly doesn’t evoke thoughts of budget foods, after all it is only one of the most popular snack crackers available, the attempt to cash in on it as a mac n’ cheese line was pretty much dead-on arrival.  As a result, excess stock of the stuff appears to be liquidated to just about every discount store on the face of the Earth, as I’ve seen boxes at both Big Lots, and Dollar Tree, and they were only $.33 per box at each place. All it will take is a quick internet search to reveal that this stuff did not go over well.  At all.  And they were even sold only in Wal-Marts.  If Wal-Mart’s nightmarish clientele couldn’t even find use for this stuff, then it must be really, really bad.  I mean, from Wal-Mart at $.98 per box, to closeout at $.33 a box just a year later…it’s got to be terrible.  Right? Well we grabbed each flavor, except for Cheesy Pizza, which both sounds a

liveGfree Gluten Free Brownie Mix (Aldi)

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You won't be able to tell these are gluten free. No joke. When my wife announced she would be making gluten-free brownies, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  While I have enjoyed some items from Aldi’s Live G-Free line, others, like the pasta noodles, have been far less than satisfactory.  At best, I was expecting a decent chocolate flavor with a slightly-sandpaper-ish texture, while at worst I was expecting a crumbling mess of something not at all resembling a brownie, either in taste or appearance. Right after my wife completed the creation, the first thing I noticed was how…normal it looked.  It looked exactly like a glutenous version of a brownie, and I thought maybe my best-case scenario would be far surpassed.  It even cut like a “normal” brownie, meaning the texture was pretty much spot-on as compared to a “normal” brownie.  But just because it looks like a brownie doesn’t mean it tastes like one…so how do these things taste? Now I’m not a brownie connoisseur, but if I d