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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Archer Farms Banana Cream Pie Yogurt

Unfortunately, this yogurt's a bit boring for my taste. Despite the delicious-looking dessert pictured on the cup, the product within tastes like a bland, plain yogurt with a touch of fake banana flavoring.

A few banana chunks would have helped a lot. Or maybe little bits of vanilla cookies or crumbs of shortbread or something. At least bits of banana wouldn't have made it any more fattening.

Low-fat yogurt always seemed like a good tide-me-over snack. It usually hits the spot pretty well. Fat free yogurt, however, usually tastes bland and leaves me wanting more. And if my snack doesn't hit the proverbial "spot," I'll usually just eat more, which kind of defeats the purpose of eating no-fat or low-fat foods in the first place.

I love banana cream pie, and I generally love flavored yogurt, but this version was a thumbs-down in my opinion. If you disagree, I welcome dissenting opinions in the comments below. Let me know what you think.

I'll be trying more Archer Farms yogurt flavors very soon, so let's see if they can do better than this one!

I give this product 4 out of 10 stars.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Archer Farms Southwestern-Style Chicken Egg Rolls

At Chotchkie's style restaurants, I love to order these things. They usually come dripping with grease, and the establishment does everything it can to avoid showing you the nutrition information, because, no matter how delicious they may be, if you saw the fat content, you would never order them again.

From Archer Farms, it's a similar experience, but they're not quite as unhealthy, and they're not quite as tasty. The egg roll shell came out of the oven crispy and flaky. I felt that the chicken wasn't very flavorful, but the other ingredients kind of made up for it. I definitely tasted the corn and black beans—probably the two most healthy ingredients. I often wonder if someone could devise one of these egg roll appetizer dealies with low fat and mostly veggies that could compete with the flavor of one of these heart-stopper appetizers.

Another saving grace of these snacks was the zesty ranch dipping sauce. To me, it tasted almost like a spicy mayo, rather than ranch, but the little spicy zip it had was good enough for a thumbs-up from me. Many of these frozen appetizers show a dipping sauce on the package, but they don't actually include it in the box. Fortunately, that's not the case with these southwestern goodies.

At $4 for half a dozen, it's a little steep, but you'd pay double that if you were dining out. All things considered, I would think about buying these again, but I probably won't any time soon, because I really want to try all of the other frozen snacks that Archer Farms has to offer.

I'll give these egg rolls 7 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Archer Farms Indian Inspired Samosas

I'm starting to think the frozen section of Target's grocery might be host to all kinds of hidden culinary gems and well-kept secrets. In my many years as a Target shopper, I only recently had the guts to shell out $5 or $6 to try the items there. These little guys were only $4, so I decided to give them a whirl.

I bought the Crab Rangoon a couple weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised. Next up: Indian Samosas. I've been a big fan of Indian food since I first tried it some 10 years ago. And although I wouldn't go so far as to say these are restaurant-quality, they're not a far cry from it either.

My wife absolutely adored them. She raved about them for hours after eating them and suggested that we pick up more on our next visit to Target. She likes vegetarian dishes more than I do. I certainly don't mind eating veggies, but I do crave meat and poultry pretty often, so I wouldn't have minded if these samosas had been filled with chicken as well as the potatoes, lentils, green peas, and onions that you'll find in this vegetarian variety.

In addition to the aforementioned veggies, you can actually taste Indian curry, and the coating came out of the oven crispy and flaky. They're quite snackable. One problem: I felt they wanted some kind of dipping sauce, and they don't come with one in the package. We looked up what might go with vegetable samosas. One site suggested eating them with mango chutney. But lacking mango chutney, we perused our cupboards for a suitable alternative. We decided a leftover packet of Polynesian sauce from Chick-fil-a would have the closest approximation to the tangy sweetness of a fruit chutney, so it became our dipping sauce for these tasty oven pastries, and it worked surprisingly well. I would use it again next time we buy them.

All in all, I'd recommend these to anyone who likes Indian food and veggie dishes, and maybe to those who are simply looking to try something new and different.

I give them 8 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Archer Farms Spinach & Goat Cheese Wood-Fired Pizza

This pizza certainly has more flavor than the Mediterranean Pizza. That's mostly due to the goat cheese. And for most Americans, goat cheese is an acquired taste. It's a bit more pungent than most cow-cheeses that we're accustomed to, and it's a bit sour.

When I was a kid, I had really bad food allergies, especially to very common foods like wheat and milk. One of the strategies we employed to defeat the allergies was to rotate our foods. I could only have cow's milk and dairy products one out of every 4 days. The other days, I had dairy substitutes like soymilk or goat's milk. And on those "goat milk days," I also had some goat cheese with my sandwiches, etc. It took a while, but I really grew to like it.

My wife Sonia likes it, too. She grew up in L.A., where there's a plethora of fine dining establishments that find ways to incorporate high-quality goat cheese into their offerings. So between the two of us, this pizza was a pretty big hit. But make no mistake: if you don't like goat cheese, or if you've never had goat cheese, there's a very good chance this product won't agree with you.

There's also spinach, basil, tomatoes, and regular cheese on the pizza, but most of its flavor comes from the aforementioned goat cheese, which comes in thick, round slabs, as depicted on the packaging. Sonia and I wish the goat cheese were a bit more evenly distributed. A few bites will have massive goat cheese taste, and then the next few bites will have none of it. I suppose it would have been possible to manually redistribute the goat cheese with a knife or something, but we were both quite hungry and in the middle of a "feeding frenzy" of sorts, so we just plowed through the entire pizza in a matter of minutes.

Between this one and the Mediterranean pizza, I'd say this one is the victor. My wife agrees. But again, you really have to like goat cheese. Otherwise, you might find yourself scraping the little slabs of goat cheese off, and in doing so, you'll eliminate this pizza's primary source of flavor and uniqueness.

This product is worthy of 7 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Archer Farms Blue Corn with Flax Seed Tortilla Chips

If you like rich, earthy flavors, these are the chips for you. The flavor is so bold and nutty, when I ate these with some moderately spicy salsa, the taste of the chips almost completely overshadowed the taste of the dip.

Not sure if you folks ever shop at Trader Joe's, but these Archer Farms chips were reminiscent of the Flax Seed Chips from TJ's. And Archer Farms' chips are organic. Not bad for a national-chain department store brand. At $2.99, a bag of truly organic chips is a steal. It's a good size, too. Working on a healthier diet? I know I am. And replacing the Doritos with something like this could be a good start. There's still plenty of snackability, but with less fat and much better ingredients.

The problem, however, is that the taste is so potent, that you either need to eat these chips plain, or you need some ultra heavy-duty dip. I don't mind them plain, but I often crave something sweet or cheesy. In that sense, if you're not in a nutty mood, or if you're someone who simply craves the taste of salsa, you'll want a lighter chip so you can actually taste the sauce through the richness of the chips. Or, if you want a tasty chip that doesn't even need salsa, check out Kettle Chips 39787 Backyard Bbq Potato Chips (Google Affiliate Ad).

I tried these blue corn chips with Archer Farms Corn, Black Bean, and Roasted Pepper Salsa (review coming soon)—a medium-hot salsa with plenty of flavorful ingredients—but the chips provided most of the flavor. Which could be good, but I really wanted to taste the salsa, too, because it is tasty with less-flavorful chips.

Maybe some spicy-cheese dip or guacamole would be more appropriate for such a massive, bold taste. Either way, I'm going with an above-average score on these chips for their good value and relative wholesomeness.

Let's give 'em 7 stars out of 10.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Archer Farms Southwest-Style Orzo

For those of you not familiar with orzo, it's basically the illegitimate love-child of pasta and rice. It's wheat-based, but it's tiny like little grains of rice. It's usually cooked with some kind of oil, and it winds up tasting and feeling like something in between an actual grain and a small piece of pasta. One tasty brand to check out: Delallo 89508-8pack Delallo Orzo Whole Wheat Pasta - 8x17 oz. (Google Affiliate Ad).

The powder/sauce for this stuff is pretty much the same as the sauce on the Southwest-Inspired Couscous that we reviewed recently. The southwest sauce was my favorite part of both of these dishes—it has kick and good taste—though the orzo itself impressed me a bit more than the couscous did.

The orzo came out soft, with just the right amount of sauce to flavor it. Since it's being cooked and stirred on the stove top, it was easy to manually distribute the sauce evenly. It would be very hard for me to distinguish Target-brand orzo and another gourmet brand in a taste test. I think Archer Farms did this one pretty well. No major complaints. 

The price was something like $2. Unlike the couscous, it doesn't come with its own preparation bowl, and it's not supposed to be microwaved. It might take a bit longer to make, and you might dirty a pot and a dish, but in my opinion, it's worth it. If you're having something at home, I'd go with the orzo over the couscous. But if you need something for the break room at work, you might have to look for something else.

I give this product 7 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Archer Farms Mediterranean Arugula & Tomato Wood-Fired Pizza

The mozzarella on this pizza was quite possibly the blandest cheese I've ever eaten. The "Italian tomato sauce" wasn't flavorful, either. The crust had a nice texture for a frozen pizza and tasted like it could have actually been "wood-fired" as the packaging claims, although, it too, lacked flavor overall.

The only part of this pizza that my wife and I definitely tasted was the arugula. And arugula is bitter. It can add some depth to the flavors of certain pizzas, but in my opinion, you don't want it to be the dominant flavor.

This pizza's a decent size. Enough to cut 8 good slices from it. And I'm quite certain I've had very tasty frozen pizzas from Target before, but this was among the worst. I love Mediterranean dishes, and I'm pretty adventurous when it comes to trying foreign foods and experiencing unusual flavors. But I've simply had too many good Mediterranean-type foods to completely fall in love with this one. It looks like an artisan pizza, and it certainly didn't smell bad coming out of the oven, it's just that it needs more kick, more taste, and a bit more flair if you will.

I'll be trying more of these pizzas in the days and weeks to come, so stay tuned. I know there are some good ones. If you've tried this pizza and you love it, please let me know in the comments below. I welcome dissenting opinions, and I have been wrong once or twice ;-)

I'll give it a 6 out of 10.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Archer Farms Southwest-Inspired Couscous Lunch Bowl

A weird thing happened when I opened this package. The little balls of dry couscous started climbing up the sides of the round plastic black bowl like bugs trying to escape from a trap. Fortunately, I didn't panic, and I realized that it was actually the static electricity I had generated while unwrapping and opening the packaging that was causing the couscous to move on its own. It weirded me out a bit, but I pressed on and continued preparing this couscous dish.

It's been a while since I've had couscous. I thought I remembered liking it, but after this meal, I'm not really so sure. It wasn't terrible by any means, but really liking couscous is definitely a prerequisite for enjoying this bowl.

I added the recommended amount of water and stirred it for quite while before popping it in the microwave. I thought that it might actually need more water, since some would undoubtedly evaporate while heating, but when it was done, there was an excess of water instead, though some more of it did get absorbed while "fluffing" the couscous with my fork, as recommended on the preparation instructions.

Despite copious stirring and fluffing, the powder flavoring wasn't distributed evenly. It seemed to settle at the bottom, making the top layers too bland and the bottom layers too strong. The flavoring had a nice southwestern kick to it, and it was flavorful as well—like a good southwestern style salad dressing almost. Mmmm...salad dressing from an OXO Salad Dressing Shaker, Black (Google Affiliate Ad)! The couscous itself felt and tasted instant, which of course, it is, but you never want instant stuff to taste that way. I had forgotten how gritty and unusual the texture of couscous is, and I think the quick microwave preparation might enhance those potentially-negative properties of the couscous. As I said before, you really have to love couscous to make this purchase worth it.

Our bowl was on special for $2.19. And considering that it's relatively healthy, save for a hefty dosage of daily sodium, it wouldn't be a terrible lunch if you happened to be a fan of the taste and texture. Unfortunately, I wasn't. Also, the last little bit of couscous is nearly impossible to get out of the bowl with a fork, as there are frustrating little grooves for them to hide in on the sides of the container. All things considered, I don't see myself making this purchase again any time soon.

I give this 5 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Archer Farms Crab Rangoon

I don't know what a "rangoon" is, but I'm guessing it's an Asian-inspired oven-pastry type hors d'oeuvre, because that's exactly what we have here. To date, this is the most "risky" item I've tried from the Archer Farms brand. And, other than the price, it's a big thumbs up.

There are no actual chunks of crab meat that I could detect. It's a creamy, crab-infused filling, but it's really tasty. It's almost like a seafood bisque baked into a flaky golden shell. I was thoroughly impressed with the overall taste and quality of this product. 

On the down side, $6.99 is a bit much to pay for just 12 small pieces of an appetizer, no matter how delicious they may be. This box happened to be on sale for $5.99, and although I've learned to be wary of discount seafood, I decided it was a chance worth taking. Also slightly disappointing and misleading was the lack of a dipping sauce, despite the prominently featured bowl of tasty-looking sweet and sour or whatever on the front of the packaging. Marketing people can get away with bloody murder via that "serving suggestion" loophole.

All in all, I guess the price isn't that bad considering you'd pay 50% more at a seafood restaurant, and honestly, the quality of these is almost on par with Red Lobster-style appetizers or Hancock Gourmet Lobster Company's Maine Shore Dinner (Google Affiliate Ad). I didn't really miss the sauce once I started eating them, because they are quite flavorful. If you like crab, you'll most likely be a fan of these.

Trust me, I don't get paid by Archer Farms or Target. I'm being honest and objective, and if you keep reading this blog, you will eventually see a thoroughly negative review. But for now, I'm going to have to sing AF's praises for rewarding me with a tasty treat for dinner last night. I took a risk, and it paid off.

I give these 9 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Archer Farms Kettle Corn Popcorn Seasoning

I'm a fan of kettle corn. Always have been. It's salty AND sweet. The best of both worlds. And with this little bottle of happiness, you can determine just how "kettley" you want your popcorn. It's not as buttery as the Cinnamon Toast Seasoning, which IMHO, is a good thing. If you want more butteriness, you can always add it separately the old fashioned way.

According to my highly speculative calculations, you could kettlify (that's a verb meaning "to make like kettle corn") at least 30 bags of Redenbacher-style microwave popcorn, or perhaps 15 bottles or so of Archer Farms 100% Whole Grain Golden Popcorn with just one little shaker of this seasoning. It doesn't take much to make it sweet, and there's a good bit in each bottle. But it doesn't stick to the popcorn perfectly...there's a big pile of Kettle Corn powder at the bottom of the bowl when you're done.

If you put popcorn with this stuff sprinkled on it next to normal kettle corn in a taste test, the normal kettle corn would probably win...but not by much. And there's also the novelty factor of being able to increase the level of sweetness according to your individual taste, which is a huge plus. All in all, I'd say this is a successful product. My wife agrees.

We give it 7 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Archer Farms 100% Whole Grain Golden Popcorn

This is the popcorn we used with Archer Farms Cinnamon Toast Seasoning. It's pretty hard to screw up popcorn, right? Especially when it's just the kernels and you pop it yourself.

Fortunately, Archer Farms didn't screw it up, and they packaged a good many kernels in a handsome little plastic bottle and sold it for a reasonable price. My wife, Sonia, popped these little puppies on the stove for us using olive oil and a bit of salt.

I know, I know...what's the point of reviewing popcorn kernels? Well, for one thing, it's one of a few Archer Farms items I have on hand right now, and I really want to populate this blog with some fresh reviews quickly. But, just to let you know: this popcorn is safe and tasty as you might expect.

Stay tuned for more reviews of other popcorn seasonings from Archer Farms, and some reviews of their more exotic "risky" foods. Our goal is to try them, risking our time and money, so you don't have to. I can't guarantee you'll always agree with us. But we do guarantee you'll have at least one man's honest, objective opinion (and often his wife's opinion, too).

But for now, just as you might have expected, Archer Farms 100% Whole Grain Golden Popcorn is a safe buy and a good value. Unless you hate popcorn. In which case, you shouldn't buy this or any other popcorn. But that's just common sense. You don't need a blog to tell you that. At least I hope you don't. But forgive me...I digress...

I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Archer Farms Cinnamon Toast Popcorn Seasoning

I've always liked cinnamon toast. What's not to like? Sugar, cinnamon, butter, and toast. Yummy. I even liked the cereal (see below). So when I saw this sweet little delicacy on the discount rack at the local Target, I decided to try it.

It's not bad. It's good for popcorn, as you might expect, but it's also fine for sprinkling on toast. It's a bit rich in the butter department. Right after "sugar" on the ingredients list is "natural butter flavor." Not sure how something like butter can survive in an unrefrigerated, powdered form and still be considered "natural," but there it is. I trust my good friends at Target not to poison me.

This product could be extraordinarily versatile if not for the overabundance of butter flavor. If it were merely sugars and spices, I would be sprinkling it on everything from oatmeal to ice cream. But most people, I think, would agree with me, that you don't necessarily want to put butter on those items.

Sure, there's always the old fashioned way of doing things: put sugar and cinnamon on your toast separately, but I say that's more work and not as much fun. This is an inventive little bottle of magic, and I'd consider buying it again—if I find myself in a very buttery mood.

I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

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