Panera’s New Dessert Item

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I admit, this is not the most appetizing angle, but trust me, it’s a must try item.

salad

Strawberry Poppyseed Chicken Salad

Panera has introduced a juicy, ripe and sweet menu item–a strawberry rhubarb mini cake. For $2.29, customers get a moist cake with real strawberry fruit pieces and tangy rhubarb chunks. This little cake comes in a cute mini paper loaf pan and perfectly compliments the strawberry poppy seed chicken salad. Hail the succulent strawberry! 

Tip: Warm it up for 20 seconds. You won’t regret it.

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Taco Bell Taste Off: Cool Ranch Doritos™ Locos Taco Review.

Cool ranch taco, taken by Shinai (do not use without permission).

Cool ranch taco.

On March 6, 2013,  Taco Bell added a cooler addition to the sharply cheesy, nacho-flavored crunchy indulgence–the cool ranch Doritos™ locos taco. For those of you who don’t know, this is the second Doritos™-inspired taco flavor, which seems to be selling very well.  I think it’s important to bear in mind that the flavor of these tacos can be hit or miss depending on whether or not your local Taco Bell is heavy handed with powdering their taco shells. This taco shell is a standard corn yellow chip color with fun ranch-like shavings on the edges. To put this in perspective, (when eating with pieces of chicken) imagine eating a chicken ranch salad with crumbled Doritos™ chips as a salad topping. Pretty simple. Add sour cream and you’ve got something worthy of worship. Let’s continue.

  Cool Ranch Doritos™ Locos Taco (regular, with beef)

I ordered this taco with beef and wasn’t really impressed, because I felt that ranch flavor was muted when paired up with the beef. The little bit of ranch flavor was easy to detect on the upper edges only; the beef flavor overpowered the ranch and I could barely taste the ranch flavor. I should have taken the minimal visible ‘ranchness’ on the edge as a hint that the ranch flavor probably wasn’t evenly dispersed.  And boy was I right. Perhaps the taco didn’t have enough cool ranch powder on it. Maybe this taco needed the powerful help of sour cream to make it fun.

  Cool Ranch Doritos™ Locos Taco (regular, with chicken)

This is where chicken becomes relevant. I ordered this taco with chicken, because I like the pairing of ranch and chicken together  I figured it would be a more natural flavor blend than beef. This flavor compared to the beef was lighter, more refreshing–almost like a salad with those crisps on them. It made me think of summer for some reason. I enjoyed this more than the beef, because the chicken flavor played off the ranch on the taco. You can taste the cool ranch flavor better and the chicken almost rounds it out.

  Cool Ranch Doritos™ Locos Taco (chicken supreme)

And this is by far, my favorite combination–the sour cream was like the cherry on a sundae. Cool ranch, paired with chicken  veggies, cheese and sour cream.  It’s amazing how muted sour cream is on its own,but in this case, it was the glue that held all of the flavors together. In the supreme taco, I didn’t feel as if the beef overpowered the ranch flavor. This time, I actually had a taco that wasn’t shy of ranch. This again, reminded me of a light and refreshing bite of summer. I was sad I didn’t get another one.

Here are my ratings:

Taco Bell Cool Ranch Doritos™ Locos Taco (regular, with beef) Yumfactor: 2 tongues and a taste bud (2.5 out of 5 stars). The beef tasted good, but I didn’t like the combination paired up with the ranch. It could have been the lack of presence the ranch had when I ate this; the ranch seasoning on the taco shell didn’t come through very well. My taste buds prefer chicken with the cool ranch taco. It just tastes healthier–more wholesome and complimentary.

Taco Bell Cool Ranch Doritos™ Locos Taco (regular, with chicken) Yumfactor: 3 tongues (3 out of 5 stars). I enjoy a lighter-flavored meat with this shell. I felt as if I was eating a crisp salad with a powered ranch overtone. Overall, everything blended well together. No overpowering flavors or meats with this one. The cool ranch came out of its shell a little more to say hello to the world around it.

Taco Bell Cool Ranch Doritos™ Locos Taco (chicken supreme) Yumfactor: 4 tongues and a taste bud (4.5 out of 5 stars) I really enjoyed this. Every flavor completes the other, creating an indulgently harmonious blend of bites. The cool ranch flavor seemed to latch on to the cool sour cream and held hands; the sharp shredded cheese, lettuce and tomatoes also meshed well with the tangy ranch shell. The chicken–buried under all of the flavors–also made a humble appearance in this taco. It’s just natural this way. The chicken varieties are perfect for those who don’t eat beef, want a break from beef/horse meat/sand/whatever else, or crave a light, yet filling snack that will leave your conscious devoid of calorie guilt.

What Doritos™ flavors would you like to see as a taco shell flavor? What are your thoughts on this taco? Do you prefer chicken or beef? Rate, Comment and Subscribe!

Healthy Choice pumpkin ravioli (with asparagus, apples and butternut squash) Review.

Healthy Choice’s Pumpkin Ravioli with apples and Butternut Squash. What a mouth full.

Ever since the commercial with Mindy Kailing advertising new Healthy Choice’s Pumpkin Ravioli with apples and Butternut Squash, I was curious. Mainly because I wondered what butternut squash tasted like. It seems to have become more popular in dishes, such as soups, and as side items. But I also was curious about pumpkin ravioli.

This by far has been one of my favorite frozen entrees. Firstly, the warm flavors of the apple and the pumpkin bring a ring of autumn depth you often experience with rich flavors like these. The subtle butternut squash adds a tinge of sweetness to the tart apples. The asparagus is sharp, but blends beautifully with the delicate butter sage sauce. I could not imagine the harmony of this dish unless all the ingredients were mixed together. The meal contains 310 calories per serving.  My only gripe is that you get about 9 ravioli. Why? Because it’s so good, I always wish for 10. Or 12. Also, whenever I follow the microwave directions on the package, I notice that one ravioli gets hard, to where when I chew it, it’s overly cooked on the edges.  I have no idea why. This  has also occurred with the Lobster ravioli I sampled from them. (Post coming soon). This balance of bold richness, smart calorie content (which may not suffice if you’re starving, but hey it’s not supposed to) and important vegetables make for a convenient lunch or dinner, and invoke a unique flavor experience.

Another picture of what the box looks like.

Healthy Choice Pumpkin Ravioli with asparagus, apples and butternut squash Yumfactor: 4 tongues and a tastebud (4.5 our of 5 stars). I really like this. I find that the flavors are well balanced and very exotic. It can be a bit fall for some, however, it’s very tasty. If you are famished, I recommend possibly eating 2 entrees if you’re not into calorie counting and are buying this entrée just to taste it. That’s what I’m doing. If you don’t, you may be hungry an hour later, just as a sidenote. It may not be flavorful enough for some, but you can always add pepper, garlic or whatever else to spice it up.

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Banquet Pot pies and feeding hunger in America. You can help.

Really quick,I have been buying Banquet’s chicken, chicken and broccoli and turkey pot pies, and not only are they delicious, but there is a code on each box you buy. When you log on to the provided website and enter the code, money goes to feeling the needy in America. As far as the pies themselves,  these pot pies (ready in less than 5 minutes) are delicious. The crust is flaky and they are a great value (<$1). They taste as if they are out the oven and are quite filling. Try it and let me know what you think! But if you do but them, look out for the label on the front that says “Hunger Ends Here”. You’re doing a charitable service to those in need. Nothing but positive instant karma, and the supply of food on the table of those in need. It’s a win win for everyone 🙂

Side note: There are also fruit pies available.

Click http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/business/media/21adco.html for more information on the company, and other products that can help feed hungry children.

Must Try Foods: Limited Edition Cocoa Chex Mix

I have always loved this mix as it balances sweet chocolate with salty pretzels. I tried it a few years ago and have always looked for it, so naturally I was not hesitant in picking up another bag! It was about $2.00 and change, and is normally made available around the winter months, which makes sense considering it is supposed to be a Chex interpretation of hot cocoa. Fun! 😀 Firstly, Chex mix seems to be a crowd pleaser, and the standard flavors tend towards the salty, (although there are candies in some of them) which is to be expected.

Oh, the fun!

This mix  gives a handful of variety as there are chocolate squares, vanilla yogurt cream flavored crispies, plain chex cereal squares, delicate mini marshmallows, salty pretzel, and sweet swirlyness. The mini marshmallows gives it an overall sweeter than salty pretzel experience, but admittedly is my favorite part of grabbing a handful to snack on. The vanilla yogurt cereal squares are also rather delicious as their flavor is strong, and the coating is rich, playing of the sweet chocolaty notes. I bought a bag last night, and finished it already 😦 That is a drawback of this product- you may eat it off before you plan to!  They are 7% less in fat compared to potato chips, and contain only 7g of sugar per 1/2 cup per serving, along with 120 calories! Not too shabby! Not only is this mix delicious, but it captures the spirit of winter because of the hot chocolate association. Try it! You may love it as much as I do! Here is another review of the same product: http://www.betterproductadvisor.com/review-limited-edition-cocoa-chex-mix/

Note: For those who are diabetic, while this snack is low in sugar, please remember than this in a carb than will break down into sugar once eaten and digested.

Almond Joy Flavored COFFEE (not just creamer) vs Almond Joy CREAMER

I was at Home Goods (I love that place) and was shopping when I scoped out a bag of Almond Joy Flavored Coffee (the brand is Grande Kaffe Collection). The coffee smells rich of coconut and chocolate, and upon sipping its smooth flavor, I tasted  well balanced undertones of chocolate, coconut AND almond (which was a complaint of mine in tasting the Almond Joy Creamer) Not only do you get stronger flavors in the coffee, you also save time in not having to add creamer to your coffee, let alone having to find the creamer in the first place.  (NOTE: It may help if you read my blog reviewing the Almond Joy Creamer https://thetalkingspoon.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/coffee-creamer-review-new-international-delights-almond-joy/)

Pretty blue packaging!

If I had to compare it to the creamer, I’d say this is a better deal.  The only challenge may be not being able to locate this at Home Gods, T.J. Maxx, or Marshalls stores as it may be a seasonal flavor, however, I cannot say for sure, so be on the look out! I paid $6.99 for a 160z bag of coffee.  The fragrance has velvety top notes of chocolate, and the rich, tropical intensity of flaky coconut, and the warmth of almonds. Again, well balanced in all three flavors. Perfect with vanilla creamer, which in its subtlety brings out the flavors.  The coffee itself is an Arabica blend, which tends to be your standard coffee used in these types of flavored varieties. This blend may or may not be strong enough for some, but you can always amp up the coffee in your coffee maker.

Almond Joy Coffee Yumfacotor: 4 tongues. (4 out of 5 stars) I love the even textures of all three flavors that I felt lacked in the creamer. This flavor is exotic, fun and makes for an alive cup of coffee. Vanilla accentuates the almond flavor, as well as defines the coconut and the chocolate characteristics. A must try. Gourmet indeed. May even make a great gift for foodies!

Have you tried this before? What are your thoughts? Think I’m bashing the creamer a little too much? Rate. Comment. Subscribe.

Sonic’s Pumpkin Pie Milkshake Review. (And Edy’s Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream Overview)

Too artificial and "spicy" to be well rounded. Just so you know.

I went to Sonic’s to try the pumpkin pie milkshake which of course is available for a limited time, along with their new Kickin’ Coney and Bacon and Bleu hotdog. I had a previous run in with a pumpkin flavored dessert that left me dazed, hurt and disappointed. Actually, I’ll name names 🙂 Edy’s pumpkin pie ice cream is overly artificial in flavor, with too much focus on the sweet with poor traces of spice.  And the spice that IS there tastes off balanced. Too cinnamoney to me. I was not a fan at all…Now, I know some of you are going to say “Duh, it’s ice cream. What did you expect?” Certainly not that frozen weirdness I tasted.  Apparently, Sonic understands what I mean. Why? because their pumpkin pie flavored milkshake is amazing; it has lovely layers of rich pumpkin flavor that delicately infuses traces of cinnamon nutmeg that do not over power the pumpkin flavoring.

I took a pic, but it got deleted, so I borrowed this one.

It’s not an overly spicy shake it’s just a nicely balanced cup of bliss.  And I think Sonic’s whipped cream is indulgent and creamy and the fact that it’s topped with pie crumbles makes it even more so epic. So take that all of you who think I should expect pumpkin pie flavored ice creams/shakes to be disgusting. 😛

The texture is rich, creamy, and thick, like regular Sonic shakes are.  There is an earthy depth to the shake, as the first sip is laden with ripe, sweet pumpkin that doesn’t scare the taste buds.  Then, there is a warm undertone of cinnamon and nutmeg that add a well rounded feature to it. I felt this milkshake aptly used fall flavors of pumpkin and spice to make for a fun and sweet shake- and I feel it’s very easy to mess up frozen pumpkin type desserts by over using spiciness. I got a medium for $2.29. I wouldn’t recommend it for diabetics. Again this is fast food, so it’s not for the health conscious who are concerned with calories, fat or sugar. According to their site,the calorie content is 710. Wow. 78 g sugar, 9 g protein, and 1 g of fiber. But hey, there’s 0 g trans fat! 😀 And that’s the best of it with nutrition, folks, bt what do you expect? it’s a milkshake from Sonics!

Pumpkin Pie Shake Yumfactor: 5  tongues!! (5 out of 5 stars) I think this is flawless, and I have a friend who is scared of pumpkin flavored drinks and she agreed that is was rich, true to pumpkin pie goodness and yummy.

Edy’s Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream Yumfactor: 2 tongues and a tastebud. (2.5 out of 5 stars) I wanted to like it, but it was not well balanced in flavor. I like the color though, so I added an extra “.5” 😀 It is “light” so perhaps the lack of extra fat manifests itself in the way it tastes.

What are your thoughts? Rate. Comment. Subscribe.