Fisher Nut Exactly Snack Bites Almond Popcorn dipped in Milk Chocolate – HaliPawz

I recently had an opportunity to select Fisher Nut Exactly Snack Bites Almond Popcorn dipped in Milk Chocolate as an option with PinchMe.  PinchMe is a site that offers you free samples from time to time.  All they ask from you is for you to supply feedback on the products after you try them.  The one bad thing is you have to be quick when they announce the free sample Tuesday or you miss out on things you might really like to try.

peanuts, 15 calories

Fisher Nut Exactly Snack Bites Almond Popcorn dipped in Milk Chocolate

In my most recent box, I received a sample bag of the Almond Popcorn dipped in Milk Chocolate.   I am a fan of popcorn, almonds, and milk chocolate.  I will choose milk chocolate over dark chocolate anytime, but in most healthier solution products, you often see dark chocolate, so I was excited to try this product.  In looking at the ingredients, which consists of:

Ingredients to Fisher Nut Exactly

 Milk Chocolate

Almonds

Popcorn

Tapioca Syrup

Brown Rice Syrup

Peanuts

Sugar

Expeller Pressed Sunflower Oil

Sea salt

Ground Bourbon Vanilla Beans

I was pleased because they are pretty cut and dry ingredients. With only 15 calories per snack bite, they would be a nice way to get your sweet tooth and salty desires filled with the same snack.

I opened the bag and was questioning the “snack bite” size.  When I think of a snack bite size, I usually think of something I can pop into my mouth and eat.  These were a little big for that.  I ended up biting them in half.  With that in mind, you had to pay attention to bite it in the right manner or you wouldn’t get any chocolate.  For a snack bite, it requires too much attention!

almond, popcorn, milk chocolate, peanuts

The Bite Size Snack Fisher Nut Exactly

I bit it, being careful to get both the popcorn and the chocolate in my mouth.  Sadly, I was VERY DISAPPOINTED!  It was very bland.  I didn’t taste any flavor.  I took the second piece and bit into just the chocolate, focusing on the taste.  It tasted like cheap chocolate you buy for someone you don’t like.  I would almost prefer smaller sizes with better tasting chocolate to get the 15 calories per bite. Biting into the popcorn side, I tasted a slight saltiness of the popcorn but it was like biting into a packing popcorn piece, not an actual piece of popcorn.  I made a point of the third piece, trying to taste the almond, and I couldn’t.  I can see almond bits in it, but I just couldn’t distinguish any taste exactly.

The best comparison I had for it, other than the bad milk chocolate, was it reminded me of the first time I bit into a rice cake.  I had thought we had come a lot further in the design of lower calorie snack foods.

So disappointed.

If you have tried this product, please share your thoughts in the comments.

****This review was written for a product I received free, compliments of PinchMe.com and Fisher Nut Exactly ****

If you like this and want to stay up to date with my posts, follow me on Twitter @HaliPawz  or Like me on Facebook.com/HaliPawz

Kraft Seasoned Grated Parmesan Cheese Classic Italian Review – HaliPawz

I recently had an opportunity to select Kraft Seasoned Grated Parmesan Cheese in their Classic Italian flavor as an option with PinchMe.  PinchMe is a site that offers you free samples from time to time.  All they ask from you is for you to supply feedback on the products after you try them.  The only bad thing is you have to be quick or you miss out on things you would really like.

In my most recent box, I received a 3 oz sample of Kraft Seasoned Grated Parmesan Cheese in the Classic Italian flavor.  Growing up, Kraft Parmesan Cheese was our go to Parmesan cheese.  I didn’t even realize, until I was an adult, you could purchase a block of Parmesan cheese and grate it yourself, which is my normal method now.

Kraft Seasoned Grated Parmesan Cheese Classic Italian

Kraft Seasoned Grated Parmesan Cheese Classic Italian Back

I was excited to receive this, as it had additional flavoring to it, so I thought it would have more uses than just sprinkling over a dish.  I never realized just how handy it would be.

My mom and I had gone to a local Italian restaurant I had never been to before.  The restaurant we were originally headed to had a line around the corner waiting to get it, so I decided to check this restaurant out.  Mom and I both like Italian food so I figured it would be a good option.  While the service was good and the soup (mom) and salad (me) was very good, the food itself was severely lacking.  I didn’t mention my thoughts to my mom until after we left.  The portion sizes were large enough for us to have some left over.  My mom felt the same way.  She  felt Alfredo sauce from a jar had more flavor than her meal did.

I didn’t want the food to go to waste, but neither of us was looking forward to eating it again.  I decided to try to doctor it a little.   I took her Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo out of the refrigerator, added a little bit of butter and milk, some oregano, some garlic, and then used the Kraft Seasoned Grated Parmesan Cheese as well.  I figured it was as good of an opportunity to try this as any.  After it was heated up, I sprinkled it with more of the Kraft Cheese.

I was pleasantly surprised by how improved it was!  My mom, who was not looking forward to eating it because she didn’t think I could improve it, actually liked it.  I sprinkled quite a bit of it over my Chicken Parmesan, which also had no flavor in the chicken or the breading.  Because the flavor couldn’t get into the chicken, it improved it slightly, but did more for the Alfredo.

In my opinion, if this product can improve the taste of bland restaurant leftovers, it has my endorsement!  It’s a quick way to season your food before cooking as well as sprinkling over the dish prior to serving it and eating it.

****This review was written for a product I received free, compliments of PinchMe.com****

If you like this and want to stay up to date with my posts, follow me on Twitter @HaliPawz  or Like me on Facebook.com/HaliPawz

Why isn’t Ruby Tuesday busier? – HaliPawz

I used to travel a lot for work.  One thing I learned was the importance of consistency with restaurants.  After working all day and spending multiple days in a city, you start to find yourself not willing to try a new local restaurant, you want one of your old reliable(s) because you know what you are going to get.  Depending on what city I was in, I would have one or two “go to” restaurants.  Sadly, I even ordered the same thing from them usually.  Over time, you begin to know which restaurants are very consistent with their quality and tastes and which ones might be hit or miss.  Let’s face it, when you’re tired, eating in restaurants every day, and have been away from home for a few days in a row, you just want something you know and like.  One restaurant I came to know to be pretty consistent is Ruby Tuesdays.  One thing I noticed from town to town, even here in Kansas City, is the restaurant is never packed.  It makes me wonder, Why isn’t Ruby Tuesday a busier restaurant?

My mom and I went out to dinner tonight and we decided to go to Ruby Tuesdays.  I gave her a choice of three and let her pick.  I tried to pick places I knew wouldn’t be too busy for a Saturday night but would still have good food.  We went to the location in North Kansas City, but I can speak confidently about that one and the one in Independence.

I want to talk about some of the facts, based on MY experience……

    • I have never encountered poor service.  Just the opposite really.  It must be a decent restaurant to work at because everyone always seems friendly.  I have laughed over one thing or another with a waiter.  Take tonight for example, I was drinking my typical Coke with Lemon and she brought me another drink with a new straw still in the wrapper.  She asked me something, probably about the food, and as I was answering her, I opened the new straw then chuckled a little and said I didn’t know why I opened the new straw.  She genuinely laughed with me and said she didn’t know why she brought me a new straw!  I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s the little moments you come to appreciate.
Ruby Tuesday Salad Bar     Photo by TripAdvisor.com

Ruby Tuesday Salad Bar Photo by TripAdvisor.com

      • Their salad bar is one of the best around!  I LOVE their salad bar.  I can not say enough good things about it.  Everything is always fresh.  I have never seen a dirty salad bar at any location I have gone to.  The dressings I have tried always have flavor to them.  Their croutons are amazing.  I can honestly say, if they aren’t my favorite croutons from a restaurant, they are in my top three.  The quality of the salad bar is very consistent in every state and every location I have ever been in.  The only thing I have ever encountered was one location, I can’t remember where, was out of croutons on the bar.  I mentioned it to the waiter.  Not only were they refilled immediately, the waiter brought me a small dish of them for the salad I was eating.
Ruby Tuesday Salad Bar Photo by TripAdvisor.com

Ruby Tuesday Salad Bar Photo by TripAdvisor.com

  • Their menu has some hidden gems on it.  I changed the way I cooked my green beans at home because of the way Ruby Tuesday’s prepares them.  I finally asked someone what they were cooked in and how they were cooked and they told me.  I now brush my green beans with olive oil and grill them.  I even went out and bought a pan a few years ago just to grill green beans on my grill.  Since then, I have used the pan for other things, but it was originally purchased because of those green beans.  They also have white cheddar mashed potatoes that I love.  One of my favorite meals from their was their Asiago Peppercorn Sirloin.  I say was because one day I was torn between ordering my go-to and trying theirRibeye.  Ribeye is one of my favorite cuts of meat but I had always been happy with the sirloin from there.  The waiter, ever so helpful, pointed out I could order the Ribeye and have it prepared like the Asiago Peppercorn Sirloin.  Are you serious?!?!  I never even thought about it!  I have a new favorite!  My mom ordered the bourbon glazed pork chop tonight and it came out looking as good as the picture in the menu.  It smelled great and she said it was really good.  She said it was nice and tender.  It must have been because she ate more of her meal than it did.

    Ruby Tuesday Asiago Peppercorn Sirloin

    Ruby Tuesday Asiago Peppercorn Sirloin

  • That leads me to another point…..the portion sizes are good.  I always leave full when I eat there.  Tonight I even took home a small portion of my steak.  I was just too full to finish it.  Not only that, but the food actually has flavor but not so much fake flavor you lose the flavor of the actual item.
  • Their food prices are reasonable.  In addition, if you are like me and like to take advantage of savings, if you have a smart phone with the Retail Me Not app, type in Ruby Tuesdays and there is usually a Buy one meal, get one 50% off.  I use that coupon all the time when I eat there.  I tell the waiter and at the end of the meal, they ask to see the coupon and I show them the code.  I have never been made to feel awkward for using it or felt like the waiter was annoyed I was using it.  ****Just remember to tip them based on the amount BEFORE the discount.  You can also go online with a desktop or laptop and go to RetailMeNot.com and print the coupon ahead of time, but if you have a smart phone, it isn’t necessary to print it.  In doing some searches for this blog, I did find a Facebook group called Ruby Tuesday Coupons where they also have different coupons posted on there.
  • I do think their desserts are a little pricey for what you get.  I ordered the cupcakes once and wasn’t impressed.  I do like their Blondie dessert though, so if you’re not too full from your meal and want a huge dessert or one to share, you might want to consider it.
  • They are a full service bar.  I don’t usually order alcoholic drinks when I’m out.  I just don’t see the point in spending that much money.  I am completely against drinking and driving, I’m usually the driver, so again, I tend to avoid alcohol when I’m out to eat.  I have ordered their signature drink; Ruby Relaxer and it was really good.  According to their website, the drink is: “a mellow blend of Absolut Vodka with Cruzan Coconut Rum, peach schnapps, pineapple and cranberry juices, and fresh orange.”
  • They have these cheddar cheese biscuits they normally serve with the meals.  For some reason, now that I think about it, we didn’t get them tonight, but I didn’t think to ask why.
  • Their carry out service is pretty good as well.  I love the fact you can run in and make your salad and then grab the hot portion of your meal and head back out.  They do have prepared salads on their menu but I don’t know why anyone would choose that over making it yourself at their salad bar.  I’ve never tried it, but I’m sure you could just order a chicken breast by itself to add to your salad if that is all you want.  I know Outback will do that.  I used to do it for carry out all the time.  I’d just order their house salad with a 6 oz chicken breast.  Never hurts to ask if you are interested.
  • They are ADA Friendly.  There is usually enough spacing between tables for wheelchairs and walkers.  Just tonight, I noticed about three different families eating there where one member was in a wheelchair, plus my mom was there with the walker and even with her getting the salad bar, she is able to navigate it on her own.
  • Family Friendly, Meeting Friendly, Date Friendly, and Friend Gathering Friendly.  I wouldn’t say it is a romantic place, but I have actually had two different dates there.  One was even a first date.  I don’t think it should be understood the man pays so if he insists, I try to think of a restaurant centrally located between the two of us with good food and not too pricey.  Ruby Tuesday fits the bill.

So why isn’t it busier?  I’ve been thinking about this.  Perhaps people don’t understand what a hidden gem of a restaurant they are.  Are they the fanciest?  Absolutely not.  They are clean, they are simple.  They are like a neighborhood restaurant that just happens to nationwide.  I remember I didn’t go into one for the longest time because I thought it was a seafood restaurant.  I have no idea why, but I did.  Their logo, the little swoosh on the “s” in Tuesday made me think seafood.  I chalked it right up there with chains like Red Lobster, Applebees, etc, all of which I don’t go to.  I have never been impressed with the quality of their food.  As I don’t eat anything from the water, Red Lobster’s only alternative was a chewy chicken.  So, with this thinking, I stayed away until one day I decided to venture in and I am so glad I did.  I remember taking a friend there once and when we left, he admitted he had never eaten there before and it wasn’t what he thought it was.  I think we’ve been back two or three times after that.

To me, it is just a nice, relaxing, place to go and enjoy a decent meal at a decent price.  The only complaint I have about the locations in Kansas City is that they don’t have one close to me.  If they wanted to put one near Waldo, I would probably just bounce back and forth between them and Chipotle all the time!  Actually, I think Waldo demographics would be perfect for them.  They should consider it!

I encourage you to look to see if you have a Ruby Tuesday near you.  If you do, go check out what coupon would be the best for you, and then head out to try it.  I’d love to hear about your experience if you do.  Or, if you’re already a fan, drop a comment about what location and what you love about it!

Happy Eating everyone!

If you like this and want to stay up to date with my posts, follow me on Twitter @HaliPawz  or Like me on Facebook.com/HaliPawz 

Hertz Rental Car Review: Toyota Corolla 2013 – HaliPawz

It was time again to hit the road to Michigan.  I had decided the dogs would go with me so I knew I was going to drive.  Traveling with them has its own challenges, but since I was going to be gone for a week and I would be staying at homes that are dog friendly, it was an easy decision.

I went online to Hertz.com to rent my car.  I almost always rent from a Hertz Local Edition location because it always seems to be the cheapest way to rent a car for a week.  Unless you are traveling in by plane or train, I highly recommend using the local edition option from car rentals.   I have found the best discount so far seems to be the Delta Airlines / Hertz partnership agreement discounts.  Every now and then, the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards discount wins, but it is very rare.  You can access the codes for the Delta / Hertz agreement here, but then it only lets you search for the Hertz airline locations.  I take the codes and input them into the Hertz.com site instead.  To make it easier for the readers, I will just put the codes here:

Hertz Rent a Car Delta Airline Discount Codes

Discount/CDP/Club Code: 165385      

Promotional Coupon (PC): 197536

I don’t know if these codes change periodically or not, so if they don’t work, you may want to click the above link and see if they are different.

This trip was a little different because I was renting one way.  Hertz has a good one way program because they don’t charge you any more to drop off at another location and they have unlimited miles.  I was going to be switching to driving my mom’s van when I arrived in Michigan because she was going to be returning to Missouri with me for a few weeks.  Since she walks with a walker and has a motorized scooter, driving her van makes more sense.  It is a thirteen hour drive and I was only keeping the rental car for 24 hours.

I rented a Toyota Corolla (or similar).  I HATE spending unnecessary money for a big car when a medium size car works just as well.  I have learned the hard way NOT to go smaller than mid size, because you may end up cramped, uncomfortable, and possible without cruise control.  Can you imagine a thirteen hour drive without cruise control round trip?!?  Never again, so I always go mid size or larger!

I won’t go into too much detail about picking up the car because there were a few complications which aren’t typical of a local edition, but needless to say, I had my car and was headed back to the house to load it up after 30 minutes.

I ended up with a  2013 Gray Toyota Corolla with manual seats, power windows, and Bluetooth Hands-free system

I placed a full size seat protector across the back to minimize the dog hair and got started loading the car.

The first thing I want to point out is the large trunk space.  I was so please with how much space I had to load everything.  I am not the best packer when it comes to road trips, I tend to take too much stuff and I’m not very organized about it.  I had a large suitcase, a small suitcase, a bag with the dog’s stuff, two baby gates, a box of shoes, my laptop bag, and about two or three other miscellaneous bags with stuff in it. I also picked up a 28 pound bag of Earthborn Wellness Dog food, I figured Zipper could eat the same food as Bella for a week so I didn’t have to travel with two types of food.

I laid a dry cleaners bag of clothes over everything in the trunk and still could have placed a couple more small items if it was needed.

We hit the road.

Bella was not happy with the back seat.  I knew it was a little smaller back there than she was used to, especially with Zipper being back there as well.  I also had a cooler of water on the floor for them to drink out of.   Judging from the size of the cooler, it appeared there wasn’t  a lot of leg room, but in fairness, I didn’t sit in the back, so I don’t want to comment as a definite.

Zipper asleep on the floor. He is 18 pounds. Gives you an idea of leg room with seats all the way back

Bella stretched out in the backseat of the rental

My Road Warrior Bella in the Backseat

As a larger woman myself, I have to say the Toyota Corolla was comfortable for the most part throughout the trip.  I hated how low the seat was to the ground, but since I’m used to an Escape. I think any car is lower to the ground than I would prefer.  I am 5’10” and felt I hit my head too many times getting in and out of the car.  Once seated, I had enough leg room to be OK, I wouldn’t say it was comfortable.  For a long drive, I wish the center armrest was just a little higher.  There really was no place to rest my arm while I was driving.  Both the door and the center armrest was low.  I couldn’t imagine having power seats and raising the seat a little, I wouldn’t be able to even touch the armrest.

The head rest was just the opposite.  It was designed GREAT!  It was comfortable.  So rare in most vehicles, but I actually used it off and on throughout the drive.

Overall, the car handled nicely.  The cruise control maintained speeds even going up and down hills without feeling like it was dragging or playing catch up.  The car didn’t swerve too much, even with windier conditions, with the exception of going over a large, high bridge.  I was surprised by how much it moved.  With the size of the vehicle, as loaded down as we were, and with the weight of me and the dogs, I didn’t expect that much movement.  I would not want to drive over a high bridge during stronger winds with it!

As the sun began to set and I turned the lights on, I liked how comfortable on the eyes the interior lighting was.  It was the light red / orange you see in some vehicles, but it was laid out nicely.  I could still see everything without any strain or blurring  on the eyes.

I was very impressed with the gas mileage.  I could go about 350 miles on a tank of gas (it would say 362 miles when I filled it) and when I stopped to fill it, it only took about 10 gallons.  I averaged about 30-31 mpg.  When cost is a factor, it is nice to spend less for gas for the trip.

Some other nice features on the car are:

The cup-holders were spaced out nicely so two large cups could fit in them without hitting one when taking the other out.

There is a key holder on a wire so you can place a key chain there without  losing it.

There is a USB power unit within close proximity to the driver / the steering wheel so you can plug your phone in to charge really easily in addition to the usual power source located further down.

Everything was set up to be very driver friendly and within a comfortable reach.  There were audio controls on the steering wheel so you didn’t have to take your eyes off the road to make an adjustment.

All of these are great, but the feature I have to give the highest rating to is the hands free Bluetooth audio system!  I normally dislike these because I feel like they are garbled and a pain for the person you are talking to.  I normally hate talking to someone who is on one.  I decided to set it up to my phone anyway and give it a chance.  Am I glad I did! The sound quality was wonderful!  I talked to my mom for about twenty minutes and she had no problem hearing me.  Since she uses hearing aids, sometimes she does but she heard me clearly.  I heard her clearly.  Everyone I talked to (and I talk on the phone a lot when driving that far) could hear me fine with one exception.  I talked to one friend and I kept getting horrible feedback but I think it was his hand-free system, not mine because the minute he canceled his, everything was fine.  The only problem I found I would have is it sometimes wouldn’t answer with the system when I hit answer on the phone but it could have been my phone or the way I was answering.  I didn’t really have any time to play with it to see if other ways worked better.  I have to say it was probably the nicest drive I have ever had as far are telephone communication goes and for me, it made every other complaint I had obsolete because talking on the phone helps pass the time and makes the 13 hour drive go by a lot faster!

Saving money, easy drive, great hands-free audio system…..the positives outweighed the negative with this rental car!

If you like this and want to stay up to date with my posts, follow me on Twitter @HaliPawz  or Like me on Facebook.com/HaliPawz 

Texas Roadhouse Restaurant; Port Huron, MI – HaliPawz

After taking Bella and Zipper to the beach, I decided it was time to get something to eat. Mom had been eating crackers, so I took that as a sign she was getting hungry.  We had to stop at Wal-Mart for a few things so I wanted to stay in the north end.  Since we had the dogs, we had to eat, then go grocery shopping.  Trying to do it in reverse would be pointless, the dogs would destroy everything.    Cheap Charlie’s had disappointed me the last couple of times so it was time to find another go to when I am home visiting.  I am sure I will give them another chance because I love their CC sticks.  I knew the last time I was home, they were building a Texas Roadhouse, but my mom didn’t think it was open yet.  I decided to drive by to check it out anyway.  The number of cars indicated they were open, and appeared to be pretty busy. We pulled in and found a handicapped location right in front of the door.  Because my mom walks with a walker, it is always easier when we can get close to the door.  After getting the dogs settled, we headed in to try Port Huron’s newest restaurant; Texas Roadhouse.

Once in, there was a small amount of people sitting around waiting for a table.  I asked how long and was told 5-15 minutes.  Not bad, considering the number of people.  I sometimes forget about the difference between Port Huron and Kansas City in regards to the number of people!  We ended up waiting about 15 minutes, which isn’t bad.  We started to be seated in about ten minutes, but they noticed mom had a walker so they asked me if I wanted to wait a few more minutes for a table that would be better for her.  She wouldn’t have to walk as far and they thought it would be easier for her to sit at.  I truly appreciate when businesses give thought like that to the situation!  I thanked them and said we would gladly wait a few more minute.

You could tell it was relatively new, everything still had that nice, “polished” look about it.  The staff all seemed to be working efficiently.  I asked the one seating us when they had opened and she said April 6th.  For only being open about a month, they seemed to be doing well.

The music was a little loud, even by Texas Roadhouse standards.  I have been in a few and I don’t remember it being difficult to talk over the music.  I didn’t mind it, but with my mom being older and wearing hearing aids, I was concerned it might be a little too loud for her.  They served the warm rolls and cinnamon honey butter right when we sat down.  I didn’t even want to wait for a drink because they looked so good.

Texas Roadhouse Rolls and honey butter

Texas Roadhouse Rolls and Cinnamon Honey Butter

Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long! Rachel, our waitress, appeared right away to take our drink order.  I have been trying to drink more water, but I ordered my Coke with lemon that night because I knew I was having steak and a cold Coca Cola with a lemon wedge just goes better with steak!  While I was waiting for our drinks, I bit into a roll.  It was as good as it looked!  I honestly don’t think I have ever had a bad roll from a Texas Roadhouse though so this location continued the trend.

She brought our drinks and as my mom was ordering her food, I took a sip.  Ugh!!!  It was Diet Coke!  I HATE the taste of diet coke.  When it was time to place my order, I politely told her I thought, perhaps, she had grabbed diet instead of regular, then proceeded to place my order.   She immediately brought me another one, which I took a sip of, and said it seemed better, but then, after taking a couple more sips, I was sure it wasn’t regular Coke, but diet again.  She said she had made sure she grabbed it from the regular Coke when she brought it to me.

I proceeded to eat my salad, which, was DELICIOUS!  Honestly, it was one of the freshest restaurant salads I have had in a long time.  There was just enough of everything, the dressing, blue cheese, had a nice flavor to it.  I was impressed.  If only the drink situation could be resolved!

Rachel came back and I asked her what other beverages they had, I just couldn’t drink this Coke anymore.  It wasn’t right.  She told me, but none of them sounded appealing.  I know it sounds silly, but for me, a bad beverage can really make a difference.  I was about to switch to water with lemon, because I knew it would taste OK, when she offered to go and get me a Coke from a different unit.  Honestly, at that moment, I so appreciated her!  She could have just brought me water with lemon and thought I was some crazy restaurant goer, but she went above and beyond to try to resolve the problem.  She brought me the new drink and I took a sip…… HALLELUJAH….we have regular Coke!  It was delicious too!   I’m sure I had a happy smile on my face, because she said she was going to look into it.  I didn’t expect anything more from it because they were busy and again, I figured she chalked me up to just a crazy person, I know I probably would!

Our meals came and I was impressed by the way they looked.

Starting with my mom’s meal, she had ordered a loaded baked potato.  The potato was, indeed, loaded, but more than that, you could tell how warm it was because the butter was melting down the side of it!   It made me almost regret getting steak fries it looked so good!

butter melting bacon sour cream

Texas Roadhouse Loaded Baked Potato

My steak and fries looked perfect.  I had ordered mine medium rare, which can be a crap-shoot at some restaurants, so I was hoping I would not be disappointed today. So far, other than the beverage, the food was spot on.  I ordered the bone in ribeye.  As you can see, it came out looking wonderful!  Bone-in Ribeye, Steak Fries, and a Coca-Cola, a winning combination!

Texas Roadhouse Bone-In Ribeye, Steak Fries, and Coca-Cola

The first thing I noticed was how well it cut.  It sliced through so easily I almost thought I missed the steak at first!  It was prepared perfectly.  The medium rare was visible, not too rare (which usually happens).  I bit into it and it was so full of flavor as well!  Perfect temperature, just enough flavor.  i was happy.  I would like to rave about the steak fries as well, but they were, well, just steak fries.  They weren’t bad, they were good, but compared to the steak and the look of my mom’s baked potato, I have to say, they were just good.

Funny story to go along with the meal, Rachel came back after serving the steaks to tell me a manager had gone to check the fountain and discovered someone had accidentally hooked up the Diet Coke syrup to the Coke! I had been redeemed!  I was not just a crazy person!  The manager was with her when they told me and we all laughed about it.  Mistakes happen, I’m just glad they followed through and actually checked it rather than just letting it go.  I wonder how many others were given the wrong drink and just didn’t say anything about it?

My mom said hers was really good as well.  She didn’t finish her whole steak and there was a roll  left over, so we took it home and I made her a steak and cheese slider with the roll the next day for lunch.  She was pretty happy with it!

Overall, a very nice experience.  There have been times in the past when Port Huron would get a restaurant and the quality or service wouldn’t be what you had come to expect from other locations, so I was pleased to see this Texas Roadhouse not only MET my expectations, but, honestly, superseded them!  Something you don’t expect with a chain restaurant.  I would highly recommend stopping in there if you live there or if you’re passing through on your way to Canada or just in the area.

Just remember, if the Coca-Cola doesn’t taste right, SAY SOMETHING!  Don’t suffer in silence!  🙂

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My review of McDonald’s New Sirloin Third Pound Burgers – HaliPawz

Today had turned into a long day.  I ate lunch earlier in the day and with it being 9pm already, I was debating about running through a drive-thru restaurant or just wait until I arrived home to fix something.  I have been cooking at home a lot lately so I didn’t feel guilty about thinking about fast food.  I was pretty thirsty and decided to run through McDonald’s for a $1 large coke and maybe a chicken snack wrap.  As I was in the drive through, I noticed they had new burgers being advertised.  Their New Sirloin Third Pound Burgers.  Since I still had money on an Arch card I had won during a Coca-Cola twitter contest, I decided to give one a try.

The new burgers come in three styles.

The Lettuce and Tomato

Comes with third pound sirloin patty, white cheddar, leaf lettuce,

tomato, red onion, pickles, mustard, and mayo

The Bacon and Cheese

This is a third-pound sirloin beef patty, thick-cut bacon, white cheddar,

red onion, pickle, ketchup, and mustard

The Steakhouse

This is a third-pound sirloin beef patty, new creamy peppercorn sauce,

grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, and white cheddar

As I am not a fan of tomatoes, onions, or mayonnaise, I always ask what is on a new burger before I order it.  I appreciated the team-member’s honest answer telling me it was new to them that day, so she wasn’t familiar with it, but she would have an answer for me in just a minute.  She came back to tell me but was clearly telling me the wrong one because I had asked about the Cheddar and Bacon and she said mushrooms at first.  Once we had it figured out, she went over it again.  I ordered it without the three items I don’t like and a large Coke.

After some issues with my order in general, I finally received it.  As I pulled away, I took a minute to take the burger out and take a look at it.  The first thing I noticed was the box.  It was very colorful.  McDonald’s spared no expense in making sure you felt like you were getting a quality product.  Upon opening it, I was reminded of Hardee’s.  The burger was wrapped on one end in paper so you could hold it without everything leaking onto your fingers.  I’m sure some people appreciate this, but I always feel like it is a waste of paper and a little bit of overkill.

I want to make it clear I am not usually a fan of McDonald’s burgers.  I think they always taste too much like salt.  For this reason, if I do order a burger, I usually go cheap and just get a double cheeseburger or the chicken snack wrap (their hidden gem in my opinion).  I put this disclaimer in because I was surprised by the lettuce on the sandwich.  It was really tasty.  You could taste the lettuce.  It was crisp, fresh tasting, and noticeable.  I’m not sure if they use this same lettuce in other sandwiches, but I was impressed.

As you can tell from the breakdown of items, they are using white cheddar as the cheese.  I like white cheddar, but I feel like it is a much milder cheese, so the seasonings and toppings really need to bring out the flavor of the burger.

Another difference you may notice in this burger is the pickles.  They are slightly different than the ones used on the double cheeseburger.  They seem to be a little milder.  I liked them so no complaints there.

I WISH I could comment on the bacon, but sadly, they FORGOT the bacon!!!!  At $5 for the burger, it is disappointing but that is something I will have to address with McDonald’s.

Now, on to the real question, how was the sirloin patty.  One pro, if you aren’t a fan of the “salty” taste of McDonald’s other burgers, you will like this burger.  I was looking forward to biting into the burger, hoping I would have a new favorite McDonald’s burger.  While I could still taste the salt slightly (which I don’t taste in other companies’ burgers) it was not overbearing like I find in their other patty’s.  It definitely had a slightly better taste than other patties purchased there.  I was disappointed with how dry the burger was.  For some reason, they continue to overcook their burgers and cook all of the juice right out of it.  The flavor didn’t pop either.  As I mentioned earlier, the lettuce flavor overpowered the flavor of the actual burger.  I wish I could have tasted it with the bacon and if I decide to splurge and get it again, I will update my review.

Overall, with a $5 price point, I will not be making this my new burger of choice at McDonald’s.  It is, once again, a little disappointing with the competition continuing to come out with better burgers all the time, I would think McDonald’s would be working towards a better, juicer, tastier burger.

If you try it and like it, please put it in the comments.  I’d love to hear your thoughts…..or share your favorite fast food burger.

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Product Review: Smuckers Natural Strawberry Fruit Spread – HaliPawz

I occasionally enjoy toast with peanut butter and strawberry jam in the morning for breakfast. I am not one to eat PB&J sandwiches, so this is the only time I get to taste these flavors together.  I normally use American Spoon Early Glow Strawberry Preserves which I purchase from a small store up in Michigan when I’m there.  I love the taste, the texture, and there are only three ingredients; strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. I normally get there before I run out but this time I did not, so there I was, in Wal-Mart, looking for an alternative.  Before discovering the American Spoon product, I had always been loyal to Smuckers so when I saw the Smuckers Natural Strawberry Fruit Spread, I decided to purchase it.  I liked the fact it only had four ingredients. It was non GMO (which, to be honest, I don’t know if other brands are as well or not, I know sometimes they put labels on items for consumer value when the truth is, most products fall under the same category and just don’t say it). Either way, I bought into the hype, the ingredients, and it had the Smuckers’ label, so it went into my cart.  

I still had a day or two of the American Spoon product left, so I didn’t try it right away.  It sat unopened for about four days. I decided to open it and try it this morning.  

Now, before I go on with my review, I know one is a preserve and one is a fruit spread, so I want to explain the difference and also say, I’m trying not to compare the two.  It would not be fair.  I am reviewing it on its own merit as a fruit spread and nothing more. Preserves mean the fruit contained is in the form of actual fruit chunks. “Fruit Spread” usually means it is a jam or preserve made without sugar.  Since the second ingredient on the Smucker’s product is sugar, I realized they were not following that particular logic. Since the first ingredient is strawberries, I was hoping this product more closely resembled a preserve and not a jam. In Jam, the fruit contained is in the form of a pulp.  It can get rather confusing so I usually lean towards preserves because then I know there should be some actual fruit in the product! 

Upon opening, I saw the typical smooth top you generally see on a new product. If you look closely, you can see some shadows, which told me there were some chunks in it.  

  

I don’t like my toast extremely “toasty” I only leave it in the toaster long enough to harden the outside but it is still someone soft when you bite into it.  I put my Jif Extra Crunch Peanut Butter on the toast and then dipped my knife into the new fruit spread.  I have to admit, as the name says, it did spread quite nicely.  Even with the extra crunchy peanut butter, it was easy to spread around without having the appearance of being drippy. I also noticed one or two actual chunks of strawberry. Always a plus when you aren’t sure what you are purchasing. 

  

I bit into the toast. I intentionally did not bite the side with the largest strawberry chunk as I wanted to get the real flavor.  I was a little disappointed at first and had to remind myself not to compare to the American Spoon product and really think about what I was tasting.  Could I taste the actual strawberry OVER the peanut butter.  Yes. Was the flavor pleasant? Yes.  Surprisingly, the part with the strawberry chunk tasted the same as the rest, so the flavor was consistent.  I also appreciated the consistency was thick enough it did not drip down onto the plate or my hand every time I took a bite. 

I think the product is good, not great.  I would like a little more strawberry flavor. Even with sugar as the second ingredient, I will say it is not very sweet, the strawberry is more prominent than the sugar but still a little faint from what I would prefer. Compared to other Smuckers products I have had, I would say it is the best of their products. I compared prices at Wal-Mart between their regular Strawberry Jam I grew up with and their Natural product. There wasn’t much difference so I would recommend the Natural over the regular Jam.  Just the ingredients alone make it a better choice.  

If you are a Smuckers fan, you will appreciate this product.   I would say overall, it is better than average but not the best I have ever had. It is a fair alternative when cost and availability is a factor. 

Concentra Urgent Care in Grandview Missouri – HaliPawz

I have been sick for a while now.  I have put off going to the doctor and hit obstacles when I finally decided to go.  Obstacles I would honestly laugh at if it was someone else, including losing my debit card, getting dates wrong, etc.

Last Friday I started calling regular MD offices and they were all saying 5-14 days wait to be seen.  I finally decided on one who get get me in on Wednesday April 15 but after a really rough weekend where I almost took myself to the ER, I decided to go to an urgent care office Monday and not wait until Wednesday.

I looked at reviews online and did not seem too impressed with some of the reviews. I finally found one; Concentra, who seemed to have good reviews and appeared to put patient care first. They also had a coupon for $10 off for cash customers which I printed to bring with me.  I also printed the patient forms so I would have them filled out when I arrived.

I looked at the various locations in the KC area and decided to go to the Grandview Location.

Upon arrival, I saw people standing so I was a little concerned.  I went to the desk and was told, almost apologetically, it would probably be a 45 minute wait.  For a walk in clinic, I had expected at least a 20-30 min wait, so 45 min was no problem. I knew I had to be seen.  I handed off my paperwork and went to sit down. There were plenty of seats, the waiting area was plain, but clean.  There is a pole right in the middle so if you wanted to watch the television that was in the waiting area, you had to choose a seat around the pole.

The staff at the front desk seemed cordial. They seemed aware of what was happening and didn’t seem to just blow patients off.

After about 30 minutes, I was called back to the front desk where I was told today’s visit would be $150.  That would cover the visit, all lab work, etc.  I paid and was told it would just be a few more minutes.

I noticed some cute interaction between one associate and a child playing in the waiting room. She did not know the child but was giving him a pleasant experience in a doctor office.

About ten minutes later, I was called back up to the front desk. She had not realized I had the $10 coupon and asked if I would rewrite my check for $140.  I appreciated her acknowledging the mistake and not just blowing it off since I had forgotten to mention it to her even though I turned it in with my original paperwork.

I was taken back about 50 minutes after arrival, so they stayed true to their 45 min wait.  The nurse was pleasant. Seemed to listen to me. Asked me basic questions.  I was then told she wasn’t sure which doctor I would see, the male or the female, but she liked them both.  She also gave me a little info about both and then left.

The room was very plain. Plain gray walls.

The doctor came in and seemed friendly but honestly seemed a little unobservant. I did not feel like a priority at all. He would ask me questions, which I answered honestly, then would say something that did not make sense.  For example,  I explained I had my gallbladder removed and then he makes a comment like I might need to have some tests ran to look at my gallbladder.  Ummm ok…I don’t think the surgeon kept it.  He told me I probably just had a virus that needed to run it’s course, which I would appreciate if it had only been a few days, but again, I pointed out it had been almost a month!  It appeared like this information was just hitting him and then he stopped to think for a few minutes.  He sat down and just stared at nothing for what seemed like eternity.  It set a really uncomfortable feeling.  He didn’t say anything, didn’t look at me, didn’t look at my chart, just sat there staring, but it didn’t seem like he was staring at anything in particular.  It wasn’t even like he was staring off into space like one would do when they were thinking.

When he did comment, he almost made me feel silly for coming into an urgent care.  He kept saying I would probably need to go and see a gastroenterologist, urgent care couldn’t really help me, etc.  I had asked him to run a particular blood test.  It was the SAME test I had asked the front desk if they would be able to run, which they said they would be able to.  Even though I had mentioned it to the front desk, the nurse, and the doctor when we first started talking, he didn’t seem to want to run it.  He just wanted to write me a prescription for nausea and told me to take Prilosec because maybe I had an ulcer or something.  I was so frustrated at this point!

Upon my insistence one more time, he finally agreed to run the blood test I had originally asked for, but still seemed resistant.  When the technician arrived to draw my blood, she was wonderful.  She talked to me and seemed to be more interested in what was going on with me than the doctor was. She understood my concerns and said she understood why I wanted this particular test done before I did anything else.  Then she said I would have to pay more for the test. I didn’t understand this since I had been told at the beginning my $140 would cover all lab work.  The website boasted about how they didn’t have hidden fees, etc.  I was told it only covered lab work that could be done in house, but not the tests that had to be sent out.  Yet another frustration.  None of this was explained.  I had clearly stated I wanted this test done AT THE BEGINNING and was not told there would be an additional fee.  I agreed to pay it because I wanted it done.

I went to check out, paid the additional amount, and left extremely disappointed.  What a waste of $140.  I overpaid for a doctor who didn’t listen, didn’t pay attention, and, in my opinion, didn’t want to do his job.

I NEVER filled the prescriptions, the test results came back negative (which is fine, at least I knew) and, within a couple of days, I started feeling better again.  Perhaps if you have a sprained ankle or broken bone, which doesn’t really require any thought and it very obvious, this would be a good place to go, but I will never go back.  It was a waste of my time and my money.

Product Review; Loredana’s Jalapeno Marinated Asiago & Parmesan Cheese spread from Just Enough Heat – HaliPawz

Every now and then, you stumble upon a new product that is unbelievably good.  I had the great fortune of that happening just recently.  I was at a PRP International sale and they had Just Enough Heat there showcasing some of their products.  I had never seen them there before so we went to look at the products they had.  I am not a “heat” lover.  I don’t really care for spicy food too much.  I want to be able to taste the flavor of the food I’m eating, not burn my mouth.  The first thing I tried was their Savory Saltine Flavoring.   While I did not end up purchasing this, I was impressed.  With this flavoring packet, you change the flavor of basic, saltine crackers and give them a nice pop of flavor.  It is mild, but packed with flavor.  I avoided a lot of their products because of the heat factor, but they recommended I try their Jalapeno Marinated Asiago & Parmesan Cheese spread.  They gave me a little sample with a small piece of bread and I was hooked!  Even though it has “Jalapeno” in the title, it was classified as mild.  I bought a jar of it.

I happened to be having a small gathering later that day at my home so I put the jar on the counter away from all of the other food.  I didn’t want to share it with everyone, I wanted to be able to enjoy it later.  I looked at the jar a little later and saw that it was supposed to be refrigerated.  I was surprised because it wasn’t refrigerated or even kept cold when I purchased it, so I was a little concerned.  I double checked and no where did it say “Refrigerate after opening” it simply said “Keep Refrigerated.”  I put it in the refrigerator and forgot about it for a couple of days.  I hadn’t been feeling all that great so I wasn’t really trying to eat a lot.  I had a couple of Kings Hawaiian Rolls left over from my party  and decided to munch on one.  I remembered my cheese purchase and opened it up.  The first thing I noticed was how oily it was.  I remembered being told you had to stir it up really well before using it.

As you can see, the oil is all at the top.

After stirring it, the cheeses are very evident.

 .

I scooped out a little bit and put it on the roll.  It was as good as I remembered it!  The combination of the hard cheeses with the olive oil and garlic is amazing.  You do not need a lot because the flavor is so rich.  The mild Jalapeno gives it a bold flavor without the burn.   Over the course of the week, I also tried the spread on pretzel chips and found it to be pretty tasty.

I wanted to get some recipe ideas and since it had a Loredana’s label instead of  Just Enough Heat label, I looked up the company.  They are a small company in Denver.  As I was looking through their site, I saw some great recipe ideas, including putting a small amount into a hamburger patty.  Yes, I will be trying that as soon as I am feeling better!  I also discovered they have additional Asiago & Parmesan Cheese Spreads.  One in particular that caught my eye is their Garlic Marinated Asiago & Parmesan Hard Cheese.  They also have the same recipe but without as much garlic.  It still has garlic in it, but apparently not as much.  Since I like garlic, I think I would like the extra garlic.  They also have a Winter Truffle version I am a little curious about.

At $15 a jar, this is a little expensive for me to have on a regular basis.  I appreciate the cheeses used are not cheap and the quality and flavor is well worth the cost, it just isn’t in my budget right now.  I definetely will be purchasing a few more jars though so I can try some of the recipes.  As I do, I will make sure to share my thoughts on the other flavors.

I am so happy to have discovered this great new company.  They have other products besides spreads, including a vinaigrette section I will keep my eye on to see if they add a raspberry version.

I encourage you to check out Just Enough Heat and Loredana’s….two new companies with some great products, tell them you heard about them from me, maybe they’ll be nice and offer a discount on some of their other cheese spreads!  Hey, a girl can hope!

The Gunman; my movie review – HaliPawz

I went to see ‘The Gunman‘ at AMC Independence Commons in Independence, MO.  The movie is based on a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, directed by Pierre Morel, and starring Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca, Peter Franzen, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance, and Idris Elba.  Good names, strong director, should be interesting.

Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) is a former special ops soldier working in the private sector over in the Congo.  He’s a trained sniper with orders to take the Minister of Mines out.  After completing the mission, he had to immediately leave the continent, and leave his love interest, Annie (Jasmine Trinca), behind.  We catch up with Penn eight years later, back working in the Congo, this time for a good cause.  It appears he is trying to right all of the wrongs (killings) he had done in the past. While working, an attempt is made on his life and the remainder of the movie is focused on him trying to figure out WHO is trying to kill him, WHY they are trying to kill him, and him trying to stop it.  All the while, he is dealing with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) leading to early onset Alzheimer’s.  While in the process of reuniting with his former security team, he learns Annie went on to marry Felix (Javier Bardem).  Felix was the one who had ordered Terrier to kill the Minister and had assured him he would take good care of Annie.  Terrier also learns there is an ongoing investigation on the killing of the Minister of Mines and that Interpol is looking for him and the others involved.

The beginning was difficult to watch.  When the actors spoke, they sounded muffled, more so than just because they are talking in low tones; the images moved fast, almost giving you a swim feeling.  I was concerned about it being like that throughout the whole movie.  Luckily, it wasn’t.

After about the first fifteen minutes, the movie caught my attention and kept it throughout.  I enjoy good action movies, even if I tend to be a little squeamish at the blood scenes! I am what you would call a “close my eyes, I can’t watch, then I peek through my eyelashes” watcher when it comes to more of the gruesome scenes.  I can’t help it, even when I try to watch, it just happens. I will admit, there were plenty of scenes throughout the movie where I caught myself doing it.  Even when I tried to watch them, I’d flinch, close my eyes, and force them open again!  I’m sure the person sitting next to me was laughing at me!

The attention to detail seemed hit or miss throughout the movie, which was a little disappointing.  In an interview with Collider, Penn shared with them why he helped write the movie and how he worked with different consultants to bring authenticity to various scenes throughout.  This work was evident in the scenes where special op training came into play.  Those details and scenes were good.  The action scenes were suspenseful.  You know something is about to happen, you just don’t know what exactly.

One of the misses in the attention to detail was in regards to the TBI.  It went in and out of staying true to a character who would have this disease.  When it was convenient for him to have symptoms to make the movie interesting, it was front and center, when it wasn’t convenient, it just magically disappeared.  The movie touched on how he had been suffering with the symptoms long before he was ever diagnosed because he wrote everything down and had for years.  He was meticulous in keeping these books safe.  He was a trained killer.  The fact that he lost one of the books in such a sloppy way made for a good movie scene, but was another miss in the attention to detail you would expect from Terrier.

One scene, in particular seemed a little over the top.  It takes place out in a country home that just didn’t seem realistic, from the lack of security, to the number of staff members in the home.  The scene, as a whole, was played out a little long.  It was in this scene Felix gets killed and Annie goes with Terrier.

I was disappointed in how they portrayed Annie.  It was clear the two were in love in the beginning and it was clear from the beginning the feelings Felix had for Annie so it was not a surprise he wanted Terrier out of the way.  What wasn’t clear was how Annie could be such a strong woman to work as a doctor in the Congo during difficult times, yet acted so weak at other times in the movie.  As a doctor, she would have picked up on some of the symptoms of the TBI in Penn’s character, yet there never seemed to be a mention of it, it was as if she was completely in the dark.

We learn Interpol Office DuPont (Idris Elba) had been watching Terrier in his quest to catch up with Felix and the others.  He manages to have a cryptic conversation with Terrier and leaves him his business card instead of picking him up, knowing he was close to leading them to the others.

The last main scene had me confused.  Penn made a phone call to DuPont asking for some backup, but for Interpol to have been so close to him throughout the movie, always tailing him or watching him on camera, help didn’t arrive until everything was over with.  The timing just seemed far-fetched.

sean-penn-in-the-gunman 

All in all, I felt Penn did a great job in the movie.  You felt his emotions coming across the screen.  His character had depth and passion about trying to atone for something he did, even though it was at the direction of someone else and it was his job at the time.

Some of the movie was predictable but I didn’t feel like it took too much away from the movie itself.  Bottom line, as a story, it wasn’t the best.  As an action movie; combining Penn’s acting with Morel’s ability to direct some great action scenes, leads to a pretty good action movie.

 

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