Patience is a virtue. Totino’s pushes the boundaries of scientific research thanks to me.


arrange the rolls in a circle on a plate

“arrange the rolls in a circle on a plate”

Oh man.  Does anyone remember my W(aL)D email shenanigans from a decade ago?

One such adventure was writing to Totino’s to ask if they had recommendations for microwaving more than 6 at a time.  They wrote back.  I asked them if I needed to arrange the rolls like wagon wheel spokes or like wagons on the Oregon Trail circling for protection.  I even got some 35¢ coupons that I considered as a research grant.

Have you noticed pizza roll cooking instructions lately?

I won! Information for the people! Research to benefit the masses!

Really though.  This brings up a new series of questions.

When did just arranging in “a single layer become” acceptable?  Who does Totino’s think they are discarding the time-honored tradition of microwaving things in a circle?  Did we learn nothing from our ancestors at Stonehenge?  Did they consult the Softstix team over at SuperPretzel, or just roll forward (pun still intended) with wild abandon?  How do you summon the flavor spirits without the ceremonial circle?

Has the Fibonacci spiral ever been tested as a cooking pattern?  Can Ci3 make me a plate specifically for microwaving pizza rolls and little cheese-filled pretzels with the Fibonacci spiral on it?

Totino's Pizza Roll Microwave Instructions

Confused about Pizza Hut & Taco Bell?


The last post was going to have some explanation, but my dumb ass hit the “Publish” button instead of the “Save Draft” button.  Perhaps because the Publish button is blue and shiny, or perhaps because I have a problem actually reading the screen.

Some of you may have seen my blogs posts, and think I’m a little “off”.  Well, you’re right.  But, I do post these things with an odd sense of humor.  Sometimes I write serious complaint letters, sometimes I write ridiculous letters just to be ridiculous.  More often than not, the lines get blurred.  My guess is that you either get it, or you don’t.  If I have to remind you that I really don’t expect every restaurant out there to cater to my special dietary needs, it ceases being funny.  (If it ever was in the first place.)

If you’re not quite sure, or new to my insanity, I’m going to try to recap the latest ongoing saga involving Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.  I hope to intertwine this with some other chaos soon.

So, that brings us to our “what’s happening now is happening now” moment.

Taco Bell has purchased my gratitude!


I got a letter in the mail today from Taco Bell.  You may be familiar with my emails to them concerning the death-filled tacos that they were recently peddling.  This is perhaps the best reply I’ve ever received to any of my either serious or goofy letters to any company.

I’ll dispense with the usual long-winded introduction and get right to it…

Letter form Taco Bell about Shrimp Tacos and Taco Bell Bucks!

You can see that along with the letter, I received five $5 Taco Bell Bucks certificates. That’s $25 in death-free Taco Bell food. That’s got to be the coolest thing I’ve ever received besides my T-shirt from Turner’s.  I’m not sure if they’re buying me off, rewarding me, if they make so much profit per item that it really doesn’t matter if they give this much away for free, or what.  This almost makes me want to write back to Pillsbury/Totino’s and make them feel ashamed for sending me three 35¢ coupons.  In fact, I may add that to the list.

The best, and I mean absolute best thing about this letter is that they’re forwarding my request to Pizza Hut.  Wow.  I trust you’ve seen my unanswered letters?  I can’t even express how hilarious and ridiculous and absolutely gratifying that is.


More than 6 ways to cook a hot dog.


A while ago, I blogged about stumbling on to an article listing 6 ways too cook a hot dog.  We all know there’s more.  Here’s a much better list.  OK, maybe not better… but bigger. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions submissions here and on Facebook, I hope to include them all here.

Oh well, on to the list…

  1. Grill ’em. The general consensus seems to be that if you’re going to cook a hot dog, it needs to be grilled.  I would agree with this.  I usually don’t break out hot dogs unless I’m already grilling burgers.  They’re there for those weird non-burger people, or a topping for your burger.
    • Charcoal Grill – This is old school grilling, get it hot let the flames & coals cook the dog with some nice grill lines or looking like the victim of a flame-thrower accident.  There are good instructions on grilling w/ gas & charcoal here (as if you need them).
    • Propane Grill – It’s a little easier to control the heat, & you’re less likely to produce the same flame-thrower victim effect if you keep an eye on ’em. There are also good instructions on grilling w/ gas & charcoal here (again, as if you need them).
    • Foreman Grill – Or any of the imitators & whatever they’re called.  I’ve seen a Hamilton Beach one, I’ve seen them called electric grills, counter-top grills, whatever… you know what I’m talking about.  I’ve had little success with the Foreman Grill & hot dogs… which is odd, because it cooks other stuff quite easily.  Here’s a video on how to cook ’em on the Foreman Grill, …because I can’t find good text for it anywhere.  They don’t list a time for hot dogs in the book that comes with it.  Maybe they assume their grill is for convenience, and it’s more convenient to nuke or boil your dogs.  If anyone has $99 to spare, I’ll take the USB iGrill from Think Geek.
    • Infrared Grill – I know nothing about this newfangled contraption.  It looks like you can burn a hot dog in 0.5 seconds on one.  Learn about infrared grills at Wikipedia.
    • Griddle/Flattop Grill – If you have one in your house, you are awesome.  You can certainly cook a hot dog on one, and don’t need me to tell you how.
  2. Open Flame. Who doesn’t love hot dogs (or anything really) cooked over a campfire? …Or a bonfire, trash barrel fire, or while the neighbor’s house is burning down? With these methods, You can also wrap the dog with biscuit or croissant dough from those creepy popping tubes, and it will cook nicely over an open flame.  If you want to get really crazy, slice it down the middle & stuff cheese in it, or wrap some cheese around it before the dough.
    • Skewer – We use roasting forks or or just sticks.  You can get the forks at any sporting goods or camping store, in a store that has a camping section, or in a store near your camping site.  You can get sticks in the woods, or from a lone, sad tree.  You can also get inventive, like this guy.  Be careful choosing sticks and being inventive… you don’t want anything that will poison your hot dog… like toxic wood, metal treated or painted with anything, and of course plastic.  I can’t seem to find a guide online of safe & unsafe tree branches to use when cooking over a fire.  Anyone have a boy scout handbook?  (I asked Yahoo!, apparently nothing out there will kill you, but stick with a non-sappy wood.) With this method, get your fire going, and hold the hot dog over it… but not in the flame unless you like black crispy possibly carcinogen-laced hot dogs.  If using a store-bought fork, it’s up to you if you want to put the dog on long-ways, or double/triple ’em up the forks.
    • Pie Iron – If you’ve camped with me, you’ve cooked with a pie iron… or you’ve watched me cook with one.  My favorites include pizza ones, and Reubens… but I’m sure you could stuff a hot dog into one.  They also have ones that are shaped to cook hot dogs.  This would most likely result in a nicely cooked dog without the singe marks, maybe flavored with some onions (gross!) or sauerkraut.  If you’re buying  a pie iron, buy one made of… iron.  This sounds dumb, but they make aluminum ones, and I have melted them with no problem.  I don’t think you want aluminum flavored hot dogs.
    • The Cage – Burger basket, grill basket, vegetable basket – all different names for a similar utensil.  I’d use it like I would a fork for hot-dog cooking… may be sort of useless unless you have a burger in it too.
    • The Rack – If you can find some sort of rack or grate that you can secure safely over the fire that’s also safe to cook on, you can cook like it’s a charcoal grill if you’re more comfortable with that.  Just make sure the flame isn’t eating your hot dog before you do.
    • Foil Pack – You could use the bread dough & any toppings/sides here as well.  Wrap the dog & even the bun in foil, and place it on a grate over the flames, or in the coals around the bottom of the fire like you would with a baked potato.
    • Oven Burner – That’s right.  Pit it on a fork or roasting fork, and hold it over the flame on your stove top.  This might not be safe, but I bet it would be fun.
  3. Boiled – I’m sure you’ve all had ’em like this.  I think it even suggests to heat ’em this way on the pack.  I’m not a fan of boiling anything any more, unless it’s soup or pasta.  It just seems like a lot of flavor goes into the water… and where hot dogs are concerned, it’s not like you have a lot to work with to begin with.  I’d suggest boiling hot dogs in beer, even though I’ve never tried it… it sounds pretty awesome.  You can even get crazy with beer, ketchup, and brown sugar.  Maybe some beef broth or bullion would be cool here too… but that may make ’em to salty?  I dunno.  Boil at your own risk.
  4. Nuke ’em – I guess that besides grilling, this would seem to be the most obvious method of cooking hot dogs.  On the last pack we bought, this method was featured larger than the other methods.  Just 30 – 40 seconds in the microwave … wrapped in a paper towel?  I never use the paper towel.  Is that to hold in moisture, prevent explosions, or what?  Apparetly there’s an art to this, because I have found the articles How to Cook a Hot Dog in a Microwave and the possible passive-aggressive How to Cook a Hot Dog in the Microwave Without Exploding the Ends.  As I write this, I have an urge to make some hot dogs explode in the microwave.  I may be developing a disorder.
  5. Lovin’ from the Oven – You can certainly cook hot dogs in the oven, you may split ’em open or poke them with a fork first.  This method would be ideal for the croissant-wrapped hot dogs, smothered in some awesome cheese.  Just make sure if you use the 1st linked method, that you put the foil in the oven before you heat it up (like they so diligently mentioned)… or don’t do that, burn yourself, and stay off of the internet.
  6. Deep Fried – They call these Rippers in New Jersey, no?  I don’t have a fryer… but I suppose I could do this in a pot on the stove, or in my turkey fryer.  I’ve never had one, but I’d imagine it’s a pretty good thing.  Corn dogs could be lumped in here too, I guess.
  7. Steamed – This seems to be a popular method, but I know I’ve never done it, or really seen it done.  I guess there are commercial steam cabinets for hot dogs… but I bet you could steam it like you do with vegetables if you have a steamer.  Perhaps, like boiling… you could steam it with beer…?
  8. In the Skillet. – Or frying pan.  Just fry it on the stove top with a little bit of oil.  I guess you could slice it open first if you wanted to, so it doesn’t pop on you.  Or, you can elevate it to an art form.
  9. Crock PotPop ’em in the crock pot with some sauerkraut (maybe along with some beer), and you’re good to go.
  10. Car EngineWhy not?
  11. In Stuff – Okay this isn’t one specific method, but I didn’t feel like all of these should have their own #’s on the list.  You know you’ve chopped ’em up and added them to baked beans, mac n’ cheese, or even done a hot dog & potato bake.  Here I’ll also inject that I once got the SpaghettiOs with hot dogs.  They were inexplicably gross.  This is your final warning.
  12. Goofy Single-Purpose Appliances – I have hot dogs only occasionally.  I can’t imagine getting one of these hot dog cookers that serves only one purpose.  Our counter-space is quite limited.. and I can’t see that breaking one of these things out would be worth the novelty after more than a few uses…
    • The Hot Dog Toaster – Besides looking creepy, these also apparently cook hot dogs.  It looks to be just a toaster with hot dog-shaped holes and bun-shaped holes.  I wonder if it really cooks the thing through very well?  May be quite convenient.
    • Solar Hot Dog Cooker – This might be fun for campers or science geeks.  Solar ovens are pretty awesome, this one and this one are especially geared for hot dogs… this one might work.
    • The Roller – These apparently come in several varieties, but all look to be the same concept… Cooked on rollers like the ones you see at the convenience stores.  Brookstone makes one, there are a bunch of professional ones, and Nostalgia Electrics offers the Roller & “Ferris Wheel” varieties.
    • The “Roast My Weenie” guy – More of an accessory, this really just needs to be seen.
    • Electrocute it – My cousin told me a tale via Facebook of a hot dog cooker for electric chair, taser, and Tesla enthusiasts… called the Presto Hot Dogger.  Mad scientists can try it at home with a few things from around the house.  This actually looks pretty awesome.  This vintage one looks like a torture device.

Well, those are all the methods I can think of right now.  Well, other than going to Sheetz or Dormont Dogs… you should be able to get your hot dog fix by one of the methods described here.  If you have another technique, please list it in the comments below!

If you need more info… check out the list of hot dog variations.

Also up for discussion… now that you know how to cook one, what do you want on your hot dog?

My $1.05 Pillsbury Research Grant Has Arrived!


35¢ OFF

So, you did read my initial letter about Totino’s and the follow-up correspondence, right?  Well, needless to say, my research grant is a little smaller than expected.  Some “cents off” apparently means just that.

I got 3 of these bad boys, entitling me to a whole 35¢ off of one Totino’s product.  One dollar and five cents off of three Totino’s products?  I’m sure I get more than that when I use my Giant Eagle Advantage Card & get them on a regular sale.  Maybe Giant Eagle will double these since they’re less than a dollar…  So I’ll be getting $2.10 worth of free pizza rolls.    I wonder what the regular price is?

Pizza Rolls on Sale at Giant Eagle!

Right now, Giant Eagle has Totino’s Pizza Rolls on sale… 3 boxes for $8.  They say they’re normally 3 for $10.  So… About 40 rolls in the 19.8 oz. bag, 35¢ would get me 4 pizza rolls?  And, I’d only be able to use one coupon with this special, as the Giant Eagle website states that you must buy 3 bags in order to get the $2 off, and the back of the coupon states that no other coupon is to be used with this coupon.  Does the sale act as a coupon?  If not, I could still only use the one coupon at a time… so out of 120 pizza rolls, a whopping 4 would be free?

Perhaps this was a karmic slap in the face?  Maybe a well-deserved one.  You’d think they would simply either not offer any coupons at all… or offer some coupons that are actually worth something… like a BOGO or at least a dollar off.  Perhaps they’re just cheap, or this is all they’re authorized to give out?  It cost them 38¢ to mail me the damn coupons!  That would have been 4 or 5 more free pizza rolls had they emailed me some coupons.  Maybe they know I’m goofing on them.

The letter accompanying the coupons is quite amusing…

Letter from Tracy Boyd @ General Mills

HA HA!  I'm using the internet!

When I see someone write “the internet”, I always think of the guy to the right.  I have no idea why.  I just do.  It sounds archaic written down like that.  THE INTERNET!  HA!  HA!

Not sure where to go from here.  Do I write back, and ask for more research funding?  Do I ask to talk to someone else who may be able to offer more money?  Do I write to completely unrelated organizations and as for research grants?  Has anyone reading this ever applied for a grant?  Should I include a research proposal?  Maybe I should just write back, super-excited about the $1.05, saying what a generous gift it is.  Maybe I should ask to speak directly to General Mills or Totino himself?  Heh.  I feel confident in turning this up a notch.

Also… research will definitely go forward.  I will need some time to assemble my team (although, I think I already know who’s in), procure the test product, and schedule a date for the study.

Stay tuned, loyal subjects!

®

A one time good will gesture from Pillsbury!


Pillsbury Pizza Rolls BoyNot too long ago, I wrote to the maker’s of Totino’s Pizza Rolls (which I soon discovered was Pillsbury/General Mills) to ask about microwave cooking times for quantities of more than the reccommended 6 at a time.  The answer seemed to be pretty vague, as most corporate replies are.  Of course, I was determined to ask further questions — goaded onward by many of you here and on other places around the ‘net.  Here’s where I’d like to share my reply to them, and of course their latest response.  Thanks to Dave again for the editing help here!

from ERiC AiXeLsyD world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com
to Corporate.Response@genmills.com; Pillsbury@emails.pillsbury.com
date Tue, Mar 2, 2010 at 2:39 PM
subject Re: Your Response From “Pillsbury” – 2010/02/12-0715 XTB
mailed-by gmail.com

Hello Ms. Boyd,

Thank you for the quick and thorough response!  (Apologies if the “Ms.” should be a “Mr.”, I know the name Tracy can go either way!) In reading your response, I have a few more questions, and perhaps a proposal for your consideration.  I do enjoy the quickness/convenience of cooking in the microwave versus using a conventional oven.  Perhaps I should learn to use the toaster oven as a compromise?

The first thought brought to mind was that perhaps I may be doing something wrong.  The instructions say to arrange the rolls in a circle on a plate.  Would this be “in a circle” like spokes of a wheel, or “in a circle” like covered wagons circling around weary travelers?  I haven’t ever really put much thought into it until now, thinking I may perhaps be doing it wrong as there is no picture on the box to illustrate.

I’m somewhat confused as to the 8 pizza rolls for 45 seconds, as the recommended time for 6 rolls is (I believe) 55 seconds.  Typically, I go for 1:05 so that the middle isn’t still cold.  I’m also aware that all microwaves are different, and may vary, so I accept that my microwave is behind the curve, if you will.  I will have to try 8 rolls at a time, and may even venture into as of yet uncharted 10 or 12 roll at a time territory.  I know this may be a cavalier attitude, but it’s just how I roll.  (Pun intended.)  I will take into consideration that it has been “highly suggested” that I cook more than 8 in a conventional oven.

Along these same lines, I’m fascinated that no more than 8 rolls at a time have been put into the microwave at once in your test kitchens.  Is this really the case, or have trials involving more than 8 rolls at a time manifested disastrous results?  Is there some sort of moratorium on adventurous cooking?  I know that if I had access to a bunch of pizza rolls, and a bunch of microwave ovens… I’d feel it was my duty to push past the ambit of acceptability into the realm of ridiculousness.

I have bounced my ideas off of a few like-minded individuals, and we are prepared to do a public service by testing Totino’s pizza rolls in varying quantities, cooking times, and microwave ovens while making video and statistical documentation of the results.  I have safety goggles, a food thermometer, hot pads, a video camera on loan, and, obviously, a microwave oven.  The only thing that we require now would be copious amounts of pizza rolls.

While I’m guessing that you’re not officially able to get behind such a study, would you be able to provide coupons for the pizza rolls, or perhaps donate them altogether?  Certainly the prospect of someone embarking upon new microwave cooking frontiers would be exciting not only to you, but to the scientists/chefs/technicians in your test kitchens.  We would, of course, be more than happy to share all of our results, which you in turn would be able to use (or ignore) at your discretion.

I would like to thank you for your time and continued correspondence.  I truly appreciate the fact that Pillsbury/General Mills takes the time to respond to its consumers’ web inquiries with real emails from real people.

Respectfully Yours,
-Eric Aixelsyd

I thought that was a pretty straight-forward email with some easily answered questions & an interesting proposal.  Apparently I crossed the ridiculousness line for Ms./Mr./Mrs. Boyd, though.  I don’t know why, but I read the following response with the “not amused” tone.

from Corporate.Response@genmills.com
to world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com
date Tue, Mar 2, 2010 at 6:47 PM
subject Your Response From “Pillsbury” – 2010/03/02-5183 XTB
mailed-by genmills.com

Hello Mr. Aixelsyd:

Thank you for contacting Pillsbury with your inquiry.

In regards to your question, we have not tested for more than 8 pizza rolls at a time.

If you wish to try this, it would be at your discretion. Please note that when adding more products into a microwave to cook ( ie 16 pizza rolls instead of 8 ) and trying to adjust the cooking temperature will not harm the safety of the product, but may change the quality, such as hardening of the crust or uneven cooking, etc.

As a one time good will gesture, we will send some cents off certificates in which you should receive within 20 business days.

We hope you find this information helpful. Please let us know if we can help you again.

Thank you,

Tracy Boyd
Customer Care Specialist

Coupons!  Nice.  This will be a long 20 business days.  I can’t believe that they’re actually sending coupons.  I wonder what the amount will be?  I have to do the testing now.  I have officially gone past the point of no return.  I must complete this absurd task… and I must do it right the first time.  I’m assuming that “one time good will gesture” means that they’ve had enough of my shenanigans.

So, they definitely have not tested more than 8 at a time in the microwave.  Why?  I know I would.  You know you would.  Hopefully, with the help of my esteemed colleagues, we will remedy this situation.  The world will know the limits of pizza rolls in the microwave.

Interestingly, my question about pizza roll circle placement went wholly ignored, as did the more personal inquisition as to Tracy’s gender.  Not that the second one matters, but perhaps it iw what pushed the button.  The circle question was quite important, though.  I’m surprised that there’s no drawing on the box/bag.  There are certainly illustrations out there for much more obvious sets of directions.

I can only imagine what went through his/her head as she read the “wagon wheels” line.  Ha ha ha.

So, this leaves us wondering…

  • How did they know that safety would not be an issue but the quality would degrade if they didn’t do any testing past the magic 8?
  • Seriously, now… Does “in a circle” mean like spokes of a wheel, or like circling covered wagons?
  • Is Tracy a man or a woman?

Luckily, Tracy said “Please let us know if we can help you again.”  I believe that we do again need some help.  Is another reply in order here, or do we just save it for inclusion with our test results?

Perhaps I’ll ave to include this too…

arrange the rolls in a circle on a plate

"arrange the rolls in a circle on a plate"

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.


Entirely unrelated, just for fun…

Totino’s® Pizza Rolls®


Pillsbury | Totino’s® Pizza Rolls® Pizza SnacksWho doesn’t like Totino’s® Pizza Rolls® Pizza Snacks?  More importantly, who eats only six at a time?  Maybe for a small snack… or maybe I just eat too much.  I don’t have them often, but when I do… I most assuredly want more than six.

I realize that I could cook more than six at once and figure out the timing on my own… but that wouldn’t be any fun now, would it?  I decided to write to the maker’s of Totino’s, who (previously unbeknownst to me) happen to be Pillsbury.  I clicked around until I found their webform, and submitted this…

Hello Friends,

I write to you today regarding Totino’s Pizza Rolls.  These little snacks are awesome, my friends.  I love to eat them as a snack while I’m watching my favorite TV shows or Penguins hockey.

My problem though, is that I’m fat… and I need more than the 6 at a time that’s listed on the package in the cooking suggestions.

Certainly your portly Pillsbury mascot could appreciate my situation?  I’d like to suggest that the bags & boxes also include cooking recommendations for 12 at a time… or more.

Usually 12 can satisfy my snack cravings, although sometimes I go for 18.  Maybe you could include instructions for 13, a baker’s dozen as they say?

In the mean time, before you’re able to print new cooking instructions on the bags & boxes… can you just send me a chart of larger quantities and suggested cooking times?

Thank you for your time, I can’t wait to hear from you.  (I can appreciate how valuable time is… like when I try to cook two batches of 6 rolls during the commercials!)

Inquisitively,
-Eric

Which I thought was a little goofy, but not over-the-top.  Apparently this is a request that’s made often.  The answer seems well practiced…

from Corporate.Response@genmills.com
to world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com
date Sun, Feb 14, 2010 at 2:01 PM
subject Your Response From “Pillsbury” – 2010/02/12-0715 XTB
mailed-by genmills.com

Hello Mr. Aixelsyd:

Thank you for contacting Pillsbury with your inquiry.
Unfortunately, the most that we have tested for in our kitchen is 8 pizza rolls in the microwave, in which you would place on a microwave safe plate in a circle and cook on high for 45 seconds (noting that microwave oven temperatures can vary).  If you are intersted in baking more, I would highly suggest following the directions for the oven.  Please be assured that your comments and suggestions will be shared with our product specialists.

We hope you find this information helpful.  Please let us know if we can help you again.

Thank you,

Tracy Boyd
Customer Care Specialist

I’m going to have to write back, and get goofier.  My inquiry was taken absolutely seriously.  I really can’t believe that there are food scientists or chefs out there that have a job that involves putting things in microwaves… and they haven’t gone past 8 at a time?  Ridiculous.  You know that you’d try to at least do a whole bag at once… if not two or three.  Look… I can’t even control my use of italics.  Can you imagine if I had a microwave and some goo-filled little exploding pods at my disposal?  Microwaves are cheap enough these days.  I’ll take donations… I’ll need a microwave and more Totino’s Pizza Rolls than you can count, and the trials will begin.  For more fun, I’ll need someone to help & video.

Anyone in?