Thursday, May 23, 2013

Snapea Crisps

A while ago, I reviewed Green Giant Multigrain Chips. And while I liked them pretty well, they were a little too sweet for me. While I'm trying to watch what I eat, I also am simultaneously denying myself my favorite snack food: the potato chip. Thusly, I am on a quest for the perfect faux-chip. For it to be an effective potato chip substitute, the food in question has to have a kick, like my beloved salt-and-black-pepper chips. It has to be crunchy, and it has to taste good. (We all remember those horrendous Ruffles made with Oleo from the 90s, now don't we?)

Enter the Snapea Crisp.

Oh my goodness, the Calbee company must be chock full of angels who descended from heaven specifically to invent the Snapea Crisp. Why do I think these are so great? Let me count the ways.

  • These are 70% whole pea, with 30% of other stuff added to them. If you look in the ingredients, the first thing you will find is "green peas," the top ingredient isn't something beginning with "Monosodium." If that isn't reassuring, I don't know what is. 
  • They taste delicious. The black pepper is my favorite, and thusly the only one I've tried so far, but it tastes better to me than my aforementioned salt-and-black-pepper chips. The kick is punchier and they aren't all oily or icky like most potato chips are. I can eat them at my desk with no negative benefit, because they aren't going to get oils all over my keyboard.
  • The nutrition info is pretty awesome. You can eat 20 of them - each one is the size of a pea pod - and it's only 120 calories, 85 sodium (impressive for a chip-esque snack). They have 6 grams of fat, and 3 grams of fiber - your typical chip has just 1.
Are these the end-all be-all of snack foods? Absolutely not. But I can get this bag for $1.50 at my local Wal-Mart and it lasts me a couple of days. (There are 3 servings in the bag. Nobody ever eats a serving size of potato chips. Nobody). I can spend $3 and get a week's worth of non-greasy, delightfully-seasoned and delicious snacks, which is less than a Graze box (which I am canceling, but that's for later) and less than 2 vending machine snacks.

Give them a try. It can't hurt you for the price of less than your morning coffee, and these things are really tasty. As in, if I don't clamp the bag and physically move it away I will inhale them all like Kirby. Trust me on this one, and go get some of these beautiful green delights.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kroger Upside Down Cake

Upon seeing this BzzCampaign first announced, I had mentioned to my friend Jessica that I would love to get into it and that this would therefore mean I wouldn't get into it. I don't have lofty ambitions: I didn't want the "brew your own beer" station BzzCampaign, just a cake!

So imagine my delight a couple of days later when I got the "congratulations on your new campaign!" email. I was ecstatic! And this is where the disappointment began, ladies and gentlemen.

It took me several weeks to find the cakes at my local Kroger. We have two, but one is considerably less nice than the other and it never did get them in. The one by my house is very nice, though, and I scoured it every single grocery trip, trying to find these delectable-looking treats. One evening, I found them! At last. But my confusion began: they were sitting on a table, and I had somehow garnered the impression that these were refrigerated/chilled cakes? I shrugged, picked it up, and plunked it in my cart. A couple of days later, my boyfriend and I decided to give it a go.

It looks innocuous enough, right? Seems to be what's on the banner I posted above, and is lower than the $12 price point I read about online. (it was complementary due to BzzAgent's campaign, and $9.99 is still more than I can afford for most cakes, but good to know). We opened up the packaging and took a look at the instructions: you simply put it on a cookie sheet and baked it for a little while, then flipped it over, popped it out and voila! 

This is the finished product:

If you scroll up and look at the packaging, you'll notice a slight discrepancy here. I'm not saying every food has to look 100% like its packaging, but this just looks sloppy and frankly unappetizing. We were undeterred though and cut it into eighths, each taking a slice. I took no reaction photos, but I am pretty sure our faces said it all.

This was awful. As in, "we had eight pieces and threw away the other six" awful. I couldn't place it, but my boyfriend thoughtfully pointed it out to me: "It tastes like a shelf-stable cake, like a snack cake." And he was right. It tasted like prepackaged dark chocolate slathered on a thick, too-sweet cake. Now, I love chocolate and if it's got chocolate in it I can usually be convinced to like it. I even went back later and swiped a tiny sliver of one of the remaining six pieces, but no. It was still gross. And what felt even worse was the fact that they were going to make people pay $10 for it.

I think that if these cakes were made fresh and served chilled, it would be a vast improvement. But a shelf-stable cake has to be made with shelf-stable ingredients, and unfortunately those just do not lend themselves to excellent-tasting cake. I usually love everything Kroger has to offer, and so this post has saddened me because I hated having to write it, but I am hopeful that the next campaign I get in will bring back the fresh-tasting food I know and love. Thanks for the opportunity, Kroger, and better luck next time.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Waxy Dachshund

I have been sitting on this review for a few days, now. Every time I would sit down to write it, I would think, "I should just burn this candle a little bit longer, so my review will be more authentic!" And then I'd curl up with A Feast for Crows, a dim light and my candle and forget about Blogger until a night or two later, when the process would repeat itself.

Now, my newly-beloved candle is 3/4 gone and I am just so full of sadness that I have been moved to write this review so that you might understand and purchase one for yourself.

The Waxy Dachshund is an Etsy shop run by the beautiful and amazing Megan, who drew her shop name from her two adorable Dachshund pets. As those of us who are pet lovers know, we would never slap our babies' image on anything unless we knew it was flawless, or as much so as possible: and Megan's craft is no exception.

I am in love with her candle packaging, firstly. The container the candle is in is very solid and lovely, and I am going to find a way to harness it for some sort of storage when I am totally done burning my candle. The name of the company is on a clear label affixed to the side, but you can never tell by glancing - it looks like it's just part of the glass, which I love. Megan's packaging has a very neat, crisp feel to it.

Now let's get down to brass tacks: the smell. I am an aficionado for all things that smell like cupcakes, however vaguely. So when I saw that Megan had invented a lime cupcake candle, I reacted much like this:

I can't promise this is the last time I'll use DanRad to express my emotions.
Megan thoughtfully and wonderfully poured, packaged and shipped me one soon after I contacted her, and I waited a painstaking few days until I was at home for an extended period of time and could fully burn and appreciate this candle for longer than a brief hour or two: and what a good idea that was.

A lot of candles take a decent amount of time to begin to melt, or they melt okay but they don't start to release fragrance for an annoyingly long time. This is pleasantly not the case with The Waxy Dachshund - after burning Megan's candle for just a few minutes, I began to smell a tasty vanilla cupcake laced with lime zest and it has taken all I have ever since then to not try to drink the liquid wax that is pooling around the wick as we speak.

Her candles burn around 50-60 hours and come in a variety of pleasant colors and shades, all with mouth-watering and daydream-inducing flavors, like Vanilla Hazelnut Mocha, Sweet Orange & Chili Pepper and Cotton Candy. And at $10 a pop, you're not breaking the bank on a candle that you know is not mass-produced, but is in fact made with love and hand-poured with affection and a dose of doggy delight by Megan herself in her Chicago abode.

Speaking as someone who loves candles but hates to spend a lot of money on ones with potentially mediocre throw (here's lookin' at you, Yankee Candle ...), I am so pleased to say that Megan's craft has brought me nothing but joy, and I am planning a multiple-candle purchase as soon as my wallet stops wincing from May's bills.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Two Old Goats Co Cat Treats

My cat thinks that everything I get in the mail is for him. This is admittedly occasionally the case, but nine times out of ten, it's for me: I frequent free sample web sites and also get a monthly Birchbox. This time, however, it was for Pixel, and he practically jumped out of his skin trying to get into the packaging!

Sharon over at Two Old Goats Co, an Etsy shop, makes a whole lot of stuff that I could spend way too much money on! One of them, though, is cat treats. I spoke with her and she was sweet enough to not only make some just for me, but make me a sampler pack so my cat could investigate them all, including a new flavor she wanted to try out!

They came ensconced in bubble wrap and bearing my little guy's name, which I thought was a very sweet touch. I think he smelled that the package seemed to be for him, and he followed me around at my heels while I got out of my work clothes, mewling at me pitifully to get me to open this delightful box. I opened the box up, set it on the counter, and reached for my camera to take some cursory product photos. He was standing on the floor and when I picked up the first packet and opened it, the smell must have wafted down, and he looked up at me with this face:

Starry-eyed cat surprise, ladies and gentlemen!
Needless to say, Sharon's box of goodies was a hit, not just with Pixel, but with me! She included a sample of her hand lotion which I had been considering buying along with the sample pack but decided against - it's like she telepathically knew I was looking for some new lotion! (Bath & Body Works isn't doing it for me, but more on that later!)

What is awesome about Sharon's cat treats is that, unlike almost any treat you'll ever find at a store or  anywhere else, really, these are homemade cat treats, straight from her kitchen. Not only that, but she packs a one-two punch of clearly labeling every ingredient in them. They look like homemade goodies because that's what they are. They're not in clever little fish shapes or made to smell like the ocean, but what they do offer is so much better: a quality ingredient list made with things you can pronounce, no preservatives, and a delicious taste my cat literally cannot get enough of. 

He finished them and licked his paws clean. He has never done that!
I was, admittedly, worried at first that these treats wouldn't keep, but they've been in both my pantry and fridge and Pixel will eat them from anywhere with no trouble at all. I will not hesitate to buy from Susan again, and I hope that you might give Two Old Goats Co a try yourself! I promise you and your feline friend will be anything but disappointed. :)