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  • Quick Product Reviews

    It’s been a while since I posted some quick product reviews, but I’ve recently tried some new products. You can see previous quick product reviews here.

    Rosarita Salsa – Ever since Ralphs introduced Ralphs Rewards to replace the old Ralphs Club Card, they’ve regularly sent paper coupons to my house, as well as sent me electronic coupons via email. A recent mailer had a coupon for free Rosarita salsa, probably because it’s a new product. Alex had just tried jarred salsa for the first time at a friend’s Fourth of July party and liked it, so he was happy that we were buying salsa. I picked the mild, since he hates anything spicy. So imagine my surprise when I tried the salsa myself before giving it to him and discovered that it’s quite spicy. Too spicy to give my children – nothing mild about it, actually. I mixed the salsa with some sour cream and ate that mixture with tortilla chips – it was quite delicious. But I definitely don’t recommend this product if you’re avoiding spicy foods.

    Kraft Garlic & Herb Sandwich Shop Mayo – I’m not a huge mayo eater, but I do like a little bit on my sandwiches. I thought this product had a pleasant flavor and made for a nice change from plain mayo, but I’d just as soon stick with plain mayo rather than keep multiple jars around.

    Method detergent – This is definitely a more expensive laundry detergent than I normally buy, and I only got it because CVS had a sale a month ago that made it $1.99 after coupon. At that price, I wanted to try it, which I did last month. I was shocked at how concentrated it is. I usually buy concentrated detergent anyway, but the directions called for 4 pumps, which yielded very little detergent. But my clothes were clean. Once I’d used about half of the bottle, the pump started to give me grief when I tilted the bottle, which I needed to do because of how my HE front loader is set up. Eventually, I discovered that it was very easy to unscrew the pump so I could pour the detergent out. I’d buy this again if I could get the same low price.

    Snuggle Almond Creme fabric softener – I bought this because we love the scent of almond extract, and the scent of the fabric softener was actually reminiscent of it. But once the clothes were dry, there was no lingering scent at all, which I find to be true of Snuggle in general. I’m actually okay with that – my clothes smell clean, but not really scented, if that makes sense. I liked this product, but I wouldn’t spend extra money on it.

    Quick Product Reviews: Fast Food Edition

    McDonald’s Angus Burger – I haven’t tried this personally, but Marc hated it when he tried it several months ago. I got confirmation of his opinion when a friend of ours said he actually took one bite and threw the rest of the burger away because it was so bad.

    Carl’s Jr. “Big Carl” Burger – This is the Carl’s version of a Big Mac, except better. It’s so huge, I can’t come close to finishing it. I like the flame-grilled taste on the meat, which makes it tangibly better than a Big Mac. There’s also full lettuce leaves rather than shredded. Right now, it’s just $1.99, which is an incredible price for such a large burger. Plus, we’ve been getting Carl’s coupons in the mail and newspaper that have a coupon for a free medium drink when you buy a Big Carl.

    Taco Bell Volcano Burrito & Taco – Should I be embarrassed that I really like Taco Bell? I used to get cravings for it when I was pregnant – back then, I would get the Crunch Wrap Supreme. These days, I get a Volcano Taco (or two), or if I’m really hungry, a Volcano Burrito. They’re spicy in that Taco Bell kind of way – I think of it as a fake heat, since it’s not like there’s real chile peppers in there. The important thing is, it always hits the spot.

    Quiznos Classic Cobb Flatbread Salad – I have this salad infrequently and I’m always surprised by how good it is. Maybe it’s because I have low expectations of a fast food salad, but I always finish it – and the flatbread is yummy.

    Quick Product Reviews: Humidifiers & Video Games

    Vicks Cool Mist Humidifier– The one I got at Target looked a little different than this one, but based on the reviews at Amazon, I’m guessing it’s the same model. As the reviews say, this humidifier is absurdly loud, and I would never recommend it in a million years. There are other Vicks Cool Mist Humidifiers and they get better reviews, so just try to avoid the one that’s kind of insubstantial – the box this came in was quite light.

    Crane Cool Mist Humidifier– You’ve probably seen these, as they’re quite recognizable thanks to their animal shapes. I picked up the frog, although Alex now keeps asking me for the elephant. I like this humidifier because it’s nice and quiet. We’ve had it for approximately six months now and use it every night. I occasionally rinse the tank with bleach, and I regularly dry it out during the day. There are very few hard water stains, so considering how much we use it, I’m quite pleased with how easy it’s been to maintain.

    EA Sports Activefor the Wii – As I mentioned previously, Marc and I both like this program a lot. The upper body workouts with the resistance band are pretty useless, at least to us, but we get good cardio and lower body workouts. I love that there are numerous pre-programmed workouts, and that you can customize your own. There are other features to encourage you to get healthy, such as a “journal,” but I haven’t been interested in them at all. Overall, I give this a big thumbs up for ease of use and effectiveness. (Just do pushups to build up your upper body strength!)

    Wii Fit– I actually got this several months before I got EA Active and at first I really liked it. I thought the activities were fun to do, but they didn’t make for a great workout. Some of the activities were too difficult to be fun. And they all got boring after a while. But worst of all, I found that it was making my back ache horribly and I had to stop using it. If you want something to do that’s not overly challenging, then the Wii Fit might be a good fit for you. But if you can, try to borrow it from someone so you can decide if you like it before you spend the money.

    Quick Product Reviews: Some new products

    Here’s my latest round of quick product reviews:

    Nabisco Toasted Toasted Chips – These are a bit healthier than Wheat Thins and Trader Joe’s cheese sandwich crackers, and they’re quite tasty. I give them a big thumbs up.

    Nabisco 100 Calorie Pack Oreo Chewy Granola Bar – I didn’t like the texture or taste of these at all. Plus, to get it down to 100 calories, they had to make it quite small, so it’s altogether not very satisfying.

    Edge Hydrate shaving gel – This had a strong medicine-y smell that took some getting used to. But it’s not a bad smell, and it didn’t linger. So I’ll continue to buy it and Marc will continue to use it as long as it’s free.

    Knorr Pasta Sides Alfredo – I got a free packet to review from All You magazine, as part of their Reality Checkers program. I wasn’t crazy about this instant side dish, because it was soupy and didn’t have much taste, although the pasta did come out a nice texture. I added peas, shrimp and grated Parmesan to make a complete entree, which made the dish okay. It certainly was a quick and easy meal for a weeknight, but not one that I’ll be repeating.

    Yoplait FiberOne Yogurt (Vanilla) – This tasted very chemical-ly, to the point where I only ate one of the four cups. The cups are also small, to keep the calorie content to 50. That itself didn’t bother, but I really didn’t care for the taste. However, if the chemical taste doesn’t bother you, then this is certainly an easy way to get 5 grams of fiber very quickly.

    Previously: More quick product reviews

    Quick Product Reviews: Trader Joe’s Edition

    I love Trader Joe’s. It became my primary grocery store during the 2003 grocery store strike, when I was reluctant to cross the picket lines at the mainstream markets. They don’t have sales, and most of the items in the store are their own brand (though they do carry some name brands, like Laughing Cow, and they will take manufacturer’s coupons on those). One of the things TJ’s is known for is their exceptional prices on wine, but what I love most is their low every day price and wide availability of organic produce, and organic/hormone and antibiotic-free dairy and meat. They frequently have a better selection of organic produce than Whole Foods (although WF always has a better selection of meat). Here are some of the Trader Joe’s products I buy regularly:

    Lobster Ravioli – You’ll find these in the refrigerated pasta section and they’re our family’s favorite of the prepared pastas there. I serve these with a quick pink sauce.

    Beef hot dogs – These are high in fat but they’re nitrate-free, so these are my first-choice franks. (I tried serving the nitrate-free turkey hot dogs but Alex, who loves the beef dogs, rejected them.)

    Organic, sulfite-free Thompson raisins – Since foreign grapes are on the list of produce that retains a high amount of pesticides, I figure it’s best to go with organic raisins. I particularly like these because they don’t contain any sulfites (I have a hard time breathing when I consume some).

    Party-size frozen meatballs – These little meatballs are about one inch in diameter, making them perfect for little hands. They’re a little on the greasy side, but that gives them a lot of flavor and Tyler loves them with ketchup.

    Parmesan reggiano cheese – TJ’s sells these in vacuum packed wedges. This cheese is of such high quality that I’m not allowed to serve the pre-grated Parmesan cheese anymore. It really doesn’t take long to grate the cheese on a microplane, and the fluffy snowflake-like bits are well worth it.

    Handmade whole wheat tortillas – These are a little thicker than Mission brand tortillas, but I prefer them because they have fewer ingredients. They do have a fairly short expiration date, so poke around on the shelf to find the freshest packages. (They freeze pretty well.)

    Organic cheese sandwich crackers – Surprisingly, these are pretty comparable, nutritionally, to Wheat Thins. The boys love them.

    Cereal bars – The boys like strawberry, blueberry and apple. They eat about half of the fig bars before handing them back to me. I like these bars because Tyler doesn’t react to them. (He gets a bit of a rash from Kashi cereal bars.)

    Chocolate Decadence cereal – The name sounds absurd but it’s pretty accurate. I love this cereal, but I didn’t see it on the shelf this past weekend. Hopefully they haven’t stopped selling it. (TJ’s is known to stop production on some products rather quickly – I hope that’s not what happened here!)

    Ultimate Vanilla Wafers – One of these cookies serves as an occasional “dessert” for the boys, and they’re very tasty. I particularly like that they don’t contain hydrogenated oil (unlike Nilla brand cookies, last time I checked).

    Note: If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, you have my condolences. I would suggest contacting them and urging them to open a store in your neighborhood – your neighbors will thank you!

    Kitchen essential: I love my microplane grater.

    Previously: More quick product reviews

    Quick Product Reviews – Food Edition

    Here are some food and food-related products we’ve tried recently:

    Healthy Choice – Sweet Asian Potstickers – The potstickers were okay enough to eat, but the rest of this entree was inedible. I would only buy this if it were a moneymaker.

    Healthy Choice – Mediterranean Pasta – I think this entree is poorly named, because I don’t think cranberries and fontina and cinnamon when I think Mediterranean. And the combination here didn’t work for me. I’d buy this if it were a moneymaker, but I wouldn’t eat it.

    Healthy Choice – Pumpkin Squash Ravioli – This one was the worst of all, because it was trying too hard to be savory and sweet at the same time. I’m not crazy about cinnamon, especially in savory dishes, and there was way too much in this. I tossed the whole thing after a couple of bites. I wouldn’t eat this again.

    Special K Crackers – These are a new product I got cheap thanks to a promotion at Target. They’re more like Kashi 7 Grain Crackers than Wheat Thins and quite tasty. I like that there aren’t any hydrogenated oils in them.

    Rubbermaid Food Storage Containers– I’ve found that these containers really do extend the life of my produce, especially the pieces that are at the bottom, and especially fruit that tends to exude juice over time – things like watermelon, for example. It’s still important to dry the produce well before putting it in the container, but I’d say the containers add a day or two to the life of my produce.

    Previously: More quick product reviews