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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Archer Farms Fennel Sausage & Roasted Peppers Pizza

It's been a while since we've reviewed a pizza. I was in the mood for something hearty, and this looked like the perfect selection, so I yoinked it right out of my Target's freezer. It was the last one in there, so I'm lucky I got there when I did.

I wasn't familiar with fennel sausage until I tried this product. It's apparently pretty similar to another kind of sausage that I am familiar with: chorizo. In both taste and texture, the two seem very much alike to me. They both work well as chopped up little dicey chunks, they're both full of spices and flavor, and they both have a similar texture. Of course, the spices in the fennel sausage tend to be European, particularly Italian, and although chorizo has European roots also, the varieties I've tried are full of Latin spices, particularly Mexican.

I've never been a big sausage fan, but I find both chorizo and fennel to be palatable. I'll try the wurst from German festivals, but I'm not into the American Jimmy Dean breakfast stuff so much.

As far as the pizza was concerned, it was good overall, don't get me wrong. I was just craving more tertiary toppings with this one. The sausage was good. The roasted peppers were fine. But I wanted extra toppings like onions, olives, and jalapenos on this one for some reason. Also, the cheese could have been more prevalent and there could have been a thicker layer of tomato sauce. But that could be said about most AF pizzas.

During my little research session, I also learned that fennel sausage is especially appropriate to serve during fall harvest months. Yay! What a happy accident. I love it when I eat foods at the correct time of year. That being said, I should also mention that I've heard rumors of Archer Farms pumpkin products. I shall be hunting these down on my next Target run. Stay tuned for pumpkin reviews!

I give this pizza 7 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Simply Balanced Apricot Fruit Strips

When I was a boy, I had a dog named Apricot. She was an apricot-colored toy poodle. I chalk the unoriginality of the name up to the fact that I was only six years old when we got her. But she was a great dog, and she died while I was away at college, just shy of her 16th birthday. She's now buried in my parents' backyard in what used to be a small vegetable garden, with a little gravestone marker with her name and the years 1985 - 2001.

Whenever I hear the word "apricot," I think about her. But that being said, I was never really a fan of apricot the fruit. I would often try apricot-flavored things, thinking that it would be fun to have something with the same name as my dog, but it seldom was. I usually wound up disappointed and would ask my dad to trade my apricot-flavored thing for a cherry-flavored thing or an apple-flavored thing.

But I guess my tastes have matured, because I thought these apricot-flavored fruit strips were really tasty. Or maybe it's because less than 2% of the product is made with apricot. The rest! The orange-ish color goes a long way into fooling you that it's really honestly made of apricot. And there's an undeniable hint of something apricot-ish. But virtually all of the sweetness comes from apple.

And sweetness coming from apples is better than sweetness coming from most other forms of sugar. So I'm not complaining. These strips are low in fat and calories, and like other fruit snacks we've reviewed, they're hella sticky.

All in all, these are great, healthy snacks. It might be my nostalgic love of old Apricot talking, but I think I liked these even a little better than the recently reviewed Raspberry Lemonade Ropes.

Any other dog lovers out there? Click here to watch my current pups review a Trader Joe's product. Should they start doing Boots & Barkley brand reviews?

I give these apricot strips 8 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Archer Farms Garden Vegetable Ranch Potato Chips

I've become entirely too dependent on packaging illustrations when it comes to critiquing food products. But that's the point of pretty packaging. Marketers know that they can cover up a dearth of quality in the food with creative wording, colorful pictures, and catchy slogans. Now, I'm not necessarily saying these particular chips lack quality. I'm just saying that their aesthetically-pleasing packaging doesn't hurt. I've never claimed to be a true food connoisseur. I'm just an average joe who likes to eat food and be honest about what I think works and doesn't work; a "foodie-hack" if you will.

Like with this particular product, there are pictures of carrots, tomatoes, and onions on the bag to let us know that those are the "garden vegetables" that we're tasting in the ranch sauce on the chips. But I would submit to you that if you can take these chips, sans the packaging, and pick out carrots, tomatoes, and onions in particular, and tell us all that these chips have undertones of those particular vegetables, that you should probably be writing this blog instead of me. Because although I could taste a vague vegetabliness
about the chips, I think it's quite possible that I'm simply reacting to the packaging. There's definitely some ranch flavor, but if I'm honest about what my taste buds are telling me, there's not a whole lot beyond that.

The chips themselves are fairly good. They're slightly firmer than the average potato chip. They're salty, they're crispy, and they taste like potatoes. But even the ranch flavor was a little too subtle in my opinion. So, I guess that summarizes my feelings about these chips. They're decent classic potato chips, but they could use a small boost in the ranch department and a very large boost in the garden veggie department. They're certainly not bad, but why would I buy these over my old standby classic potato chips? The packaging? If you're into very subtly-flavored potato chips, these might be right up your alley.

I give these chips 7 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Simply Balanced Fruit & Nut Bars

These bars are a pseudo-healthy balance of saltiness, sweetness, and heartiness. The main ingredient is "mixed nuts," which can't be that bad for you, and although we're looking at "corn syrup" as the second ingredient, I'd definitely rather see that than HFCS, which thankfully neither this product nor any other Simply Balanced product contains.

With 9g of fat per bar, they're not exactly a light option, but guess what? They actually taste good! And nuts and dried fruit are always good for sustained energy, so overall, this isn't a bad choice for snacking on the go.

The texture is pretty good, too. There's a slightly sticky, honey-esque glaze that holds all the fruit and nuts together, but it's not so thick that it leaves a residue in your mouth, unlike some other brands of granola bars I've had.

I could see these bars being a regular purchase at our home since they're filling enough to curb in-between meal cravings, they're portable enough to take with us on our weekend jaunts and adventures, and they're not going to make us ridiculously fat. They taste like sweetened nuts and dried fruit—with soybeans thrown in there somehow. Don't ask me how that works...but it does in this case. This is one of the better Simply Balanced products that we've tried so far.

I give this product 8 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Archer Farms Blueberry Nut Trail Mix

I finally decided to break the bank and buy this $7 bag of blueberries and nuts. That's a lot of money for a bit of trail mix.

But I suppose it's worth it. Nuts are pretty pricey as it is, and I've never had such juicy, sweet, shelf-stable blueberries in my whole life. Archer Farms did add a little sugar to the berries to enhance their sweetness, but other than that, there are exactly four ingredients in this trail mix: almonds, walnuts, pecans, and blueberries.

All four elements are well-represented and balanced in the bag, and they all blend together pretty well. I've never been a huge fan of walnuts, but pecans
and almonds are my favorites. The blueberries are a tad shriveled, and they resemble raisins, but there's no mistaking that taste; it is distinctly blueberry. Overall, the flavor combination is great, it's full of natural energy for when you're out on the trails. And as the "heart healthy" label suggests, each ingredient is excellent for combating heart disease, not that that's something I'm worried about at this point in my life, but I guess it's never too early to start eating a little better.

Other AF trail mixes are in the $5 range, which isn't cheap, but I'm still a little mystified as to why this one is yet $2 more than those. Don't get me wrong, it's a premium product. I'm just not sure I'll keep shelling out seven bones for something so relatively small. But if you like blueberries and nuts, by all means, check this one out.

I give this product 8 out of 10 stars.

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