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May 2018

The worst car charger on the market is made by iWalk

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

I recently assisted one of my sons with a phone upgrade at the local Sprint store, he got a Samsung S-9, nice phone.

While there and a bit of traveling on the agenda, I also picked up a 4.8 amp dual USB car charger, made by iWalk.  

First mistake:  Paying too much for the charger at a phone store, higher markup vs. say, Walmart.  Yes, I must admit, convenience got the better of me.  I paid $24.99 for the charger.  Sprint also offers dual port car chargers made by other vendors, but they're more expensive.

Second mistake:  This was an, "Oh yeah, I need one of those," impulse buys.  I didn't do any homework on this product, no asking around or reading any reviews regarding quality or performance.

iWalk 4.8A dual port car charger
iWalk Car Charger broken after first use

Long story short, I made the purchase and not two hours later decided to give it a try, my phone needed a charge.  Not only did I open the box and see a white charger inside even though the box said and the picture showed I was buying a black one, but guess what, the tip that engages the vehicle power port was not attached to the body of the charger, the insulator inside the cone tip was broken.  What was supposed to be a one piece gadget, was in two pieces, inside guts exposed.  I took the product back immediately and made an exchange, this time checking the product with the sales guy, opening up the box to ensure the charger wasn't broken.  This one was in one piece, not two and by gosh it was black just like the picture on the box!  But it wasn't removed from the packaging for a more detailed review.......  Could'a, Should'a....  Shame on me.

So I start traveling down the road, plug the charger into the port, plugged the phone into the car charger and so far so good.  My phone was at 23% and had charged up to 47% when I arrived at my destination.  I unplug my phone, pull the charger out of the port and guess what?  The tip remained in the port, same issue, broken insulator, rendering the charger useless.  Time for a refund.

iWalk Car Chargers Suck
Broken car charger tip

I'll be going for a different tip design with my next charger and it won't be anything made by iWalk.

The 4.8 amp dual USB car charger, made by iWalk gets zero out of five stars.  Even if this was a shipping issue, not the fault of iWalk, it begs the question, "They make it so fragile that a dropped box renders the chargers packed in the box useless?" 

I obtained two chargers and they both had the very same issue.  Chargers made by iWalk are NOT Bachelor on the Cheap friendly.  They suck, they're fragile, they're over-priced.

0 stars

 


Forget pizza by the slice, get a Godfather's mini

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Pizza is NOT the best eating-on-the-go food, many times it's a wearing some on the shirt kind of thing when behind the wheel.  You've probably been there done that, driving down the road, grabbing that big slice of pizza out of the packaging for a bite, trying to do the New York fold with one hand while keeping your other hand on the wheel....  You maneuver that drooping slice towards the mouth and some toppings fall off onto the shirt....  Thank goodness you went with the big flower Hawaiian print today....

Sure, with pizza by the slice, there's a higher risk for food spillage, but sometimes a guy just doesn't feel like a burger, a burrito or a chicken sandwich.  If I'm in the pizza mood when traveling, Casey's isn't a bad choice, their pizza is OK, be it their breakfast pizza - which is actually quite good - or the more traditional pizza by the slice options like pepperoni or sausage.  Sbarro's is another pizza by the slice option, but their restaurants are not as prevalent as they once were and if you're not around a mall it's not a very convenient choice. 

But there's an alternative.

Find a Godfather's Express and get a mini.

Godfathers all meat comboMinis satisfy the pizza craving and the risk for spillage is greatly reduced.  With the mini, you get four very easy to manage, delicious pizza slices.   Consider it a personal pizza for the road.  I'm sure it wasn't drafted on the recipe drawing board with traveling in mind, but it sure works out nicely.  The mini is WAY better than a traditional pizza by the slice!

I got the All Meat Combo, that famous Godfather's pizza crust and sauce topped with pepperoni, ham, beef, sausage, Italian sausage, bacon bits and mozzarella cheese.  It was delicious, it totally satisfied my pizza hunger and perhaps the best part - no spillage - even with all those toppings!  And no, I wasn't wearing a Hawaiian print on this occasion, sorry to disappoint, but I could have worn white for this behind the wheel meal.

I paid less than $6 for the mini after tax.  The Godfather's Express All Meat Combo mini is Bachelor on the Cheap price friendly and Bachelor on the Cheap taste friendly, scoring five out of five stars!

5 stars

 

 


Baskin Robbins Fruit Blast Smoothies are truly refreshing

Baskin Robbins Fruit Blast Smoothie Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

You're parched, it's 90+ degrees out, you're dripping with sweat because you're on the road traveling and the air conditioning in the vehicle you're driving doesn't work.....   How do you quench that thirst and cool off?  With a Baskin Robbins Fruit Blast Smoothie of course!

This is a fantastic real fruit and yogurt puree and combined with the finely crushed ice makes it a truly refreshing and more than satisfying treat! 

They are a bit pricey, I paid $6.69 for a large, but it was WELL worth it - I couldn't put it down it was so good!  Yes, the very hot day and no A/C had a lot to do with it, I'm sure.

Baskin Robbins Fruit Blast Smoothies aren't exactly Bachelor on the Cheap friendly in price, but they are Bachelor on the Cheap friendly on the taste buds and scores 4 out of 5 stars.

4 stars


Food Review: Boston Market's Salisbury Steak with Mac & Cheese

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

OK, so I was shopping at Walmart after work, I didn't feel like cooking upon returning home and I didn't want to stop at a fast food joint spending too much for too little either, so what was the plan?  Pick up a frozen dinner entree at Walmart...... 

What did I select?  A Boston Market Salisbury Steak with a side of Mac & Cheese.  Sounds good right?  Absolutely, good Salisbury Steak rocks and this is one of those meals that "Looks good" on the packaging.  So after perusing the entire frozen 'meal' isle, this is what tripped my trigger, this is what I chose for dinner, but how is it, really.......?

BORING!

20180522_203252I 'prepared' the meal in the oven according to the package instructions.  This has to be one of THE most under-seasoned meals I've eaten in quite some time.  With processed/packaged meals like this I'm always cautious about the sodium level, but this thing was SO BLAND!  It's like Boston Market ignored seasoning the food for fear of lawsuit.  The gravy for the steak was OK, the onions were tasty, but the gravy was under-seasoned.  It was missing much more than salt.  The meat was tender, but under-seasoned.  The Mac & Cheese, something I was really of looking forward to because I haven't had any in awhile.....  UNDER-SEASONED BIG TIME!  There was good coverage of the cheese sauce over the noodles, but it was BORING!  There was no bold cheese flavor, resulting in the biggest downer of the meal.  Did I mention everything was under-seasoned?

The portions were good, the meal includes two Salisbury Steak patties and a nice helping of Mac & Cheese, it's nearly a pound of food (14.5 ounces), but it's just so damn BORING!  The price was definitely right at just $2.08, but again, BORING!  I had to salt, pepper and red pepper flake the heck out of it to make it palatable.

The Boston Market Salisbury Steak w/Mac & Cheese gets just two out of five Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  This is NOT a repeat buy.  The picture is better than the real deal.

2 stars

Spend Wisely My Friends.....

 

 

 


Food Review: Stouffer's Lasagna is "eh"

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

I love a good lasagna and I make a mean one.  There's a downside to that though, making a really good lasagna takes time and time isn't always available.  That's a reality I think everyone can relate to.

While I rather enjoy taking the time craft a great lasagna, seasoning the meat; marrying the garlic, onion, oregano and other spices; simmering the sauce over mellow heat for a couple hours;  shredding and blending a variety of cheeses; assembling everything and baking.....  Time can be a luxury.

Enter, Stouffer's

Stouffer's LasagnaIt's easy and convenient, comes in a Family size or a Party size if feeding more than four or people.  But it's a Plan B meal, a put it in the freezer for when you have unexpected company, and/or a grab it because you can't think of anything else to fix for dinner that night, or are just in a hectic schedule phase and don't have time to meal plan.

Stouffer's Lasagna, is "eh" when it comes to flavor.  It's not bad, but it's not "Wow this is really good," either.  The lasagna is put together well enough, a nice layering of noodles, a decent amount of cheese, the portion of meat is OK, but a great lasagna is all brought together with the sauce....  Stouffer's sauce, is just OK, on the bland side.  Hence, the "eh."

A Stouffer's Family size is available at Walmart for around $7, the Party size will cost you around $13.  For Plan B convenience, that's Bachelor on the Cheap price friendly - you'll have leftovers.  Overall, Stouffer's Lasagna gets three out of five Bachelor on the Cheap stars.

3 stars

Spend Wisely My Friends.....

 


On the road, who has the best travel stops?

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

I don't know about you, but when on the road, I HATE pulling into a place that looks OK on the outside but has nasty restrooms and unfriendly and/or unmotivated staff on the inside.

So with traveling on the agenda last week, I thought it would be appropriate to rate the more well-known chain/franchise travel stops along our nation's highways, checking out who has the cleanest rest rooms, the best snacks, who pushes that ethanol crap, and more.  Basically, I evaluated which gas station/truck stop/convenience store chain is frankly, the most convenient overall?

I traveled through three Midwest states during my trip and here's what I found from worst to best:

Phillips 66, Gardner, KS:  This was one of those places that looks OK on the outside, but has nasty restrooms and lazy staff on the inside.  This seems to be a theme with this chain, I say that based on past experience in visits to other locations.  The general lack of cleanliness and staff members with bad attitudes must be related to low pay and training issues with this company.  The restroom on this visit, like other locations in past visits, was dirty, as in, very nasty.  The drink area was in need of attention, the replenishment of cups, lids, napkins, a wipe down.  Saying "Hello" generated NO conversational friendliness from the attendant when paying for my drink and pre-paying for gas.  I didn't want to bother with the food here, so there's nothing to report.  The price of gas was $2.64 for regular (87 Octane).  Ethanol is not real big in Kansas.  QualifierMost all gasoline blends in the United States have around a 10 percent blend of ethanol in it, it's called E-10 but gas stations don't have to label it as such.  So when I say ethanol, I'm talking beyond that 10 percent ethanol component.  E-85 for example is 85% ethanol.  The typical stuff the state of Iowa pushes, is 15% corn-based alcohol, a.k.a. E-15.

Valero, Emporia, KS:  The Kansas Turnpike Authority has six service areas located along the toll road and they're all pretty good, EXCEPT this one.  The gas station is a Valero, where you have to navigate very tight isles because there's an overkill of shelves, overstuffed with overpriced trinkets.  Seriously, only one person can walk down these isles.  On the way to the restroom, if somebody is already coming down the isle from the other direction, you have to wait for them to pass through the isle before you can proceed.  Once you get into the restroom, that's tight too.  Get ready to say, "Excuse me," a lot.  Snack options weren't in abundance and the only meal option is at a McDonald's in a separate building.  Outside, there aren't enough gas pumps to handle a large volume of vehicles.    Otherwise, the facility was clean, it's just not traveler friendly.  The price of gas on this visit was $2.64 for regular. 

Casey's, Coralville, IA:  I like Casey's, it's usually a reliable stop, but not this location, on this day.  The restroom was nasty, in dire need of attention.  I know it's hard to get motivated to clean up a restroom, but it has to be done.  The drink area was presentable, but one of the soda tanks was in need of changing out.  In this early morning visit, the breakfast pizza and some biscuits were available, but I passed on it based on the overall condition of the store.  I will say that other Casey's locations crank out some pretty good breakfast fare.  Casey's does push the ethanol crap, offered at a significantly reduced rate compared to regular unleaded, but to be fair it's an Iowa thing, a state mandate.  I don't like the higher ethanol blends, it's bad for your car and actually decreases gas mileage.  I pay the higher price for 'regular' unleaded, which on this visit was over $3 a gallon.

Quik Trip, Wichita, KS:  You can almost always rely on Quik Trip for clean restrooms, a plethora of snack options and friendly staff.  I love their fountain drink and coffee bar setup, it's spacious with more than one service area so there's no "excuse me" or waiting in line for ice or soda, a variety of cup sizes both in foam (no cold hands or cup sweating) and plastic and they feature Pepsi products (I'm a Diet Mountain Dew drinker).   Straws, lids, napkins and such are all easy to find and well stocked.  I'm not a huge fan of their hot food offerings, I'd rather go to a fast food restaurant, but for chips, nuts, jerky or anything like that, they've got it all covered.  If you do want a hot food offering, the QT Kitchen (if staffed) isn't a bad option because it's made to order.  Quik Trip also has the roller foods, hot dogs, taquitos, etc., as well as a warmer bin of sandwiches.  The price of gas here on this trip was $2.59 for regular and no, they don't push that Ethanol crap. 

Casey's, Bethany, MO:  This Casey's rocks!  I stop here often in my Midwest travels, it's always busy, but always clean, well stocked and the staff is friendly.   They've got an excellent variety of snack options, to include a kitchen always at the ready with a nice menu that competes with three fast food options across the street and they do a pretty darn good job of it.  The price of gas on this visit was $2.59 for regular.  I thank Missouri for having lower gas taxes.  Missouri doesn't push the ethanol real hard either, E-85 is available, but only at 125 stations statewide.

Shell, Cameron, MO:  Shell has rebounded from being on the nastier side of travel stops - like a Phillips 66 kind of place - to being a top tier travel stop.  I like the new Shell model for travel stops because they incorporate the modern plaza style, a very large gas pumping area that can accommodate a large volume of vehicles; a well-stocked convenience store; nice fountain/drink area; a variety of snack food options; well-maintained, large 'capacity' restrooms; and the best part, an attached fast food restaurant, in this case, a Wendy's.  The Homestyle Chicken Sandwich rocks by the way.  The price of gas was $2.59 for regular.

EZ Go - Topeka, KS:  This is another one of those Kansas Turnpike Authority service areas and this is a very nice one.   For gas, there's the EZ GO, open 24 hours and no waiting for a pump to open up during times of high traffic volume.  Food options are plentiful.  Choose from Hardees, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Dunkin' Donuts.  Facilities are well maintained and the price of gas on this visit was $2.65 per gallon. 

Love's - Eagleville, MO:  If you can ever plan your travels so that you can stop at a Love's, do so.  These truck stops are top notch featuring large volume pump station areas, large restrooms, a large convenience store with all kinds of snack options, easy access fountain/drink area and if none of the Love's food options trip your trigger, there's a Subway restaurant attached.   Overall, Love's should be a go-to for anybody traveling over-the-road.  And remember to gas up if your travels take you through Missouri, the state has lower gas taxes, thus, lower gas prices than neighboring states.

Spend Wisely My Friends.....


Grilling Good Eats - Grilled Buffalo Chicken Tacos

By Mike Thayer

20180518_114909I love hot wings!  There's just something about the flavor of Buffalo sauce, it's a great marriage with chicken and coupled with a bit of Ranch or Blue Cheese, makes for a perfect bite.  It's another dose of YUM!

My thing is, I hate bones.  I'm not a eat meat on the bone guy, I know, that almost sounds sacrilegious.  No worries though, I understand and appreciate the value of flavor and the need to cook meat on the bone, but when it comes to eating, I'd rather go boneless.

So rather than give you a recipe for grilled hot wings, which would be great, don't get me wrong, here's my preference for getting some great hot wing flavor without the bones or near the mess.

Mike's Grilled Buffalo Chicken Tacos

Here's the marinade for two large boneless/skinless chicken breasts or four boneless/skinless chicken thighs:

Ingredients:

  • Your chicken preference (I like thighs better for this, to me they have better flavor)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon dried, minced onion
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon of seasoning salt or your favorite rub
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • At LEAST a 1/4 cup of Louisiana Hot Sauce (by all means, flavor to your liking!)
  • The juice from one lime
  • A splash of rice wine vinegar (the rice wine variety is 'softer' than regular vinegar)
  • A splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter (for later)

Directions:

In a medium size bowl, mix all the marinade ingredients.  Place your chicken breasts or thighs in a large Ziplock bag, then pour in the marinade.  Refrigerate for at least four hours.  Option:  You can rough chop the chicken, I prefer to marinade it in whole pieces, then shred after grilling.  Besides, if you cube or rough chop, then you'll have to put the pieces on sticks or in a basket.  When your grill is ready to receive, grill over indirect heat, about 10 - 12 minutes on each side, then move to direct heat over the coals to finish cooking, getting some char on the chicken.  This method is called 'Reverse Sear'.  Do NOT throw away the remaining marinade!  Warm it up in a small pan along with that 1/2 stick of butter and a couple more squeezes of lime juice if you've got it.  A few more splashes of Louisiana Hot Sauce may also be in order (go for it!).  After you pull the chicken from the grill and let it rest, shred or rough chop and reintroduce to the warmed marinade.   Stir a bit to get good coverage and serve on warm tortillas with a little shredded lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese and blue cheese or Ranch dressing.  It's another dose of YUM!

via www.grillinggoodeats.com


Coming Soon: On the Road - Gas, restrooms, snacks, who provides/manages the best travel stops?

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

I'm preparing for another road trip and it hit me, I need to do an article on travel stops!  I don't know about you, but I HATE pulling into a place that looks OK on the outside, but has nasty restrooms and lazy clerks on the inside.

So of the more well-known chain/franchise travel stops along our nation's highways, who has the cleanest rest rooms, the best snacks, who pushes that Ethanol crap, which gas station/truck stop/convenience store chain is frankly, the most convenient overall?

I'll write about my road trip experiences and travel stops in an article coming soon...

Stay tuned and,

Spend Wisely My Friends.....


Grilling Good Eats, Chapter 6 - Pork Recipes

Chapter 6 - Pork Recipes

Grilling Good Eats

by Mike Thayer

Pork Chops Smoked Low and SlowPork is under-eaten and that’s a grill crime. Sure, ribs are popular, but there are so many other cuts of pork that a lot of folks just don’t consider but should. Ribs are fantastic, but so are pork roasts, chops, pork steaks, kabobs and more. They’re all so darn tasty!

My favorite pork cut is the boneless pork loin. You can treat it like a roast, cut it into chops, slice it thin for grilled sandwiches or chunk it up for kabobs. It’s cheap, delicious and a bonus is its flavor versatility. It absorbs marinades/sauces well and works great with just about any chicken recipe. Try using pork loin instead of that chicken breast in your favorite chicken recipe, you’ll like it!

Meat Temp for Pork:  Grill pork until the meat thermometer hits the 145 degree mark.  Remember to let the meat rest after pulling from the grill!

And now to the recipes....

via www.grillinggoodeats.com