Cooking Something Legitimate

About nine months ago, I wrote a blog post that brought to light my cooking exploits. In all honesty, it was pretty much a parody post mocking my culinary skills. I detailed some of the “dishes” I made by using my microwave, shredded cheese, and a couple items found in my pantry. It was pretty brutal.


However, last night I took a step forward. I went from a joke chef to perhaps a chef-in-training. I didn’t just make something that I hastily threw together. Rather, I prepared an actual recipe. In order to make it all happen, I actually went to the grocery store and bought the ingredients, prepared the dish in the kitchen, and then cleaned up. To make it even more official and challenging I did one other thing: I broadcasted the whole spectacle on Facebook for all my friends to see.


In a Thursday Rundown post, I mentioned a recipe for Pop-Tart cheesecake truffles. Because the dessert contained a breakfast item I love and because it was so unique, I wanted to try them. However, I assumed Sidney would just make them for me. Not so fast! She challenged me to make them myself.


Last night we went to Food Lion and I did some ingredient shopping. I picked up Pop-Tarts, cream cheese, white chocolate coating, and cereal. The total came to a measly $10.


We headed back to the house and I took center stage in the kitchen. With Sidney sitting on a chair watching me from the dining area, I started the Facebook Live broadcast and went to work. I threw a pack of blueberry Pop-Tarts into a big zip lock bag and crushed it with a rolling pin. I then transported the Pop-Tart crumbles into a big mixing bowl and threw in cream cheese. Using big utensils that Sidney gave me (she was no longer sitting down, in fact, she had taken an assistant role) I created a perfect mixture for forming balls.


Using the scooper that Sid provided me with, I grabbed portions of the mixture out of the bowl and used my hands to perfect the ball shape. I then placed each orb shaped treat on a cookie sheet. While I was doing this, my assistant was dutifully preparing the white chocolate topping. When I had exhausted the Pop-Tart/cream cheese mixture, I took each ball and plunged it into the creamy white chocolate. Using additional utensils that Sid had given to me, I used them to turn each treat in the white chocolate so it was adequately coated.


The most challenging part might have been taking the freshly coated truffle and transferring it from the white chocolate to the topping bowl. I had to make sure I kept the newly formed ball intact while also taking care not to drip white chocolate all over the place. I had two topping bowls that welcomed the treat; Fruity Pebbles and red velvet Pop-Tarts. The recipe called for a different flavor of Pop-Tart to be used as the topping but I utilized my creative mind to offer an alternative crunchy, colorful, and breakfast-related option.

The Fruity Pebbles provided a beautiful and fun touch.

The Fruity Pebbles provided a beautiful and fun touch.


After I topped the treats, I had a cookie sheet with white chocolate Pop-Tart truffles covered in brightly colored toppings. There was also a section with perfect plain white balls for Sidney who wasn’t too excited about either of the toppings. We transferred the truffles to the freezer for a chill period and while our dessert cooled, we cleaned up. Yes, picking up after yourself in the kitchen isn’t the most fun thing to do but it is necessary. The process is made much more bearable if you clean up before you enjoy whatever dish you cooked up.

I popped these in the freezer and after we had cleaned up they were ready to eat!

I popped these in the freezer and after we had cleaned up they were ready to eat!


With the kitchen now spotless, it was time to taste our Pop-Tart cheesecake truffles. It only took an initial nibble to realize that they were incredible! I savored each bite while my confidence shot through the roof. Perhaps I can do this cooking thing, huh?

I was satisfied with how my Pop-Tart cheesecake truffles turned out.

I was satisfied with how my Pop-Tart cheesecake truffles turned out.


Next time I might actually try to make something that requires using the oven! Until then, I am going to enjoy the current cooking high I am on and enjoy the leftover truffles I have in the freezer right now. Don’t Blink.

A Thursday Rundown in Your Future

Thank you for making the choice to read another Thursday Rundown blog post. Here we go with this evening’s five topics…

Appointed as a Judge – This Sunday I will do something I have always dreamed of doing by judging a macaroni and cheese contest. Last night I was selected to serve on the panel of judges for the Surf Dreams Foundation Mac-N-Cheese Cook Off. How did I manage to pull this off? The event’s Facebook page, which I had been stalking for three weeks with anticipation for Sunday, opened up a few judging spots to its social media users. In a post, the page presented this: Please tell us why you would be a great judge. Have some fun and be creative. I took the last sentence seriously and it paid off. I will tell you all about my mac and cheese judging experience in Monday’s blog post.

Besides writing a lengthy plea on why I would make a good judge, I also created this "cheesy" graphic to drive the point home.

Besides writing a lengthy plea on why I would make a good judge, I also created this “cheesy” graphic to drive the point home.

From the Archives – Exactly two years ago today, I wrote my first of two blog posts focused on fortune cookies. Doing all I could to investigate one of my curiosities, I eventually found myself traveling all around Missoula to different Chinese restaurants pleading for fortune cookies. Although mildly embarrassing, I learned a lot about the contents of the popular ethnic dessert. My fortune cookie investigation was so memorable and so popular that the second post I did on the subject made my Top Ten Blog Posts of 2014.

In 2014, I had a lot of fun with fortune cookies.

In 2014, I had a lot of fun with fortune cookies.

Pop-Tart Cheesecake Truffles – Just a couple days after I wrote about some of the best treats I ate growing up, I can honestly say I wish this idea was around 20 years ago so it could have made the list. My love for Pop-Tarts is well-documented but the Pop-Tart cheesecake truffle recipe takes it to the next level. In this video, several Pop-Tarts are put under the rolling pin and crushed to pieces. The Pop-Tart crumbles are then mixed with cream cheese. Next, this concoction is rolled into balls and dipped in chocolate. Oh my, doesn’t that sound wonderful? My only suggestion would be to crush up Cap’n Crunch or Cinnamon Toast Crunch and coat the outside with sugary cereal. Talk about an unbelievable breakfast combination.

This is what a Pop-Tart cheesecake truffle looks like.

This is what a Pop-Tart cheesecake truffle looks like.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – It was another “Sunday at the Movies” for Sidney and I this past weekend. We went and saw the war/comedy film “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.” I am not a Tina Fey fan by any stretch of the imagination but I actually enjoyed the film. The movie tells the story of a bored news copywriter who volunteers to work as a reporter in Afghanistan. I have an interest in both the media and war conflicts so “WTF” was right down my alley. I found it very interesting how the film portrayed Afghanistan, both from a visual and cultural standpoint. The authenticity I got from it reminded me of how I felt about the way Iran was portrayed in “Argo.” As is usually the case, Sidney and I didn’t come away with the same review. She thought the movie was boring.

I saw "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" on Sunday.

I saw “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” on Sunday.

Wedding Update #23 – Lots of fun things are happening! My dad mailed us back all the invites he addressed and they look beautiful. Additionally, Sidney, her mom, and I chose the type of stamp we will use (I never knew the Postal Service offered so many options!). With so much fun getting the invitations ready to go, Sidney was a little disappointed when her mom gently reminded her that we still have several weeks to go before we actually mail them out.

However, Sidney was feeling anything but disappointed when she was able to bring her wedding dress home this past Saturday! After her final fitting, the ensemble was released into her possession. Adding even more excitement to this loaded wedding update, Sidney and her mom also met with the florist we will use for that big Saturday in June. Just 92 days to go.

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As is custom with my Thursday Rundown blog posts, I would like to thank all of you for reading. Have a terrific weekend and enjoy Selection Sunday. Don’t Blink.

My Top Pop-Tart Flavors

A longtime breakfast habit of mine went on hiatus a couple months ago. Many people know that I eat a plain peanut butter sandwich for lunch every single day during the work week. Fewer people know that I used to eat half of a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast according to the same schedule. My PB intake has slipped over the past several weeks as I now eat something different to start my day. Let me explain briefly how this started.

In June I did a blog post where I compared premium items to generic items. I used strawberry Pop-Tarts as one of my products. While I left most of the food from the experiment at Sidney’s house, I did take the Pop-Tarts home with me. Later on that work week I had a shortage of bread. Because there was no way I would ever mess with my tradition of eating a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, I decided that I would bring a Pop-Tart package for the Thursday and Friday of that week, forgoing my usual morning meal (I eat breakfast in my office around 7:40 a.m.).

In June, I started bringing Pop-Tart packages just like this to work.

In June, I started bringing Pop-Tart packages just like this to work.

After I finished my breakfast on Friday I realized that going with Pop-Tarts was the way go. It saved me time, filled me up more, and of course tasted pretty good! I decided I would start rolling with the pastry bars for breakfast on a trial basis. Since June, I have purchased many different flavors. Combined with my Pop-Tart eating days of my youth, I think I am qualified to present a pretty solid list of my top ten favorite flavors. What do you say I reveal it?

10. Cookie Dough – A cookie dough flavor of anything really can’t count as a breakfast item, especially if it doesn’t even taste like cookie dough. For a guy like me who loves the cookie dough flavor concept I think the Pop-Tart version missed the mark a little bit. They are definitely still edible though.

9. Frosted Cherry – Just edging out raspberry, cherry makes my list as the lowest of the fruit flavors. I will choose these from the grocery store shelf if that is all there is.

8. Red Velvet Cake – I purchased a box of these a few weeks ago. The best part is the soft, very red crust. Besides that, I don’t want to start my day with them too often.

7. Wild Berry – This is the Pop-Tart with purple frosting and hot blue streaks. I think they taste pretty good but what really is a “wild berry”?

6. Frosted Strawberry – When you go to a vending machine and they have Pop-Tarts, this is the flavor they have. If I am not mistaken, the strawberry flavor is pretty much the prototype of the Pop-Tart family. I enjoy them quite a bit.

5. S’mores – Growing up, you could usually find s’mores Pop-Tarts in my mom’s cupboard. When my parents would put them in the toaster, the smell that would engulf the kitchen was glorious. The graham cracker crust was a very unique and tasty feature.

4. Frosted Blueberry – My favorite fruit flavor Pop-Tart for sure, I have also been aesthetically attracted to this particular flavored pastry. The blue sprinkles mixed in with the other colored sprinkles to distinguish the flavor always appealed to me.

3. Peanut Butter – These Pop-Tarts taste exactly like my mom’s peanut butter cookies! I seldom toast/microwave my Pop-Tarts but on that rare occasion where I actually do, this is the flavor I do it for. Did I ever mention that I love peanut butter?

2. Frosted Cinnamon – Along with the s’mores flavor, cinnamon was the other flavor of Pop-Tart you would always find in my mom’s cupboard. The texture and flavor of this Pop-Tart is the best. The fact that most of it is frosted leaving very little exposed crust is also a bonus. I will always eat these.

1. Confetti Cake – I know exactly what you are saying…there is no way this can remotely be justified as a breakfast food. I understand, I understand. But these Pop-Tarts are so incredibly good!! I bought this relatively new flavor (could you imagine if they had these when I was young?) early on in my Pop-Tart breakfast conversion and I couldn’t believe how good they were. While the cookie dough flavor misses the mark in tasting like cookie dough, the confetti cake flavor nails what it means to taste like confetti cake. I make myself feel better by calling it a confetti muffin flavor instead of a confetti cake flavor. I mean come on, a muffin counts as a legitimate breakfast food.

Without a doubt, Confetti Cake Pop-Tarts are my favorite!

Without a doubt, Confetti Cake Pop-Tarts are my favorite!

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How about you? What is your go-to Pop-Tart flavor? Get in the debate with me right now though because you never know when I am going to flip the switch and go back to my peanut butter sandwich breakfast diet. Don’t Blink.

Premium vs. Knockoff Showdown

With not much to do on this beautiful Sunday, I decided to go chase a silly blog post idea. I got in my car and went to Dollar Tree and bought five random, knockoff food items. I then headed to Wal-Mart and bought the real version of the product. If you have followed my blog for a couple years now, you know that I once wrote about my views on when to buy premium and when to buy generic.

On this table you will find the products I purchased for my very special (silly) Sunday blog post.

On this table you will find the products I purchased for my very special (silly) Sunday blog post.

I then took my grocery bags over to Sidney’s house and, one by one according to the similar product, I presented her with both the name brand item and the off brand item. I hid behind the kitchen counter preparing the plates while she sat on the couch so she had no idea which product was which (although just by looking when I presented them to her she had an idea). She then thoughtfully tried each product and told me which one she liked best. Let’s get to the results!

Cheetos vs. Cheez Doodles

I first had Sidney try an All-American, stain-your-fingers-orange classic. She sampled Cheetos and a similar product called Cheez Doodles (I wish the word “Doodles” ended with a “z” also). It didn’t take her long to choose which one she liked best. She identified Cheetos as her favorite, citing its crunchiness and freshness as the main factors in her selection.
Winner: Cheetos

On the plate, the real Cheetos are on the left.

On the plate, the real Cheetos are on the left.

Cheez-Its vs. Tangy Cheddar Squares

This was the competition where Sid knew immediately the real thing from the impostor just by looking at the plate. The brighter, crispier looking Cheez-Its definitely outshined the Tangy Cheddar Squares in appearance. It did in taste as well. Sidney remarked that the Cheez-Its tasted way cheesier than the “stale” Tangy Cheddar Squares.
Winner: Cheez-Its

The real Cheez-Its are on the right.

The real Cheez-Its are on the right.

Strawberry Pop-Tarts vs. Strawberry Toast’em Pop-Ups

I had Sid decide her preference on a famous breakfast pastry. Kellog’s Pop-Tarts went up against Toast’em Pop-Ups. This was another battle where you had a pretty good idea which was the legitimate product just from a quick glance. Once again, the prototype won out. Sidney preferred the Pop-Tart over the Pop-Up because she simply said the latter tasted like “cardboard.” I tried both of them as well and I have to say that although I didn’t think the generic pastry tasted that bad, the Pop-Tart was definitely superior.
Winner: Strawberry Pop-Tarts

Do I even need to tell you which one is which?

Do I even need to tell you which one is which?

Fruity Pebbles vs. Fruity Dyno-Bites

Knowing that I needed to throw a cereal into the mix, I went with Fruity Pebbles. With the next “Jurassic Park” film set to debut soon and with the clever spelling of “Dyno” I knew I had to go with it. Sidney and I will both say this, these two products tasted the most similar to one another than all the other tests. However, Sidney gave the edge to Fruity Pebbles because they had a seemingly more natural taste than the Dyno-Bites. I thought both tasted very pleasant. Although I said they tasted the most similar to each other than the other four trials, at the same time they also had distinctive tastes. You could have fed me either one of them and I would have been happy.
Winner: Fruity Pebbles

The legit brand is on the left.

The legit brand is on the left.

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese vs. Greenbrier International Macaroni & Cheese

It was a no-brainer that I would introduce my favorite food into this fun taste testing blog post. I had the giant of the mac & cheese world, Kraft, go up against a brand so obscure that I had to scour the cup of the knockoff to find its maker. In tiny white lettering, I saw the phrase “Distributed by Greenbrier International.” Obviously the company was just fine going by the very generic “Macaroni & Cheese Dinner” billing. I prepared both cups the exact same way and then transferred the contents into a couple of paper bowls for unbiased tasting. Even with this measure taken, it was two totally different sights. The Kraft came out creamy and vibrant, the off brand came out dry and dull. This one was no contest, Sidney scored the Kraft dinner way higher. It was just much cheesier and fresher.
Winner: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

The Kraft Mac & Cheese is on top.

The Kraft Mac & Cheese is on top.

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If you are scoring along at home, the premium brands went 5-0. Except for the Fruity Pebbles, according to Sidney’s taste buds, it wasn’t even that close either. These results suggest that there really is something to say about that brand written on the box.

In the aftermath of this all, Sidney will be keeping the Cheetos, Cheez-Its, Fruity Pebbles, and Pop-Tarts at her house. I will be bringing the misfit brands back to my place. Hey, I am a guy, I am a little easier to please. Thanks to Sidney for putting up with my silly idea, you never know what is going to be asked of you when you date a blogger. Don’t Blink.