Mama Cozzi’s Rising Crust Spinach, Mushroom & Garlic Pizza Review

Mama Cozzi’s Pizza Kitchen Spinach, Mushroom & Garlic Rising Crust Pizza

This is a substantial pizza priced at only $3.99, but, unfortunately, it is bland. Despite spinach, mushroom, and garlic toppings, the flavors never come together. We even added extra cheese and sauteed mushrooms, but the pizza was still mediocre.

Aldi’s could improve it by cutting back on the sauce (way too much). Also, I never tasted the spinach, and the overwhelming flavor is burnt garlic. Even the crust is unremarkable.

There are some good frozen pizzas out there, but skip this one. The only thing it has going for it is that it is a lot of pizza.

Three out of five stars


Posted in Vegetarian Food Reviews | 2 Comments

Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burger Review

img104I love Indian food. Fortunately, Atlanta has many fine Indian restaurants. We recently tried Chai Pani and sampled their version of Indian street food. If you’re in the area, be sure to try the Vada Pav–“serious street food” indeed!

Since I can’t eat in Decatur every day, I wanted to find something that would come close to the taste of that delicious street food. Run, don’t walk to Trader Joe’s and try the Vegetable Masala Burger. It is vegan, only 140 calories per burger, and only $2.49 for a pack of four frozen burgers.

I cooked mine on a George Foreman grill (about six minutes) and put it on a buttered and Arnold’s potato hamburger roll. The result was quite delicious. In fact, this has become my favorite burger. It also satisfies my Indian food cravings.

Five out of five stars

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DiGiorno Bianca/White Pizza Review


I love pizza and usually eat it at least once a week. When I lived in St. Charles, Illinois I loved Jim’s Pizza (which later became Norm’s or vice versa). Since living in Atlanta, my favorites have included Camille’s (which I believe is now gone), Ats-A-Pizza (here one day, boarded up the next), and Stone Mountain Pizza Cafe, which, fortunately, is still thriving.

These were all freshly made pizzas. Frozen pizzas have been a different story for me. There are few that I have liked because I’ve found most to be flavorless or worse.

DiGiorno’s Pizzeria! Bianca/White Pizza is, however, quite good. For one thing, the crust is crispy and doughy and quite excellent. The toppings include mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, spinach, garlic, and a creme fraiche sauce. DiGiorno is not skimpy here. I love spinach (cooked and raw), and I can taste spinach in every bite. The creme fraiche sauce is also liberally spread across the pizza. We love cheese in this house, so we add an additional layer of colby jack (and sometimes sauteed mushrooms), so it turns out to be quite a delicious pizza.

We cook it in the toaster oven. The directions call for 375 degrees for 22-24 minutes, but we usually cook it a bit longer and then broil it for about a minute more.

This is definitely one of the most flavorful frozen pizzas you can buy. It took me awhile before I was willing to look at the calorie count because I feared the worst. Fortunately, each piece (there are four servings) is only 320 calories. If you plan to eat it as dinner, you’ll probably eat two pieces. Even then, if this is your main meal, you haven’t done too much damage.

Publix occasionally makes their DiGiorno pizzas a BOGO, and we usually have a coupon, so we can get the price down to $3 or $4 a pizza. Not bad.

Five out of five stars

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Black-Hearted Bitch is a Quarter-Finalist in 1 Hour Original TV Writing Contest

Last year I adapted my crime fiction novel, Black-Hearted Bitch, into a TV pilot. I’m thrilled to report that it was named a quarter-finalist in the Stage32 Happy Writers TV Writing Contest.

Congratulations to the other quarter-finalists.

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Jennifer’s Garden Spring Rolls Review

We visit Dollar Tree at least once a month. I rarely look in the refrigerated/freezer case, but a few trips back I did and found Jennifer’s Garden Spring Rolls. We tried one package and then went back and purchased five more. It appears to be a regularly stocked item, so you’re in luck if you get addicted to these.

It’s difficult to beat the price. You get ten small spring rolls for one dollar. Yep, one freaking dollar. Every so often we make a variety of frozen vegetarian snacks for dinner (spring rolls, samosas, cheese sticks, pot stickers, etc.). These spring rolls fit right in with this combo. We usually make half the package, so you kind of get two meals for fifty cents.

I suggest you cook them much longer than the instructions call for (12-15 minutes at 400) because you want the crust to be a deep golden. I have not pan-fried or microwaved them (have my doubts about microwaving).

They have an addictive junk food vibe. You will want the outer crust to be crunchy because, frankly, there’s not much to the interior. And what there is is mushy. The vegetables are more like a paste than whole pieces. I prefer eating the rolls without any sauce, but my wife uses a variety of dipping sauces.

I like them a lot. They’re rich, crunchy, and street-foodish, but only 55 calories. The ingredients are simple: cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, green beans, vermicelli, salt, spice, vegetable oil (palm, peanut, sesame, soy), potato starch, wheat flour, water. The product is manufactured in China and distributed by Food Team International in East Brunswick, New Jersey.

Four out of five stars.

I cannot find a website for the manufacturer. I find that a bit concerning, but I did find a page from the package designer:

While I commend the designer, the package, alas, looks nothing like the actual product.

Posted in Vegetarian Food Reviews | 7 Comments


There’s a new review of Killing Rosa on Amazon.

“These characters are enticing, just enticing. I want to know what they’re going to do next because frankly, I’ve got no idea! [T]his mystery is complex!

Ms. Kear’s writing is quite simply: clean and well done. It is obvious that her words are well-chosen and highly edited–she has taken the time to make her stories meet the standards of discerning readers (I think I’m one of those!).

I love the character, Larry. He’s larger than life and a fundamental kind of guy who makes things happen.

The mystery winds and weaves and leaves you thinking: huh, I didn’t see that coming!”

Read the entire review here:

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Coursera Update

There’s no way not to sound pompous. I’ve signed up for Write Like Mozart: An Introduction to Classical Music Composition. Considering I barely survived Fundamentals Of Music Theory, this ought to be interesting. I’ve also registered for Songwriting which will start in February. My two most recent Coursera classes, Developing Your Musicianship and Introduction to Guitar, have ended, and I am eager to tackle more classes.

If you have any interest in music, I encourage you to take Developing Your Musicianship with George W. Russell, Jr. He was an absolute delight, and if you’ve never had a teacher you liked, try this guy. The musicianship class helped me understand the music theory course so much better, I wonder if it shouldn’t be a prerequisite. I finally understand intervals and can even play a pretty good chord progression on the keyboard.

I got a lot out of the guitar course, though the instructor’s style (Thaddeus Hogarth) was different from Mr. Russell’s. He had a more laid back personality which I liked, but some students, believe it or not, trashed him on the forums because he didn’t answer every stupid question they asked. Seriously. It’s a freaking free class, folks. Get a grip.

One of the best things about these classes is that I can take them without worrying about my GPA or embarrassing myself. It is so freeing to study a topic that is difficult and maybe even beyond me. I want to learn new things, and with online colleges like Coursera, I can explore classes I’m interested in without being hindered by my incessant fear of failure.

By the way, I’m also thinking about building my own PC in 2015 (does this mean yet another tab on my website?). For years, I’ve been intimidated, but after working on my four-year-old i7 PC this last month or so, I’m thinking that if I read up on it, I might be able to pull it off. I can save money, get the PC I want, and learn something new. Any suggestions are welcome.

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Rainbow Award Winners Announced

Congratulations to Robin Sommers whose book Season of the Wolf was the winning book in the 2014 Rainbow Awards Lesbian Mystery/Thriller category. My book, Killing Rosa, was runner up, along with Rapture, Sins of the Sinners (Fran Heckrotte & A.C. Henley), Tumbledown (Cari Hunter), and Girls Don’t Hit (Geonn Cannon).

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Killing Rosa Is Named Finalist

Killing Rosa, my newest crime fiction novel, was named a finalist in the 2014 Rainbow Awards. The dark, funny novel, a sequel to Black-Hearted Bitch, features complicated hitman Kell Digby in a fast-paced noir.


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Fundamentals of Music Theory

A few days ago I received a Statement of Accomplishment from Coursera for successfully completing the University of Edinburgh’s online offering of the Fundamentals of Music Theory class. Don’t get too excited. While it was a demanding course, my completion was based on getting perfect scores on the five quizzes I took after viewing videos, studying supplemental information, etc.

Again, settle down. The quizzes were multiple choice (mostly), and I was allowed to take each quiz up to five times. I have a Ph.D. and taught college for many years, so, believe me, I know how to take tests.

I had the option of skipping the final exam, and I did. No matter how badly I bombed, my total score was high enough to get me the coveted certificate. Still, I decided, after looking at the final, it was beyond my limited understanding of music theory. In addition, I would have been required to grade three of my fellow classmates’ finals, and I did not want to inflict my “grading” on anyone.

Yes, the final was ridiculous, but I had a blast taking the course and heartily recommend it (or any other Coursera class) to everyone. And I’m not saying this so you too can experience the mental anguish and lost days.

How did I end up taking the class? Some time ago, I hurt my left wrist while repeatedly trying to keep four fingers on four consecutive frets. My stubby, little fingers will never be able to do this, but I stubbornly and stupidly insisted until I developed De Quervain’s tendinosis. It’s a common malady for guitarists and, and oddly enough, middle-aged women. It caused significant pain and made guitar-playing particularly painful, especially when playing power chords.

I used ice, ibuprofen, and a Mueller wrist brace and even stopped playing guitar for about a month, hoping the injury would heal. During the time I put away the guitar, I played around with an old Casio keyboard, and then my friend Drue mentioned an online course she was taking. Intrigued, I scanned the courses and signed up for Fundamentals Of Music Theory.

If you are not familiar with Coursera, it’s a wonderful organization that offers free college-level online courses from many colleges and universities. My Music Theory instructors were professors who taught at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. The main instructor was Zack Moir, and he was excellent. Everything you’d want in a teacher.

Some of my classmates (more than 80,000 students signed up for the course) whined and complained (no different from any regular college class) about the difficulty of the course and the instructors. I took many classes as a student and had good and bad teachers. It’s part of the educational experience, and I’ve learned something from everyone who’s taught me. Some more than others, but I’m grateful to everyone who tried.

The course was one of the most challenging courses I’ve ever taken. I would put it up there with a graduate level statistics course I took at Georgia State University in the 1980s. I have been wanting to go outside my comfort zone, and this course was that. Unlike many courses I’ve taken, I had to work very hard in the class.

But I’m thrilled I took it and have signed up for two classes that will start in October: Introduction to Guitar and Developing Your Musicianship.

I’m excited. I think my wrist has healed enough to get real deep into guitar again.

Posted in My Musical Journey | 2 Comments