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Dr. Pepper Ten

Diet soda has come a long way in my lifetime. Once reserved solely for diabetics and dieters, modern low-calorie beverages are fully flavored enough to be enjoyed by all. Diet sodas have become so tasty that I rarely ever reach for their full calorie versions.

Diet Dr. Pepper was always one of the better tasting zero calorie sodas, even ‘back in the day,’ but recent advancements in artificial sweetening by Coke and Pepsi had left the good doctor in the dust, so to speak. Enter Dr. Pepper Ten, a not-quite-zero-calorie-but-close-enough beverage from the Dr. Pepper/Snapple group.

In simple terms, this is probably the least ‘diet’ tasting soda that I’ve ever been lucky enough to sample. The taste is very crisp, no bitter or chemical-like after taste, and it is full flavored. Dr. Pepper Ten squeezes every tiny bit of flavor possible out of those ten calories (per serving) and I applaud the creators for their success.

As long as Dr. Pepper Ten is available in coolers, I don’t ever see myself purchasing the one-hundred plus calorie version of Dr. Pepper again. I actually prefer the mouth feel of Ten, it doesn’t have enough high fructose corn syrup in it to leave my mouth feeling all sticky. I give it a resounding ‘Yea!,’ and if you’re a Pepper fan, Dr. Pepper Ten is a must try. Can’t wait to try the other Ten’s.

Official Site

-Jeremy Hobbs

Read About Other ‘Ten’ Sodas

Pretzel M&M

Much like nearly every other M&M variety, the latest brand extension of M&M (that I know of), Pretzel M&M’s are incredibly addicting. That mix of the sweet candied shell, milk chocolate, and salty pretzel center is a superb combination; one that I hope really takes hold and stays on the market. Sadly, I have been seeing their blue packaging less and less.

My gut feeling though is that Pretzel M&M’s will be hanging around awhile. Fans such as myself just need to put our money where our mouth is, or we face the potential of Pretzel M&M’s going the way of the dinosaur. We certainly have plenty of package sizes available to choose from, as I have seen then in all major sizes, even the really big resealable bags. Good thing, as I can see a family going through these rather quickly.

Only negative I could find with Pretzel M&M’s was a higher concentration of ‘cracked’ candies, which really is not that big of a deal. Chipped Pretzel M&M’S taste just as yummy as the whole ones. For the foreseeable future, as long as these stay on store shelves, I’ll be purchasing these over peanut M&M’s. Though I did not check the label for allergy information, I think these may be a suitable substitute for peanut allergy suffers who would like a sweet/salty snack. Overall, Pretzel M&M’s are a total WIN! ‘Yea!’

Official Site

-Jeremy Hobbs

M&M’s Chocolate Bar

MorningStar Farms Lasagna with Sausage-Style Crumbles

MorningStar Farms’ Lasagna with Sausage-Style Crumbles is one of MorningStar Farms’ entrées that was new to me and as a dedicated MorningStar food fan, I was surprised this one had slipped past me. When I saw it at my local Walmart I had to snatch it up.  With 42% less fat than the leading frozen lasagna entrée, 270 calories per serving and 20g of protein that I desperately need as a pescatarian I thought this would be a definite “Yea!”. MorningStar Farms rarely disappoints me but unfortunately this meal didn’t quite do it for me.

MorningStar Farms advertises their lasagna as,

“Layers of veggie sausage crumbles, noodles, cheese, tender vegetables and zesty marinara sauce.”

So here’s where my complaints begin. Veggie sausage crumbles? I saw none in my meal. Obviously defective. I buy their veggie sausage crumbles alone to cook into pasta sauce so I knew what I was looking for and what I was looking forward to.  Was I let down? Yes, yes I was. Onto the noodles. I was really looking forward to soft tender noodles (I tend to be quite the pasta fan), and to be fair maybe this was my fault, I did microwave  instead of using the oven, but the noodles were a bit tough. As far as the cheese and zesty marinara sauce go I have no complaints. Not too much, not too little. But the veggies? I think I had maybe three pieces of zucchini the size of my thumbnail. Jeremy would love this. Me? Not so much. Sigh.

I have to say, this was edible but it certainly didn’t make my top 5 favorite MorningStar Farms foods.  I’ll give it a “Meh…”

Official Site

-Kat Graham

 

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Sodastream Soda Maker

It is no state secret that I am hopelessly addicted to soda. I swear I’d go into withdrawal within hours if I was left without a source of that sweet nectar. The feel of the bubbles tickling my nose, the beautiful sound that the bottle makes when being opened, the slight jolt from the caffeine; all wonderful traits of soda that I refuse to live without.

Now you can create these bubbly concoctions in your own home. For a few years now, I’ve had the fantasy of owning my very own soda fountain. That idea is completely impractical; the initial cost would be enormous, and it would take years to recoup your investment. Not to mention space constraints, upkeep costs, and the operational learning curve involved with working on a piece of machinery like that. Sodastream drink maker eliminates all of those problems, and offers a line of ‘mini fountains’ at affordable prices.

No larger than a large coffee maker, the Sodastream will make sparkling beverages for you one liter at a time. The kit arrives with the ‘chassis’ that holds everything together, two one-liter extra-strength reusable PET plastic bottles, a gas canister, and some syrup (amount/type depends on what you order). Set up was fairly straight forward, but I do recommend browsing the instructions before trying to put things together. After everything is assembled, the Sodastream operates at the push of a button; just screw on the bottle of (cold!) water, and you’re good to go. The instructions say to give the button 3 presses for ‘average’ fizziness, but I wasn’t satisfied with anything less than 4 ‘shots.’ Then you add the syrup slowly, cap it, give the bottle a very gentle shake, and then you can start sipping.

The syrup I’ve sampled thus far I’ve enjoyed. Calorie wise, even the ‘regular’ versions have around half the sugar as the major brands, and the flavor doesn’t suffer for it  all that much. The ‘cola’ had a bit of a ‘store brand’ thing going on, but it was still more than drinkable. There are a large variety of flavors, sweetened and diet, as well as an energy drink blend, and a line of extracts that help you create flavored sparkling-water.

One idea that the folks at Sodastream seem to be pushing is Earth friendliness. The idea is sound; by using this machine along with the reusable bottles, you’re going to help eliminate excess waste, thus helping the environment. Very noble ideal.

Packages start at $79.99, and I think it’s useful enough that you’ll at least get your money back out of it. The Sodastream is a bit of a novelty, and I’m certainly not going to give up the name brands for good, but I love having it around. Recommended if you’re a soda enthusiast such as myself. ‘Yea!’

Official Site

–Jeremy Hobbs

Nestle Crunch Peanut Butter Creme Girl Scouts Candy Bar

Today, the Consumer’s Corner completes the reviewing of the Holy Trinity of candy bar/cookie combinations, the Nestle Crunch Girl Scouts Candy Bars. Last, but not least by any means is the Peanut Butter Creme variety. Due to Kat’s unfortunate peanut allergy, the responsibility of testing this tasty treat was thrust upon me. A hardship, I know.

It has been years since I have sampled an actual Peanut Butter Creme Girl Scout cookie, so this review will be judging the Nestle Crunch Peanut Butter Creme Girl Scouts Candy Bar on its own merits, versus being a companion product like the previous reviews. What you’re getting in your package is basically a milk chocolate covered peanut butter wafer bar, much like a Nutter Butter. I think the picture above shows this.

So it’s not exactly a novel product in that respect, but it is still darn yummy. The Nestle Crunch Peanut Butter Creme Girl Scouts Candy Bar has a crunchy bite and then quickly dissolves into a creamy peanut buttery texture that will leave you craving ‘just one more’ bite. Or box for that matter.

Having sampled all three varieties, I’d place Peanut Butter Creme in second place. I enjoyed it more than the Thin Mint, but it fell just short of the Caramel & Coconut. All three are amazing products though, and all, including Nestle Crunch Peanut Butter Creme Girl Scouts Candy Bar, receive a very enthusiastic  ‘Yea!’

Official Site

-Jeremy Hobbs

Cirque du Soleil – Saltimbanco

The music from Cirque du Soleil’s show “Saltimbanco” is hauntingly animalistic, ranges from gentle persuasive notes to predatory tones to cathedral-esque vocals.  No matter which way you spin it “Saltimbanco” is an anthem to human creativity.  The absolutely gorgeous mix of tones, instruments and vocals make this album playful, sometimes ominous and always entertaining.  As far as soundtracks go, this may be my favorite yet, and I’ve listened to a LOT of soundtracks.

The made-up language that supports the vocals may sound off-putting in theory but once you listen to it, I guarantee you’ll find it to be relaxing, almost hypnotic and trace-like.  With influences ranging from African and French to Spanish and Native American “Saltimbanco” is widely accessible to any listener.  The incredible compilation of music narrates a story of adventure that will take you back to your childhood while simultaneously propelling you into a new world.

“Saltimbanco” is epic if nothing else and will take you on an incredible journey.  Cirque du Soleil has become a household name, widely known for brilliant circus performances, and with that comes magical music.  Whether you’re a devoted fan  or if Cirque is new to you, “Saltimbanco” is a fabulous place to start.  I dare say this is a “Yea!” and a half.

 Official Site

-Kat Graham

 

Miller 64

Miller developed Miller 64 in an effort to go toe-to-toe with Michelob Ultra in the low carb beer market. It is a mere 64 calories compared to Michelob Ultra’s 95. I was eager to try this one out.

Miller 64 has a slight corn malt aroma. The pour results in a vigorous head that dissipates to a thin film. The color is a pale yellow. The mouth-feel is very light bodied with an abundance of carbonation. It has a corny sweetness to it, but there are no big “beer forward” attributes. It does, however, have more flavor to it than the watery Michelob Ultra. I think I could drink quite a few of these beers in quick succession and not get tired of the flavor because it is so light.

A friend of mine commented that Miller 64 is “watered down”. I told him that I think they did an incredible job for what they were trying to accomplish in the low carb/calorie category. One suggestion that would not raise the caloric intake is to add a few more hops. The bitters would give it some more dimension instead of being a bit thin on flavor. Even though this beer lacks a bit of beer character, it has its place in the market. It would be perfect ice cold on a hot day and definitely fits the bill if you are looking to drink a refreshing light beer.

A 6-pack of Miller 64 can be found in bottles for $4.99. ‘Yea!’

Official Site

–Matt Scheere

M&M’S Chocolate Bar

M&M’s. Chocolate bar. Seems like a logical combination, assuming you enjoy cocoa confections. I’m a huge fan of M&M’s, and will try any product they put on the market without hesitation. Never really been left disappointed, M&M is one of the most solid brands in the candy industry.

So this bar? I’m not sure. It really isn’t all that special. What you have is a milk chocolate candy bar, with M&M Mini’s dispersed throughout. The Mini’s really only add a bit of texture; the candy coating doesn’t really make an appearance in the flavor profile. The chocolate bar and M&M’s are not different enough to notice any contrast.

I think the product would have been better on a different type of bar. White chocolate perhaps? Or maybe use another variety of the famous M’s. I think the slightly saltier peanut-butter version would have been a much better choice, and would have left me with a lot better taste in my mouth. Or at least a lot more memorable taste.

Going with a ‘Meh’ for the M&M’S Chocolate Bar. There is not anything wrong with it, it’s just underwhelming. When I see that logo, I’ve come to expect greatness, and all I received was a mediocre chocolate bar. To top it off, this will most definitely melt in your hands. Sorry M&Ms!

Official Site

-Jeremy Hobbs

Twisted Tea Original

Any long time reader of  The Consumer’s Corner (all 3 of you!) knows that I have a particular disdain for beer. There will be beer reviews available here, but I won’t write them. Those articles will be subbed out to friends who have significantly more experience with the bubbly brew, or I’d be completely skipping over one of the largest markets in all of consumerdom. Not going to happen.

What I love to drink are beer strength (5%ish alc/vol) beverages that actually taste good, much like Twisted Tea. Except for the most virgin of palettes, I think everyone would agree that Twisted Tea offers one of the smoothest, tastiest, and easiest to drink alcoholic beverages on the market. The flavor of  Twisted Tea ‘Original’ is simple and to the point; sweet (but not too sweet) tea, a drop of lemon, and a barely noticeable bite. Again, it’s super smooth.  Refreshing as well.

This review probably isn’t news to some of you; apparently this is a pretty successful product that has flown under my radar for quite some time. Just tossing this up for other poor, clueless souls like myself. Now that it has my full attention, I’ll be sampling as much as I can from the rest of ‘Twisted Tea’ portfolio. Available in sizes ranging from 12 ounce glass, all the way to keg-in-a-box, they all get a big ‘Yea’!

Official Site

–Jeremy Hobbs

Werther’s Original Sugar Free Caramel Cinnamon Hard Candies

Okay, let’s take a quick poll here. Do you love caramel? Yes! Do you love cinnamon? You do?! What about something that is flavored so closely to a cinnamon bun that texture is the differentiator?  Okay if you’re palate doesn’t mesh well with deliciousness stop reading here. Are you still with me? I would like to introduce Werther’s Original Sugar Free Caramel Cinnamon Hard Candies.  What a mouthful (and I’m not just talking about the name).  These individually wrapped hard candies fill your mouth with a soft cinnamon flavor that is more like a cinnamon sugar than a burn your mouth, make you cough straight-up cinnamon powder.  The classic caramel taste that Werther’s is known for has not been messed with whatsoever: mouth-watering, smooth and oh-so sweet.

But here’s the thing that usually scares people off, the magic words “sugar free.”  Many people believe these words are reserved for dieters and diabetics who are already assumed to have to sacrifice.  But put your worries aside, these tasty morsels are a far cry from the mainstream sugar-free odd tasting bunch of candies.  Had I been blindfolded I would have never guessed these little guys were sugar-free.

So, in conclusion, I am happy to report that these candies, whether you suck ‘em or chew ‘em, or are a highly praised “Yea!”

***CAUTION: HIGHLY ADDICTIVE****

Official Site

-Kat Graham