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May 2022

The Taco Bell Toasted Cheddar Chalupa is back!

By Mike Thayer

The fan favorite is back for a limited time.

If you're not already familiar with this tasty treat, here's the description from the Taco Bell website:  A Chalupa shell with 6-month aged cheddar toasted on the outside and with seasoned beef, reduced-fat sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, and cheddar cheese on the inside.

These can be enjoyed for $4.19 each or as part of a Toasted Cheddar Chalupa box for $5.49 (a Toasted Cheddar Chalupa, a Crunchy Taco, Cinnamon Twists, and a medium fountain drink).  You can go even bigger with a Deluxe Box for $7.49 (a Toasted Cheddar Chalupa, a Chicken Toasted Cheddar Chalupa, a Beefy 5-Layer Burrito, a Crunchy Taco, Chips with Nacho Cheese Sauce, and a medium fountain drink).

These things ROCK!  Here's the review I did on the Toasted Cheddar Chalupa the last time it was on the Taco Bell menu.  Note the price for a combo box went up a bit...

Winner, Winner, Taco Bell's Toasted Cheddar Chalupa Dinner

By Mike Thayer

Taco Bell Toasted Cheddar ChalupaUnveiled at participating Taco Bell restaurants on September 12th, this new menu item is being featured in a combo that pairs one Toasted Cheddar Chalupa with two crunch tacos and a drink for $5.

The price is right!

The Toasted Cheddar Chalupa includes seasoned beef, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese and kicking this thing up a notch is 6-month-aged cheddar toasted right into that classic Chalupa shell!  THIS THING ROCKS!  This shell is SO good, I would eat it by itself.  The texture is perfect, giving you a bit of a crunch on the outside, a soft/fluffy quality on the inside and that nice note of aged cheddar with each bite. 

Toasted Cheddar ChalupaI didn't put any sauce on it in taking that first bite, I wanted to see just what kind of flavor this thing had and it did not disappoint.  The seasoned beef, the fresh lettuce, tomato, sour cream, shredded cheese, all classic Taco Bell flavors, but what makes this thing great is that shell!  I couldn't put it down and there was no need to doctor it up with any sauce.  To repeat, it's so good, I would eat the shell by itself.  Completing my dinner were those two crunchy tacos after inhaling the Chalupa.  Now those, got sauced....

Nicely done Taco Bell!  The Toasted Cheddar Chalupa tastes great and gets 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars and the combo price of $5 is wallet friendly too! 

OK folks, now get out there and buy yourself a winner, winner Taco Bell Toasted Chalupa dinner!  Tasty, tasty!

5 stars

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The Bachelor on the Cheap guide to making wine selection and food pairing easier - Nebbiolo

Wine FunBy Mike Thayer

This is the seventh of an ongoing series of wines and food pairings

Wine, it's the perfect beverage for a romantic dinner, a go-to for a casual get-together/party and a holiday meal is complimented by it.  Whether it's a meal for two, a small party for friends or a gathering of family, having the right wine elevates the occasion. 

And while most people follow the basic rule of thumb - red wine for beef and white wine for chicken - selecting the right wine can still be challenging.  What KIND of red for that roast beef?  Or, What KIND of white for that lemon chicken dish?  Does dessert call for a different wine?

The choices are many and can be intimidating, with the reds there's Merlot; Cabernet Sauvignon; Zinfandel; Syrah/Shiraz; Malbec; Pinot Noir; Nebbiolo; Sangiovese; Grenache and all kinds of red blends to choose from.

With the whites there's Chardonnay; Sauvignon Blanc; Moscato; Pinot Grigio; Riesling; Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Torrontes, Albarino and yes, white wine has it's share of blends as well.

So you walk into the liquor store in need of a bottle of wine for a dinner date or special occasion... 

Sure, you can rely on the store attendant to help you with a selection but that can be hit or miss.  A good attendant will ask you if you prefer wines on the sweeter or dryer side and what you might be pairing it with.  But keep in mind the attendant's palate is different than yours, their sweet and dry preferences are different than yours and they might try to push a particular brand on you that's in the store's best interest, not yours.  So why not walk in the store knowing what you need?  That's what this guide is for, to help you with food pairings, what is sweet, what is dry and getting a good wine for under $15 a bottle.  That's the Bachelor on the Cheap wallet friendly thing to do, get something nice, without paying too much for it.

For previous reviews, click on the link below:

Today's featured wine:  Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo grapes are grown in many parts of the world, but the vast majority are grown in Northern Italy.  Nebbiolo wines are also produced in California, Argentina and Australia.  Having high tannins and acidity, it pairs well with fatty, creamy dishes with the acidity cutting through the rich flavors and cleansing the palate.  Like Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo is a food friendly wine and matches up with a number of main dishes and sides.  Look for tasting notes of cherry, raspberry, rose, star anise and tobacco.  This is a medium to full bodied wine that will compliment just about any tomato based pasta dish you can think of, especially a good ragu or bolognese and going Italian is your best bet.   When it comes to a non pasta meat dish, think fattier meats but nothing too gamey, perhaps a slow roasted pork or beef roast.  When it comes to cheeses, don't go too funky. Creamy cheeses like brie and goat are excellent paired with Nebbiolo, as are hard cheeses such as Parmigiana Reggiano or Pecorino.  For you veggie lovers out there, mushroom anything!  Roasted root vegetables are great and you can get away with loading them up with a lot of olive oil and/or butter.  A spicy Asian veggie stir fry is good as well.  For dessert, don't go there.  Nebbiolo is not a good match with anything sweet.  And like other red wines, serve it slightly chilled, at 60 - 65 degrees, refrigerate about 30 minutes before serving but decanter it first, it will benefit from breathing.

Kirkland BaroloBachelor on the Cheap Recomendation: Kirkland Signature Borolo - $19.99. I know I prefaced this with recommending good wines for $15 or less, but finding a good Nebbiolo for under $20.... Challenging!  What Costco produces with their Kirkland Signature brand hails from Piedmont, Italy, THE place on the planet for the top producers of Nebbiolo.  Here's the description from the bottle:  Rich garnet red in color with notes of vanilla and rose petal on the nose, this full-bodied wine delivers notes of black currant and licorice on the palate. Great for long-term aging.  14% alcohol.

Next Up in the series:  Sangiovese

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Arby's Bacon Ranch Wagyu Steakhouse Burger is the burger to beat in fast food

Arby's Bacon Ranch Steakhouse Burger
American Wagyu + Bacon = Winner!

By Mike Thayer

It's not just fast food trash talk anymore, the Arby's tagline, "We have the meats,"® now includes Wagyu.

The fast food chain has never had a burger on its menu before and they went big with it, introducing a Wagyu Steakburger on May 23.  And of course, in the name of "Food Science" (cough), I HAD to try it on the day it was unveiled nationwide.

I posted my review of the Arby's Deluxe Wagyu Steakburger yesterday, but there's another Wagyu option on the Arby's menu for customers to enjoy and that's the Wagyu Bacon Ranch Steakburger which I'm reviewing today.

ICYMI:  A blend of 52% American Wagyu (That means it has more marbling, a.k.a., flavor and is more tender than regular ground beef for those of you who live in Haysville) and 48% ground beef, the patty weighs in at 6.4 ounces (pre-cooked) which is 50% larger than McDonald's Quarter Pounder.  Cooked sous-vide style, a technique usually associated with fine dining, the cooking method results in a juicier burger with a crispy outer edge and a slightly pink center. 

As if the Arby's Deluxe Wagyu Steakhouse with its special burger sauce isn't already a cut above the competition, they kick things up another notch with the Bacon Ranch option.  It's the blended American wagyu beef burger topped with bacon, American cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion and Parmesan peppercorn ranch on a toasted buttery brioche bun.

Arby's Bacon Ranch Wagyu Steakhouse Burger
Under the lid look, there's crunch in the lettuce, the tomatoes are juicy

In my humble foodie opinion, this burger is better than the Deluxe.  First and foremost it has the bacon and everything is better with bacon!  And like the Deluxe this is a big burger loaded with the condiments.  But what puts this burger over the top is the Peppercorn Ranch sauce, I prefer it to the special burger sauce in the Deluxe, it's a better pairing of flavors.   Make no mistake, both burgers are juicy, sauce dripping down the side of the burger making for a multi napkin experience.  The burger to bun ratio is perfect.  The wagyu blended burger was seasoned well with a nice thin line of pink running through the middle - something you want in a premium burger.  And I remarked how the outer edge of the burger patty was a little overdone with a bit much of a chew in the Deluxe review, chalking it up to a lack of experience with the new item and new cooking method.  But the Bacon Ranch Wagyu patty was cooked to perfection.    All the flavor elements were spot on. The cheese was melted nicely, the shredded lettuce and tomato provided a nice fresh element, I got the tart from the garlic/dill pickles, the sweet from the red onion and bringing it all together was that toasted buttery goodness of the brioche bun.  

Arby's Bacon Ranch Wagyu Steakhouse Burger
Reveal under the bottom bun, plenty of Peppercorn Ranch, but it's not overdressed, it's finger licking delicious.

For a fast food joint that has never done the burger thing before in its 57 year history, they've knocked it out of the park with their Wagyu burgers, especially the Bacon Ranch version!  Featuring American Wagyu beef, this burger is a BIG cut above the competition utilizing a stepped up cooking method that delivers a juicy, premium, steakhouse style burger.  Costing me $12.56 for a large combo to include curly fries and a drink, I'm giving the Arby's Bacon Ranch Wagyu Steakburger 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars!  Reasonably priced for a premium burger meal it's most definitely a repeat buy.  As it stands right now, it's the best burger in fast food and this is Arby's first try at a burger!  The Wagyu Steakburgers are available for a limited time, through July 31.

The chicken sandwich war is over, I smell a burger war coming and Arby's fired the first shot!

5 stars

Related: A taste of Arby's Wagyu Steakburger

Related: Arby's adds a Wagyu Steakhouse Burger to their menu

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A taste of Arby's Wagyu Steakburger

Arby's Wagyu Steakburger
This is no ordinary burger patty

By Mike Thayer

It's not just fast food trash talk anymore, the Arby's tagline, "We have the meats,"® now includes Wagyu.

The fast food chain has never had a burger on its menu before and they went big with it, introducing a Wagyu Steakburger on May 23.  And of course, in the name of "Food Science" (cough), I HAD to try it on the day it was unveiled nationwide.

A blend of 52% American Wagyu (That means it has more marbling, a.k.a., flavor and is more tender than regular ground beef for those of you who live in Haysville) and 48% ground beef, the patty weighs in at 6.4 ounces (pre-cooked) which is 50% larger than McDonald's Quarter Pounder.  Cooked sous-vide style, a technique usually associated with fine dining, the cooking method results in a juicier burger with a crispy outer edge and a slightly pink center.  The burger is topped with American cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onion and a special burger sauce on a toasted buttery brioche bun.

ARby's Wagyu Steakburger
Not your typical fast food burger, you get all the flavors, every ingredient, in every bite

This is a big burger and it's loaded with the condiments.  It's juicy, sauce dripping down the side of your hand tasty.  The burger to bun ratio is perfect.  The wagyu blended burger was seasoned well with a nice thin line of pink running through the middle - something you want in a premium burger.  The outer edge was a bit overdone however with a bit of a chew, I'll chalk that up to a lack of experience with the new item and new cooking method.  Visually, the "special burger sauce" has you thinking it's a copycat of McDonald's Big Mac sauce, but it is indeed different and in a good way, with notes of Sriracha, smoked paprika and mustard. The cheese was melted nicely, the shredded lettuce and tomato provided a nice fresh element, I got the tart from the garlic/dill pickles, the sweet from the red onion and bringing it all together was that toasted buttery goodness of the brioche bun.  

American Wagyu and ground beef blend
What you want in a premium burger, a thin line of pink

Arby's hasn't just entered the fast food burger arena, they've made an entrance!  Featuring American Wagyu beef, this burger is a cut above the competition utilizing a stepped up cooking method that delivers a juicy, premium, steakhouse style burger.  Costing me $6.87 after tax, I'm giving the Arby's Deluxe Wagyu Steakburger 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars with the only knock being the slightly overdone outside edge of the burger patty which I chalk up to inexperience.  Very reasonably priced for a premium burger it's most definitely a repeat buy.  Customers can also have the option of ordering the Wagyu Steakburger with bacon and a peppercorn ranch sauce, which I'll be doing next time.  This burger is available for a limited time, through July 31.

4 stars

Related: Arby's adds a Wagyu Steakhouse Burger to their menu

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Arby's adds a Wagyu Steakhouse Burger to their menu

By Mike Thayer

Arbys Wagyu Steakhouse BurgerWell, I guess Arby's isn't just talking trash with their tagline, "We have the meats."®

The fast food chain has never had a burger on its menu before and they went big with the addition, it's Wagyu!

Here's the description from the Arby's website:  A wagyu blended burger topped with American cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onion and a special burger sauce on a toasted buttery brioche bun. Limited time only at participating U.S. locations while supplies last. Made with a blend of Wagyu and ground beef.

"Boring burgers are a fast-food staple, so Arby’s felt compelled to raise the bar with a Wagyu steakhouse burger. Instead of focusing on making billions of mediocre burgers, we’re taking a stance on high-quality meat that deserves to be cooked properly," said Patrick Schwing, Arby's CMO.

"As the meat experts, we’ve spent over two years of dedicated research and development to deliver a premium burger that redefines what’s possible from a drive thru. Overdone burgers are over and done," the executive explained.

This is one of those "Limited Time" offerings (to see if it's a hit or a miss).  The burgers will be available starting today, Monday, May 23, 2022 through July 31.  Prices start at $5.99, but you can upscale it with bacon and peppercorn ranch.

I'm anxious to try the blended Wagyu beef!

Find Locations Near You

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The many uses for Tzatziki Sauce

By Mike Thayer

Tzatziki Sauce

Tzatziki on a burgerTzatziki isn't just for gyros....   The sauce is actually a fantastic change of pace addition to any grilled meat or fish.  Use it as a topping on a burger, put a generous dollop on salmon, serve it on the side with kabobs.  It's also excellent used as a veggie dip, salad dressing, put it on a pork rind, a lettuce wrap sandwich and more.  You can pretty much substitute Tzatziki sauce for anything you might use mayonnaise on and with only about two carbs per two Tablespoon serving that makes it Carb-Check Diet friendly!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 an English cucumber, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One Tablespoon dried dill
  • One Tablespoon lemon juice (citric acid is a nice alternative)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix until thoroughly incorporated, cover and chill for about 30 minutes or until ready to use. 

Carb-Check Diet_smallNot only is Tzatziki delicious, versatile and easy to put together, it's cheap to make!   You can whip up a batch of Tzatziki for less than $5 and have plenty of leftover ingredients to make more, or create something else.

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Carb-Check Diet: Don't eat this for lunch, eat this instead!

Carb-Check Diet_smallBy Mike Thayer

So you don't quite know what to have for lunch, you've only got 30 minutes and that fast food joint is convenient......

Don't do it!

That fast food meal is going to come with a price and I'm not talking about what you'll pay at the counter.  I'm talking about excess carbs and sugars.  Did you know that a Taco Bell $5 Buck Box packs more than 130 carbs?  That's NOT a good thing.

Don't eat this!

Taco Bell Cravings BoxThis meal looks great and it may taste great, but it's not great for the body, even if you're NOT on a diet.  The Taco Bell Cravings Box starting at $5 contains about 1,000+ calories (about half of the government's recommended daily intake), has around 48 grams of fat, a WHOPPING 135 grams in carbs, 11 grams in sugars and 37 grams in protein.   That last number is great, but the rest of those numbers are frankly unacceptable.  Fast food is convenient yes, but the creators of these value meals aren't thinking about your waistline.  Even if you behaved yourself and had a reasonable breakfast, this lunch pretty much blows your day and you would essentially have to starve yourself for dinner and who wants to go to bed hungry?  I know, the $5 price is attractive, but going for the deal at lunch just isn't a good thing.

Eat this instead!

Taco SaladA Chicken Taco Salad that you can easily make at home!  It's delicious and yes, it includes a corn tostado base to give you that crunch, it's loaded with guacamole, salsa, black olives and shredded cheddar cheese.  The total carb count on this lunch? Just 24 grams, compare that to the 135 grams in the Taco Bell lunch.  The total calorie count on this meal is just under 500, has 16 grams of fat, just 6 grams in sugars and 29 grams of protein.  With this tasty lunch, you don't have to starve yourself for dinner to maintain your diet or go to bed hungry!  And depending on how far away you live from your job site, it can actually be a quicker meal than fast food if you've prepped all the items to put the salad together.

Don't waste time and money in the fast food drive through, eat in your own kitchen!  Your body will thank you.

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The Carb-Check Diet: Don't eat this for breakfast, eat this instead!

Carb-Check Diet_smallBy Mike Thayer

Frosted Flakes fan are 'ya? 

Stop it.

Did you know processed sugars and carbohydrates are WAY worse for you than fat?

It's true.  Sugars and bad carbs do WAY more harm to the body and contributes WAY more in weight gain than natural fat does.  Truth is, your body NEEDS some fat to function properly.

Don't eat this!

Frosted FlakesA typical bowl of Frosted Flakes and 2% milk puts the following into your body:  530 calories, 94 grams of carbohydrates, 54 grams of sugar, 20 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat.  Now if you did the recommended serving size, just one cup, you could cut all those numbers in half.  But unless you're in a hospital bed, NOBODY eats just one cup of cereal with milk.  That's the serving size listed on the label on the box, but you and I both know that most everybody ends up pouring about two cups of cereal in a typical bowl for breakfast.  Look at all those carbs and sugar in that two cup serving!  Your body doesn't need all that, not even close!  But it tastes so good right?  That's the lure......

 

Eat this instead!

Bacon and eggsThree strips of bacon and two eggs scrambled, over easy or sunny side up puts the following nutrition into your body:  318 calories, just 2 grams in carbs, NO sugars, 21 grams in protein and 24 grams in fat.  Yes, that sounds like a lot of fat, but it's natural fat and yes, the Frosted Flakes intake of all those processed sugars and bad carbs is far worse for your body than natural fat.  Your body actually needs good fat to process normally.  It does NOT need excess carbs and sugars.  We've been told not to eat so many eggs or bacon.....   But who started that nonsense?  Cereal companies perhaps?

I don't know about you, but I'd rather have bacon and eggs for breakfast than cold cereal and it's not that much more expensive than cereal and milk.  A large box of of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes and a gallon of milk will run you about $8.  A dozen store brand eggs and a pound of Farmland bacon will run you about $9 so it costs just a little bit more, but it's better for your body and it tastes better too!

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Raised bed garden planter with a self watering feature

Building a raised bed planter
Getting started

By Mike Thayer

Why break ground, till, clear grass and work to amend the soil when you can put together a couple raised bed gardens instead?  Besides, harvesting veggies and cutting flowers from a raised garden is MUCH easier on the knees and I love the concept of adding a self watering feature to the raised beds! 

This was a project motivated by Cindy C, she found the planter box plans and solicited my help to get it built.  After going over the plans from Family Handyman, finding the right spot to place it in her backyard and purchasing materials, the thought process was to build the first box exactly as directed per the instructions.  It's a pretty basic, straight forward plan, a box with a false floor, a liner to extend the life of the wood and some tubing to create a watering system.   In building future planter boxes, the plans will be tweaked, editing what wasn't liked in the original plan as well as putting in some add ons, such as shelves on the end pieces to make working in the bed easier.  It would be nice to have a place to set a flat of new plants, set down the hand trowel when not in use and of course, you have to have a place for your beverage!

Planter end pieces
End pieces are done

A couple of nice benefits to having the raised beds will be the ability to easily cover the bed with an old fitted sheet if there is a frost warning in the forecast and that self watering feature - watering the roots of the plants rather than from above cuts down on diseases like blight and mildew  In addition, watering time is reduced and because it's more efficient, you save on the water bill.  

The price of wood has really gone up since these guidelines were first released.  Costing a little over $400 in materials, the planter took roughly 16 hours to construct, fill with dirt and plant.  Overall, the Family Handyman instructions were pretty easy to follow and included a materials list, a cut list, decent illustrations and a recommended plant list.  This was a fun project and after putting the first box together and getting it planted, here are a few changes to suggest.

  • Rather than just two, 2"x2" vertical cleats on the long side pieces, go with three to prevent board warp.
  • Go with 1-1/2" CPVC pipe instead of the 1" pipe listed in the instructions.  A garden hose won't fit down a 1" pipe when filling.
  • Use 2-3/4" exterior screws. 
  • The instructions recommend four separate sections of tubing going from end piece to end piece.  I recommend one piece of tubing to allow for faster filling and you won't have to use as much water.
  • This is a heavy planter, try to construct where you'll be placing it.

Customizing future planter boxes will be both fun and functional, putting shelves on the end pieces, along with the installation of vertical 4"x4" posts for a trellis and vertical growing.  Cindy also came up with the great thought of creating a box half this size and equip it with heavy duty casters for mobility.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Planter pieces
Pieces, ready to assemble
Planter box
Assembled pieces, ready to line with pond liner
Planter with liner
Liner stapled in
Planter with socked tubing
Tubing and fill tube in place
Planter with plants
Trimming the top while planting
Planter lined with brick
Just about finished!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related: Lowe's vs. Home Depot vs. Menard's vs. Sutherland's

Related: Building a self watering raised planter bed

Related: Building Planter Containers on the Cheap

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Food Review: Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza

Taco Bell Mexican Pizza Box
Nicely Packaged

By Mike Thayer

It's back by customer petition demand!  More than 200,000 Taco Bell fans pushed back when the chain dropped the Mexican Pizza from its menu back in November 2020 and as a result of a Change.org petition, it's back on the menu nationwide effective May 19, 2022.   

Clearly a fan favorite, I was out-and-about running some errands today giving me an opportunity to pick one up and check it out.  I've never had one of these things before and so didn't become a fan of something not ever eaten... So since hearing the "It's going back on the menu" announcement, I've been on a mission to see what makes this thing petition worthy.

Here's the description from the Taco Bell website:  Seasoned beef and refried beans between two Mexican Pizza shells with Mexican Pizza sauce, three-cheese blend, and tomatoes on top.

Taco Bell Mexican Pizza
Not a bad visual, better than expected

In opening the lid and expecting typical fast food sloppy meal prep, I was pleasantly surprised.  It looked pretty good and yes, it looked pizza-ish.  In taking that first bite, I nodded my head in approval.  The shells delivered a nice crunch, the cheese was melted nicely and the tomatoes added a nice freshness, balancing out the classic combo of Taco Bell seasoned beef and refried beans.  It's aptly named, layers of Mexican flavors that eats like a pizza.

It's a messy eat and you can make it even messier by ordering additional items for your pizza. Options such as lettuce, chopped onion, jalapeno peppers, black beans and more are available to add on, as are a number of sauces like nacho cheese, chipotle and quacamole.  I didn't order any add ons, as I wanted to sample the Mexican Pizza in its basic form.

Available for $4.49, I'm giving the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars , it's a good fast food eat, a satisfying eat and it's worthy of a repeat buy.   Next time I get one, I will however order some add ons, making it more like a taco pizza, which is the beauty after all, of this fan favorite.

4 stars

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