Completely Random Product Reviews

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Archive for January, 2009

House of Tsang – Szechuan Spicy Stir Fry Sauce!

Posted by bronzechains on January 24, 2009

I’m always on the lookout for new or different things to eat, especially if they’re easy to prepare.  Stir fry is pretty simple, as long as one has a grasp on basic kitchen skills.  I found this sauce in the “Asian Food” section at Wal-Mart.  It’s a relatively small section, but they do have a few interesting items.  I’m always drawn to the ethnic foods section at the supermarket, on the off chance that I’ll find something cool.  So I picked up this stir fry sauce for $2.78, and grabbed some fresh vegetables and chicken to go with it.  I completely forgot about rice.

szechuan

I cooked up the chicken and vegetables, and threw the sauce in.  It smelled like garlic and soy sauce, pretty much like any standard stir fry sauce.  It definitely smelled spicier than other sauces in this genre.  As an aside, I was proud of myself for cooking the vegetables exactly the way I always want to.  You know, tender but still crisp?  I have a hard time getting multiple vegetables to come out just right usually, but this time I think I nailed it.  The onions were exactly how I like them, with a little crunch left in them.  And the peppers weren’t limp and floppy.  So to that end, this venture was  a success.  I just had to find out if the sauce was actually good.  Here’s a pic of the finished dish:

stirfry1

The taste:  Definitely spicier than the average stir fry sauce, with moderate heat that builds slowly.  It doesn’t overpower the flavor at all, though.  There’s garlic in there, no doubt about it.  This sauce had everything a stir fry sauce should have, only with a pretty decent spicy kick.  I thought it was a bit sweeter than most sauces, but that helped balance out the saltiness.  There’s quite a bit of sodium in this sauce, surprise surprise.  If you like spicy, sweet stir fry, give this stuff a try.  It’s a good sauce, and I imagine it would work well as a table sauce, or basted on some chicken or seafood.  I’ve yet to try it a second time, but I’m betting it would be great in a number of applications.

On nutritional info:  A tablespoon serving of this sauce has 25 calories, a gram of fat, 3 grams of sugar, and 500mg of sodium.  Not what I’d call a disgustingly unhealthy addition to a meal.  Just don’t add a ton of this sauce to your stir fry.  It really doesn’t take much, as the flavor is pretty potent.

Regarding value, this sauce is a great deal.  I’m a cheapskate at the grocery store, and I cut corners wherever I can.  Aside from the occasional splurge, I always try to spend as little as reasonably possible.  I paid almost three dollars for this bottle, and I used very little of it.  I could probably make stir fry for myself another 5 or 6 times before the bottle was empty.

Thumbs up, fo sho.

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Posted in Food, Grocery | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

Kashi Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Posted by bronzechains on January 14, 2009

This is the second and final (for now) installment of my Kashi frozen dinner experiment.  In the last review, I covered the Kashi Chicken Florentine.  My overall review of that product was pretty poor.  The bad definitely outweighed the good in that one.  I took the Lemon Rosemary Chicken to work with me last night, and I’ll admit, my expectations were lowered by my first exposure to this brand.  It’s not good when a frozen dinner intended for humans reminds the consumer of something an animal might enjoy.  I’m happy to report that this frozen dinner was considerably better than the Chicken Florentine, but was not without it’s flaws.

lemonrosemarychicken

Again, the central themes of this meal were grilled chicken and Kashi’s multigrain pilaf, which consists of whole oats, long grain brown rice, rye, hard red winter wheat, triticale, buckwheat, dehulled barley, and sesame seeds.  That’s a lot of grainy goodness to please your colon.  Seriously, you’ll probably clean that shit right out if you eat enough of this stuff.  The pilaf seemed much more palatable this time around, which I’m attributing to the different seasoning and sauce that this meal has.  After my second date with the pilaf, I’ve grown to love the stuff.  It’s texture is as close to exciting as one can get with food, without sounding like some kind of crazed food-sex fiend.  The sauce contains white wine, lemon, and rosemary.  As was the case with the Chicken Florentine, this sauce was rather weak.  I could taste the faintest hint of lemon, but rosemary was hiding too far in the background to make much of an appearance.  And I love me some rosemary.  The chicken was, again, very tasty and of high quality.  No gristly chunks here.  Kashi doesn’t mess around when it comes to their poultry.  I was neither pleased nor disappointed with the amount of chicken in this dish.  There could have been more, but they didn’t really skimp on it.  Portabello mushrooms were much more plentiful in this meal than the other.  I found about five or six slices, all of which were quite tasty.  I was a bit disappointed with the skimpy amount of sugar snap peas, but they were delicious.  Peas in the pod are a favorite of mine.  The portion size was great, considering how low-calorie this meal is.  After I finished eating, I had one of those 100 calorie packs of chocolate chip cookies and I was definitely full.

My biggest problem with the Lemon Rosemary Chicken was that, for having the words “lemon” and “rosemary” in the name, both were surprisingly tame.  I was expecting a good citrus kick, but instead had trouble identifying it at all.  More surprising was the lack of rosemary flavor.  Rosemary is an herb that many people overuse when cooking.  It doesn’t take much, but Kashi somehow managed to rob me of my rosemary-flavored fantasy.  Okay, that may be a bit dramatic.  I wasn’t really fantasizing about rosemary.  Well, at least not this time.  Regardless, the overall flavor in this dish was somewhat disappointing.  It was still better than the Chicken Florentine.  A few more sugar snap peas would have been nice, too.

In regard to nutrition, this meal had 330 calories, 80 of which were from fat.  Not too bad.  My dad has a rule where he tries to keep the fat calories in his food at 1/4 of the total calories or less.  I keep that in mind when eating, and this meal definitely fits into that guideline.  You’ll get all your daily need of Vitamin C, and 10% of your iron from this.  And 5 grams of dietary fiber!  If you’re willing to sacrifice some flavor for a much more nutritious meal, this may be right up your alley.  You wanna know what’s right up my alley?  Some fucking rosemary and lemon where it’s advertised.  Just something to think about, Kashi.

If I happen to see the Kashi frozen dinners on sale again, I just may give some of the other varieties a shot.  I haven’t completely given up hope on this brand.  That Chicken Florentine can go straight to hell, though.

As a final statement for this two-part Kashi series, I’d like to say this.  I appreciate what Kashi is doing.  There are a million choices when it comes to frozen dinners and convenience foods.  And most of them are godawful in regard to nutrition.  Just take a look at any of the Hungry-Man XXL frozen dinners.  Those bastards trick the consumer by saying that one serving is 1/2 the package.  Who the hell do you know that eats half a frozen dinner?  They can get away with saying the meal only has 500 calories, because that’s only for half the fucking box.  I’ll bet that most people won’t notice the part of the label that says you’re only supposed to eat half the box.  Dirty, misleading jerks.  If you eat those, you’re practically asking for a heart attack.  And I won’t go on a long-winded rant about variety, but how many different ways can you package battered chicken, french fries, rice, pizza, pasta, corn, or shitty brownies in a frozen dinner?  Seriously, out of all those frozen dinners there are probably only 15 different things they’re putting in the box.  It’s all the same shit, just packaged or dressed up differently.

But I digress…My point is, Kashi is thinking outside the box.  They’re coming up with something different, and they’re making it pretty healthy.  Not just “healthy for a frozen dinner”, but legitimately nutritious.  There’s crap in their meals that is actually good for you.  Kashi has a plethora of other products, including crackers, multigrain bars, cookies, various frozen foods, side dishes, and over a dozen different cereals,.  I’ll keep an eye out for more of their products on sale.  I won’t buy them at full price, because I’m a poor bastard.

Posted in Food, Grocery | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Kashi Chicken Florentine

Posted by bronzechains on January 13, 2009

I usually eat one of three things during my lunch break at work.  It’s almost always Michelina’s Lean Gourmet Chicken Alfredo Florentine, Michelina’s Lean Gourmet Roasted Sirloin Supreme, or a bag of light butter microwave popcorn.  I rarely deviate from this short list, unless I’ve got something homemade (which isn’t often).

On my most recent trip to the grocery store, I saw that Kashi frozen dinners were on sale at a price of two for six dollars.  The Lean Gourmet meals are usually in the $1.25 range, so the Kashi dinners were considerably more expensive.  After thoroughly perusing Kashi’s offerings, I decided to go for it.  I bought the Chicken Florentine, as well as the Lemon Rosemary Chicken.  I’ll review the latter sometime later this week.

chickflorentine

I’ll start with the good, then move on to the bad.  In the culinary world, “florentine” is usually tacked onto a dish containing spinach as a prominent ingredient.  Kashi didn’t skimp on the spinach here.  The spinach was flavorful and appeared to have been well taken care of on the way to the deep freeze.  Many times in frozen meals, spinach comes out looking like limp and slimy leaves, with little of the flavor remaining.  This was actually identifiable as spinach, in regard to the appearance and flavor.  Also present were red peppers, portobello mushrooms, Kashi’s special multigrain pilaf, and grilled chicken.  The chicken was delicious, and fairly plentiful.  It wasn’t your standard frozen meal chicken, as the quality was high and the flavor was great.  The multigrain pilaf was an interesting taste and texture combination.  A white wine sauce and parmesan cheese were also onboard for this healthy microwave excursion.

This dish is packed full of nutrition, in comparison to most frozen dinners.  It’s high in fiber, with a whopping 5 grams.  It’s also a good source of several vitamins.  The whole grains are definitely in the house with this dish.  The multigrain pilaf contains: oats, long grain brown rice, rye, hard red winter wheat, triticale, buckwheat, dehulled barley, and sesame seeds.  All in their whole grain form.

Now, the bad.  There was only one slice of portobello in the entire dish, which really irked me.  The sauce was decidedly bland, as was the dish overall.  I was not impressed at all with this dinner as a whole, and won’t be buying it again.  It was terribly bland, and the only thing that saved it from being a complete loss was the fresh-tasting spinach and flavorful chicken.  Sadly, everything else tasted like….well, nothing.  The multigrain pilaf’s texture was a welcome addition, but the flavor fell short.  Maybe some more seasoning?  On Kashi’s website, consumers post their opinions on the products in the form of comments that can be found on the individual pages for their offerings.  Several customers raved about the wonderful flavore, the prominent garlic, and several other things.  The general consensus was that this shit was the best food ever created, with the exception of a couple of negative reviews.  I just didn’t think it was that great.  In the end, I felt like I’d eaten farm animal feed with some chicken and spinach mixed in.  Not cool, mostly because I’m not a farm animal.  I’m hoping the Lemon Rosemary Chicken is better.

Posted in Food, Grocery | Tagged: , , , | 13 Comments »

Burger King’s Angry Whopper

Posted by bronzechains on January 11, 2009

For starters, I have to say that I simply don’t know what to think about the name of this sandwich.  I’m torn between “This is the stupidest name for a sandwich.  EVER.”  and “Holy shit, what a hilariously brilliant name for a sandwich!”.  I passed Burger King on the way to my parents’ house for dinner the other day, and did a double-take when I saw the words “ANGRY WHOPPER” on the Burger King sign.   I’ve never been an avid fan of the Whopper, but I’m a sucker for a gimmick burger.  I’m also a sucker for anything that claims to be uber-spicy.  When the last Indiana Jones movie was in theaters, BK had something called the “Indy Whopper” to promote the movie.  And guess what?  I bought one.  Guess what else?  It was tasty.

Needless to say, I got my hands on an Angry Whopper today.  I couldn’t resist it.  I mean, just look at the thing.

angrywhopper

Let’s dissect this titan of fat and calories, without actually going into the fat and calories.  If you’re eating a Whopper, you know damn well what you’re getting into.  In addition to the standard huge beef patty, bun, tomato, lettuce, and mayo, this gutbuster includes spicy crispy onions, bacon, pepperjack cheese, pickled jalapeno slices, and “Angry sauce”.  I’ll be honest, the King had me at “hello” with this thing.  I mean, I was ready for one pissed-off sandwich.

Of course, my sandwich looked nothing like the picture above, which would have you believe that the burger had to be incarcerated due to it’s violent tendencies.  But do they ever look like the picture?  No.  I don’t expect them to; I know better.  Despite the flatter and sloppier appearance of my burger, it was pretty delicious.  The Angry sauce was excellent, and I want to have a jar of it in the fridge to slather on everything I eat from now on.  It was kind of like spicy barbecuey mustardy sauce.  I would be eternally grateful if someone found out where I could get my hands on a container of that stuff.  The standard Whopper components were as good as can be expected.  The pepperjack cheese wasn’t spicy at all, which was disappointing.  Pepperjack is supposed to be hot, and this was completely devoid of any heat.  The “spicy” crispy onions tasted exactly like the ones on their Steakhouse burger.  No spicy there, either.  Aside from the Angry sauce, the only kick in this package comes from the jalapeno slices.  I had previously read an online review of the Angry Whopper that complained about BK skimping on the jalapenos, so I ordered extra on my sandwich.  The result was what I would consider a normal amount of jalapeno slices.  My two friends who joined in the taste test, who did not ask for extra jalapenos, received only two or three slices on their burgers.  Disappointing.  Knock that shit off, Burger King.  Don’t skimp on one of the major selling points of the burger.  That’s just crap, and I don’t appreciate it.

The overall spiciness of this burger was a bit disappointing for a hothead like myself, but I understand that when something is being marketed to the masses, the manufacturer has to cater to the masses.  The average customer, even though they know the burger is advertised as spicy, isn’t going to want an extreme amount of heat.  I don’t think I’ve ever found a fast food product that was truly spicy even when advertised as such.  I’m somewhat in the minority on this, so I won’t complain too much about the lack of heat.

The Angry sauce was definitely the highlight of this sandwich, and I’m giving it an overall thumbs-up.  I won’t say that I’ll be buying this burger again though, because I can’t bear the thought of eating a Whopper all that often.  I think a regular Whopper has a full day’s worth of fat in it, so I try to keep my distance most of the time.  Rest assured though, I will more than likely try the next gimmick Whopper that the King comes up with.  My prediction:  A Whopper with a fried egg on top, with french toast slices in place of a bun.  And pancake syrup.  Ick.

Posted in Food | Tagged: , , , | 16 Comments »

Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover

Posted by bronzechains on January 11, 2009

My job requires me to work with my hands, so naturally they take a lot of abuse.  I regularly wear nail polish, so you can imagine how difficult it is to take care of a decent paint job.  I spend a considerable amount of time on damage control from the beating my nails take at work.  It’s pretty tough to keep my cuticles in good shape, and simply keeping them trimmed and pushing them back wasn’t working out very well.  I’d always end up painting over some stupid little piece of cuticle that was stuck to my nail, and it would make a bump in the nail polish.  And that just looks stupid.   So on my last trip to the store, I decided to try out one of the many cuticle remover liquids available.  Generally, these products will soften or even dissolve the cuticles.  My biggest problem is the random little pieces of dry cuticle that adhere themselves to the nail surface.  They’re a total bitch to remove, and I always end up doing more harm than good when trying to remove them.

cuticleremover

Enter Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover.  The packages boasts that this is the maximum strength formula, but I’ll be damned if I could find another version of this stuff labeled “regular strength”.  Gotta love the gimmicky advertising.  Some people fall for that, you know.  Anyway, Sally claims that her instant cuticle remover will do the job in fifteen seconds, and she’s almost not lying.  Products don’t always work exactly as advertised, and that’s a fact that I’ve come to terms with over the years.  Oxi-Clean doesn’t really remove all the stains they say it does, you don’t really get chiseled abs in eight minutes, and Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover won’t necessarily remove your cuticles in fifteen seconds.

I applied a thin strip of the liquid over my cuticles with the standard “cap brush” thingie that all fingernail polishes come with.  I knew I should probably have waited longer than the package indicated, but I wanted to see what results I’d get when following the instructions exactly.  After about fifteen seconds, I used a wooden manicure stick to push the cuticles back.  Lo and behold…most of the nasty little dried cuticle remnants had turned to mush and were easily washed away with soap and hot water.  There were still a few stubborn bits left, but I’m sure they would relent if I left the stuff on for thirty seconds.  The main active ingredient in this liquid is potassium hydroxide, which is a corrosive chemical which actually sort of eats the cuticle away.  It would probably be a bad idea to leave the liquid on your nails for too long, as it might start to eat away at them, too.  You probably shouldn’t brush any onto your mother-in-law’s lips while she’s asleep, either.  It’s a fun fantasy, though.  I’m going to keep a close eye on my nails as I continue to use this cuticle remover, just to make sure that repeated use doesn’t start to ruin my skin or nails.

Based on my first use of this product, I’d say it does a fine job.  It pretty much delivers as advertised, so I’m not going to complain.  It doesn’t have a particularly strong smell, either, which is a plus.  Good product.  If your cuticles look like shit (like mine sometimes do), this would be the way to go.

Posted in Health & Beauty | Tagged: , , | 10 Comments »

Wanchai Ferry Kung Pao Chicken Kit

Posted by bronzechains on January 11, 2009

Welcome to Completely Random Product Reviews!  The content of this blog will just as the name implies.  There will be no theme to the products reviewed here.  Unless you consider “whatever I happen to buy and review” a theme.  Most products covered here will be inexpensive, “everyday” items.

kungpao

The first product I’m reviewing is a shelf-stable dinner kit from Wanchai Ferry, a brand owned by the General Mills Corporation.  I purchased the Kung Pao chicken kit from Wal-Mart for somewhere around five or six dollars.  The kit includes uncooked jasmine rice, a pouch of kung pao sauce, dried chile peppers, and roasted peanuts.  The recipe calls for one pound of chicken breast, which is not included.  I cheated and used pre-cooked diced chicken breast because I’m a lazy bachelor.  Some elitist kitchen snobs may turn their nose up at the idea, but a good brand of canned, diced chicken breast will work just fine.  Just make sure you drain it well first if you choose to go that route.  Water and a little cooking oil are also needed to prepare this kit.  Everything you need to know is right on the back of the box, but I’m going to tell you anyway just to make myself feel useful.

I tore into the box and was eating the stuff within about 25 minutes.  The chicken/sauce/peanuts/chile pepper mixture is prepared while the rice is cooking, which turns out to be a big time saver.  I noticed that the sauce smelled strongly of soy sauce and ginger while it was cooking.  Dammit, it smelled good!  As I said before, this kit comes together as a finished meal pretty quickly.  That is, if you read the directions and make sure you have everything you need on hand and ready to go.  Too many people don’t properly prepare when diving into a recipe.  I know I’ve done it a few times.  It really sucks when you’re halfway in, right in the middle of a time-sensitive step of your recipe, and you realize you don’t have something chopped/diced/thawed/etc.  Don’t forget the cooking oil!  One tablespoon (or two if you’re not using a nonstick pan) should suffice.  Here’s a picture of what I consider one serving of the finished dish:

kungpao2

The nutrition facts label claims that the finished product serves five, but I disagree.  I’m calling it three servings.  And that’s not the stereotypical over-eating fatty talking.  I put what I considered to be a sensible portion on a plate, and had two more servings of the same size left over.  As far as the taste, I couldn’t be happier with this product.  For the price and time spent preparing it, this stuff is great.  Just as the smell of the sauce indicated, the sauce had a wonderful ginger/soy sauce flavor.  Not too sweet, either.  The chile peppers added what I consider to be the perfect spicy kick, but I have a pretty high tolerance for the kind of heat you get from hot peppers.  If you don’t care for the burn that spicy foods can lay on you, don’t use the whole pouch of peppers.  I’d definitely urge you to try at least one or two peppers, though.  They’re a necessary ingredient.  I crushed the dried peppers slightly before adding them to the skillet, to release the seeds from the pepper pods.  That really turned up the heat, so avoid doing that if you’re a wimp when it comes to spicy foods.  I wouldn’t recommend eating the peppers, as they’re very difficult to chew, and have a slightly bitter flavor when eaten.  You could remove them from the dish before serving it, but they add to the visual appeal of the finished product.  So just eat around them!  Give them to the dog when you’re done, and laugh at his discomfort.  Or not.  I could have used a few less roasted peanuts in this dish, but that’s just me.  They turned out to be a surprisingly prominent flavor.  Nobody’s holding a gun to your head to follow the recipe exactly, so fool around with it if you wish.  I think some vegetables added to the skillet while the chicken cooks would be an excellent addition.  I’m thinking I might go with some sliced mushrooms, onions and julienned carrots next time…

Final word:  I’ll definitely buy this product again.  Other varities currently offered by Wanchai Ferry are Sweet and Sour Chicken, Spicy Garlic Chicken, and Cashew Chicken.  Buy dis shit, yo!

Posted in Food, Grocery | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »