HouseParty: Bertolli® Al Fresco Taste of Tuscany Party with Creamy Basil Alfredo #BertolliAlFrescoTasteOfTuscany

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As Summer approaches, I tend to get as busy as I do when it’s holiday time (November and December). It’s that six month mark I call, when changes start taking place, projects get started and making dinner needs simplification. The barbecues start getting prepped early in Spring here in Southern California because we have pleasant weather most time of the year. This means I so welcome kitchen help. I still want a meal that is healthy and leaves my family and friends full and happy.

In comes Bertolli, changing things up by adding more to their sauce line. Forget about the red and think about white base sauces that come with new flavors to welcome the new season. A white sauce is not something we enjoy (at least here) as I we usually make red based sauces. I am always looking for a way to use my overabundance of tomatoes, so that means I am always making tomato-y sauces! They are great but it can easily create a rut. I have come up with Greek style, South American to Italian “red sauces” that I think my family is on to me! When Bertolli came up with the Al Fresco Taste of Tuscany Party and I saw Basil…..well, say no more.

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Retail Price Point: $1.99 for a 15 ounce jar at Target. They are currently on sale at Target from the regular $2.25 price point. You can also find Bertolli and other selections at Von’s, Stater Bros., Albertson’s and other major stores.

Ingredients: Water, Cream, Butter (Cream, Salt), Soybean Oil, basil, Modified Corn Starch, Parmesan Cheese (Cultured Part-Skim Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Enzyme Modified Egg Yolk, Sherry Wine, Salt, Whey, Natural Flavors, Yeast Extract, Disodium Phosphate, Xanthan Gum, Garlic Powder.

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Verdict:
I like easy but I ask a lot from it. I also want a meal that is well liked and not filled with the bad ingredients. In other words, I don’t want my family picking up that I am using a jarred sauce. There is nothing wrong with sauces out of a jar and you can find brands that keep the sauce honest. In this home, jarred sauces are called “cheater sauces”. Okay, the family is a little spoiled but I prefer they welcome the better foods and if the sauce makes the cut, it also gets welcomed in the pantry. Bertolli’s Creamy Basil Alfredo is very simple to prepare. You just pour, reheat and serve. You can easily make it part of your meal or the meal itself by making it a main dish. For this occasion, I wanted to get maximum benefit out of the jar and the one jar needed to yield enough servings, so everyone could try it. I open the jar and the smell is pleasant and inviting. You have a nice milk and cream base that is followed up with the aroma of herbs, basil of course being the predominant one. Being that my basil plant was attacked by squirrels last year, my 5 year old plant never returned. I also welcomed the basil plant seeds that Houseparty and Bertolli included. I use to fear frost or excessive heat damaging my basil plant, never thinking a Squirrel with gourmet tastes would go nutty for an herb! With the amount of basil packed into this creamy Alfredo jar, my passion for basil and craving will definitely be satisfied. I opted for ricotta and spinach filled raviolis and made this my starter dish. I tend to now fry my raviolis in butter and olive oil.  This method not only gives the pasta a firmer texture but also that golden buttery taste that everyone seems to love. I warmed the sauce and other than adding some parm and a fresh slice of a baby heirloom tomato, the Bertolli Creamy Alfredo sauce was doing all the talking here.

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And, the talking it did. I never have enjoyed a jarred cream based sauce. They always broke when heated and/or had an off taste. This one does not! The Creamy Basil Alfredo from Bertolli stayed whole when heated and did not have an odd after taste. You just taste cream, butter, some cheesy notes and the basil. That is all. The sauce does not overwhelm what you are eating. The tomato gave the ravioli that fresh kick but because it’s mild in flavor, it played well with the sauce. The acidic properties played like a balsamic would, but mild enough to not just kill the entire plating. The spinach in the ricotta filling was made for a basil pairing, so Bertolli made a simple dish that much better. Some guests added a crack of pepper to top, so you can really make the Creamy Basil Alfredo sauce from Bertolli make any dish work and to your liking. No one even asked if the sauce was jarred any I was asked how I made it because so many tend to rush the process and end up with a broken sauce. I told them I would print out the recipe because it’s on-line. I shared a coupon after for my guests to use but I was not letting the cat out of the bag on this one from the start!  I also love that everyone was gifted a Basil plant to grow at home, just watch out for those squirrels who think basil flavored acorns are the it dish this season!

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Bertolli and HouseParty.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

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Social Nature: Kim’s Simple Meals, Organic and Gluten-Free Homestyle Burger #Review

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I celebrate Meatless Mondays, so I am always seeking out meat alternatives being that I do enjoy meat on other days. My goal is always to get 3 days out of the week where my protein source comes from anything else but an animal. This means I have had many hits and sadly many misses. My Husband is a carnivore and there is no bringing him to the lighter side of meatless meals, so I need something that is easy to prepare while I am making two different dinners in one evening. I am all for working and cooking, if the product delivers in texture and taste,

I had seen Kim’s Simple Meals at my local Sprout’s Farmers Market, but it seems the stock never moved. The boxes even began to gather dust, so when I received the invite to try the first of two, of the Kim’s Simple Meals…..I must admit my feelings were mixed. I looked at reviews and Amazon had a 50/50 ratio when it came to positive versus negative reviews. It took a while to get the coupon for the free product, and in that time Amazon dropped all the products and just carried the Breakfast Sausage from Kim’s Simple Meals. Sprout’s continued to support the brand and when the coupon arrived, finding it was a cinch.

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Kim’s Simple Meals differs from other products like it. So many use soy protein heavily and artificial boosters to gather a protein number worthy of advertising. Kim’s Simple Meals are Gluten-Free and Vegan Friendly, so no animal anything in this. Ingredients are also Organic, Kosher and Non-GMO friendly. Then there is other factors like these burgers being Dairy-Free. Lot’s of “free from” products and I worried if this meant free from flavor or even texture. The box states burger, so I expect a burger-like product.

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Ingredients: Oats*, garbanzo bean flour*, flax seed*, yeast flakes* (yeast autolysate* with rice flour* and sea salt), sea salt, tamari powder* [(soybeans*, salt), maltodextrin*, and salt], garlic powder*, spices*, onion powder*, dutched cocoa powder*, tomato powder*, natural smoked torula yeast, natural hickory smoke flavor [potato maltodextrin, natural hickory smoke flavoring, hydrated silicon dioxide (anti-caking agent). *Organic  .  Soy ingredients is listed and I noticed it comes from the Tamari Powder.

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Verdict:
As you can see, this is not a soy filled product that can sometimes cause bloat and discomfort. Yes, you fill full but also uncomfortable. You have oats and a bean as a source of protein listed first. Next, comes other ingredients to even cocoa powder! Everything is familiar and real when it comes to the ingredients I recognize. The idea is just to hydrate the product and then make your burgers. Pretty simple. I notice water was listed and you can add ingredients to both add flavor and texture to the product. The biggest complaints I saw when it came to other reviews, was the lack of flavor and to the product being high in oats. Upon opening the box, I do agree the oats visible is higher than I desire. The video on Kim’s Simple Meals website, shows burgers being made with mushrooms, plus onions and other ingredients. You can even add walnuts it states. Barbecue sauce was another addition I saw too. So, I began to look at Kim’s Simple Meals as “starter meals”. I am not new to this method and think of quick bread boxes to even “starter sauces” you pick-up at the store. Same idea. I added red and green bell peppers, red and yellow onion, plus a medley of mushrooms. I even grated some carrots, added Edamame and I went more with an Asian style base versus an American style Burger. For me, the mix was already very far away from a Veggie Burger you get at the store or are familiar with, so why push the product into something it does not even resemble? I added a soy sauce and miso mix to create a hydrating base (water) that would not only plump the ingredients, but also add flavor. Everything was sauteed first and I then lastly added the Home-style Burger base from Kim’s Simple Meals. Okay, it smelled pleasant. I opted for small meatballs in the oven that I basted with Soy Vay, a marinade/stir fry sauce mixed with sesame oil. The house quickly filled with these smell of these Asian style meatballs and it smelled good. I basted a total of 3 times and this made the meatball move around, so it created a nice round shape versus a one-sided flat meatball. The oil allowed for a crisp exterior to build up when it was baking, and using the convection mode and baking on parchment paper, made the cooking process an easy clean up. The taste test? Well, they tasted very good and have a meaty/oatsy texture. I could not imagine using the box’s contents as-is. Like no way! It’s workable but I have to be frank, this was a boxed meal that I fixed up and these are ingredients I always have in hand, so it’s a great way to use up perishables but I am unsure if I would seek Kim’s Simple Meals burger box again. I found myself not craving it and I consider that a test when it comes liking a product. Yes, I made it work but should a product be worked up so much that it no longer resembles it’s beginning….because in the first place you read it never would? Probably not. It’s a start like I said and it’s a meal from a box that is better ingredient wise than others, but not exactly a yummy Home-style burger like it says on the box.

Connect with Kim’s Simple Meals at:

 

I received the above product(s) free of charge from Kim’s Simple Meals and Social Nature. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

 

Influenster: Slim Fast Bar, Crisps, and Shake VoxBox Review #ItsYourThing #Influenster

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Being part of the Influenster network, allows members to qualify for VoxBoxes. My latest one arrived in late December, which featured an array of Slim Fast branded products. Being the new year we all want to lose weight or at the very least get rid of that holiday poundage brought on by cookies and treats. I gained 6 pounds in the last week of December because I behaved from Thanksgiving to Christmas but once Santa came, he brought treats, candy, chocolates (I’m surprised I did not consume the stocking) and it seems I ate them all between Christmas and New Year’s Eve!

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I’m pretty good at restricting myself and believe with all the advancements in food today, that leaving food as it is, meaning less to zero processing allows us to eat pretty much anything (with portion control) and not suffer the consequences. I eat my weight in salads and I’m not even a fan of most dressings, as I think they tend to drown the freshness out of the produce as it is. I love avocados and find them to be nature’s dressing. They are creamy and never ruin a salad like a fake creamy dressing can. I have those days though where I am in a snacking mood or just running short on time, so I pick the brands I trust carefully. I look for meal replacement or snack products that are not full of fake sweeteners or loaded with sodium. Finding real ingredients is “my thing”, so let’s see how the Slim Fast VoxBox did.

The Slim Fast VoxBox included:

  • SlimFast® Advanced Ready to Drink Shake in Vanilla flavor
  • SlimFast® Advanced Nutrition 100 Calorie Snacks in Sour Cream & Onion Baked Crisps flavor
  • SlimFast® Advanced Nutrition Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Meal Replacement Bars
  • SlimFast® Advanced Nutrition 100 Calorie Snacks Drizzled Crisps in Cinnamon Bun Swirl flavor

 

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First, I tried the items that were easy to munch on and that was the Sour Cream and Onion Baked Crisps to satisfy the salty urges and for the sweet cravings, I tried the Drizzled Crisps in Cinnamon Bun Swirl. First thing I noticed with both bagged products, was the large amount of “dustings” in the bag. I call that the powdery and broken up bits in a bag that barely resemble the whole product you see pictured in the front of the bag. Like the posters for drive-thru burgers, my product did not resemble the picture on the bag. The Sour Cream and Onion crisps had the higher amount of “dustings” that I wondered if I should just use the contents as a batter coating! I taste a pinch-full of what these crisps use to be and the flavor and texture resemble closely to those chips that come in a canister….but more broken up. The odd part was when you ate the product, it tasted good enough to satisfy a chip craving but when you drank water, you had an odd aftertaste that lingered. The taste was not like potato or the sour cream and onion coating, think more milk solids or dry milk and it was what it tasted closely too. Each bag is 100 calories and states it comes with 18 to 20 crisps. I am not kidding when if I say I got 4 whole ones and that is counting the ones that were 3/4 whole. The breakage takes away from the enjoyment and if you get past that, the aftertaste did me in. I did not finish the bag but I figured that means I consumed less calories!

 

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Next, came the Cinnamon Bun Swirl crisps. These were a little more in one piece but the drizzle on top was mostly on the bottom of the bag. The sweetness is not overwhelming and the cinnamon had a nice balance to it. Again, the odd aftertaste was present but you could overlook this one more. The crisps had a pleasant crunch and like some products on the market, these did not leave you with a cotton mouth after you ate them. I could actually see myself picking up a bag if a sweet craving hits me that is overwhelming because a bag is just 100 calories for 20 to 22 crisps. These were also 30% whole in the bag!

 

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SlimFast’s Ready to drink shake that comes in an easy to go bottle. The bottle idea I like because sometimes messing with powder and a scoop can be a pain, but I usually take a bottle water (or almond milk) and just scoop into a shaker bottle when I am on the go. I then combine the ingredients (wet/dry) when I am ready to consume them, so this way I don’t end up with chocolate powder that found it’s way out of a plastic baggy and went poof in my purse! I made sure to try the drink cold from the fridge and upon opening the bottle, the Vanilla scent is not very Vanilla like. I take a sip and the drink is about 4 out of ten when it comes to overall taste and flavor. I have had much better and this drink had an odd thickness to it. I made sure to shake it just in case and the thickness left a film in my mouth that was not very vanilla or real milk tasting, or even a nut milk flavor! It took away from the enjoyment and even with time, I could not get use to it. Being able to get 20 grams of protein on the go is a plus, but when I priced it out, weighed in the flavor/texture and the ingredients, I would still opt for a premium powder mix that is usually higher in protein. I did fix the flavor by adding part of a scoop of powdered Peanut Butter and Chocolate, and that is when I noticed that my PB and Chocolate powder had a better quality of chocolate and real flavor than what the Slim Fast drink.  I then felt I wasted a scoop of the “good stuff” on trying to make the not so good stuff better! I also noticed there is natural and artificial flavors but no where but the title of the drink says Vanilla.  It’s called Vanilla Creme but nowhere is Vanilla listed! I then stopped looking at the ingredients because they made my tummy rumble more.  😦

 

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Last but not least, the bar in Dark Chocolate and Sea salt. This is a meal replacement bar and has 10 grams of protein and 200 calories.  Ninety of those calories come from fat and the protein derives from Soy, not Whey. I look at the list and there are so many other bars on the market with better core ingredients and even protein impact, and with less fat! This bar is super sweet and off in taste, plus costs more than the better bars. The Dark Chocolate has a waxy texture and is of poor quality. I did not go past the one bite because my calories and fat matters. The bar is filled with syrups derived from everything from brown rice, tapioca and simple cane. They added Inulin as a source of fiber, plus Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil to hold it all together. Let me add the above comes before the Cocoa itself and Oats was still listed before the chocolate! They might as well called the flavored Sweet Oats-y. The only positive is that it has Almonds as a first ingredients but I felt they were ruined by the rest!

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Final Verdict:

I love the VoxBoxes and Influenster!  I am not so in love with Slim Fast.  I think back and they are a company that his been around a long time but I feel they are always playing catch up and still stuck in the motto of “portion control baggies”.  Most people that are serious about losing weight and/or managing their weight, can portion out an individual serving.  They sell containers to baggies to help you out that serve as a carrying vessel and probably keep the products in more decent shape.  You can use a scale or like I do, I still use a scale but I test myself first to see if I can visually guess-estimate on my own and then verify with the scale.  I notice I usually serve myself a little under the 1 serving a packaging lists.  I can do math, so I don’t need someone doing it for me.  Next, the ingredients used are “old school” but not in a good way.  Cheap sugars, bad oils, artificial flavors and dyes, and poor protein sources is not what I call healthy eating.  Yes, you get less calories but that is barely the entire picture when eating well.  You need good fats, a good source of protein and more to stay energized.  Yes, the Slim Fast products come with vitamins and minerals but again a multi-vitamin can do that for you if that is what you desire!  I looked at the products as a whole and asked myself is this a balanced diet?  Slim Fast does not state just eat our food solely but the 1 meal or 2 real meals you add in a day should not make-up for everything you did not get.  I want energy and I’m not even asking for a boost of it from products, just keep me going in the day.  If I started with a shake, ate a bar for lunch (maybe 1 or 2 crisp snacks) and then ate dinner…..well, when my body is suppose to be winding down is when my body got the better fuel.  Yeah, that did not sit well with me!  Then I saw the price points because convenience comes at a price and Slim Fast was more expensive than the “golden dietary products” on the market.  Um, I’m paying more to eat less better is what entered my head.  Yeah, I prefer paying the bills Santa brought and managing my weight with other products than paying for products that are sub-par both in how they were made and how they came out of a bag!

 

I received the above product(s) free of charge from Slim Fast and Influenster.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

 

Campbell’s® : New Campbell’s Organic Soups #Review

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As simple as soups are, they probably are one the hardest things for me to purchase off the shelf. It comes down to ingredients used and while some want the consumer to focus on caloric intake, many are just vessels loaded with sodium but no flavor and far from being healthy. I like broth but when a soup says chicken noodles, I sort of expect chicken and pasta in the container. Silly me! My Husband will usually join me and we tend to always split a can/container between us and even though I will always give him more of the noodles and poultry pieces, he will always ask me if I got enough “soup stuff” while he dips and empties his spoon, trying to ladle out the desired chunks. I just finally got tired of cans that did not deliver and started making my own. This means that a simple meal like soup…….was not so simple anymore!

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When I was offered the Organic Soups campaign from Campbell’s, I admit I could not think of the last time I actually purchased a can from the company. I never cared for the condensed version as a child, and much less as an adult. The red and white cans were everything I disliked about soup with soggy noodles, wannabe chicken bits and I never wanted to slurp the salty liquid like the kids did in the commercials. If you added the extra can of water to the soup, it was tasteless but still salty. There was no balance, so I usually went for the brand in the blue can. Now, Campbell’s is advertising Organic soups and get this, no longer in a can but a carton. No broth that tastes like metal, so I give the ever loving brand a second look. Before I received the campaign materials, I visited the website. The soups are advertised as good soups for adults and kids, with the kid versions just having shaped character pasta, but still wholesome and now made with organic derived ingredients. The carton is white and green in color and the only red is the Campbell’s brand that I’ll be honest, I would look at this carton and never imagined it was a Campbell’s product. The soups just look different and the flavors I would actually desire. I look at the list and the new Campbell’s Organic soups come in:

Chicken Noodle
Lentil
Tomato & Basil
Chicken Tortilla
Butternut Squash
Garden Vegetable

The Kid’s (and adults if they so desire) get:
Mega Noodle
Chicken Stars
and Frozen theme Chicken noodle soup with Frozen shaped character pasta

 

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The campaign materials arrive and I begin my hunt for the soups. None of my Target stores carried the soups and when I would locate them, Von’s had them priced at $3.99 a carton (when the coupon covered up to $3) and Stater Bros. had them $1.00 cheaper but also was limited in selection. I visited 2 Von’s and 3 Stater Bros. and I could never locate the Chicken Tortilla and for kids, I never found the Mega Noodle. I still was able to find my second and third choices, plus I had enough coupons to share with my group. I always like giving a sample of a product and a coupon, and thankfully Campbell’s was generous enough to let me share this way.

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Verdict:
I make the first soup, the Tomato and Basil Bisque. The soup has a vibrant red color and the texture out of the carton is perfect, not too loose or thick like a paste. The smell is pleasant and inviting. You can even pick up the sweet notes from the tomatoes and this is before warming anything up. I heat the soup and the smell is just like other Organic varieties I purchase at Trader Joe’s and Sprout’s, which is really one of the few places I can purchase “real soups” with no funny stuff, other than the times I pick up the blue colored cans at Target on sale. I taste the Organic Tomato soup and I am waiting for that off taste, the saltiness to hit me so I can make a face………but it never comes. This soup tastes, do I dare say it, like a normal good soup. I actually had to add a hint of smoked salt to the soup! I quickly add a cupful of frozen organic veggies because this new Campbell’s Organic soup is worthy of it! Yup, I never ruin good veggies beforehand because the worst is bathing vegetables in a base that is just not fixable. A little bit of cracked pepper and some cheese crumbs on top and dinner is done. Oh my goodness, I was able to make soup for dinner like a normal person! No need to make a base by cooking or braising meats, just open the carton and in 10 minutes time (with add-ons) I can eat at a good time after doing grocery shopping. I’m ecstatic and I even take the empty carton to the table and start reading it, trying to find that negative thing like high sodium, maybe sugars, okay it’s the fat, nope it has to be the calories but I find nothing. I can’t believe this is Campbell’s (sorry, Campbell’s but you have burned me in the past)! I actually like the new Campbell’s and I actually will hunt for the Chicken Tortilla version now because the Lentil was awesome and the Chicken noodle……get this, had actual chicken pieces and N-O-O-D-L-E-S!

 

Take a new look at the Organic Soups from Campbell’s at:

 

I received the above product(s) free of charge from Campbell’s and MomsMeet.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

 

HouseParty: Boursin® Gournay Cheeses in Pepper, Shallot and Chive, and Garlic and Fine Herbs #Review #BoursinCheesePack

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I was fortunate to be able to have Boursin® Cheese be a guest at our holiday table and I was very lucky in visiting Von’s Markets and finding all the cheeses in stock.  The deal became sweeter when Von’s had a promo going of Buy-one-get-one-Free (BOGO), so using the free item coupon provided by Boursin, yielded an extra cheese item.  We were Boursin-ing it at our house this holiday so much, that 2016 will also feature a nice cheese platter when it comes to welcoming the new year.

Some companies have cheeses that tend to all taste the same no matter the flavor listed.  They use the same base and are not generous with the add-ons, so when you buy one kind, you pretty much bought them all.  Not with Boursin cheeses!  Every flavor tastes different from the other.  You may have a texture that resembles each other but if the package states Pepper, peppery goodness is what you will enjoy!
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Boursin Gournay Cheese in Garlic and Fine Herbs-
Ingredients: Cultured pasteurized milk and cream, granulated garlic, salt, white pepper, parsley, chives*.*Dried

I was worried that the garlic would be overwhelming even though I love garlic, however I worry when it comes to dairy based products, that the ingredient can drown all the others out.  Again, Boursin found the right balance and you taste garlic but it has not permeated the entire cheese.  The white pepper provides a zingy taste that differs from the usual black peppercorns.  You get a mild spice that is perfect for even non-pepper fans!   The parsley and chives bring the herb notes, but chive also provides a nice mild onion flavor that tends to also brighten up the cheese’s overall taste.  This is the one you buy if you are new to the Boursin family.

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Boursin Gournay Cheese in Shallot and Chive-
Ingredients: Cultured pasteurized milk and cream, shallots*, salt, chives*, green onions*, potassium sorbate (preservative). *Dried

This version of Boursin cheeses is one of my favorites.  You have a blend of dry herbs and that creamy Boursin cheese that is smooth in texture and flavor.  The onion notes are real and not like what you get from a powdered product, that tends to even dry a cheese out.  There is freshness here and if you like onion based dips, this is the cheese that takes your taste buds on an onion-y adventure.

 

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Boursin Gournay Cheese in Pepper-
Ingredients: Cultured pasteurized milk and cream, salt, black pepper, potassium sorbate (preservative).

You have black pepper as the main ingredient and this is the more simpler flavor that tends to combine with all other toppers or spreads you may want to add with the cheeses.  The peppercorns are mild in flavor and thankfully the texture is pleasing.  You do not get huge chunks that disrupt the smoothness of the cheese’s texture and Boursin was still able to produce a smooth textured product that is enjoyable on a cracker or even added to a dip.

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Verdict:

This year we enjoyed the cheeses as-is and added them to crackers.  I visited Costco and they sell a trio package there.  Costco was sampling the cheeses by adding them to mashed potatoes and it created a smooth and appealing product.  It was a nice way to spruce up a comfort food and give it a little gourmet twist.  This New Year’s Eve, I will be baking fresh loaves of Rosemary rustic bread, cutting the loaves (not all the way through) to create pockets (crisscrossed pattern) and filling them with a a little butter and then Boursin cheese with shredded cheeses, and then baking.  This will create a nice pull-a-part bread that guests can enjoy eat while still being able to enjoy the festivities.   It is an easy appetizer to add to our others and melted cheese is something we all love.  I may add even some pancetta to some of the loaves to create a different flavor.  Boursin cheeses go with anything you serve because they stand on their own on a cheese platter, or you can add them dishes and dips.  There is no rules or limits here, so I highly suggest bringing a smile to your guests this year by welcoming 2016 with Boursin!

 

Find your favorite(s) with Boursin at:

I received the above product(s) free of charge from Houseparty/ChatterBox and Boursin Cheeses.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Tryazon: Rhodes Bake-N-Serv™ Cinnamon Rolls #Review #Tryazon #RhodesBread

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I have always been a fan of frozen foods, like vegetables and fruit that go out of season but are readily available all year round. Sometimes even perfectly frozen blueberries will cost less that fresh ones and be in better shape, so the freezer aisle to me is not something I completely avoid. Even companies offer organic meals nowadays from the freezer aisle. I have picked up many “artisan style” breads that come frozen from a local bakery because you just pop them in the oven, bake and have fresh baked bread in 20 minute’s time! Simple ingredients I am fan of and being a cook and baker makes you become familiar as to what goes in what you are making/eating. The freezer aisle is only bad if you purchase ready made meals to baked goods that are more chemicals than real ingredients! This is where we get lost and it’s disappointing because convenience comes at a price and sometimes it’s not even that convenient in the first place.

I tried the microwaved cinnamon rolls before from Rhodes and reviewed them here. Not bad for a microwaved baked good. On the same trip I picked up a bag of the bread loaves, and a bag of the cinnamon (individual) rolls. Two items I bake at home from scratch, so I was looking forward in using them on a busy week. This week, was a very busy week!

 

Rhodes Cinnamon Rolls (Bake-N-Serv™) with Cream Cheese Frosting 

Preparation-

I open up the bag and notice that the individual cinnamon rolls are really partnered in twos and threes. I had a hard time at the store feeling the bags and was hoping I picked well enough because I noticed some were more blobs than others. I travel with two coolers (one for frozen goods and one for fresh), so things defrosting in the truck just does not happen. I can buy ice cream and still shop for 2 to 3 hours without it even it defrosting on the top! I try my best to seperate the rolls, but they seem very attached to their companion, so I do my best.

The directions were simple and opted to go by the one that resembled closest to the time it takes to bake them from scratch. My cinnamon rolls take 1 hour for the dough to rise, you make the roll and cut, then another 30 to 40 minutes for them to rise again, plus bake for 20 minutes! Simple and easy. I put the frozen cinnamon rolls from Rhodes in the oven, which was pre-warmed to 170 degrees. The directions stated it takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes for the rolls to proof and double in size. I’m 2 hours in and watching these frozen rolls more than I do those made from scratch and they are oozing larger in size but not rising. My oven is less than a year old and I check the temperature. Holding at 95 degrees and no change when it comes to rising…..just oozing bigger. I take them out and they are technically double in size (flat wise), so I warm the oven to bake the rolls.

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Baking-

In they go and use convection mode and set the oven to 325 degrees. Directions are clear about not over baking and leaving them in for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are light brown in color.

My house smells bread-y but not that yeast dough you associate with cinnamon rolls. I look in the oven and the rolls look like they are swimming in yellow oil, so I go and look at the ingredients. I shouldn’t have! You have a chemical concoction that makes the cinnamon rolls out of tubes look like saints. You have everything from oils, corn syrups, sugars in every way they can be made down to margarine and so forth. I just don’t see the waiting time worth it when I saw what was in these rolls. I remind myself I ate onion flavored puffy ring chips yesterday, so sometimes chemicals taste good 🙂 .  I allow the cinnamon rolls to bake 25 minutes to get a light brown color and notice the dough has pockets that resemble bread, not the ribbon texture you associate with yeast dough, but I’m committed and now it’s too late to bake anything since I have to start dinner.

This is after "incorporating" the bag's contents more, as they like to separate.

This is after “incorporating” the bag’s contents more, as they like to separate.

Frosting-

I allow the cinnamon rolls to cool and get a baggy of the frosting. It’s yellow in color and not just a faint hue, it’s yellow. I turn over the bag and I recalled right, it states cream cheese but this is not like any cream cheese frosting I have ever seen. The directions state to incorporate the icing and I do the “smashy thing” but it still looks undesirable. I cut the tip off the bag and I taste it……..it’s so sweet and the texture of cupcake icing, not at all like what you put on a roll. Also, cream cheese is there in words but your taste buds just does not pick it up.

Taste Test-

I serve us each a roll and even my Husband says the icing is just so wrong. I take a bite and this is one oily roll that is dry at the same time and you see and smell cinnamon, but you really don’t taste it. I did not finish my roll. Not worth the calories and my Husband does not either. I use to buy the cinnamon rolls in the refrigerated section when we dated. They were fine but never like the bakery, so I began learning to bake and trying recipe after recipe. My Husband will at times even pick-up a tray from the grocery store’s bakery and they are edible and a nice treat for those days I was too tired or busy to bake. The Rhodes Cinnamon Rolls were not unfortunately, not worth the effort and I just don’t get why they are frozen to just be a disappointment.  I also don’t understand the amount of poor ingredients that I can respect chemicals to produce let’s say a Spicy chip that tastes like a taco or something.  You get your junk food fix and you will crave a bag in 3 to 6 months time again.  These cinnamon rolls did not even satisfy a craving as such!  Sad…….very sad because in this house we do think sweet goods are worth the calories and fat, but rule #1, it needs to taste good!

 

I dislike having to give a negative review but honesty comes first and when the cinnamon rolls in a tube taste better and you can find better (i.e. real butter, ect.) ingredients in brands like Trader Joe’s to even the giggling doughy guy, I just can’t say at least these were easy to bake, so you should get them.  Taste matters and I don’t expect to get nutrition out of cinnamon rolls, but my taste buds need to be happy and cinnamon rolls are the type of food you eat with a smile.  These=no smiles :(.  The Rhodes microwave variety were passable and I would have never imagined since these required more time and came from an oven.

 

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Tryazon and Rhodes.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

 

 

Kozy Shack: Indulgent Recipe Puddings #Review #KozyShack

Who doesn’t love puddings? I happen to be a huge fan and even make pudding based pies, cakes and treats because puddings go beyond the cup!

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BzzAgent sent me two coupons to try the new Kozy Shack Indulgent Recipe Pudding cups that come in three flavors:

  • Dark Chocolate
  • Chocolate Truffle
  • Salted Caramel
  • Vanilla Bean

 

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The new Kozy Shack Indulgent Recipe cups is making an already liked food more likable! Made with real ingredients and the recipe is very simple when it comes to easily grabbing an already made and ready to serve dessert or treat, straight from the fridge. I went out to hunt for Dark Chocolate because being a caramel lover, that flavor was already on my “must-get” list. After visiting a few stores and not finding the dark chocolate, I went with trying the Chocolate Truffle variety instead.

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  • Verdict on Chocolate Truffle:
    My family and I enjoy pudding and maybe because I make the dessert from scratch, we have been spoiled. I was left craving chocolate after trying this version. The chocolate flavor is not intense and the product is smooth, but not velvety in texture. Almost kind of like to much gelatin and/or thickener was added. I turn the package around and not only was a color an indication that there was not enough chocolate, the ingredient list reflected such (i.e. Tapioca starch before chocolate and sugar before chocolate too). I felt it was too sweet to even take a second spoonful, as did my husband, so we passed but felt the product could be saved.

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Ingredients:
Reduced Fat Milk, Sugar, Cream, Modified Tapioca Starch, Cocoa (Processed with Alkali), Contains Less than 2% of Natural Flavors, Salt, Carrageenan, Maltodextrin.

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Retail Price Point: From $2.76 to $3.75 at most stores. Each cup is about 200 calories per serving and each container comes with 4 individual cups.

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  • Verdict on Salted Caramel:
    This is my go to flavor from coffees, treats, baked goods, to just enjoying Fleur de Sel Caramel. We open the cup and take a taste, it’s more butterscotch than caramel and the salted versus sweetness that makes salted caramel be that buttery goodness is not present. This one again is sweeter but think of it like a vanilla butterscotch variety and then your taste buds get the idea. It may be missing the salted caramel notes, but we found it better than a pudding that says chocolate and is then lacking the key component.

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Ingredients:
Reduced Fat Milk, Cream, Brown Sugar, Modified Tapioca Starch, Contains Less than 2% of Caramel Color, Sea Salt, Natural Flavors, Carrageenan, Maltodextrin.

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Final Verdict:

I don’t like to just dispose of food and especially when I see potential.  Each of these cups have about 23 grams of sugar alone and are thick in texture…….so my brain thought why not make a mug cake.  Calories wise a mug cake would be 2 servings to share and the sugar problem would not be an issue. I used 1 teaspoon of Cake flour (I use an unbleached variety) and a pinch of Baking Soda.  Combine product and start by microwaving the cup for 1 minute and then 30 second intervals until the batter begins to bubble and rise.  I kept checking because I did not want it bubbling over and it took three 30 second intervals to achieve the desired texture I wanted, something molten lava cake-ish! 🙂 Allow the cake to completely cool before enjoying and it’s not only because it’s nuclear hot but so the cake can set.  I used a stoneware based mug because it retains heat best and is microwave safe.

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The final product was not as sweet and we could enjoy the pudding cakes!  I feel the product has potential but if I want pudding as-is, I would not be indulging in this variety mainly because of it being too sugary to enjoy.  There are many Belgium chocolate based puddings that are silky and most importantly, so much chocolate that it drowns every loving taste bud! That is what I want in a pudding 🙂

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Kozy Shack and BzzAgent.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

 

 

Purina One SmartBlend® True Instinct Grain-Free Formula Dry Dog Food, Turkey and Venison #Review #ONEdifference

 

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When it comes to dog food, my dog is usually great about consuming the dry kind but will sometimes wait us out in case I add any extra protein to enhance her meal. I try to always add a little extra chicken and have switched her foods to grain free formulas that seem to be more easily digested. She eats less and remains a healthy weight at the age of 13. Like humans, she gets bored eating the same flavors day after day and I notice she loses interest, so we developed “mix-ins”, pretty much something from fish (she loves Tilapia) to meats and even sometimes a spoonful of sweet potatoes. Keeps the dog interested in her food and I feel less guilty for serving her “dry cereal”, which is what we call her dog food.

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In comes Purina One, with a new grain-free formula added to their line called SmartBlend, which they added the title “True Instinct” to the blend. What is True Instinct? It’s what I call adding marshmallows to the dry cereal and these bits are what the dogs go crazy over. The jerky style bits have a different texture and not only enhance the meal, but deliver more real meat to the grain-free base. You also have other positive differences like using Turkey as the first meat ingredient, versus chicken like other blends of this kind. A Glucosamine supplement has been added to the food and I look for this, especially with a dog that some have referred to as a Senior or the golden word one Vet Tech called her, Geriatric. Don’t tell our dog this because she is as active as she has always been from spending days getting in out of the pool, jumping, wrestling, to out running anyone who tries to race her (always has to be first through the door). Purina One’s Smartblend also has added Omega-6 Fatty Acids to keep our pet’s fur shiny and healthy, along with an Antioxidant Blend, which includes Vitamin A and Vitamin E. It’s finally a dog food that you feel good about feeding your pet.

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Verdict:
So, why did I call the bits of jerky-style meats marshmallows before? It’s not for health reasons, but my dog turns out to be the dog that eats all the “marshmallows” out of the dog food first, leaving her “cereal” to eat last. That is how much she loves the new SmartBlend True Instinct formula from Purina One. The minute we pour the food, she starts nosing the food and you can hear her hunt for the chewy bits until she claims every last one of them. We purchased the Turkey and Venison blend and I even checked labels in the store. There is actual Venison and our dog loves this meat. From Duck to odd varieties like Swordfish, this dog is always eager for the wilder kind of meats. Our dog had surgery a little over a month ago and I thought I would have to worry about getting her to want to eat her normal dog food, but once I started mixing the Smartblend grain-free formula, that worry vaporized as did the food. She ate, gained back the 8 pounds she lost prior to having the surgery and it’s muscle mass she was able to regain. I was worried prior to surgery, as she lost muscle mass around the legs and neck area, to even going down a notch size on her collar. She was able to get that all back, plus we noticed she is full of energy to the point we are having a hard time keeping up with her. Our dog has us on a schedule now that she eats her dinner and then wants play, play, and more play. We actually get tired of playing tug-a-war with her and I now can’t even tug the plush away and run off like a bandit. I have to actually cheat and say, “let go or drop”, and then run with the plush but she always catches me! What you feed your pets really makes the difference and like reading labels for the food we eat ourselves, pick-up a bag of SmartBlend from Purina One and compare the True Instinct grain-free to the other brands. Fillers is not something this feed is full of and we saw the difference it made in our pet when she needed a good blend that not only she enjoyed eating, but aided in her recovery. Grab a bag and take the 28-Day Challenge today!

Connect and find the Purina One’s Smartblend True Instinct Grain-Free Formula that suits your pet at:

 

Turkey and Venison Dog Food

Turkey and Venison Dog Food

I received the above product(s) free of charge from Purina One.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

HouseParty: Bertolli® Imported Cask Aged Balsamic Vinegar Paired with Caramelized Onion #Review #BertolliSauceParty

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I usually make our sauces from scratch and especially when the heirloom tomatoes start hitting the markets, with the quality and season being at it’s peak. I enjoy incorporating everything from a bell pepper medley to a combination of different onions. I make several jars worth and then have the freedom to create different meals and additions like ground lamb to pork. Then time gets in the way and especially during the “bottom months” where holidays start coming and I’m trying to make every comfort food we have been waiting to enjoy and sometimes you get that simple request of spaghetti and meatballs. I open the fridge and then memory strikes…..I used our last jar I made last time and now have none! So, I always purchase emergency back-ups and this means a jar or two of previously made sauces. I already feel bad when I let time get the best of me, but I don’t want to add by feeling bad about what I am serving at dinner time. So, I pick wisely and have found a few brands that I can depend on.

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Bertolli makes everything from sauces, olive oils, vinegars to frozen meals. They are a company that has been around family tables for over 150 years. Their sauces range from organic, white bases to their newer variety called Riserva. The Riserva brand is a rename of the Imported line “Gold Label”, you previously saw with the colored “old-style” font. Even the flavors are identical, so thankfully Bertolli did not discontinue the “Gold Label” line. I was able to pick-up a glass jar of the bottles, with the older version label, at my local Von’s.

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What I look for when purchasing a jarred sauce is simple ingredients like I would use when making it from scratch and also variety. I want something away from the norm, so I look for blends with wines or vegetables that we don’t commonly consume. I want also a sauce that does not need to be “fixed” to be enjoyed. I’m not going to dedicate 20 minutes to get a sauce to taste right when I could allot the same time to one made from scratch. So, the first thing I do is take a label apart when it comes to ingredients and thankfully the sauces by Bertolli contain what the label in the front states. The Balsamic vinegar is there as is the caramelized onions. Tomatoes in all forms from puree, diced and even in juice form are listed. To intensify the tangy notes, grape must was added and mostly you have real ingredients in this sauce. My only pause was to caramel coloring even though I know manufactures add it to enhance the look of the sauce since it may not look too pleasing in the jar without it, but I could have done with out it. I hope when Bertolli changed the label, they dropped the coloring off the list too.

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Verdict:
The Balsamic Vinegar and Caramelized onions by Bertolli advertises a nice balance in flavor where the sweetness from the caramelized onions goes very well with the tang you get from the vinegar. No bitter notes or after taste, and the sauce has a rich texture and taste. Very enjoyable and not a jar that needs additions to correct it, but you can always add a protein from chicken and beef to enhance it. Upon opening the jar, I expected to smell a wine like scent  from the vinegar, as I do when I add Balsamic to my marinara sauces. I unfortunately did not. I taste the sauce and it’s ultra sweet, like way too much sugar. It’s not the sugars I’m use to even when I have used sweet onion varieties like Cipollini onions. Even Shallots when caramelized never give off this much sugar and then I notice actual sugar noted in the list of ingredients BEFORE garlic and spice. Okay, so I start thinking what can I make with this and it hit’s me……a dip. This way the sauce stays unaltered and I make Mozzarella sticks from scratch. Everyone can then enjoy the sauce as it is and I can curb the sweet factor by the spices I add to the breaded cheese. Simple to make and also quick, plus batches can be kept warm in the oven while I make more.  This is unfortunately not a sauce I would buy again.  I will try this version again under the Riserva label if the ingredients differ.  So, far the only change I can tell is that the new label does not state “Imported” on it.  Unfortunately, Bertolli does not list the ingredients of their sauces on the site, just the nutritional facts, so I wan unable to compare beforehand.  My Mozz sticks are always a hit but I did ask for feedback on the sauce and thankfully received some honest remarks.  It’s sweet was the chief complaint and maybe this was a batch where the sugar over-spilled, but I was left with dip and this is uncommon at my house where I witness guests usually use even bread to clean a plate.  I feel that without the overpowering sweetness, this sauce could actually be good and enjoyed.  The warming of the sauce intensifies the sugar and when tasted cold, the sugars mellow out a bit.  Maybe adding a little to a pasta salad would help.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Bertolli and HouseParty.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Tryazon: Rhodes Cinnamon Rolls, Microwave and ready in 60 Seconds #Review #Tryazon #RhodesBread

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Oh, what a title can say in just a few words can illicit a person to salivate instantly. That is exactly what occurred when I received first notice that this event was up for grabs. When I was accepted, it was a mix of drooling and happiness at the same time.

Rhodes is known for their Bake-n-Serve breads. This company is one of the first brands that made me feel comfortable with an oven. Fresh baked breads are always a crowd pleaser but sometime the pleaser is short on time and/or energy. It does not mean I love my family any less and this is why sometimes I need an “emergency stash”. Yes, we have emergency situations when an unplanned event or even the clock got the best of me and I have no after dinner treat. When you are the baker in the family and you have to share you did not bake anything for that day……oh, those eyes you get can just break your heart. My Husband has yet mastered the oven but is an expert at grilling and smoking meats. He also mastered the art of using a microwave and failed in patience class, so 60 seconds of wait time was made for him.

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Cinnamon rolls is something I make at home but it takes time, so I probably do not bake them as often as would liked. Also, there are days where someone is in a cinnamon-y mood while another person has a fruit craving. I make fruit based rolls too but I’m not making 2 batches to satisfy every craving, and don’t even get me started on who eats what type of a nut and the other person doesn’t. I need an out! A form of salvation for the sweet little monsters in my life!

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Rhodes created the answer and a 60 second promise for a product that is often seen in stores cold, laying in a silver colored tray, and usually dry. Rhodes took everything everyone wants in a cinnamon roll, a warm gooey roll all your own and when you want it. Magic!

Now, I wish my microwave could deliver. I did experience some difficulties in locating the product and Rhodes does have a store locator, down to what product is offered in each store near you. The only obstacle was that the New Microwave rolls were not a product option you could select from the drop-down menu. I finally started hitting stores and located the rolls (one bag) 20 miles away and when I arrived at the Neighborhood Walmart Store, they had more items than what the product locator reflected. I called stores at the end to avoid wasting gas too and I highly suggest in doing so. Just kindly ask for the “freezer” department when calling and that you are looking for the Microwave Rhodes Cinnamon rolls. Not to be confused with the Ready to Bake Anytime cinnamon rolls. The new Rhodes Microwave Cinnamon Rolls come in a bag (not a tray) and the bag is brown-orange in color with a large 60 number on the front of the bag.

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Verdict:
I found literally the last bag they had and always check the back of the freezer. I reached until I got a frozen paw but that bag had my name on it. I always see low stock on a product as a good sign. It’s popular and probably well liked, and that tends to make me want to try them. Each bag holds a count of 6 cinnamon rolls, so even though my weekend get-together had more people, we figured we share (it’s a new diet we are trying 😉 ). We had only one roll in the bag that had stuck to another but all the cinnamon were in a nice shape and intact. We played it safe and microwaved one roll at a time and I put toppings out, to even a separate type of frosting (cream cheese) with soft caramel swirls in case someone wanted a different topping versus the icing it came with. You can toast pecans and add that too, to even fruit that is fresh or from a jar. Customization is really easy to do. Everyone tasted the frosting and except for one person, they were the only one that opted to use the icing the rolls came with, so I was happy to have both options available. Once you microwave the product, the roll does increase in size a little bit about 25% larger, however the cinnamon roll is fair in size overall. Feedback was 50/50 when it came to how the product tasted and texture. The roll is soft and gooey, but for some it was a little to gummy while others felt the cinnamon roll begins to dry out (not harden thankfully) a little to quick for them as it cools down. The sweet factor was a little high for some and others felt the cinnamon was not strong enough, but agreed when I mentioned the idea of sprinkling a dash on top of the icing/frosting could fix that. My cream cheese based frosting was very liked and that seem to make up for what I consider to be small short comings for a roll that is ready to enjoy in 1 minute’s time. You may have to eat it a little faster if you worry about the dough drying out but I can share one thing that does have some value, everyone ate their serving!  So even those that did not consider this to be their favorite cinnamon roll did not feel it was not edible, it was just not like others they have had. I myself have had worse from bakeries but for a product with no time constraints and no mess other than the plate you are eating it from, I think Rhodes did as well as you can do with microwave dishes. Nothing will be as good as from the oven but this little cinnamon roll satisfied my sweet tooth!  I fought for my 1 bag of cinnamon rolls, so that meant I had 2 more coupons left when it came to trying Rhodes products and I picked out 2 different ones.  So, stay tuned because I will be reviewing and sharing those with you too.

 

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Tryazon and Rhodes.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

 

 

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