Category Archives: Things I Eat

How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story

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This post has nothing to with the band Korn, finding God, or kicking drugs. Well, sort of. There’s an actual book with that title by the member of the band Korn, but I’ve never read it, nor do I know anything about Korn, except that I used to work in a record store, and all the kids who bought their records were terrifying socially awkward a little raw around the edges. There. That’s a good way of putting it.

I’m getting ready to have this kid in four months. That’s weird. I keep picturing him at different stages of life — as a newborn infant (HOLY SHIT WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS) or as a teenager talking back at me (HOLY SHIT WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS.) I’m picturing this while I’m eating Flaming Hot Cheetos out of the bag, in the middle of the hallway, considering it part of a balanced lunch.

Surely an adult would not be eating these — or would at least choose the more conservative regular Cheetos that aren’t the color of cartoon acid. At the very least they’d politely pour a serving size out onto a napkin first. And consider it more a snack than actual lunch. Nope, there I am, chewing open-mouthed and mindlessly, over the bag, in the hallway, not quite even dressed for the day, realizing no child is ever going to take me seriously as some sort of authority figure.

Some things I can picture easier—like playing with a five-year-old, sprawled out on the floor with Legos or action figures. That, I can handle. But then I also picture him doing sweet jumps off the deck with a trash bag tied around his neck as a parachute, just like I used to do. I wonder where the line is between letting him be a child and letting him paralyze himself from the waist down. I wonder how quickly he’ll cross that line, or I’ll cross that line. I guess we’ll meet in the middle, that place of childhood disappointment, parental anxiety, and bribes of ice cream instead.

But this post isn’t about me going on and on about the pending doom most fulfilling event in my life. I’ve been thinking about a lot of things during my Serious Reflections on Life Cheetos Binges (TM). Childhood happens just once. Being a teenager is once. But then we spend the rest of our lives in this thing of being an adult.

Yet being an adult is never just one thing, this one frame of life. You end up being many adults, as you evolve and learn over the years, as you bump into people you’ll know forever and others you’ll never know again, as you whittle away at time in various ways, until you make a nook where you decide to stay awhile.

I have been many adults. For a few years I worked at a sporting goods store. I was twenty-one, in college, glorious in my laziness and boredom and disdain for everything—particularly the rich, yuppie soccer moms who insisted on only the most high-end of shin guards for their blonde-haired, sun-kissed spawn. They were not me. I was not them. I was a rebel, a chain-smoker, a poet, a dreamer.

I was an asshole.

I’ve often said that sometime I’m going to write about all my experiences at the sporting goods store. But the stories always end up feeling too slight, too thin, and not really that interesting. Except for maybe the story about the Ab Energizer.

Ah yes, the Ab Energizer. It was one of those infomercial exercise gadgets—part abdominal workout, part Medieval torture-device—promising that you could get the tight abs you’d been dreaming about without breaking a sweat and with only the touch of a button.

The Ab Energizer was an electronic ab belt that you strapped around your stomach, placing electrodes on the target muscles. The electrodes then delivered electric impulses to the muscles, forcing the muscles to involuntarily contract and relax. Basically, it delivered hundreds of tiny jolts of electricity to your gut. So basically, it electrocuted you into shape. Or something.

I used to ring up customers on the register, next to the Ab Energizer display, listening to the infomercial play in loops on the television, featuring Kita Pelly, “nationally recognized fitness expert.” Recognize that name? Nope? Exactly. The Ab Energizer was sketchy as fuck. So naturally, we sold hundreds of them a day.

That’s it though. That’s the whole story. Oh yeah, there’s the salacious part of the story with the lawsuits, third-degree burns, and cancerous lesions, but in retail land, that just meant that eventually I set up the display area with the Ab Swing instead and then went outside for a cigarette break afterwards.

Another story I’m going to write sometime is the one where I got addicted to drugs. See, but the story stops being good right there, because the drugs were just those alternative medicines like Bee Wax pills and Echinacea. And I wasn’t really addicted. I’m just being dramatic theatrical. I’d gotten dumped by an ex, which was like getting dumped into a lifeboat in the middle of an ocean. I remember that’s how life felt. Like floating.

There was a massive Christian bookstore/emporium down the street from my office job, where I’d sometimes end up wandering around on the my lunchbreak. More than just books and tacky Jesus trinkets, the store was also an apothecary of alternative medicine and herbal remedies. There were remedies for every ailment—things you didn’t even know you had, like an alkalinity imbalance or other things I became certain I had, although it was really just severe depression.

For a while, I had a little regimen of random pills and powders and flax seeds I took. Acai pills for allergies. Chokeberry for all the free radicals—whatever those were, but I was sure I was bogged down with them. Royal Jelly for insomnia. Ginseng for high blood pressure. I probably had it. After all, I felt like I was dying all the time. The more I spent on feeling better, the more sick and unhealthy I began to feel all the time.

One day I realized I had no idea what the hell a Chokeberry was, and realized I was completely insane. After that, I got clean, quit Korn, and so on. I quit smoking cigarettes and started exercising. But that’s a pretty boring end to the story.

Here’s a weird story. For a brief, very strange few months of my life, I worked at Yankee Candle as a second job to help pay a few bills. Yankee Candle is America’s best loved candle. Or perhaps you just know them as that store in the mall that sells those garish candles in jars. Ahem. That jar is called the Housewarmer. Do not refer to it as a jar. (Page one of the employee training book.)

I’ve never really talked about the time I worked Yankee Candle. Partly because it’s embarrassing that I know more about candles than what is socially-appropriate among my peers. And partly because it was the end of a certain stage in my life, the one right before I grow up, get married, buy a house, and have kids. It’s so strange to talk about a past self, a temporary self.

Then again, the main reason I never talk about it is because nothing exciting ever happened.

Retail stories are war stories. They’re about the comradery with your co-workers, a unique little band of people whom you’re in the trenches with every day. War is hell, and so is customer service. But at Yankee Candle, the customers are middle-aged women who have dumped their husbands off on the bench outside and are shopping for expendable luxury items for themselves. At that moment, they are the happiest, most pleasant people on earth.

At Yankee Candle, the war was entirely mental. Besides customer service, the main job description was making sure all the candle jars were facing the same direction, each label front and center across the wall, with not a single deviation. For some reason, I enjoyed this immensely.

It was around this time that Bath & Body Works, a little ways across the mall, began selling their own competing line of White Barn candles. Let me tell you, that shit was like a gang war, east coast vs. west coast. Okay, I’m lying. It was nothing like that. The manager of my store, a slight woman with mousy gray hair and a penchant for turtleneck sweaters, raised an eyebrow and dryly said she “never even cared for the smells of their soaps that much.”

Okay, here’s a good story. Once, I was reaching for a candle—like Citrus Tango or some shit—and I dropped it. Glass shattered and somehow a large chunk of glass lodged into the middle of my finger, splitting it wide open, leaving a bloody mess and permanent scar.

I have a scar from Yankee Candle, of all places. And that about sums how exciting my life has been. Upon that realization, that’s when I pull out of my Serious Reflections on Life Cheetos Binge (TM), only to notice I’ve eaten an embarrassing and shameful amount of the bag.

I can handle this parenting thing. Life lessons always end up being the same, no matter how mundanely you learn them. Always stay away from drugs, son. Remember, there’s no such thing as a one-minute workout. You won’t be able to fly with a trashbag tied to your neck. I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried.

I was pretty cool once, you know. No seriously, I was—even if I have to lie and tell you this scar came from the time a White Barn thug tried to jump me.

The Quest for the Heart-Shaped Donut

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Yesterday was Valentine’s day. The wife did not want flowers. Did not want stuffed bears. Did not want chocolates. She wanted the heart-shaped donut that was being advertised on TV at Dunkin’ Donuts. People, she wanted it. Back when we were new, we used to go to fondue events at winerys or exchange nice gifts on Valentine’s day. After seven years though, we’re finally pros at this. The plan was donuts.

Let me present a flow chart of Valentine’s days, from amateur to pro-level:

Winery fondue bullshit dates —> fancy seafood restaurant dinners —> psyche, it was Red Lobster —> the nice dinner at home year, roses on the table, wine —> The “eh, let’s just order pizza and watch TV” year —> the (slight dramatization) PREGNANT WIFE WANT DONUT NOW year

“Okay, okay, I’ll run out first thing Friday morning to get them,” I promised.

But then it snowed. And snowed. And snowed. We got over a foot. And no, this is not going to be a heroic story of how I trekked out into the snow anyway. Instead it is a heroic story of spending several hours digging out our two cars and half of our court, coated in sweat and a fine dusting of rock salt, while surviving what may have been the initial warning stages of a heart attack.

At this point, we’d been snowed in the house about thirty-six hours with five more inches of forecasted snow on the way. I thought the wife had completely forgotten about the donuts—or at the very least, abandoned all hopes of them. Besides, we’d baked snow-day cookies. And I’d bought her custom M&Ms with the dog’s face printed on them as her gift.

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(They say “meow” because it’s the dog’s quirky sense of humor….oh, nevermind, we’re weird pet owners with weird inside jokes about the dog.)

Surely, the sugar-craving void had been filled by now.

But it wasn’t. And she hadn’t forgotten. Here’s the thing I’ve learned about these cravings: it has to be the exact thing. The EXACT VERY SPECIFIC THING. Not some other cookie, candy, pastry, or even some other donut in a slightly varying shape. It has to be a donut in a heart-shape from Dunkin Donuts, and only that. And maybe, just maybe, I could still run out Saturday morning and get those donuts.

“Not if it’s snowing again,” I said.

I don’t drive in the snow. I used to be one of those oh-pfft-snow-is-nothing-everyone-is-a-pansy-baby persons, but then one time my car gracefully skated a figure eight into oncoming traffic, and now I’m just like NOPE RATHER NOT DIE TODAY THANKS.

But Saturday morning came without snow. The wife woke up, looked out the window, and gleefully announced it wasn’t snowing. Yet Valentine’s day had already come and gone. Surely, they don’t still make the heart-shaped donuts on February 15.

“But they might!” she said.

“So what’s your back-up donut you want if they don’t have them?” I asked.

“My back-up donut is depression,” she said.

So I trekked out there. An expedition. It was actually sleeting, but no one else was awake/insane enough to be driving at 7am on a Saturday morning in a teeny-tiny ice storm. The normally mobbed Dunkin’ Donuts was empty except for me and the salt truck dude.

And they had them. The heart-shaped donuts were there, with a heavenly light and their own angelic choir emanating from them. There were three different kinds. Without missing a beat, I asked for one of each.

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There’s Strawberry Frosted, Brownie Batter, and Deformed What The Hell, I Can’t Believe They Gave Me That Shit Donut. (Sometimes the wife’s hormone imbalances spread to me.)

She was thrilled. I have never seen her smile like the way she did when I came home with them. And she chose the deformed donut, which was actually Cookie Dough flavor. “At least, it better be cookie dough, or else I will kill you,” as she put it.

Ooookay. And I think I’ll spend the rest of the day in the basement.

Pop Rocks For Breakfast

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Every now and then, a new breakfast cereal hits the shelves that makes you question all of your life choices. Poppin’ Fruity Pebbles is that cereal to start off 2014. Released just this January, it combines Fruity Pebbles and Pop Rocks. Forget whole grains. Forget lean proteins. Start your morning jacked-up on a big bowl of rainbow-colored sugar flakes laced with carbon dioxide. Kids, it’s like having drugs for breakfast.

Now, you’d think as a 33-year-old prospective new parent, carbonated rainbow cereal that fizzes down your throat might give me pause. In fact, I did pause, but it was to thank God for finally granting us a socially acceptable way to eat Pop Rocks for breakfast. Forever and ever, amen.

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Of course, there’s no way in hell I’d feed this to a child. If Child Protective Services ever makes a house visit, the first thing they do is peek into the pantry and see if you’ve got any boxes of Poppin’ Fruity Pebbles. It’s on the checklist next to reckless endangerment.

My mother never let us eat Cookie Crisp cereal. As far as breakfast went, she considered it a gateway drug.

And I have finally made my way to heroin.

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The carbonated pieces are those bright green balls. They pack a nice fizz without it being overwhelming. Other reviews online that I’ve read have been disappointed by the overall lack of popping, but if you mainline a few cups of black coffee with it, you’ll get yourself just right.

To sum it up:

It sounds like: rock and roll.

It looks like: Christmas morning.

It smells like: unicorns.

It tastes like: gingivitis, or maybe I just need to go to the dentist. All I know is my gums hurt after eating this cereal.

It feels like: depression. Seriously, you’ll be coming down all morning after eating this.

Should you eat this: Yes…no…YOLO. (Circle one.)

This cereal in gif form:

The Surfing Pizza Turns Five Years Old! (And Bakes Another Cake.)

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This week my silly little blog turns five years old. So in tradition, I bake a cake. And of course, if you’ve been following the blog all these years, you know that my baking projects start with so much promise, but always take a severe downward turn from the moment I turn on the oven. Last year’s cake was the ill-fated Ninja Turtle cake.

This year’s cake idea came to me from Facebook, after someone from high school shared some ridiculous-sounding cake recipe that involved mixing together cake and brownie batter. It seemed like less of a recipe idea and more like a death-row prisoner’s last meal request. But then the idea of “last meal request” cake stuck with me.

I pitched the idea to the wife, who immediately understood it. “It would be like something you see on Pinterest,” she said. My vision for the cake became more clear — a death row Pinterest cake. And with that, I set out to the grocery store.

In the cake aisle, I chose products recklessly, whimsically. I’d start with vanilla cake. Then I’d take cookie dough and spread it on top. What about mini-marshmallows? Throw ‘em the basket. Then the next layer would be brownies. And on top of that? An entire bag of white-chocolate chocolate-chips. Or Food Lion-brand “white baking chips.” Whatever, I’m sure they’re the same thing. Then I’d frost it all with hot pink frosting.

I also picked up a carton of eggs, four sticks of butter, cooking spray, and the economy-size bottle of vegetable oil. I realized I was going to need a bigger boat, so I also purchased a Thanksgiving-roaster-sized foil pan.

Now like I said, I’ve been doing this blog for five years. I’ve bought some strange combinations of things over the years. But never once has a check-out cashier so much as raised an eyebrow at me. Yesterday, that streak ended.

The Food Lion clerk dude was suspicious. Very suspicious. He rang up the marshmallows and cake mix. And chocolate chips. And cookie mix.

“You got a sweet tooth or something?” he asked.

I uttered a simple, conversation-ending “Yep.”

But I was suddenly aware that I had a conveyor belt full of cake mix, cookie mix, brownie mix, marshmallows, chocolate chips, a tub of pink frosting, four sticks of butter, a carton of eggs, an above-ground swimming-pool container of vegetable oil, and a freaking oven roaster pan. The cashier became aware, too.

“What are you making?” he asked.

In my mind, I quickly ran through the list of socially-acceptable answers, of which there none.

I’m making a cake for my blog’s fifth birthday? No.

I’m baking a cake for a death row prisoner? No.

Because it’s already football season and I still don’t fit into my lucky XXXXL sweatpants? No.

It’s actually all part of evil plot to feed a small army of children who will go on a psychosugar takeover of the world? No.

“A science experiment,” I said, wondering if I sounded at all believable.

He inspected the oven roaster pan. “Is this for some kind of monster cake?”

“Something like that,” I said. And thankfully we got to that part where he asked if I had the savings card and I awkwardly dug through my wallet for ten years looking for it. I gathered up my bags quickly and shamefully, as I could feel the cashier still watching me.

So we begin.

Since I’m secretly imagining that my death row psychosugar cake recipe is going to go viral on Pinterest, I guess people would want some kind of instructions. I decided not to worry about important things like baking times and temperature. Basically, you dump all of this crap into the pan, and then just bake it until it seems good enough. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to hose down the oven-roaster pan in cooking spray.

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The first layer is the cake layer. It’s pretty straight-forward.

Then add half a bag of mini-marshmallows. Or the entire bag. It’s really up to you and how much you’re really concerned about this thing overflowing the pan and blowing up the oven. I have a wife who will destroy me if I make a cake volcano in the oven. Half a bag seems on the safe side.

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Next up: cookies. Just plop them on there somehow. It’ll all work out in the end.

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And then: the most epic layer of them all — THE WHITE-CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE-CHIP LAYER. Just dump that entire bag on there. Seriously, when are you ever going to use them again? Just do it.

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Finally, the brownie layer. And whoa dude. Shake and Pour Brownies? Who knew something this awesome existed? “Just add water.” Love those three magic words.

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There it is, a final glimpse before its voyage in the oven. Godspeed, death row cake.

I checked the oven nervously at five minute intervals to make sure this thing wasn’t overflowing the pan. Fortunately, it never did, but I was disappointed to see it wasn’t magically forming into this perfect five-layer cake. I mean, I guess there’s a craft and skill to it. I JUST WANTED IT TO HAPPEN.

Instead, it formed into this black hole sucking a cake into itself. Or like a wild life video where a snake is swallowing a baby hippo.

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It took about an hour to bake it fully until it wasn’t completely raw in the middle. It may still be partially raw in the middle at this point, but I really didn’t have the patience to continue on with it.

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You should really wait like a millions hours to let the cake cool before frosting it. In the meantime, you should be cleaning up the three hundred bowls and spoons and spatulas it took to mix up this thing. Or you can just leave it all in the sink overnight and hope the wife is cool with that.

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Here is your coveted money shot of the cake. Taste-wise, it’s like a fine wine where you have to detect the subtle hits of marshmallow and sugar cookie. Actually, it just tastes like a big gloppy pile of sweet. It’s almost like cheesecake in its richness. I think it’s that white chocolate that overpowers everything.

Serving suggestion is absolutely none of it, but if you must, it would probably be like no more than one square inch. Seriously because, you have a piece, and you say to yourself, yeah brain, you had just a piece of cake and it’s no big deal.

But your body knows. It knows. It knows it did not have “just a piece of cake.” And one day, it will get you back for that. So remember, if you make this at home, follow my recipe exactly, and most importantly, don’t forget to have a cover story to feed the cashier.

In Which I Recreate That Pop Tart Ice Cream Sandwich Thing

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So word has been travelling around the Internet that fast-food chain Carl’s Jr has created an ice cream sandwich out of Pop-Tarts. It’s so simple. So childlike. And so brilliant. After testing positively in a few small markets and going viral online, Carl’s Jr has announced the Pop Tart Ice Cream Sandwich is going to happen nationwide. It will be available for just $1.49, or for free with the purchase of a Super Bacon Cheeseburger.

At first glance, the Pop Tart Ice Cream Sandwich is the latest and greatest in fast food monstrosities, right up there with the Kentucky Fried Chicken Double Down or the Taco Bell Doritos Taco. And yet upon closer examination, you realize something much more insidious is at play. You could make this thing yourself. You could totally make it. How are they selling this as a real thing? Why is everyone so excited about it? It’s just vanilla ice cream and a strawberry Pop Tart.

Wait. Is this like that time you went to the art museum and muttered about how you could have fingerpainted that twineball sculpture yourself? And how you thought that was a pretty clever observation until that pretentious art person rolled their eyes at you? Maybe the Pop Tart Ice Cream Sandwich has a deeper intent and meaning. Perhaps it’s a sacred construction best left to the fast food Gods. Or an artform that can only be crafted by the nimble hands of seventeen-year-old fast food workers.

What about that guy on your Facebook feed who scoffs at everything and has proclaimed it yet another symbol of decline in America? You know that dude who came to a party once wearing those barefoot running shoes as his actual shoes? What the hell is with that guy?

Isn’t this something stoners and drunks have already come up with countless times at three in the morning, that glorious and mythical part of the morning where all great ideas are given birth? Wasn’t this in a sitcom once where the kids tied up the babysitter and raided the pantry?

And while I’m thinking about it, didn’t I actually invent this idea when I was eight? I’m pretty sure I thought of this when I was eight, but my mother wouldn’t let me combine Pop Tarts and ice cream. See, Mom, I could have a millionaire if you had let me be in charge of the menu planning around the house.

What I want to know is this: is the Pop Tart Ice Cream Sandwich really an evil obesity-inducing sugarbomb for the Honey Boo Boo sheeple? Or is it a rare flash of culinary ingenuity that rivals only the Deep Fried Twinkie in enterprise?

I set out to answer all of these questions and more. So I set out to make my own Pop Tart Ice Cream Sandwich.

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I haven’t visited the Pop Tart section of the grocery store in a long time. It’s not I’m a food snob. In fact, I have the complete opposite problem. It’s that if I visit that hallowed section, I will buy Pop Tarts. I will buy lots of them. I will not only revert to the eating habits of a toddler, I will revert to the food ideations of a toddler. A sprinkled frosted pastry filled with neon-colored goo is food. It is food. YES. EVERYDAY. FOOD.

How did we collectively convince ourselves that Pop Tarts are a breakfast food anyway? I mean, we universally understand it as such without question. You could ask the same of donuts, but donuts at least have a stigma. If you ate a donut for breakfast, you have already mentally justified it to yourself on some level. But Pop Tarts? They’re as innocuous as cereal. Throw in a multi-vitamin and they’re a part of your complete breakfast.

So this happened when I visited the Pop Tarts section: I was positively ENRAPTURED by the variety and breadth of all the Pop Tarts that there are. I’ve seen waterfalls and sunsets and coastlines that go on for days, and now I have seen the breathtaking Pop Tart display at Food Lion. There was Confetti Cupcake flavor. Red Velvet. Cinnamon Roll. Raspberry. Hot Fudge Sundae. Wildlicious Wild Berry. Wildlicious Strawberry. What is Wildlicious? I don’t care. I love it. And Peanut Butter. HOLY SHIT PEANUT BUTTER POP TARTS EXIST.

So because I obviously hate myself, I came home with multiple boxes of Pop Tarts. Don’t judge me and let’s never talk about this again.

Now, making the Pop Tart Ice Cream Sandwich at home requires some forethought. You can’t just hastily slap a scoop of ice cream on a cut-in-half Pop Tart and call it a day. For starters, Pop Tarts are crumbly messes. I think the first key here is to toast the Pop Tart and then let it cool completely.

Then there’s an issue where the Pop Tart first pops out of the toaster and it’s center-of-the-Earth-Magma-level hot. And you try to gingerly pick it out but you either A) burn your fingertips off, or B) break off a massive chunk of the Pop Tart. Both of these events will make you want to die.

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If you’re like me, that’s already way too much work, and you’re already halfway out the door to Carl’s Jr with the $1.49 in your hand. But I trudged forward through the cooling process. I even used our fancy cooling rack we got for our wedding. Being an adult is really fun sometimes.

And finally I got to the ice cream part:

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The next thing is, the Pop Tart and ice cream need some alone time in the freezer to congeal together. So after cooling the Pop Tart, carefully slicing it in half, and putting a hearty scoop of ice cream in the middle, I allowed it to sit in the freezer for thirty minutes.

See? This is all way too much work. Carl’s Jr has made it that much easier to help us accomplish our goals of gaining that extra fifty pounds just in time to fit into our football sweatpants.

The final tally is:

- a trip to the grocery store
- two or three extra boxes of Pop Tarts dripping in self-loathing
- one messed up Pop Tart after it was scorched in the toaster
- a small first-degree burn
- the wife requesting “not that weird thing you’re making” but instead “a scoop of ice cream over a warm pop tart”
- okay, sure, like I’m taking custom sundae orders here and not doing IMPORTANT BLOG STUFF
- thirty minutes of cooling and re-freezing

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Was it worth it?

Surprisingly, yes. The Pop Tart Ice Cream Sandwich works. The ice cream cuts the cloying sweetness of the Pop Tart filling in a good way. When toasted and frozen, the Pop Tart works well as a sandwich to hold the ice cream. In other words, it’s great, but you already knew that. It’s freaking vanilla ice cream and Pop Tarts. It’s summertime and the living is easy. And that barefoot running guy has no idea what he’s talking about.