Sunday, November 25, 2012

Russian Pirozhki - With Meat and Kapusta (Cabbage)

Pirozhki are the Russian pastries that often can be found inside the Russian baza stores, especially on Brighton Beach Avenue here in NYC. Its a classic Russian "fast food" snack that was popular for many Soviet years, and even these days pirozhki are very popular among the Russian consumers. Generally there are 3 types of pirozhki: deep-fried or as I like to call them Sovietskiyi (Soviet) or Stolovyyi (cafeteria or lunchroom style), triangular-shaped fillo dough ones or as Russians call them Sloyoniyi (layered) and the 3rd type is "fried" or as I like to call them homestyle. Pirozhki are made with savory and with sweet fillings. Some popular savory filling are meat [chicken, beef and pork], cabbage, pea paste, mashed potatoes and mushrooms eggs & onions. Sweet fillings generally include preserves and jams, which popular flavors include apples, cherry, apricots and sometimes [rarely] strawberries. Sweet filling pirozhki also maybe topped with some powdered sugar, but only of handful of Russian stores in NYC sell them this way. Russian stores that make sweet filling pirozhki most likely use commercial type of fillings that come in 5-gallon pails that most of the bakeries use, and could include jelly fillings. The pirozhki that I have here on hand are of the cafeteria style. I call them cafeteria or Soviet style because this type of pirozhki were widely available in all kinds of cafeterias during the Soviet and early post-Soviet times. I remember this type of pirozhki from kindergarden and from the school's cafeteria in Kiev. They were also available in many cafeterias and at some gastronoms (marts) in Kiev. On were also available in a couple locations on the Kreschiatik street, where Russian grannies would sell them from the wooden boxes. These Soviet style pirozhki are best in my opinion because they are deep-fried and hence soaked in oil, which make them not as dry as the fillo dough ones and the homestyle/fried [on the pan] ones. Soviet style pirozhki taste best pretty much as soon as they are done, given that they cool-off for some minutes, but they also hold the taste properties for hours, can be kept refrigerated for a day or two, and can be easily and quickly reheated inside a microwave or a gas oven, while retaining their awesome taste properties. Fillo dough type of pirozhki are drier and crumsier type of pirozhki, but most of the people prefer them with sweet filling instead of savory ones. After a day or two, the fillo dough hardens-up and does not taste very well. Fillo dough pirozhki are also disbalanced towards the corners due to the filling that is concentrated inside the center of the pirozhok. The 3rd, homemade style of pirozhki are pretty much made on the frying pan, which is fried on top and bottom in a thin layer of oil. This type of pirozhok turns bad [flat and dry] after 3-4 hours of its making. Homemade pirozhki are frequently made small and are sold per pound, but sometimes they are also made in about the same size as the deep-fried ones. I call these homemade because this is how most Russian people make pirozhki at home: on a frying pan. One pirozhok can be bought on Brighton Beach Avenue in several street and store locations for $1.25, but some store may price it for $1.50. When I went to the Kingsborough Community College, I used to eat a lot of the Soviet style pirozhki on Brighton Beach Avenue, because the transfer bus stop was there on the way home, so it made sense for me to grab a couple and glass bottle of soda as an affordable snack [compared to overpriced college cafeteria foods], and during this time, the pirozhki were priced at $0.75-$1.00. I also call all 3 types of pirozhki as "Russian Hot Pockets".

First pirozhok.

Inside of it there's kapusta (cabbage) stuffing. The cabbage is kinda stewed with pieces of carrots and there is also some ground pepper that can be see in the mix.

Second pirozhok.

It has meat stuffing inside. Its ground chicken meat mixed with onions and some spices [probably ground pepper and salt].

By the way, the best drink with a meat pirozhok is cold Coca-Cola in my opinion.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Lego Kit 9461 - The Swamp Creature

Recently I have been over at Flatbush Avenue Target which is next to the college that I go to, and inside the store when I was passing by the toy department, I decided to stop by the Lego isle to see if they had any open stock minifigures. These open stock minifigures have been produced for quiet some time now, maybe 2-3 years, and every 3-4 months they introduce a series of 16 different collectible minifigures. After 6 or so months, they retire the given series at the time and you don't really know what Lego minifigure you will get because all of them have the same packaging, but if the part or an accessory to certain minifigure is large enough or unique, then you can "feel" it and hopefully get what you want. They did not have these minifigures in stock, as always, because I think whenever they get them in-stock, they all get sold-out within a day or 2 due to the scarcity, high demand and value. In the past several years, I only caught these minifigures once at Target, and they only had 3 packs of them in stock, so I bought them all. Generally they are mostly available at the B&M Lego shops/boutiques, but the prices for them are $3.49+tax. Since I did not found the open stock minifigs, I browsed around to see if they had anything for cheap under $10.00 and I found this "The Swamp Creature" kit for $6.99 [plus tax]. It is part of the Lego's new theme which is called Monster Fighters that features minifigures of popular monsters and team of "monster fighters" minifigures. In this kit the minifure of the Swamp Creature alone was the deciding factor for me to buy the kit, because I think that it is super-awesome all by itself. By looking at the box art I, there was also an Elvis-kind-of-guy minifigure, whose name I learned later to be Frank Rock [I get the Lego catalogs every once in a couple of months that I use as bathroom reading material] and he is pretty much one of the monster fighters. Frank's unique minifigure part is his hair/wig, which is very Elvis-like. To tell the truth I really don't know the whole story to the Monster Fighters theme, but what I do know is that Lego recycles their old themes every once in some years and in 1997-1998 there was a theme called Time Cruisers that had a set in it which was called Twisted Time Train. I remember it because I got it as a gift for my birthday, and now they recycled this idea of train into Monster Fighters, which is made with more parts and is priced at double the price of the 1997 train kit, which was around $35-$40 if I remember correctly. They also added a bunch of new parts to the new train kit. So back to the Swamp Creature kit: it includes the Swamp Creature, Elvis, swamp-sickle and Elvis' swamp craft. The parts/pieces that I thought of to be worthy from this kit are: Swamp Creature minifigure, Elvis' hair, 3 revolvers/pistols, toad, fish and what seems to be somekind of a "seaweed crystal" that seems to be related to the Swamp Crature minifigure, because from looking at the Lego catalog, every monster minifigure seems to have a crystal of their own, so this must tie-into the whole Monster Fighters theme somehow, probably as a gimmick to "collect them all" or something like that.

From the back of the box there is some suggestive mini story/strip of Dracula minifigure and Swamp Creature being mad at Dracula for stealing his seaweed crystal in order to launch some kind of a moon-like haduken.

Another graphic strips in the back which suggest the minifigures that are part of the Monster Fighters theme.

Back of the box.


Contents of the kit.

Swamp Creature minifigure.

Frank Rock [Elvis] minifigure.

Assembled kit.

I think that this is very good kit that well worth the $6.99 price. Lego increases the prices of their kits every once in a couple of year or so, to keep up with the inflation, and this reflects on price per piece/part. The only issue that I have with this kit is that the propeller of the swamp craft touches the surface. I rate this kit at 4.2/5.0 with a value rating of 4.0/5.0. I also googled for the Swamp Creature minifigure, and found the following art and graphics by the minifigure's designer Alexandre Boudon:

Concept art by Alexandre Boudon for the Swamp Creature minifigure.  Click the image for full size.

Swamp Creature's production graphics. Click the image for full size.

You can also check this interesting video; National Geographic's Lego factory documentary here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Staples 25% Off Any Single Item Coupon, Ends Today

Another coupon that I got today in the email is the Staples coupon for 25% off for any single item, with certain items excluded per terms/fine print. It ends today (November 21st), so print it and use it if you need to. It's great for something like a multi-terabyte external hard drive. Read the fine print to make sure that you item of interest is not excluded from this deal.

Free Auntie Anne's Cinnamon Pretzel with Purchase of Pretzel and Drink

Just received this coupon in the mail today from Auntie Anne's. It gives you either original or cinnamon pretzel for free when you buy one of their pretzel products and a drink. Not a very good deal because they began to put the drink with the pretzel purchase for over 6 months now, and extra cost for the drink just ruins the deal in a way. But it's still an okay deal if you are hungry for a double pretzel dose and a drink to boot. Print it and use it at the Auntie Anne's joint.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Smirnoff Ice Black Watermelon

Couple of months ago I was looking to get myself something with alcohol at the local food mart, but the assortment was slim due to the fact that most alcoholic beverages in the place are different brands of beer, so my choice pretty much fell on Four Loko, until I spotted a lineup of Smirnoff Ice Black alcoholic beverages: Fruit Punch, Lemon Lime and Watermelon. I had bad experience with fruit punch and berry flavored alcoholic beverages so I skipped the Fruit Punch version, and Lemon Lime was also interesting but it could be a 50/50 of being bad, so the Watermelon was the lesser riskier choice from the 3 that were available, because in my opinion it is diffucult to screw-up anything with watermelon flavor. The price of $1.99 per can was also very attractive to me, because Four Loko was sold at $2.99 per can and Mike's Hard Lemonade in a similar-sized can [24 ounces or so] was sold at $5.99 per can, so it was a no-brainer for me to go with Smirnoff Ice Black instead of lesser-quality [in my opinion] Four Loko or Mike's Hard Lemonade that was priced at 3x times that of Smirnoff. Smirnoff can also looked more appealing than the rest of the choices available at hand at the time of purchase.

Affordable price of $1.99.

Made by Smirnoff, which is good, because they make good quality vodkas at affordable price.

The can contains half an ounce more of beverage than the $0.99 AriZona can of non-alcoholic beverages, and for only $1.00 with 8% alcohol while made under the quality brand Smirnoff, the beverage looked and sounded really promising.

Unique top of the can with black lid and green pull tab.

Neat looking and feeling texture makes this beverage stand out on the shelf from others.

The drink itself was pretty much what I expected it to be: more enjoyable and smoother than Four Loko. The watemelon flavor was slightly above average but exotic-tasting non-the-less; especially while on the rocks. The drink is great for sipping but I think that some people out there would not mind chugging it. The 8% of alcohol by volume is just about right in my opinion, because if it would go over 12% or so then it would be not as smooth and as enjoyable as it is. I enjoyed this beverages and the $1.99 [plus can deposit and tax] that I spent on it was well worth it and I have no regrets over it: watermelon version was a good choice. I would definitely buy another can of this Smirnoff beverages, but lately I did not see it on the shelves at the place where I bought it. It's nice to have a can or 2 of these in the fridge just for whenever you feel like drinking it or when nothing else is available. I rate Smirnoff Ice Black Watermelon at 4.2./5.0 and value rating of 4.5/5.0. I definitely recommend this product, especially if you don't like beers but want a good-tasting alcoholic beverage with great value per serving.

Monster Mixxd Energy Drink

Here is another one of the Monster energy drinks, this time it is the Mixxed energy + juice type of energy drink. Personally I refer to this energy drink as "Purple Monster", because theme color to the beverage is purple. To tell the truth, I was not really concerned with the flavor and did not bother searching for it when I bought the can, I was just thrilled about the purple color theme. I already knew from past experiences that energy + juice was a 50/50 thing of being either good or bad, so the thought of testing this product out was an intrigue to me, but like I said, I was not looking for flavor beforehand that I opened the can. This energy drink was sold at several Deals stores around Brooklyn for $1.00 per can during the summer until September, and they had cases of it stacked as high as 5 feet tall from what I remember from the 86th Street location. $1.00 per can of any Monster is a rare find, but the taste was the second half to it, that would make or break the value of the deal.

Back of the can with "The Juice is Loose..." story gimmick.

2nd time that I visited the store, I bought 12 cans of it. Too bad they don't have it anymore.

Monster Mixxd with a good amount of carbonation. The drink's color is brownish-purple dark color. 

True color of Monster Mixxd, before the light: lighter and more transparent than just a glass of it on the counter. The drink itself tasted liked a carbonated grape juice, and not your average store-bought grape juice. This one tasted like a real grape juice without any additives, like the stuff that Kedem brand makes in a small glass bottle with purple cap. When I tasted this energy drink at first I was a bit puzzled at what to make of it: I was not offended by it, but I was not crazy about it either but I could not stop sipping it! The different flavor from the rest of the energy drinks on the market appealed to me, and I mildly enjoyed it and did not complained about it. Couple of days later I went to the Deals store once again and bought 12 cans of Monster Purple, and during the 2 week or so period I drank all the cans. Looking back at this energy drink right now, I kinda miss it because sometimes I just was not drink something unique and different and that is what this Monster Mixxd is: an energy drink with unique kind of flavor. I can definitely see why some people would hate it, but on the other hand it is just grape-flavor Monster, and I don't see anything wrong with it, other than it is not the greatest Monster out there. At $1.00 price at the Deals store, this drink is kind of a steal. I rate this drink at 4.1/5.0 with a value rating is 4.7/5.0 at $1.00 and 4.0/5.0 at regular price. If you will see this energy drink on the shelves then give it a try, but there is a 50% chance that you will hate it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Shrink Ray: Walgreen's Big Roll Toilet Paper - Big Roll is Getting Smaller

Big Roll is a brand of toilet paper which is sold in Walgreens locations throughout United States, and I prefer using it over some other brands because it is cheap [compared to others] and is of good quality. Several days ago I began to ran out of my supply of 52 rolls of Big Rolls, which I bought around 2 years ago during one of their Thanksgiving Day promotions, so I went to Walgreens and bought 4 more. When I came home and began to stack them in the supply closet, I noticed something different about the new batch: the rolls were shorter than the old stock, so I read the text and found out that the product has been shrink-rayed:

Bigger one on the left and smaller one on the right.

Older, bigger roll.

Newer shrink-rayed, smaller roll.

Doctor [Clone] Soda Drink: Dr. Bob by Stop & Shop

Another interesting item that I have found at the Stop & Shop mart is the Dr. Bob soda. I am a big fan of Dr. Pepper soda, and it is my 2nd favorite soda after Coca-Cola, so giving a try to Dr. Bob was a-must, especially when the price per 2L bottle was $0.77 [plus tax and deposit]. The graphics on the label were pretty doctoriffic, so it was a no-brainer to me that at hand was a Dr. Pepper clone: a store brand variation of the globally popular soda. The name was also pretty forward -  Dr. Bob: a drink for the average guy.

Back of the label.

As you can see from the photo, the soda was well carbonated, with a very foamy head, so I was pleased to know that the soda will be at least well-carbonated. The taste was similar to Dr. Pepper at first but then it went to a different direction, nonetheless it tasted like a decent copy of Dr. Pepper and I was not disappointed with it. Where the taste in Dr. Bon went away from Dr. Pepper was not in a bad direction, just in a different one, and I had no problem with it, since I did not expect it to taste 100% like Dr. Pepper. I would say that Dr. Bob has around 75% or so being similar to Dr. Pepper, which is good in my book. Usually Stop & Shop 2L sodas retail for $1.00 or so, so the $0.77 sale price was of very good value. I rate Dr. Bob at 4.0/5.0 with a value rating of 4.7/5.0 and would recommend it to anyone that likes Dr. Pepper and doctor clone sodas. I wish that they had them in aluminum can inside 12-packs, but they had none in stock when I was in the store, so maybe they have them at another location, because doctor drink inside the cans would be much preferable.

Some one's collection of cans and bottles of doctor soda clones.

Hot Pockets: Limited Edition BBQ Recipe Bacon Burger Buns

I was at the Target store yesterday and stumbled upon these new "Limited Edition" hot pockets buns, and since there was "BBQ" printed on the box, I knew that I had to give this product a try. The price was $2.29 on sale, and I figured that 1 box would be sufficient for the taste-testing of it; a year or so ago there was another Limited Edition Hot Pockets that had macaroni, garlic and something like Parmesan cheese stuffing inside, and I bought several boxes of it and hated it, so now I just buy 1 box so not to make that mistake again. Front side main ingredients listed as: "hamburger, cheese and bacon with sauce in a bun", so it sounded like a promising stuffing to me. While technically these Hot Pockets buns are classified as Hot Pokets sub-brand/lineup of SideShots, the name "SideShots" is nowhere to be found on the packaging, but there is a text of "4 buns" in a couple of places. To tell the truth, I actually prefer the SideShots soft buns over traditional Hot Pocket crispy pastries. The only negative thing that I tell right away is that the SideShots, especially the ones at hand, have experienced the shrink ray: 8 ounces now compared to 9 ounces before: thats 29 grams less of a product, and it makes me disappointed already.

Back of the box.


What's inside the box.

Cold buns.

Warm buns.

These SideShots taste heavenly when cooled down: the tangy BBQ sauce, mixed with cheese and yummy bits of meat [burger]. I did not tasted much much of bacon, but I did not care much for it, but it is there; in small amount. These SideShot buns are totally awesome and I ate all 4 of them one after another, and I can definitely see myself eating a pile of 12-16 of them in 1 sitting, they are so good. The BBQ sauce was the most outstanding ingredient in these buns, and it is the same "Hot Pockets BBQ Sauce" that the other Hot Pockets [regular and lean ones] feature: tangy, with a pleasantly sour kick to it, but nothing like your regular store-bough BBQ sauce tastes like. I rate these BBQ Bacon Burger SideShots at 4.8/5.0 with a value rating of 4.4/5.0 [just because they are so small and the price per bun is around $0.57 or more]. Give these Hot Pockets SideShots a shot, because they taste great and will not be available for long.

Those Magical Coupons: McDonald's Fall 2012 Coupon Book [Волшебные Купоны]

Last week  McDonald's coupon booklets came-in the in the weekly circular pack, so here they are above. I was able to get 37 of them from all the circulars that were available in my building, so my coupon supply is well-stocked. Let's take a look at what is being promoted for the next couple of month [coupons expire at the end of the year]:

Front of the booklet with this month $1.00 promo Hot 'N Spicy McChicken Sandwich. Its pretty much like a standard McChicken sandwich but a bit spicy, not too much.

Back of the booklet with an ad for 2 for $3.00 Sausage, Egg & Cheese McGriddles. Its a pretty good deal and I've tried it 2 weeks ago for breakfast: they taste good, are filling, and a good value.

Coupons for BOGO burgers: Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, Filet-O-Fishes, Premium Chicken Sandwiches, Angus Third Pounders and the new CBO sandwiches.

Different free with purchase coupons: pretty much fries and fries with soda. Not really worth unless you really want a meal type of a deal.

Coupons for coffees: I am not into them but the middle one sound like a good way to try the Cafe Con Leche.

Apple Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal kasha. I hate this kind of food.

Coffee advertising. I'm not into coffee, so it ain't for me.

Dollar menu items. McDouble is excellent for $1.00, then McChicken. Sweet Tea is also great.