REVIEW: Chipotle’s New Carne Asada

Oh Chipotle. Home of burrito bowls, mountains of guacamole, and now carne asada; well at least for a limited time. This quick service Mexican restaurant giant operates nearly 2500 locations worldwide and consumes 57% of the market share of “limited service Mexican restaurants” in the United States (Statista).

As reported by the Nation’s Restaurant News, Chipotle’s carne asada is, “Seasoned with spices including cumin and coriander and finished with lime and chopped cilantro.” Carne asada is the newest protein to grace the menu since chorizo, which joined the menu for a limited time in September of 2018.

Over the years, I have lost my affinity for Chipotle. In Texas, we have a local chain called Freebirds, which essentially provides the same offerings as Chipotle, but at much higher quality in my opinion. Due to the better offerings and sheer convenience, I tend to visit Freebirds much more frequently than Chipotle. However, the introduction of carne asada at Chipotle could be just the thing I needed to change that.

Chipotle introduces carne asada to the menu

My traditional Chipotle order consists of a burrito bowl with steak, so carne asada was not much of a stretch for me. In fact, I love carne asada and frequently order it at restaurants or buy it pre-marinated at the grocery store. On this particular Chipotle run, I ordered my regular burrito bowl with carne asada and a side of chips before sitting down ready to review it.

Immediately, I could tell that this meat was drenched in salt and lime juice. The lime taste overpowered all other spices on the meat and in the bowl itself. This is more of a personal preference, but I also prefer the meat to be cut in cubes like the traditional steak, not strips. When compared to the regular steak, Chipotle’s carne asada is more tender and does not have the fat and gristle like the other offering.

Overall, I was quite underwhelmed. I really wanted this carne asada to give me reason to return to Chipotle, but it just wasn’t enough. The lime juice on the meat completely masked all other spices and flavors in my burrito bowl. If Chipotle changed the carne asada marinade to reduce the lime and showcase all the other great spices, I would consider giving it another try. Until then, I will stick to another source of protein for my Chipotle burrito bowls.

Are We Crazy for Confetti?

I think it’s time to talk about one thing that is running rampant in our grocery stores; confetti. Have you noticed the rise of confetti products everywhere? I swear it’s all cake, cookies, Pop-Tarts and more with nothing but sprinkles galore.

Look, I enjoy sprinkles just as much as the next gal. A spoonful on my ice cream, cupcakes, or donuts not only adds some extra sugar but also makes the dessert even more fun and appealing. However, this year I have seen an excess of “confetti” products hit the shelves. When did the “confetti” or “birthday cake” product category get so big?

Pillsbury has even broadened the range of confetti products by introducing Funfetti pancake mix. Now, the confetti cakes and cookies I can understand, but pancakes? Even though I don’t like to admit, pancakes are pretty much just a dessert in disguise. When you throw sprinkles into the mix, the breakfast facade is completely lifted.

I’m not completely against confetti, Funfetti, or whatever you want to call it but I have seen so many confetti products that it really makes me wonder if brands feel compelled to add these products to their portfolio. I tend to think of Pillsbury when it comes to confetti because they introduced Funfetti cake in 1989. Although Pillsbury has definitely expanded the Funfetti brand across other products, they are no longer the only player in this space. Recently, brands such as Pop-Tart, Hostess, Hungry Jack, and many more have joined in on the confetti craze.

On Ranker, Funfetti cake ranks 21 on a list of cakes based on deliciousness. Similarly, a survey conducted by 973 The Dawg found that Funfetti came in last on the list of most popular birthday cake flavors. It appears that confetti is not the first choice for many consumers, so how come we are seeing even more products coming out with the same theme?

Let me clear the air; I do not have a personal vendetta against confetti. In fact, I think the confetti and birthday cake products are pretty fun. I believe that confetti appeals more to children rather than adults, but there must be a growing market for these products if so many brands are releasing their own spin on it. I simply want to acknowledge that confetti is taking over right before our eyes.

How do you feel about the rise of confetti foods? Let me know in the comments below!

REVIEW: Ben and Jerry’s Snackable Cookie Dough

I am not afraid to admit that I’ve taken a spoon to a Costco-sized tub of Nestle Toll House Cookie dough on occasion. Now, there is an even easier way to snack on cookie dough without the shame of eating out of the bucket. Ben and Jerry’s recently added snackable cookie dough to their product lineup to entice cookie dough lovers alike.

Ben and Jerry’s debuts Snackable Cookie Dough Chunks on Instagram

Interestingly enough, this snackable cookie dough is located in the freezer section next to all the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, whereas other cookie dough products can be found in the refrigerated section. The packaging instructs to keep the cookie dough chunks frozen, otherwise the dough gets too soft and loses its form.

I often find it difficult to locate new products around me, so I was surprised to find these cookie dough chunks on a recent trip to Target. At about $4.30 per package, you receive 8 ounces of snackable cookie dough to enjoy. Ben and Jerry’s also made sure to give customers options and introduced 3 varieties: Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and Vegan Chocolate Chip.

At Target, I found both the Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip flavors, but did not find the vegan version. I decided to purchase the chocolate chip cookie dough and resisted the urge to break into the bag on the commute home. By the time I got home and opened the package, the cookie dough pieces had begun to thaw.

The Ben and Jerry’s Snackable Cookie Dough Chunks are beyond delightful. I expected the cookie dough to be more firm; however, the chunks were fairly soft and chewy. By storing the cookie dough in the freezer, the cookie dough keeps its shape and avoids sticking together. Each chunk has the soft, sugary texture that us cookie dough fanatics crave in addition to tiny chocolate chip pieces in every bite.

I’m not sure about you, but I have tried to create edible cookie dough myself and it’s a pain to manage. The Ben and Jerry’s Snackable Dough removes the hassle of making edible cookie dough and the shame of eating raw cookie dough out of the package. This product can accompany a bowl of ice cream or stand on its own. Regardless, if you enjoy cookie dough I am sure you will love the Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough Chunks.

An Honest Review of Chick-Fil-A’s Mac and Cheese

Chick-fil-A, the home of the original chicken sandwich, recently added mac and cheese to its lineup of delicious sides. This marks the first permanent side dish addition to the Chick-fil-A menu since 2016. Now, I enjoy pretty much everything that Chick-fil-A has to offer. My order generally consists of the Hash Brown Scramble Bowl and a Vanilla Cold Brew for breakfast or a nugget meal for lunch. Not to mention, Chick-fil-A’s waffle fries are incredibly hard to beat. With an already great menu I wondered, “How does mac and cheese fit into this equation?”

I’m not sure if it’s a regional thing, but I have seen a resurgence in mac and cheese sides on restaurant menus lately. For example, KFC introduced a new $5 Fill Up Mac and Cheese bowl which combines the restaurant’s famous mac and cheese and chicken in one meal. The Vermont White Cheddar Mac and Cheese at Panera has become a fan favorite over the years; well until its recent Tik Tok controversy. Nevertheless, I was surprised to see Chick-fil-A hopping onto the mac and cheese train, but of course I had to give it a try.

This side comes in three different sizes: small, medium, or large. I ordered a small and enjoyed as a side to the rest of my meal, but I can see the larger portions being used for a family dinner or a party. A small portion of mac and cheese will cost you 260 calories, which is comparable to a small side of fries (280 calories). The mac and cheese can stand alone as a meal if that’s what you prefer, or you can substitute for fries in any meal.

Pictured above: Small side of Chick-fil-A mac and cheese

According to the Chick-fil-A website the macaroni and cheese dish features, “a special blend of cheeses including cheddar, parmesan and Romano.” I enjoy the kind of mac and cheese where you can truly taste the combination of cheese, and that’s exactly what you get in this dish. The Chick-fil-A mac and cheese reminds me of the homemade version that my mom makes on special occasions. Underneath a thick layer of melted cheese lay a mixture of macaroni and a rich, creamy cheese sauce.

Whether you add as a side to a chicken sandwich or enjoy on its own, the Chick-fil-A mac and cheese serves as a wonderful new addition to the menu. I now understand why this dish passed in each of its test markets with flying colors. This dish brings a more home-style element to the already popular menu. I am interested to see how Chick-fil-A will continue to innovate with its products offerings after the roaring success of the mac and cheese.

The Starbucks Reserve Experience. Was It Worth It?

It’s overrated. You will pay $10 for a cup of coffee. The drinks are exactly the same as a regular Starbucks.

These are all comments I have heard about Starbucks Reserve, and ones that kept me from going for a long time; well until now. Of course, assumptions and negative comments affect what we consume, where we go, and how we live; but I decided to give Starbucks Reserve the benefit of the doubt.

As an avid coffee drinker, I do find myself looking for local coffee rather than visiting a Starbucks. Since they are on about every corner, I often pick up a cup of coffee from Starbucks out of convenience. I will say that every time I travel to Seattle, the place where the coffee giant originated, I always look to local coffee shops for a good latte.

While Starbucks does have some tasty drinks, I think the coffee can be hit or miss. Aside from human errors that affect the drinks, one of the most common critiques of Starbucks coffee is the bitter taste. It’s almost as if the beans are roasted a little too long. Regardless, I do drink Starbucks coffee fairly often and have found a few go-to drinks that I enjoy.

What’s The Deal with Starbucks Reserve?

In 2014, the very first Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room opened in Seattle. Since then, Starbucks has expanded these roasteries and bars across the world. Starbucks Reserve highlights the rarest, most unique coffee that Starbucks has to offer. Here customers can understand more about where the coffee is sourced and indulge in drinks that cannot be found in traditional Starbucks locations.

Starbucks Reserve is about more than simply coffee, it’s designed to be an experience. Roasting beans, brewing coffee, and carefully crafting signature beverages; Starbucks Reserve focuses on creating an atmosphere for those who want more than just the average coffee shop experience. Think about it like a winery, where you can see the source of the grapes and truly grasp the time and dedication it takes to produce a fabulous bottle of wine. At Starbucks Reserve, customers witness the transformation from coffee beans to a premium cup of coffee.

Was It Worth It?

It was 100% worth the visit.

I’m not going to lie, you will pay a premium for a drink from Starbucks Reserve. A regular Caffe Latte at Starbucks will run you anywhere from $3 to $5 depending on the size. At Starbucks Reserve, a Caffe Latte ranges from $4 to $5.50, and that does not include any syrups or other add-ons. You will notice even higher prices on the drinks that you cannot find at a traditional location.

I went into the experience knowing that I had to try an Affogato. For those who do not know, an Affogato consists of one or two shots of espresso poured over a scoop of ice cream. In addition to the Affogato, Starbucks Reserve serves several other drinks including ice cream, coffee flights, and more.

Aside from this drink combining two of my favorite things, I was thoroughly impressed. The ice cream is not overly sweet but compliments the espresso very well. As the ice cream melts, this delightful mixture of coffee and cream starts to form in the bottom of the cup. In my opinion, the espresso was more smooth and less bitter than what I have gotten from a regular Starbucks location.

The atmosphere in the Starbucks Reserve Bar differs from that of a traditional location from the menu to the coffee and more. This establishment is geared more toward those with a true appreciation for a premium cup of coffee rather than the occasional drinker. To get the full experience, I recommend finding a comfortable place to enjoy your coffee and observe the care and attention the baristas put into each drink.

In addition to the great atmosphere, our barista was also incredibly knowledgeable and explained the true differences between the traditional locations and a Starbucks Reserve. Next time, I definitely plan on trying the “Siphon Experience” which uses a siphon brewer to showcase the changes throughout the brewing process. This experience completely changed my assumptions about Starbucks Reserve and I fully intend to visit again in the future.

Nothing Bundt Pumpkin Spice Goodness

I am not a Texas native. In fact, I spent most of my life in Southern California before making the big move. Getting acquainted with the new environment, I finally discovered Nothing Bundt Cakes and was instantly hooked.

Founded in Las Vegas, Nothing Bundt Cakes has changed the game for readily available, delicious cakes. From a full size bundt to the little bundtinis, Nothing Bundt Cakes are delicious. These cakes come in a variety of flavors like Red Velvet (my personal favorite), Lemon, and more. Want to know the best part of the experience? There are free samples available every time you visit!

In addition to the classic flavors, Nothing Bundt Cakes carries a seasonal flavor every month or so. Can you guess the fall flavor? Yes, of course it’s Pumpkin Spice. Now, I know that pumpkin spice has completely taken over the world, but pumpkin plus Nothing Bundt Cakes equals pure perfection in my mind so I had to try it.

The pumpkin spice cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes is absolutely to die for. Each bite of moist cake features a hearty pumpkin flavor with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. The cream cheese frosting piped on top compliments the cake perfectly, adding a new layer of texture and sweetness. This cake provides the fall flavors that we all know and love. Pair the bundt cake with a hot cup of coffee or tea and enjoy.

This fall favorite is only in stores for a limited time. Make sure to snag your own pumpkin spice bundt, bundtlet, or bundtini before time runs out!

The Truth About Pillsbury’s Place & Bake Brownies

We all know and love those delightful Pillsbury sugar cookies with festive designs perfect for nearly any holiday. Did you know Pillsbury recently debuted the latest product in a long line of quick, easy desserts?

Introducing the new Pillsbury Place & Bake Brownies.

These new Place & Bake Brownies make baking even more simple and include 12 brownie pieces ready to pop right in the oven without any mess. The brownies come in a few varieties: Chocolate Fudge, Peanut Butter, and Marshmallow. While I wanted to try all of them, I had to settle for the Chocolate Fudge brownies because my local Target did not carry the others. Regardless, I bought the brownies and headed home eager to test them out.

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This product is very similar to the other Pillsbury desserts in that they are ready to bake right out of the package. What I love most about Pillsbury is that even the most novice baker can make these desserts. Opening the package, it was interesting to see the brownie pucks all packed together. I resisted the urge to eat the brownie dough and moved on to breaking apart the brownie rounds and placing them in a muffin pan.

It does specify on the package that you should place the brownie rounds into baking cups, but of course I ran out, so half of the brownies had baking cups and the other half did not. In the end, this did not make a difference and I found the brownies easy to remove even without the baking cups. The package also says to bake the brownies at 350 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes; however, I let them bake a couple minutes longer because they were not completely done in the middle. I recommend baking the brownies for the initial 20 minutes and then adding time if necessary, as ovens may vary.

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Whether you enjoy baking or not, the Pillsbury Place & Bake Brownies are perfect if you need a quick dessert. Forget all the preparation time and dirty dishes, the Pillsbury Place & Bake Brownies provide a delicious treat without all the hassle. There are so many ways to spruce these brownies up including adding marshmallows, cookie dough, and more. I placed Oreo cookies under half of the brownies, and it was amazing! Even though I could not try the other variations, I will be on the lookout to try them in the future. I highly recommend you give these brownies a try on your next grocery trip.