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I started to get worried that this blog gives the impression that Richie and I eat only processed and pre-packaged food.  I mean, we will try any snack once, and that really means any snack, and so we’ve tried some pretty disgusting stuff.  And liked it, too.

But, we spend most of our eating-time devouring healthy, homemade meals.  We consider the balance between healthy meals and ridiculously unhealthy snacks to be an art, and so we try to tread that line carefully and, well, artfully.

Richie and I take turns cooking, and sometimes even cook together, although not often.  I’m bossy in the kitchen, and much faster, plus I know where everything is stored, so I’m more likely to cook dinner.  I’m also more of a morning person than Richie, so I usually make breakfast (which is usually cereal or oatmeal or toast, fruit and coffee) but Richie really knows his way around an egg, and so on weekends, we work together or alternate treating one another to breakfast in bed.  Richie is the master of sandwiches, and so lunch is usually up to him.  Plus, oh my god, have I ever mentioned his tostadas?  Well, they’re awesome.

When it comes to dinner, we usually get obsessed with something, and make as many versions of it as we can before we get sick of it.  There’s our pot pie obsession, our homemade cracker crust pizza obsession, our tomato sauce and soup obsession.

This afternoon, I made a sweet potato soup that was soooo incredible, and as we slurped up two bowls each, Richie and I reflected on the fact that we’ve had very few kitchen failures.  Our combination of experience, common sense, and intuition almost always leads to culinary success!  And, although neither of us is likely to use a recipe, we love cookbooks for references and inspiration.

I should mention that I modified 101 Cookbooks’ carrot soup recipe to create the sweet potato soup I made this afternoon.  I plan to try even more variation next time, and I’m thinking of making a pumpkin/sweet potato soup for the Merry Christmas George Bailey! cast party that I intend to throw at my house (anyone have a good technique for processing pumpkin?) and I want to test out some ideas several times before serving that mess to guests.

Suggestions welcome!

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Sweet Potato Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
garlic (I used  5-6 cloves, but I’m really a garlic nut)
1 large white or yellow onion
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock and 1 cup water
2.5 large sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds?) cut into 1 inch pieces
the juice from one lemon
salt, black pepper, red pepper, coriander, turmeric,  cumin, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves to taste (I probably used about 1.5 tablespoons in combination all together, but I really don’t know)

Heat the oil and butter in a large soup pot.  Saute the garlic and onion until they become translucent.  Add the water and stock and sweet potatoes.  Boil gently until the sweet potatoes become tender, or about 20 minutes or so.  Add spices and continue simmering.  Taste the broth.  When you’re happy with the spice combination, still over the heat, use an old fashioned potato masher to mash up the sweet potatoes until the soup is the consistency you like.  (You can blend or whatever, but I say it’s not worth the mess).  Add the lemon juice, stir and remove from heat.  Enjoy!

This soup is out of this world!  I used a ton of pepper and ours was more spicy and less sweet and it tasted great, although I know I could get behind a really sweet potato casseroley version of this soup, too.

And while we’re on this subject, does anyone have a turnip or rutabaga soup recipe?

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I really, really love blogs.  They are totally the best.  I’m obsessed with reading them (my favorites are dlisted.com, feministe.com, dooce.com, 101cookbooks.com, fadedtribune.com, fadedyouth.com, bteinterns.wordpress.com, huffingtonpost.com, jezebel.com, gofugyourself.com) and I really care about writing one (or more) myself.  Even if I’m the only one who ever reads it/them.  Even if I only post every 6 months because I am the biggest procrastinator I’ve ever been in my life, right now.

Anyway, that’s not really what I want to say.  What I really want to say is that I’m pleased to announce the first in series of Pringles Reviews called “Pringles in Retrospect.”  I hope that you enjoy Snack Machine’s triumphant return.

SCC

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Pringles in Retrospect #1: Loaded Baked Potato

First, just let us say, Pringles are kind of gross.  They are chip-shaped potato crisps with flavor dust. Even the original flavor Pringles have original flavor flavor dust. They are always wet.  They all taste basically the same, like the food at McDonald’s.  Richie didn’t have Pringles in his house much growing up because this one time, his mom heard this story about a bomb made out of a Pringles can exploding on some poor soul, and so after that, she thought all Pringles cans were rigged to combust.  She even stayed away from them in the store.  One time, she saw one standing up in a parking lot of swerved like hell to avoid it.

Anyway, no one likes them that much, but they still totally appeal to us, I’m sure, because of their endless creative flavor dust combinations and their rainbow can graphic design.  We’re suckers for that marketing stuff!  Capitalism works!

But, also, once we pop, we can’t stop.

Pringles are molded to be super pleasant to crunch.  You hate yourself for eating something that tastes like a fart and smells like barf, but you just do it for a little while because, why not?

And just because of those many many flavors that I mentioned before, Pringles are so fun to write about.  The truth is, we might as well call this review series the “Flavor Dust Review Series” because that it what we are really talking about, here.  So, try to keep that in mind.  We’re interested in a jelly-belly sort of way in the flavor combinations, levels, and authenticity.

We’ll start with this one because, why not?

Loaded Baked Potato

Loaded Baked Potato

Upon first bite, the flavor dust tastes like sour cream with butter, but mostly buttery.  But it’s also cheesey, and sour creamy, and bacony.  It’s a classic combination, really.  And, although the bacon flavor is a little fake-o, that’s kind of good too.

The other thing is that while you’re eating one, you feel like the taste of it is more like your burp would taste like right after you ate a really, really good baked potato with all the fixin’s.  The aftertaste of that burp.

The dust is actually pretty mild for Pringles, and doesn’t take the chip too far away from its already extremely fake looking pale yellow color.  That can make you feel better about eating half a super stack in one night.

Overall, Loaded Baked Potato Pringles are pretty good, for Pringles, and so, if you are forced to choose between Loaded Baked Potato Pringles or going snackless, we know you’ll make the right choice.

Richie is on a quest to drop a few pounds (for his upcoming role) so the snacking around our house is at an all-time low.  It’s a sad holiday season, friends, one with so few snacks that I feel it’s time for a little nostalgic entry.  So, here it is:

snacks

By the way, this header was designed as an homage to the best Trapper Keeper I ever had.  Who didn’t love that wonderful color combination of magenta, teal and purple that was so popular in the early 90s?  I had a Hyper Color T-shirt in Magenta, a Caboodle’s in Teal, and a 90210 Beach Towel with all three.  And, of course, the Trapper Keeper of my dreams!

Anyway, a disclaimer:  It’s important to note that this list is entirely inaccurate.  I mean, let’s not kid ourselves; I can’t narrow my favorite snacks to just ten.  Plus, for the sake of clarity, I’m not going to discriminate between convenience store snacks and, say, healthy snacks.  I’m just going to think of things on which I love to snack until I reach ten and then, that’s the list.  Of course, it changes often, and also, is it really fair to compare, say, Wise potato chips to, I don’t know, the best pate I ever snacked on?  I don’t care if it’s fair- this list is my current list of favorites.  Enjoy!

One more thing:  These are not in any particular order.  Okay, that’s my last disclaimer!

10. Rice-filled Grape Leaves (Dolma).dolma I think I can remember the first time I tried these delicious treats.  Well, I can almost remember- I know I was with my mother… Okay, I can’t really remember at all.  I just remember loving them.  The absolute best place to get them is the Roanoke Co-Op (I know, right?).  But, I even like the dried up nasty ones on the grocery store salad bar.  They just really hit the spot, in my opinion.  I like the tangy-ness of the vinegar, the bitterness of the leaves, the crumbliness of the rice.  They are a great great snack!

9.  Snyder’s Multi-Grain Cheese Puffs.cheese-puffs1 What can I say?  I’m a sucker for cheese puffs.  I love the way they stain your fingers.  I love the way you get a sloppy cheesy build up in your back teeth after you eat like a thousand of them.  Anyway, I could talk about cheese puffs for a long time.  The point is, Snyder’s makes a really great cheese puff.  It’s my current favorite in the category of Cheese: doodle form.

8.  Cheese and crackers. But, I must say, my favorite in the category of Cheese: cheese form is, well, cheese.  I love cheese!!  I want to shout it from the rooftops: I LOVE CHEESE!  It’s one of the most wonderful, creamy, salty, sharp warm melty tastes in the universe.  My mom doesn’t like cheese which is how I know, for a fact, that she’s crazy.  If you don’t like cheese, YOU’RE crazy.  Cheese is the best.  Please send me some cheese asap.  Just kidding.  But, it really is a great snack.  Am I right?

7. Sushi.  It’s great and a rare treat around here.  I like it best from a really expensive, very crowded restaurant, and I like it in large quantities and after/while consuming multiple tumblers of plum wine or some other exotic alcoholic beverages.  But, all that’s a distant memory now that I’m a parent.  Sigh.  Okay, enough pity party.  I’ll also settle for the dramatically less appealing grocery-store variety, but only in times of sushi desperation.

6.  Sour Patch Kids.sour-patch-kids-2oz1 Oh, I know there are tons of new-fangled gummy sour candy varieties out there, but nothing will ever truly rival the Sour Patch Kids in my opinion.  How, in any possible world, do they resemble kids?  Why is all that sour sugar at the bottom the best part?  Is it possible to not eat an entire box in one sitting, because I don’t think it is.  I can sit here now, as I’m typing, with only a glass of tepid water for a snack, and imagine each individual, tangy flavor.  Red! Orange! Yellow! Green!  Oh, Sour Patch Kids.  I want to eat you at the drive-in as soon as it’s summer again.

5.  Utz Toasted Sesame Select Pretzels. I just discovered these today and man are they terrific!  They’re crunchy yet light, tasty but not overbearing.  Pretzely and yet not.  I know someone who would totally like them, too!  Jack.  Jack would love these babies!

4. Hot Buffalo Style Pretzel Nuggets by Snyder’s.  Man, I’m on a pretzel/Snyder’s kick.  Maybe that’s because I live in rural Pennsylvania?  Is my PA pride swaying my top ten snack list?  I mean, what’s next?  Middleswarth chips?  Anyway, these pretzels are a work of art if you ask me.  See, I hate Chicken Wings.  They are so nasty, man!  But, I can really dig a snack that burns my mouth off.  That’s the reason I love this snack.  All the effort of a pretzel, all the pain of a Hot Wing.

3. Chocolate Milk. MmmmmmmmHmmmmmmm.  It’s great.  #1 Chocolate Milk: Mixed by the dairy, served in a carton.  #2: Mixed yourself, Ovaltine and Skim Milk.  #3: Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup and 2% Milk.  Don’t make the mistake of using the syrup with skim milk- it doesn’t mix as well in my opinion.  I also hate Nestle Quik because 1. I find words with those little accent marks or whatever pathetic.  Just kidding.  But seriously: #2 I hate the way they purposely misspell Quik.  And #3: Too sweet and not chocolaty enough.  Oh, yeah, but chocolate milk.  You know, I was never the kind of kid who got chocolate milk at lunch.  Huh.  That’s so weird.  I guess I thought by depriving myself of its goodness, I would seem smarter or something.  What an idiot!  I could have guzzled gallons of chocolate milk and still turned out exactly the same way I am now!  You know what the second ingredient in the pre-mixed chocolate milk they serve in elementary schools is, right?  It’s High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Can you believe that shit?  That’s what they pump into your kid, in between all the math and reading and… well… math.

2.  Popcorn and Oranges.414334_popcorn_in_clear_bowl2 This is definitely left over from my childhood when my Grammy used to serve this snack to us after we had a long, hard day of swimming in her pool or watching her tv.  Grammy salted the orange slices!  (Even as a kid, I found this practice very very gross and typing it now gives me the chills.  Grammy also salted watermelon, cantaloupe, and literally everything else she ate which, thankfully for the banana, never included bananas, fyi.)  Anyway, I still love popcorn; I love movie popcorn, I love popcorn in that damn little tin, but more than anything I love home-popped popcorn seasoned with love.  BTW: My husband makes the best popcorn in the world.  Dont try to argue.

1. GUACAMOLE!!!!!!!!!! Oh my GOD, I almost didn’t remember guacamole and was totally going to waste this spot on, like, apples or something way less awesome!  The Garlic!  The Lemon!  The Salt!  The Tomatoes!  And, of course!!!!!  The  avocados!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Okay, I know I constantly say that I’m an awesome cook and offer literally no proof ever, but seriously, I am the master (mistress?) of Guacamole.  Ask ANYONE who has ever tried my Guac (as those of us intimately acquainted with it refer to it) and they will tell you it’s true.

But really, it doesn’t matter if you believe me or not because no matter what, you have to agree, Guac rocks!  Oh, it’s great on chips and on sandwiches.  One time when I was visiting Alex at Vassar for Founders Day (a very fun event, btw!) I almost had a heart attack when I saw a girl make guacamole by: putting cut up avocados, sour cream and “Real Lemon” lemon juice in a blender.  Oh no!  You’re making the worst guacamole!  I mean, I still totally ate a butt-load of it, and it was pretty good because Guacamole is SO GOOD NO MATTER WHAT but that girl broke my heart!

guacamole2Judging from how many photos I just found on various blogs of homemade Guacamole, I’m guessing that everyone thinks their Guacamole is the best, and maybe I’m guilty of the same thing, but let me just repeat:  GUACAMOLE IS DELICIOUS!

Oh, I’m getting misty eyed thinking about wonderful ripe tomoates, salty salt, garlicy garlic.  I’m making some guac the very next time I get the chance, and I think you should, too.

So, there it is, my top ten list.  Please, comment, add your own favorites.  I can’t promise that I’ll agree with you, but I’m pretty confident when I say that I will sample each and every recommendation that you make!  I’ll keep track of all the greatest snacks of your life in my NKOTB Trapper Keeper.  Just kidding.

Ok so it’s been too long…

Here’s why:

A BIG Holiday Campaign at BTE
Christmas gifts for Milo, Irene and Karoline
Birthday ivites and gift for Irene

But, the Snack Off has happened and we have a winner which we will declare soon.  Look for lots of updates around Christmas time.  And happy hoidays!

It’s been awhile since we’ve posted, but don’t worry.  We have a lot of cool snacks lined up to review for you, plus we’re cooking up a number of gimmicky posts that are sure to keep your attention and your appetite for snacks fired up!  We’ve just been getting ready for these, you know, holidays.  It’s a time like no other when it comes to snacking, so check back soon for some more extremely important snack-related information.

Satisfied

Here at Snack Machine, we don’t want to get too political on you.  We just want to take a moment to remind ourselves that we have it pretty great.  We’re so lucky to live in the USA, and lately, it’s getting even better.

Hooray for President-Elect Obama!

Hooray for President-Elect Obama!

Let’s never take it for granted that our lives are magnificent!  We have the time and the resources to accomplish so much!  We have freedom of speech and expression, and we have full bellies and so much for which to be grateful.

Snack on.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

This morning I did my usual Sunday morning thing; I went and helped Grammy do her cleaning job at a local office building. It’s a pretty easy thing to do, and Grammy babysits for me for free all week, so the least I can do is an hour’s worth of vacuuming for her. After I do this thing that I do to pay her back for all that she gives me, she usually pays me $20.00 (because she just wouldn’t feel right letting me do half the work without paying me half the earnings!).

Well, sometimes I bring that money home and we use it toward gas or groceries or stick it in the Piggy Bank. But othertimes, it feels like a bonus. And, what’s the logical and practical thing to do with a bonus? That’s right: buy snacks to blog about. This week, I brought home:

The Breakfast Sandwich Challenge

It was a spur of the moment decision that I made as I was driving past Burger King. I had originally planned to cook bacon and eggs and pancakes for all three of us when I got home. (By the way, I only had bacon in my house because Grammy had given it to me the week before, along with four chicken breasts, two pork tenderloins and a bagfull of Little Debbie Snack Cakes for Richie. Oh! And two Diet Pepsis.) But, I remembered something Richie said last night as we were getting ready for bed. He said “If you want to bring home fast food breakfast, I won’t be mad atcha…” At the time I reminded him “No, I’m going to cook tomorrow morning remember?” We’d recently discussed how we were going to spend the day on Sunday and it involved a lot of cooking the way it usually does at the end of a pay period (of course, since we’re too poor to eat out and it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon). But, since Grammy gave me that $20 three to four minutes earlier, I thought “why not?” and pulled into a drive-thru.

I glimpsed the Burger King, and it sparked my hunger. I bought two Croissan’wiches, one for me and one for Richie. But, in between ordering and paying I thought of you, my Snack Blog readers, and I decided I would put this spontaneous fast food breakfast splurge to good use. So, I hightailed it ,as they say, over to McDonald’s and got what I consider their original breakfast sandwich, the McMuffin. One for me and one for Richie.

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What follows is an investigation into which fast food breakfast sandwich is better, plain and simple. You might be surprised by what I have to say, you may be shocked. But if you take my advice and taste these greasy breakfast delights for yourself, I know you won’t be disappointed.


Sausage McMuffin with Egg vs. The Croissan’wich

In my opinion, fast food places are notorious for having lackluster packaging. I hate those sandwich boxes (what a waste! I’m already eating at a gross fast food place. Don’t make me feel doubly guilty for making way more trash than I need to…) and the food is usually cold and limp inside some soggy paper unless it’s a really busy time. That’s one of the reasons fast food breakfast is so much better than any other time fast food; it’s usually busier and therefore the food is hotter and, I guess, drier. The McMuffin’s wrapper is prettier and more exciting than the Croissan’wich’s. It also serves as a wrapper for three different kinds of sandwich, and I like that for some reason. It brings to mind hurried fast food workers, twisting and folding and microwaving in a frenzy. Who has time to sort through multiple paper wrappers?! Get me a McMuffin/Sausage McMuffin/Sausage McMuffin with Egg wrapper- stat!. It’s got a morning-time sun and sky decor thing going, and the color scheme is sorta pretty. It’s yellow and orange and quasi-retro. The Croissan’wich’s wrapper is way less pretty (actually, I hate almost all of Burger King’s packaging. The fries come in a cup holder-shaped fry container which is just extra depressing)- it’s just white with some boring old writing and uninteresting graphics and it’s printed weird and hard to read- but way more durable. It’s waxy on one side and papery on the other side, and holds up to tougher handling. The McMuffin’s papery-on-both-sides wrapper tore right away (because it got caught on some melted and then cooled-down cheese!). Also, BK wrapped their breakfast sandwich twice, a little extra touch that kept it slightly hotter and way more together than the McMuffin was. I just like my fast food to be held together well, and the packaging of the Croissan’wich was a better armor to the tough tossed-in-a-paper-bag, resting-for-a-while-in-my-As Nature Intended Bag, tossed-on-the-couch-and-left-there-for-30-minutes-before-being-unwrapped-and-devoured journey that my breakfast sandwiches took this morning.

Flavor, Texture and The Whole Taste Thing

At first taste, the Croissan’wich has a great, almost perfect fast food texture. The egg is a firm, scrambled egg foldover thing. It’s boring and un-egg like, and salty. It has a firm but not stale bun which is also slightly buttery. The cheese has a certain Kraft Singles quality, and could be better. The sausage is salty and spicy and has a microwaved feeling.

100_06543

The McMuffin has much better, nicer cheese. The English Muffin is very delicious and fun to eat with a great crispy and simultaneously buttery texture. The sausage is greasy and more plain than the Croissan’wich’s and the egg is a kind of weird non-egg, but yolkier and tastier overall.

And the winner is…

The McMuffin is better, hands down. I remembered the Croissan’wich as being the superior sandwich and expected it to win, but it was hot and well prepared, so I probably had, like, the quintessential Croissan’wich, and the McMuffin still beat it. Overall, it just didn’t hit the spot, was a little too much food, and was less appealing and appetizing.

For your information, I should mention that the Croissan’wich cost $2.04 and the McMuffin cost more like $2.60. Also, the service was way friendlier at Burger King, and it had a way longer line. (But that just adds to the McMuffin’s domination- it was hot a delicious even though it had probably been waiting for me for a while.)

McDonald’s and Burger King both have major problems, like questionable hiring practices, irresponsibility in advertising to children and the poor, objectionable ingredients. But, when it comes to greasy breakfast sandwiches there is nothing controversial about the absolute deliciousness of the McMuffin.

The McMuffin also has that indescribable quality that is what I call: it tastes like McDonald’s. There’s something about the McDonald’s branding that I am addicted to really admire. They aren’t afraid to stamp that greasy mark all over their food.  Maybe that’s a bad thing in the world, but it’s a delicious thing in my mouth.

The inaugural Snack Machine header.

The inaugural Snack Machine header.

Between Snacks

Richie, Irene and I have been working hard to create really delicious and healthy meals.  For one thing, we’re pretty poor.  We have to grocery shop carefully and can’t really eat out a lot.  Of course we love snacking, but we have to choose carefully each week and make tough sacrifices when it comes to snacks.  But, also, our lives are so much better because we cook.  We spend hours deciding what to make for dinner, the best methods to prepare it, who will be in charge of what, and helping each other execute our vision.  We’ve had very few failures, frankly, and I guess part of me just thinks we’re naturals.  We love food and it loves us.

Cooking is one of the best part of our lives, I’d say it’s right up there with eating.  Irene is just like us, and sometimes cheers when we bring her something she loves.  Broccoli!  Fish!  Cheese!  Eggs with ketchup!  And we delight in sharing homemade inventions of all the foods we loved as kids, hybrids born from our single-mother childhoods and everything we’re tried to learn about nutrition. 

It’s a wonderful thing, sharing something you love with the ones you love.  It’s a wonderful life when the best things that happen to you happen at home.

In this alarming time of global economic woes, it does one good to remember the men and women who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930’s and rose from the ashes to build enterprises that would eventually make all those involved very wealthy, indeed. It gives me hope to think of Elmer Doolin, the propietor of a struggling San Antonio ice cream parlor in 1932. Business was slow, and Elmer was broke. One day, Elmer met a Mexican immigrant who had grown tired of seeking his fortune in the USA. The Mexican had been selling five cent bags of corn chips to some local businesses, but really wasn’t hacking it in the sales department. He resolved to sell his equipment and trade secrets and return to his home country. Enter Elmer with his mother’s money and a dream of a fatter, greasier America. In no time, Elmer moved his corn chip-making operation from his mother’s kitchen to his mother’s garage. He needed more space! And boyhowdy did he make a ton of money when he made the move from San Antonio to Dallas, where product distribution opportunities ran rampant. Before long, Elmer’s corn chips, or Fritos, as the were called, were a snack juggernaut all over the southwestern United States.
 
But the southwestern United States isn’t as big as the whole United States, and so Fritos made a deal with H.W. Lay, another Depression-era entrepreneur and founder of the Lay’s company, to distribute Fritos all over. Of course, in 1961 Frito and Lay’s joined forces to become Frito-Lay, the snack kings responsible for Lay’s potato chips, Fritos, Cheetos, Ruffles, Munchos, Funyuns, Rold Gold Pretzels, and my personal favorite, Doritos. 
 
This is a bag of Fritos. My mouth is watering.

This is a bag of Fritos. My mouth is watering.

Even after Elmer’s enormous success in the snack industry, he continued to expiriment at home with flavor combinations and textures. Most notably, he invented the Cheeto from scratch, with the help of his tastetesting daughter. A strict vegetarian, Elmer only ever enjoyed his creations in small doses, prefering his Fritos as a side dish to a salad or soup. We at SnackMachine could learn a little from that exercise in moderation.

 
So, thank you Great Depression for giving me Elmer Doolin, without whom the snack world wouldn’t be the same.

And now it’s time for a new segment on SnackMachine, He Said She Said, a place where Richie and Syreeta debate the merits of some of life’s most important snacks.

We’ll discuss the classic snack and then let you be the judge; are Hot Fires gross and terrible, or just plain terrible? -SC

Andy Capps Hot Fries, circa 2008.

Andy Capp's Hot Fries, circa 2008.

Richie: Neither gross nor terrible, Andy Capp’s Hot Fries encapsulate the flavor of youthful spice. The deliciousness packed into every frylike crisp brings to mind memories of being a poor bachelor with three dollars in dimes in my pocket and ten minutes before I’m late to work. But I’ve got a real hunger, and I need sustenance, so I whiz into any nearby convenience mart and grab a big Mountain Dew and a trusty bag of AC’s Hot Fries. And while that might not be a memory you can relate to, I’m sure that anyone who’s not a terrorist would agree that these snack products are a thoroughly American staple of convenient mealsnacking.

Syreeta: Well, I’m not sure how to respond to that whole thing.  I’m not a terrorist, but Andy Capp’s Hot Fries are launching a full-on jihad against my tongue.  They are so spicy (not in a good way) that you can’t feel your mouth, let alone make any sort of judgment on the flavor.  Plus, Andy Capp is an old PeePaw.  Who the hell is he?  How can you claim that a snack has anything to do with youth when the snack’s mascot is, like, older than John McCain.  He’s old enough to be John McCain’s PeePaw!

Richie: Maybe a little jihad is just what that sharp tongue of yours needs. Andy Capp’s Hot Fries were mega-spicy long before spicy took the nation by storm. Nowadays, every chip and cracker has got a spicy variety, but these trusty sticks of pure fire were blazing trails when those other less-good snack choices were in snackdiapers. And maybe I’ll take your John McCain reference and run with it. After all, AC’s HFs were a snack maverick alongside the boring, flavorless chips and crackers of yore. Rarely does a snack live up so eloquently to its nostalgia. When you bite into one of Mr. Capp’s yumlicious frytreats, you know that unrelenting fire sensation is the same sensation you’ve been dousing with Mountain Dew for nearly a decade.

Syreeta:  Wow!  I haven’t heard such flowery praise since John McCain said he was “so proud” of Sarah Palin.  But just like his advisers are having to admit that she’s full of ruthless ambition and not much else, you have to admit that nostalgia isn’t enough to launch a snack into the Hall of Fame.  I fondly remember- as a kid- chewing up generic corn chips into a creamy paste and then spreading that paste on dry corn chips, too, but that doesn’t make it any less gross, does it?  The fact remains: AC’s HFs are greasy, usually stale, spicy but still somehow boring, and strangely wet.  (I guess that Sarah Palin reference was pretty right on after all.)  Just face it: you really didn’t have any idea what good snacking was until I came along and lead you to more exciting and complicated spice!

Richie: I will admit that my snack horizons have been broadened since you got all up in my life, but it hasn’t softened my love for the classics. And really, how much more all-American can a snack get than one whose mascot is a constantly nagged husband with an aversion to work and an affinity for eye-covering hatwear? I can’t convince you that the flavor is spot-on, but you’ll surely agree that the Andy Capp experience transcends all the monosodiums and glutimates the crinkly blue bag has to offer. When you tear into them, you are succumbing to a lifestyle. With every crunch, it’s as if to say,”Yeah, I like Hot Fries. No matter what my wife says.” And maybe I’ll have to brush my teeth extra-thoroughly, and sure, if that doesn’t work, I could end up sleeping on the couch, or even in the street. But at the end of the day, I know that Andy Capp’s Hot Fries will be there for me tomorrow.

Syreeta: Well, I don’t like the sound they make crunching in your mouth during long road trips, and I don’t like their residual orange dust, but I do like you.  And any friend of yours is a friend of mine.  So, we’ll just have to agree to disagree about Hot Fries.  That means more for you, and that’s a good thing.

 

I noticed this brand of snacks at the downtown Dollar General when we were there to pick up some Andy Capp Hot Fries (See He Said, She Said). Just for your information, there is a little “Made for Dollar General” sticker on the side of the package, so I’m pretty sure you won’t find these exact snacks anywhere else, but they’re also clearly made to go into any number of stores as the generic “brand.” Store brand snacks can range from totally gross to totally awesome, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have to say, I didn’t expect much from the Dollar General “brand.”

Total scores
The total scores are based on the average of my individual ratings. I’ve decided to judge the entire brand based on these three random snacks. They have a lot more, a pretty big variety, actually. But these three snacks are things I’ve enjoyed a lot in other brands, so I decided to rate these compared to the best of each of these types of snacks I’ve ever tried. The overall originality score is not based on the originality of the idea of these snacks (others have obviously been copied) but on the originality of having this kind of snack in the collection at all; you don’t often see quality generics of these types of snacks.

Orange Slices
These are gummy slices coated with sugar, like gum drops.

Flavor 9
These could be tangier if you ask me, but they aren’t too sweet and I love the subtle orange flavor. It’s more complicated than I expected.

Texture 9
These orange slices are almost the perfect gum drop texture. They’re just a tad sticky, so they don’t quite get a ten.

Originality 6
Of the three types of Clover Valley Snacks I’m reviewing, there are probably the ones I’ve seen tried by the most companies. Plus, you see these in generic more than the other two. But, since they’re so well done, I give them credit for originality when it comes to quality.

Packaging 6
All the Clover Valley Snacks have pretty generic packaging and it’s pretty boring to be honest. It’s clean and I like the color scheme, though.

Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels
Little pretzel pockets filled up with peanut butter, of course.

Flavor 6
The peanut butter is not too sweet, which is good, but there’s nothing special about it either. The pretzels should be a little saltier.

Texture 7
I don’t love the texture of the peanut butter; I think it should be a little creamier and less dry and crumbly. The pretzels, though, are perfect; not stale at all, snappy and crispy.

Originality 6
Again, I’ve seen them before, although mostly at farm markets and Amish stores, so kudos to appropriating an, I guess, regional snack and creating something to be mass-distributed.

Fudge Caramel Coconut Cookies
These are a knock-off of Girl Scout Caramel Delights (aka Samoas).

Flavor 8
These are great! They taste fantastic; sweet and delicious. If I had any complaint, I’d say they might be a tad too sweet.

Texture 7
Chewy and wonderful on the inside. The coconut is lightly crunchy, which is great! The fudge coating is sort of waxy.

Originality 8
I’m glad to see these available someplace besides the Girl Scouts.
Clover Valley is, overall, a pretty awesome snacking experience. If stranded downtown, or low on cash, I’m sure we’ll get them again. We might even decide to get them on purpose. Each of these really measures up against the best versions I’ve had, but I’d still have the real deal of all three.

Homecookin’

We love to cook at our house, and we love to photograph the things we make. Check out some of our masterpieces (and some of our flops) at Homecookin’ Flickr Page.

The Utz Carolina Style Bar-B-Q potato chip is the best bar-b-q (barbecue?) chip I’ve ever eaten for a few reasons:

Flavor
Its flavor is very authentic. It leaves you with a sort of “I just tore through a barbecue sandwich” taste, no doubt. Also, it’s that specific Carolina barbecue flavor; it’s not sweet or saucy. It’s vinegary, tangy, a little bit spicy, and sour, but still totally salty.

Texture
It’s not a kettle chip. Sometimes barbecue chips have so much flavor, such a heavy, saucy finish, that a regular chip isn’t sturdy enough, and they have to be a kettle cooked chip, which I don’t prefer. I enjoy a crispy chip, and the only reason this chip didn’t get a 10 in texture is that it’s still a little greasier than I like, although it’s not too bad. A little drier would be even better.

Originality
Well, barbecue sure isn’t that original, but the Carolina twist is a gimmick that only makes a difference if it’s wicked delicious, which it is.

Packaging
I think the Tar-heels blue is creative, and funny, and reminds me to stick with brand loyalty. I’d push to have thee sold at every Carolina basketball game, which they probably already are.

Which is probably why I’ve never seen these anywhere besides Dollar Tree (something tells me I might find them at Big Lots); they seem to be a regional/specialty item. Here’s hoping they cross over and gain as much popularity as that of the Crab Chip from the same PA company.

 

101 Cookbooks

This is my favorite food blog, right now.  I started reading it a few months ago.  So far, my favorite recipe is for olive oil crackers, and Richie and I have made them a lot, and also converted the recipe into a cracker-crust pizza.  The snack recipes are the best, and it’s fun to create healthy versions of junk food for Irene.