Monday, April 28, 2014

Brand Wars: Blizzard vs. McFlurry

It's time for Brand Wars again! Today we're pitting Dairy Queen's M&M Blizzard against McDonalds' M&M McFlurry.

Dairy Queen's claim to fame is the classic Dilly Bar, but a close second is their line of Blizzards.

McDonald's, on the other hand, is known more for their burgers and Big Mac than their diabetic comas in a cup.

The first thing to consider in this competition is price. McDonald's won this round, no contest. The 12-ounce McFlurry runs $2.89 ($0.24 per ounce) whereas the 11.5-ounce Blizzard will set you back $3.69 ($0.32 per ounce). That's a 30% price difference!

The second thing I'd like to point out was the difference in service. Even though the DQ wasn't especially busy, we sat at the speaker for three minutes before we could place our order, and then it was another three minutes or so before we got up to the window. When we got up there no one was rude, per say, but they had no time to waste on pleasantries. McDonald's, on the other hand, had the McFlurry in our hands within two minutes of pulling into the parking lot. Both girls at McDonald's were cheerful and provided phenomenal service--I was blown away. That scores some major points in the McDonald's column.

As you can see, the DQ is sliding in the competition already, and we haven't even taken our first bites! This is where it gets interesting.

Both treats are comprised of vanilla soft serve ice cream mixed with M&Ms (just in case you've been living under a rock or something), but the key difference between the two is Dairy Queen's addition of chocolate syrup which adds another dimension to the dessert experience. My roommate, being the chocoholic he is, figured that out and immediately declared the Blizzard his favorite.

I, however, being the honorable food blogger I am, had to put the contestants through a more rigorous screening process.

My first qualm was with the spoons. Could someone please tell me what's up with the giant boxy straw-wannabe spoon at McDonald's? Ice cream gets all kinds of stuck up on the handle, so you have to decide whether to tackle the drips coming off the spoon part first or the handle. When there is a cup of super-delicious ice cream in front of me I do not have the cognitive skills required to make these decisions. Dairy Queen gained points in this contest for having a straightforward spoon.

The next thing to take into consideration, since I'm a food blogger who takes all her own pictures (could you tell?), is that the McFlurry is way prettier. Since it doesn't have any of my roommate's beloved chocolate syrup, the candy coating from the M&Ms dyes the ice cream lots of pretty colors. The Blizzard, on the other hand, just becomes more brown as the candy melts. This isn't exactly a problem, but McDonald's was the clear winner for aesthetics.

After the chocolate syrup, the biggest difference between the Blizzard and the McFlurry is that while the Blizzard uses chopped up regular-sized M&Ms, the McFlurry opts for unscathed mini M&Ms. Now, I don't know if there's any actual scientific truth to this or if it's just my own bias, but I'm pretty sure mini M&Ms are the way to go. Not only are they cuter, but there's a better candy-coating-to-chocolate ratio and the McDonald's M&Ms were much easier to bite into than the Dairy Queen ones.

Now, before I tell you the winner, I'd like to address the other considerable pro running in the Blizzard's favor. Whereas the McFlurry is limited to a whopping two flavors (M&M or Oreo), the Blizzard offers twenty or so varieties, plus their monthly limited edition flavor. Chances are at least one of the Blizzards will strike your fancy even if M&Ms aren't your thing. Also, if M&Ms aren't your thing you should seek professional help.

AND NOW! The moment you've all been waiting for! The winner of this Brand War is......

*drum roll please*

The McFlurry!

My roommate and I discussed this decision at great length, and while we couldn't come to an agreement on the chocolate syrup issue, we did agree that McDonald's had won our business thanks to their pricing and exceptional service. (Are you reading this, McDonald's? Those chicks were awesome. Give them raises.) Also, McFlurries are damn delicious and who can be bothered to trek all the way down to the DQ when you need a sugar fix?

Are you a McFlurry person or a Blizzard person? We can probably still be friends, no matter which is your favorite, so let me know in the comments!

Also, you can catch up on past Brand Wars here and here and here.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Homemade Hummus for Humans

Sometimes you just need the sweet lovin' of some chickpeas at 3am, and I'm here to tell you that the night stocking crew at the grocery store does not take kindly to people pounding on the doors in their pajamas wailing for whipped beans.

Enter the mini food processor and hard-to-find tahini.

Thanks to these two marvelous components, we are able to concoct our very own hummus at 3am, in our jammies, without putting on shoes or getting arrested.

After you've rounded up your mini food processor and hard-to-find tahini, take stock of your kitchen.  Make sure you have the following:

1 can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic (or semi-artificial garlic replacement)
Pinch of paprika

If you don't have all those things, pull on your bunny slippers and bang down the doors of the grocery store until they agree to send out paprika and lemons. For best results do this even if the store is open. Send me a copy of the security footage.

After they let you out of the holding cell, come home and whip up a batch of hummus. Make extra to share with your parole officer.*

Start by rinsing your chickpeas to remove any cooties and let them drain while you work on the rest of the ingredients.

Throw your tahini and lemon juice in the mini food processor. Process it until it's all thick and creamy. Do not mistake it for frosting. While hummus is one of the most delicious foods known to mankind, squished up sesame seeds have yet to be deemed an acceptable topping for chocolate cupcakes.

Once your lemon-kissed tahini (we's getting fancy up in here) is all creamy and fabulous, throw in your olive oil and garlic and salt and paprika. Blend some more.

When your mouth starts to water, add in half of your mostly-drained chickpeas and blend some more. When you can barely stand it anymore, add the rest of your chickpeas and blend again. If it's looking a little thick you can add some H2O.

After much blending, consume immediately. This does not leave time for fancy serving dishes or an array of cheeses. Say a quick thank you to the chickpea gods and dig in with some pretzels or crackers or veggies or fingers, whatever happens to be closest.

If you are feeling extra-patient, run some roasted red peppers (you can buy them in jars next to the pickles) through your food processor and mix those into the hummus for an transcendent snacking experience.

*The jury is still out on whether hummus points are as effective as brownie points, but it never hurts to try.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monkey Bread and Easter Recap

On Saturday, per family tradition, I threw an Easter egg hunt for the boys--namely, my roommate and my little brother. I may have gone a little overboard in the hiding process.

At any rate, they found all the eggs and traded them in for Easter baskets.

The Easter baskets were demolished in all of about thirty seconds, and everything was awesome, so I made some monkey bread.

I'd never made monkey bread before. I will quite possibly never make monkey bread again.

Sure, it looks great from the front....

...but then you turn it around and the whole thing kind of falls apart. Literally.

I don't know what I did wrong. The recipe calls for a whopping five ingredients, one of which comes pre-made in the grocery store. Ought to be foolproof. But no, apparently not.

To soothe my defective monkey bread wounds, my roommate made a ginormous Easter dinner on Sunday.

That's an enormous plate of meatballs (because not all of us eat ham), mashed potatoes, secret recipe stuffing, and my favorite -- green beans and crackers. All this food is absolutely healthy, low carb, and most definitely does not contain a pound of butter.

Calories don't count in delicious.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Starburst Minis, Bad Eggs, and a Love Story

Once upon a time there was a Starburst....

....and another Starburst.

One day at a party when the one Starburst was a little bit tipsy and the other Starburst was a little bit lonely, they got together.

Despite the morning-after embarrassment, these two Starbursts fell in love, got married, and had a baby.

The baby Starburst was adorable, and on the first day of Kindergarten his loving Starburst parents walked him to school, gave him a kiss, and told him to make friends.

He made friends, alright. Bad egg friends. Before long, he landed his tiny baby Starburst ass in the slammer and became a special friend for a King-Sized Kit-Kat named Duke.

The moral of the story is that no matter how adorable you think the teeny tiny Starbursts might be, you shouldn't be fooled. They are horrible and disgusting and you deserve better.

Now don't get me wrong, if you like eating strawberry Chapstick straight out of the tube, you'll love these. If you don't, you'll just regret not buying adult-sized candy.

As a matter of fact, they don't even have the same list of ingredients.

Regular Starburst: Corn Syrup, Sugar, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Fruit Juice From Concentrate (Apple, Lemon, Strawberry, Orange, Cherry), Less Than 2% - Citric Acid, Tapioca Dextrin, Gelatin, Modified Corn Starch, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Coloring (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1).

Starburst Minis:  Sugar, Corn Syrup, Palm Oil, Less Than 2% - Citric Acid, Pectin, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Apple Juice from Concentrate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Carnuba Wax, Colors (Red 40, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Blue 1), Confectioner's Glaze.

WTF? What happened to my lemon juice and strawberry juice and orange juice and cherry juice? What is "confectioner's glaze?" AND WHERE THE HELL ARE THE DRAGON TEARS?

From now on the Starburst Test Kitchen employees need to pop a Midol before coming to work--it's no inconvenience, the pills are the same size as the Starburst Minis they somehow thought were a good idea.

On the bright side, at least these are a fresh and exciting replacement for the jelly beans you usually find in your Easter basket. We all know nobody eats those anyway, so it doesn't matter that these are mostly toxic and utterly uneatable.

The End.

Monday, April 14, 2014

6 Different Ways to Dye Easter Eggs

Dudes! It's almost Easter! Set your bunny traps! (Did you know that once a year, on Easter Eve, the Easter Bunny lays a chocolate egg and if anyone catches him in the act they are granted three wishes? Well, now you do. Consider yourself educated.)

Thanks to the impending holiday, I'm sure you've been concerned about your kitchen reeking of vinegar since St. Patrick's Day when it reeked of cabbage and green beer. It's a tradition, after all, to fill our houses with the scent of vinegar so we can decorate eggs from the dyes in the flat cardboard box at the grocery store which oh-so-thoughtfully ensures that all of everybody's eggs look exactly like all of everybody else's eggs.

Sure, you might be one of those fancy people who dips their eggs in two different dyes for some spiffy gradient action or maybe you go nuts with the white crayon before attempting to dye an egg red and having it turn out pink, but really, really, at the end of the day, your eggs look just like everybody else's eggs.

Worry no more! This Easter you and your eggs can stand out as the truly original and stupendous people you are (that's right, I said it, eggs are people too) with these six ideas for fresh new fun exciting egg decorating techniques that will set you apart from the masses and prove once and for all that you are a unique snowflake, damnit.

Idea #1: Kool-Aid Eggs

Save yourself some time and boil your eggs in Kool-Aid for one-and-done egg dyeing. Sure, all your eggs will be the same color, but that's okay, because they all started the same color, so making them look different would upset the status quo and lead to a lot of gang violence.

Idea #2: Glitter Glue Eggs

Make your eggs dazzle with glitter glue swirlies. And non-swirlies. And unidentifiable piles that may have originally been an attempt to draw a bunny. Your inner kindergartener will love this new style of egg decorating and you can use the leftover glitter glue to make some awesome temporary tattoos for you and your friends.

Idea #3: Sharpies

Screw dyeing altogether and test out your creativity with some hand-drawn egg designs. Feel free to turn your eggs into monsters, butterflies, or abstract (read: crappy) works of art using only markers. While you could also use the Sharpies in conjunction with your glitter glue tattoos, I recommend buying a paper bag to wear over your head before making such a long-term statement with your body art.

Idea #4: Stickers

Go ahead, embrace your slacker side. Instead of fussing with all those dyes and colors and high-effort decorating techniques, try stickers! Stickers come in a wide variety of designs, including flowers, bugs, racecars, and cartoon characters. I, however, chose to take a fancier approach and am currently waiting for my egg monocle to arrive from Amazon.

Idea #5: Blow Paint

Give your eggs a blow job this Easter! Dip straws in acrylic paint (or finger paint or house pant....watercolors not recommended), point them in the general direction of your eggs, and blow! Your eggs will be covered in lovely splatters and speckles in no time at all--you'll probably have energy leftover for an actual blowjob after!

Idea #5: Glowing Eggs

Now, I know you're all thinking I just bailed on the whole egg-making thing at this point, but you're wrong! (I did have to take a slight detour--if you know what I mean--after the previous batch of eggs, but I'm back now.) All you have to do for these eggs is cover them in a layer of glow-in-the-dark spray paint and then let them do their thang. As a bonus, you can save these eggs to light up your refrigerator should that little light bulb ever go out.

Disclaimer: I don't recommend actually eating any of these eggs (except maybe the Kool-Aid ones) and I accept no responsibility for any harm that comes to you or your loved ones due to you eating these eggs. However, if you get any unbelievable superpowers and you want to use them for good, that was totally my fault and part of my master plan. You can mail my check.

Happy Easter!