28 December, 2011

LaYogurt (Triple Berry)

First of all, this isn't usually the kind of yogurt I normally buy. I'm not buying into this whole "probiotic" thing, for example - all active culture yogurts are "probiotic."  Also, I like my yogurt to be interesting, so I go with unusual flavors or types of milk. But I got a wicked sweet deal on a full case ($1.99, or about 17 cents each) of these and couldn't pass it up.

So. LaYogurt is pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. The Triple Berry flavoring comes from juice, which is mixed with yogurt, sugar, and thickening agents to create a very smooth and even consistency. It's not the best yogurt in the world, but it is not heinous either. Perfectly acceptable (though a bit on the sweet side) especially for the price I paid.


27 December, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts

In the past couple of years, appreciation for the humble pumpkin has really exploded. One indication is the number of pumpkin soup recipes that spread like a disease across food blogs every autumn. Another is the way pumpkin has started to appear in the most unlikely places - marshmallows, and beer, and soft drinks, and even Pop Tarts!

I picked up a box of Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts back in late October, and I would have posted this review long ago if my damn headaches hadn't kept me offline through much of November. Better late than never though, I suppose, and there are still a few boxes in stores here and there (and leftover stock should be showing up any time now in places like Big Lots and Ocean State Job Lot, so you'll still have a chance to grab 'em.) On with the review:

I've liked Pop Tarts ever since I was a kid, when my mom would buy them occasionally and dole them out as breakfast treats. That's still my favorite way to enjoy them, too - warmed up in the toaster with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee as a fast and carby breakfast on rushed weekdays.

As much as I like them, though, I have to admit that they've always tasted like somewhat fruit-flavored sugar pastries. I guess that's why my favorite variety has long been the Brown Sugar and Cinnamon flavor. It just seemed refreshingly honest to have a Pop Tart that came right out and said the filling was nothing but seasoned brown sugar. It was like the epitome of nutritionally-devoid calories.

Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts are not like that, though.  Oh, they're still carby sugary nutritionally embarrassing squares of empty calories, but they are SO DELICIOUS.  They really do taste like pumpkin pie (although the sprinkle-cast frosting is completely over-the-top.) Two of these with a cup of coffee in the morning can really make the day more bearable when you have no access to actual pie, because they totally deliver on the pumpkin pie promise.

I'm really hoping that Kellogg's brings these back again next year.

23 December, 2011

Nabisco, I Am Disappoint


Remember Nutter Butter Creme Patties? Little wafer pillows filled with peanut butter creme...every bite held an explosion of awesome peanut butteriness.  My friend Michael was visiting last weekend, and mentioned sort of out of the blue that he hadn't had Nutter Butters for quite a while. Come to think of it, neither had I - and so, it became an imperative that we get some.

The wafers were just as crisp and wafery as we remembered - but somehow, those first bites just weren't as delicious as in the past.  Michael snapped one of the patties in half and it became evident why Nutter Butters aren't quite as Nutter Buttery as they useter.

Look at that! They're only half-full of peanut butter creme! No wonder they were better years ago - there was more filling back then.

Shame on you, Nabisco.

22 December, 2011

Ew...Cultured Almond Milk

So, apparently someone has figured out a way to make a non-yogurt using almond milk and active yogurt cultures. And, while I can see the appeal of this to vegans and the lactose-intolerant, there has to be a better way to go about it.

Amande Cultured Almond Milk does have active cultures in it. But since it isn't real dairy milk, there's nothing for the cultures to thicken. I guess they just sit around in the cup and wait to be eaten.  The thickening part is done by various starches and gums which are blended in to give the product a yogurt-like smoothness.

Unfortunately, yogurt-like is about as far as it goes, because the starches and gums also produce a consistency that is rather solid and jiggly, except for the pool of sticky waterish stuff that is also in the cup. Trying to stir the watery stuff back into the almond milk mass is an exercise in futility: it never mixes back in, it just sort of helps break up the jiggly parts into grainy little unappealing blobs. No, it is far better to just pour the water off down the sink and dig right into the almond milk mass, because when it holds its form you can at least pretend that it's pudding or something else that's actually appetizing.

The raspberry flavor that we sampled was a semi-pinkish/brown color, shot through with tiny bits of raspberry.  The raspberry flavor was rather pleasant, but unfortunately it could not mask the "elderly mayonnaise" taste of the almond milk concoction itself. And then there was that graininess.

Even with four of us tasting it, most of it went straight into the bin. At best, this is an acquired taste. And I'm truly sorry for anyone who has cause to acquire it.

21 December, 2011

Milano Reopens In Springfield

Milano Imported Fine Foods, Springfield's best Italian market and deli, has reopened, six months after having been destroyed by the June 1st tornado that chewed through downtown.

Right now, the grocery and deli are up and running, and the sausage and pasta-making facilities are in full operation. They'e still working on the kitchen, however, so hot lunches and the catering service may be delayed for another week or so.

20 December, 2011

Lobster Slider Patties

I was poking around in the frozen food section of Dollar Tree and found these: Lobster Slider Patties. How awesome to find something as expensively gourmet as lobster at such a reasonable price! Even though the box felt kind of light, still: LOBSTAH FOR A DOLLAH! I knew it must be true, because "Lobster Meat" was the first ingredient listed on the side panel Yea, though I paid a pauper's coin for this delight, verily I would dine like King Neptune this night.

Of course, there was other fine print on the label, like on the front where it shows a photo of two plump and delicious lobster slider patties on fresh rolls with some kind of mayo peeking out from the bottom.  Superimposed over the bottom of the righthand sandwich, in a typeface so tiny it is barely readable by the naked eye, is the advisory: "Serving Suggestion." This is a marketing term which loosely translates as "What you're seeing here isn't exactly what you're getting in the box."

When the box was opened, we found two "patties," sans bun (that was part of the "Suggestion," and the box was after all clearly labeled "Slider Patties" without any mention of buns.) They were about the size and shape of a chocolate-chip cookie, and looked like they had been hand-formed.

The cooking instructions strongly suggested baking the patties in the oven, mentioning that it was superior to the micowave. Instead, I opted to pan-fry them in butter. Besides the fact that pan-frying adds a delicious crispy crust to the bottom and top, I was also not about to run the oven for two tiny little dollar-store patties. So into the pan they went, sizzle-sizzle-sizzle, and out they came to a plate a few minutes later, exactly as anticipated: crispy and browned on the top and bottom, soft and hot inside.

We broke bits off and examined them. They are definitely made primarily of lobster meat and crumbs, exactly as the ingredient label states. (The red pieces you see in the photos are bits of red bell pepper that appear to be added as a garnish.) But don't look for chunks of lobster, because you won't find it. Look carefully at the lobster patty chunk on the end of your fork, and you'll see the meat: tiny little fibers that are the last remaining bits of salvageable meat from the lobster after all of the choice bits have been taken for other purposes. Note, however, that there was no way for us to really tell what kind of "lobster" it was. It could have been Maine lobster, or langostino "lobster", or lobster tails for all we could tell.

At any rate, it didn't matter. The patties passed the most important test: they actually tasted good. They had a decent shellfishy flavor and a smooth, if a bit wet, texture that was reminiscent of the stuffed clam filling one might find in a restaurant. A few dashes of hot sauce pepped up the patties and brightened the shellfish flavors.

I don't really think I'd serve these as "sliders," on a little hamburger roll. That would be way too much like eating a bread sandwich (I'll have a whole wheat on rye, hold the pumpernickel please.) But if I had some little sausage patties on biscuits, these lobster patties would be awesome snuggled in there against the pigmeat.

So I might not have dined like King Neptune, but I liked the lobster patties well enough. A buck well spent.

18 December, 2011

Eggies Hard Boiled Egg Cooker

Check out this ad for a product called "Eggies."  Apparently, their target market is "People Who Don't Mind Being Called Too Stupid To Peel An Egg."


Vernors Ginger Soda

So, Vernors. Yet another beverage with a cult following. Is it a ginger ale or a "ginger soda?" It's been marketed as both, but currently the can says "The Original Ginger Soda," so I guess we'll go with that.

And I think that's fair, because Vernors is sweeter and more gingery-spicy than the typical ginger ales that are commonly on the market, with a flavor profile that has a lot more going on than the usual sody pop.

Vernors has a stronger ginger flavor right out of the gate, and it's accompanied by a subtle spicy kick, reminiscent of but milder than ginger beer.  There's a touch of vanilla in there as well, and the overall effect is really quite nice.

I'm told that the Vernors of today is different than the classic Vernors of yesteryear - that the formula has changed and the soda is less itself than it once was. I'm not in any position to notice because Vernors is hard to find here in New England, and before scoring the few cans I recently tried, the last time I had it was back in the late 1970s and I don't remember that old experience all that well.

But anyway, Vernors is a unique taste and enjoyable. If you live outside of their home turf of Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois and find a can or two, nab it. You'll like it.

15 December, 2011

Candy Corn M&Ms

Candy Corn M&Ms were an M&Ms "special edition" - a Walmart exclusive made up of white chocolate with white, yellow, and orange candy shells.   This isn't really a post about them, though. Call it an "anti-post," I guess, because I was never able to find the damn things during the Halloween season when they were supposed to be on the shelf.

I visited every Walmart in the area through the Halloween season and beyond,  but they were never in stock, so even though I'd love to tell you how awesome they were, it ain't gonna happen.

Now, I know that Walmart has enormous clout with manufacturers and distributors because of the huge share of the market they command, but I still hate this kind of "limited distribution" because it inevitably leaves other chunks of the market out.  I suppose I could have sent an email to Mars to request some samples, but it's not my policy to request stuff from manufacturers (though they are free to send me products unsolicited and at their own risk for review, I don't like putting my hand out.)

So I guess that's it: I don't like retailer-specific special edition items and now you know about it; rant over, the end.

14 December, 2011

Buy Bacon Salt For What It's Actually Worth


Despite the strength of the Internet Bacon Meme, I don't think much of Bacon Salt. It doesn't "make everything taste like bacon," it makes everything taste like cheap, shitty smoke-flavored salt. 

On a recent foray to markdown grocer The Barn in Greenfield MA, I found a shelf full of Bacon Salt at fifty cents per jar. Finally, someone is selling the stuff for what it should be marked at based on flavor and usefulness.

12 December, 2011

Wild Bill's Bacon Jerky

When Dave and I were both feeling at our worst, I was the one stuck doing some shopping. As I wandered aisles and aisles of food that didn't look appealing and was preoccupied wishing I could go back to bed, I saw the food equivalent of a choir of angels: Wild Bill's Bacon Jerky. I immediately tossed it into the cart, chortling with glee, and went home knowing that I was definitely forgetting something important (milk,) but arriving with something that would certainly make Dave feel better. And besides, bacon jerky must be interesting, because hot damn, who doesn't love jerky?

Well, when I brought it home and we zipped the package open, both Dave and I were disappointed to find nothing more than thick cut, precooked bacon inside. The flavor was okay - a bit on the salty side, if you ask me - but it had this welcome smokiness that brought together the whole flavor profile of the bacon. It wasn't jerky, though. Just plain old precooked bacon, at a 300% markup.

Live and learn, I suppose.

Dave Says:

I was pretty psyched to try this stuff, because you know: BACON.  And also: JERKY. Hot damn. It was quite a disappointment to open up the bag and find thick-cut but otherwise pretty run-of-the-mill precooked bacon, broken up into bite-size (and smaller) chunks.  WTF, six bucks for three ounces of this?  Not cool.  I mean, it was as good as any other precooked bacon I've ever bought, but at least I can get Hormel and Oscar Mayer ready-to-eat pigstrips on sale and in whole slices.

My first thought was that Monogram Meat Snacks, the guys responsible for the Wild Bill's brand, were buying precooked bacon shards that other companies couldn't put into a ready-to-eat bacon package because the slices weren't whole anymore. But no: the USDA Establishment Number printed on the package shows that the bacon was processed by Monogram their own selves.

Anyway, my official rating: decent bacon but definitely not jerky, and not something I'd go out of my way for.

Meyenberg Low Fat Goat Milk

If you've grown up drinking cow's milk, goat milk can be an acquired taste. Goat milk is stronger in flavor (I've heard it described as "gamey" or "strongly goaty") and has a different aftertaste than cow's milk.

As for me, I've always liked goat milk, and I can't resist picking up a quart when I find it (which isn't very often, BTW - goat milk is still considered a "specialty item" and a lot of supermarkets don't regularly carry it.)  For that matter, I like goat milk yogurt and goat cheese, too.  Hell, if I thought I could get away with it, I would keep a nanny goat here in my quiet suburban neighborhood and be all Goat Milk Dairyman with her.

Anyway. Different brands of goat milk seem to have different goaty intensities.  I recently picked up a quart of Meyenberg Low Fat Goat Milk and really enjoyed it. But I have to say it was much stronger in flavor than some of the other goat milks I've had.  It had a very distinctive "barnyard taste," which is something that some people find objectionable but I find interesting.

I would certainly buy it again, especially if I also have Cap'n Crunch in the house. Because that's something else about goat milk: it is awesome on Cap'n Crunch.


PEE Jays?

Every year, Maryanne and I order a box of oranges from one of the local high schools during their annual fund raiser. This year, the fruit came from a fundraising place in New Jersey instead of directly from Florida:


That's a legit company, and the oranges are okay, and I'm sure the rest of the stuff they sell is okay too. But I still have to wonder what kind of horrible childhood someone has to have to get the nickname "Pee Jay" instead of, say, the more neutral "PJ."  Also I laugh, because I'm an immature bastard.

11 December, 2011

Out Of The Can: Brookdale Corned Beef Hash (ALDI)

Today's Out of the Can feature is Brookdale Corned Beef Hash, sold by ALDI. Bearing in mind that ALDI is a no-frills, low-price sort of supermarket, I was expecting this hash to be a hilarious cylinder of fat and lurid pink mystery meat, much like the cheap house brand hash that provided me with so many lulz in April 2010.

But no - Like so many other ALDI branded products, Brookdale Corned Beef Hash is pretty awesome. Very little fat cooks out of it in the skillet. The meat and potatoes are both decent quality, and the flavor is good without being overly salty.

A quick check of the USDA Establishment Number printed on the can reveals that the hash is actually made by Hormel, then labeled for distribution and sale by ALDI (regardless of how secretive ALDI is about the source of their private brand stuff, this is something they cannot hide on anything containing any kind of meat - federal regulations require that the processors of meat products be revealed on the package.)

I like canned corned beef hash - 'ash an' heggs is a favorite Sunday morning breakfast for us, especially as the weather gets colder. I've gotten used to tipping the pan and spooning out a quarter of a cup of fat as the hash cooked, so it was a mighty pleasant surprise to find that Brookdale hash doesn't pour off a load of grease as it heats up.  And what makes it even better is the price (I'm pretty sure I paid less than $1.50 a can for it.)

Recommended with no qualms.

Why, Hello There!

Have you ever had a migraine headache?  They can be pretty nasty - they might knock you out of service for a whole day...or two...or sometimes, for some people, a week.

My head has been in almost constant pain for about two months now. 

Last month was the worst. I couldn't look at a monitor for more than a couple of minutes at a time. I couldn't talk on the phone. And worst of all, I couldn't concentrate on anything. I spent a huge amount of time on my back, hiding from the light, with a heating pad wrapped around my head. And the pain isn't just inside my head, it's in my scalp and face too. 

My doctor and my neurologist are both working to figure out what is going on. I've had CT scans, MRIs, and ongoing bloodwork to see if we can track down what is causing this. So far, we've ruled out the really scary shit like tumors, embolisms, or arterial blockage, and now we're testing for less-scary shit like Lyme disease and such.

So between that and Lynnafred being out of commission, posts to the blog have been more or less on hiatus. She's feeling somewhat better, though, and my own pain is starting to get to the point where I can get some work done again, so you can look forward to a bunch of posts in the coming days. We both have a big backlog of stuff to review and a couple recipes to share, and I'm really eager to get back online again. I think if I take advantage of the periods where the pain is manageable I can get some stuff posted and/or scheduled, and give you guys some new stuff to read.

Finally, I'd like to thank all of you who sent emails of concern during the hiatus. I'm going to try to answer all of you in the next day or so.  I deeply appreciate your messages, and the get well wishes you guys wrote in the comments to Lynnafred's post.  And I'm sorry that I couldn't get past the pain or work up the concentration to reply to them before now.

All of you are awesome.  Thanks!

06 December, 2011

We're not dead yet.

But we might as well be, for all intents and purposes. Awhile back, I mentioned that Dave was feeling sick and wasn't really in the blogging spirit. He's still not feeling well, which is half the reason that there's no updates to be had. The other half is, obviously, me. I've just gotten over a horrible bout of flu and general feel-shittery, and am just starting to get back into the normal swing of things, not to mention normal eating habits. So, now, I'll be taking the helm again and posting the things that Dave dictates, as well as whatever odd food that I can find. (Fun fact: I have bacon jerky to write about, so stay tuned.)

13 November, 2011

General Mills Simply Fruit snacks

The best surprise you could give Child Me was a packet of fruit snacks in my lunchbox. It was as close as you could get to giving me magic every lunch. Well, some things never change. I still love fruit snacks, but I'm a little more careful about them now. A lot of fruit snacks - while undeniably tasty - are also full of things that have nothing to do with fruit.

General Mills is changing that with their Simply Fruit line of fruit snacks.

The two varieties of Simply Fruit snacks that I've seen are Fruit Roll-Ups and Twists. The Fruit Roll-Ups are extremely reminiscent of the all natural fruit rolls that Dave used to get me when I was a kid. Child Me liked them more for their sticky, real-fruit taste instead of the plasticlike texture of regular brand name Fruit Roll-Ups, and these Simply Fruit ones are just like the offbrand organic ones he got me then, right down to the way they leave my hands sticky and a little gross feeling after I'm done eating them.

The Twists are a little easier to eat, because I can leave them in the wrapper as I nom them. These are also really good: full flavored and real tasting, almost overpoweringly fruity, and not at all sickeningly sweet.

The best part about these? They're the same price as their artificially flavored, plastic-y brethren. Each roll/twist is made of all natural ingredients with no bullshit or questionable qualities to them. Fruit juices and purees, fruit pectin, and natural flavor is all that goes into these babies, and it shows. The end result is a solid fruit snack that kids will like and grown ups can approve of. (And enjoy themselves if you're like me.)

Each roll has 50 calories; each twist has 60.

12 November, 2011

Wheat Thins Sweet Cinnamon

Knowing how much we love Wheat Thins, Nabisco knew that we were perfect to take their limited-edition Sweet Cinnamon Wheat Thins for a test drive.

These are a perfect blend of sweet and salty. Think cinnamon-sugar toast with butter. Or Cinnamon Toast Crunch with salt. Or, you know, cinnamon rolls without icing.

You know what? Think of cinnamon. Think of salt. Now combine that with a tablespoon of awesome and think of Wheat Thins. These are great for snacking right out of the box, and especially fantastic when paired with a cheesecake dip or a small smear of vanilla icing. They're even good topped with a slice of cheddar. These little guys are versatile and perfect for the holidays.

Unfortunately, they're only available for a limited time, so get them while they're here.

11 November, 2011

Archway Cookies: Holiday Edition!

Last year, the awesome folks at Archway sent us their line of holiday cookies to review. They were completely amazing, and this year, the generous folks at Archway has surprised us yet again with a sampling of their holiday cookies. We got them just before the snowstorm, so they were a delicious, sweet way to forget that we didn't have lights.

These cookies are just as delicious now as they were then. We were given a sampling of Wedding Cakes, Pfeffernusse, Iced Gingerbread, and Gingerbread Men.

The Wedding Cakes are almost as delicious as my grandmother's: a sugar-coated, melt-in-your-mouth treat studded with Brazil nuts and baked to perfection. These are definitely my favorite of the bunch, but then again, I'm biased - these cookies have a huge emotional connection attached to them.

Next up are the Pfeffernusse, which are slightly spicy and almost licorice-tasting with hints of cinnamon, cloves, and raisins (which is not at all surprising, seeing as there's raisin paste added to them.) Chewy and (also) rolled in powdered sugar, these are another delightful treat to have with coffee or tea.

Next, we have two variations on one of my favorite holiday cookies: gingerbread. Dave and I used to make gingerbread houses when I was a kid: huge, elaborate, Necco-wafer-shingled Victorian-esque houses with melted lollipop windows and Twizzler fences. (The best part was eating it.) But I digress. Archway's gingerbread cookies are just as good as any I can make, if not better. The crunchy gingerbread men are a perfect go-with for hot chocolate, and the softer iced gingerbread cookies practically scream wintertime at you as you eat them.

If you've never had any Archway holiday cookies, you're seriously missing out. They're truly "just like homemade" and are just as worthy of a spot at your holiday gatherings as the ones your family makes. Archway holiday cookies should be available at your local grocery store now.

10 November, 2011

We're Back! (Mostly)

The power outage has been a pretty busy time for us. Not to worry, we have power back, and now that we're more or less settled back into normalcy, posts can start to be expected again. But Dave's been feeling a little under the weather and hasn't really had his mind on blogging, so until he's feeling better, you can expect to see a lot more posts from me than usual. I'll try to stay fairly constant with posts. Besides, there's a lot that needs talking about. So I hope you'll bear with me until Dave starts to get his blogging face back.

01 November, 2011

Power Outage Update

Both Dave and I are sorry for a lack of updates recently; there's been a snowstorm that's knocked out our power. Until that comes back, there's not going to be a "real" post coming along. As it stands, I'm updating from a Barnes and Noble cafĂ©.  Rest assured, that when power comes back online, we'll be back with more updates.

27 October, 2011

Ed Hardy Rocks: Highly Caffeinated Chocolates

Have you ever had chocolate-covered coffee beans?  Starbucks sells them, and so do a lot of other, smaller coffee shops.  Pop one in your mouth and you get delicious smooth chocolate, ability-enhancing caffeine, and a mouthful of nasty-assed coffee grinds, homemade by your very own teeth, which find their way to every nook and cranny of your mouth, providing you with endless opportunities to spit out cruddy black granules all day.  It's a great idea - directly-ingestible chocolate-flavored coffee nuggets - but a horrible execution.  (But feel free to tell me in the comments how much you love them and what an asshole I am.)

But there is a BETTER WAY:  Ed Hardy Highly Caffeinated Chocolates.  


Not too long ago, I got an email from Eat Hardy LLC, asking if I'd like a sample of their Ed Hardy Rocks caffeinated candy to try.  Soon, there were small boxes of little round nuggets in my mailbox.  Lynnafred, who is able to detect chocolate the way a bloodhound can detect a chain gang escapee, had placed the package on the dining room table and was still circling it when I got home from work.

"What are THESE?" she demanded in her Chocolate Voice.

"Chocolate Rocks and Coffee Rocks, caffeinated chocolates," I said. "Wanna try 'em?" Well, of course she wanted to try them, and so did I.

The Chocolate Rocks are smooth delicious chocolate, covered with a dark brown candy coating, and spiked with caffeine. Although firm enough to crunch when bitten, there's no graininess to the chocolate, which melts deliciously in the mouth with a rich flavor somewhere between milk and dark chocolate.  Coffee Rocks are similar, but with a flavor more like mocha-tinged espresso, deep and slightly bitter.  Lynnafred chose the Chocolate as her favorite; I was more partial to the coffee. Either way, they're high-quality confectionary, and you can enjoy them without filling your mouth with coffee grounds like some old percolator basket.

And what about the caffeine, you ask?  Well, five Rocks carry the gentle eye-opening properties of a single cup of Joe, but there are more than five Rocks in a box.  I forget just how many, unfortunately, but let's just say it's a good-sized handful.  And the people at Eat Hardy LLC are refreshingly up-front with their nutritional information.  They know that most people aren't going to stop at five candies, especially when using them as a delicious way to pull an all-nighter, so they come right out and say that the serving size is "1 box."  Good for them, it's about time there was some common sense out there.

Yes, these are totally eye-opening and awesome. You can find them, I presume, at any of the Ed Hardy stores sprinkled around the country, or you can order them online (click here.)




21 October, 2011

McDonald's Sausage McMuffin with Egg AND BACON

I noticed a smallish sign dangling from the menu display at my local McDonald's last week:  Add Bacon To Any Sandwich: 99 Cents. That has some serious potential for dietary abuse. Imagine, if you will, a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese and Bacon.

Though I rarely eat anything other than breakfast at McDonald's, that sign was still highly relevant to my interests.  So this morning, when I stopped to pick up the best breakfast sandwich on the planet, a Sausage McMuffin With Egg, I decided to BACONIZE IT.  

"Sausage McMuffin with Egg, please.  And add bacon to it."

The woman behind the counter looked a little surprised.  "You want to add bacon to that? Really?"

"Yes," I replied. "I'm crazy. Please do it or I will stand here and bark like a dog."

She laughed and keyed the order in.


I did not think it possible to improve upon a Sausage McMuffin with Egg.  I was wrong. This sandwich was BORN TO BEAR BACON. The smoky umami of the bacon pairs perfectly with the egg, of course, but also highlights and enriches the already-outstanding flavor of the sausage.  If you already like Sausage McMuffins with Egg, you should add bacon to it at least once to experience this awesomeness for yourself.

And McDonald's, I say to you: Offer a Sausage McMuffin With Bacon And Egg as a regular menu item. It's amazing (and I don't ever use that word lightly because it's trite and overplayed.) Just remember it was my idea and I'll expect at least a sweetly-loaded Arch Card for my troubles.

20 October, 2011

Chef's Cupboard Canned Broths by ALDI

I'm not a big fan of canned broths - most of them taste like salty, flavorless water.  Nevertheless, there are times when I don't have the time or enthusiasm to make broth or stock from scratch and have to use a prepared product.  For the past few months, that product has been Chef's Cupboard, the house brand sold by ALDI.

I discovered it completely by accident.  Last winter, I went on a make-my-own-doggie-treat kick.  Most recipes for homemade dog treats are basically low-sugar cookies that use beef or chicken broth for flavoring.  As much as I love my dogs, there was no way I was going to use expensive Wolfgang Puck organic roasted chicken broth to make dog treats.  So I started looking for a cheap alternative, and that led me to ALDI, because virtually every time I've bought an ALDI brand of anything, it's been great.  And there, right by the soups at the local ALDI, was Chef's Cupboard chicken broth and beef broth.  I picked up a couple cans of each and went home to make the dog biscuits.

And of course, I couldn't resist taking a sip of each of the broths as I used them.  

Damn.  They were good.

Since then, I've used both the chicken and the beef broths a few times, always with good results. You can use them straight up to make a quick soup, or pour them into a dutch oven for three hours of braising a batch of short ribs (the broths don't have so much salt that a long cooking time makes your dish too salty to eat.)

So, I guess you could call this a combination review and recommendation.  It's yet another good, solid, inexpensive product from ALDI.

19 October, 2011

McDonald's Brings Back The McRib

Pining for the pseudoporky deliciousness that is the McDonald's McRib sandwich? You can now satisfy that longing: McDonald's has announced that the McRib is coming back for another limited engagement. It will be available from now until December 31, which is pretty cool because that means McRIBS FOR THANKSGIVING DINNER.

Props to Leeanne Griffin at ctnow.com's A LaCarte page for the initial heads-up.


Correction:  My original information was incorrect - McRibs will only be around until mid-November.  Sadly, that means you'll be stuck making turkey again for Thanksgiving.  Sorry for getting your hopes up.

17 October, 2011

Assorted Mexican Candy

Left to right: Duvalin, Pica Fresa, Mangopers lollipops
So, the other day I made this huge mistake and bought an assortment of Mexican candy from T J Maxx.  It didn't seem like it would be such a bad idea - didn't look all that bad, and the ingredients promised spicy chile peppers!  (Yes, I have a weakness for hot spice, and the spice/sweet combo was just very appealing.)

Unfortunately, the three candies I brought home became the Trifecta of Disappointment.

Duvalin Bi Sabor Strawberry-Vanilla is advertised as a "cream candy." It comes in little tubs, with little plastic sticks to aid consumption.  The closest I can come to describing it is "cheap frosting."  It was exactly as if I had bought little sample containers of pre-made cake frosting.  This, of course, is not unheard of in North American supermarkets (Betty Crocker makes Dunkaroos, which are nothing but a small serving of cookies and a tiny tub of frosting to dunk them in. But at least there are cookies there to somewhat cut the frosting jolt.)  Knowing that Duvalin Bi Sabor is so frostingesque should tell you just about all you need to know about it.  I can't really condemn it - there are plenty of people who would just love the stuff - but I kind of expected something more along the lines of a taffy, so there ya go.

Pica Fresa are little balls of individually wrapped starch gum rolled in "hot" chili powder. They taste kind of like what you'd get if you coated Twizzlers in cayenne pepper (but took away much of the heat.)  They would have been better if they were hotter. And a little chewier.

Mangopers mango flavored lollipops were the absolute worst of the bunch, by a huge margin, given their utter horridness. They appeared to be made of mango-flavored hard candy coated in ground chile pepper, but honestly, I'll never know. The coating was so nasty - the stalest possible chile powder seemingly blended with a heavy dose of salt - that I never even made it to the candy within.  Truly bad stuff.

Never again.

Cascal Sample Pack Winners!

We have chosen the three winners of our Cascal Fermented Soda giveaway, which was sponsored by the good folks at Cascal.  Each winner will receive a selection of Cascal's delicious fermented sodas to try out, as well as an insulated lunchbag cooler in which to transport them to the winner's preferred Beverage Consumption Event.

The Winners Are:

Jodi Henley
Elle from Elle's New England Kitchen
Meg Erwin

Each of them will receive their prize package directly from Cascal!

About the Drawing:

There were 30 entries, via email and Facebook comment.  Winners were chosen by the "Third Party Draw Service" at RANDOM.ORG to ensure a truly blind and random draw.  If you entered the drawing, you may confirm that your entry was actually in participation by following this link. You will need to enter your "identifier" for confirmation.  If you entered via email, your identifier will be your email address. If you entered via Facebook, it will be your Facebook name.

Thank you to everyone who entered, and congratulations to the three winners!

15 October, 2011

What...the...HELL??


This was in the markdown bin at Stop & Shop - presumably because one of them was missing, and not because textured cock-shaped rubber toys are slow sellers.

The illustration on the box doesn't even make an attempt at subtlety.

Morris Farm in Agawam MA - The Best-Kept Secret In The Pioneer Valley

If you're one of my local readers - living in the Northern Connecticut / Springfield MA area - and you're a fan of local produce, there's a place you should know about: Morris Farm on Rowley Street.  

Morris Farm is the oldest continually-operating farm in Agawam, set back on a surprisingly rural road in what is now a very suburbanized area.  In the spring, they sell flowers and plants. Through the summer, they offer fresh veggies like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and sweet corn.  And now, with the fall harvest in full swing, they have awesome heads of cabbage, late corn and tomatoes, and a variety of winter squash.

Every year, I like to buy a bigass load of winter squash at local farmstands and put it by for the winter.  Butternut, acorn, and hubbard squash all keep well, and if it starts to look a little iffy (by, oh, January or so) Maryanne and I will process and freeze what we haven't eaten.  Morris Farm is just the place to get your squash if you live around here - they're selling 12-count-em-12 winter squashes, your choice, for $8.00. That is an incredibly good deal.

Morris Farms squashes: From left to right: Butternut, Red Kuri, Spaghetti, and Acorn.
I went a little hogwild here this morning, buying a sugarbaby watermelon, a few plump eggplant, a dozen ear of late-season corn, some cabbage, and of course a dozen assorted squash. Wound up filling the back seat of Maryanne's Explorer for a little over twenty bucks.

I'm sorry I didn't know about the place earlier in the year.  I'll definitely be going back in the spring to see what's on offer, and I think it would make an interesting series to stop in every few weeks during the growing season to check what's for dinner.

How to find them:

Rowley Street runs between Springfield Street (Rte 147) and Suffield Street (Rte 75) in Agawam, MA. The farm is directly at the bend in the road. You can't miss their hand-painted signs, and the greenhouses are visible from the street.

12 October, 2011

Cascal Fermented Soda Revisited

Back in September, I reviewed Cascal Fermented Natural Soda - specifically, the bottled Light Red version, which I enjoyed for it's refreshing fruity dryness. Not too long ago, the folks at Cascal got in touch with me and asked if I'd like to review their new line of fermented sodas, which are being offered in slender 12-ounce cans. I agreed, and they sent along a Cascal Lunch Pack - a five-flavor sampler of Cascal sodas and a cool little lunchbag cooler - for me to try out.

Now, I never really thought I'd say this about a soda, but I admit I'm rather impressed by the depth of flavor and complexity of Cascal's offerings.  Soda pops these days are usually a blend of sticky-sweet syrup and fizzy water and there are few other options.  There are some small-batch crafted root beers out there with rich and interesting flavors, but they're still really sweet. And there are plenty of unsweetened seltzers available, but the flavors are simple and sometimes uninspired.  Cascal does a great job of putting together a soft drink with a decidedly adult appeal - a light, dry, and almost wine-like flavor developed by fermenting the fruit juice ingredients, flavorful without any added sugars, and lightly carbonated.

Here's what I thought of each of Cascal's canned flavors.  Read to the end of the post, and I'll tell you how you can win a Cascal Lunch Pack of your very own!

Crisp White (Pear/Apricot/Magnolia) - A gently floral scent with a snappy pear flavor and just a hint of apricot overtones. Fruity and dry. I found it very refreshing. This was one of three blends that strongly reminded me of wine - Crisp White is kind of like a Riesling. Cascal suggests enjoying it with Brie or strawberry ice cream. I drank it with roasted chicken and it was delicious.

Ripe Rouge (Cherry/Rose/Chocolate) - Distinctively floral nose but with just a hint of rosy flavor.  Cherry and stone fruit flavors yield to a phantom chocolate finish. The flavor profile reminded me of Merlot.  It was great with a grilled cheeseburger.

Fresh Tropical (Mango/Jasmine/Kaffir Lime) - I'd describe this as a "dry mango" soda with a pleasantly tart lime finish. The label mentions jasmine, but I just didn't taste it - perhaps it was too subtle for me. Still, it was deliciously different and it was awesome with the pork rib tips I roasted for kind of an impromptu BBQ snack.

Bright Citrus (Lemongrass/Tangerine/Pineapple) - Probably my favorite of them all.  Dry tangerine/pineapple flavor is well-balanced but leans a bit to the tangerine. Still, both flavors are distinct and distinguishable and I loves me some pineapple soda. Very crisp and quenching. Bright Citrus makes for an awesome rejuvenator after a few hours of early autumn yard work.

Berry Cassis (Black currant/Tangerine/Lemon) - Slightly citrus nose with rich black currant, cherry, and blackberry flavors. This was the third of the "winey" flavors, reminding me of Cabernet sauvignon. It held up well to a grilled steak.

It's easy for me to recommend Cascal Fermented Sodas. Despite my somewhat snarky first review of them last time, I really do think they have a good product, and one that there is a definite need for: An adult-oriented beverage that's a little more complicated than high-fructose corn syrup and water.  Cascal has done it, and done a good job of it.

You don't have to take my word for it, you know.  Cascal has generously offered to sponsor a giveaway here at the Cupboard.

SORRY - THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

WIN A CASCAL LUNCH PACK AND TASTE 'EM FOR YOURSELF!

Three lucky winners will each receive a Cascal insulated lunch bag and a five-can sampler of Cascal Fermented Soda.

There are two ways you can enter:

  1. Use the Contact Me tab near the top of the page and send me a message telling me you'd like to win some Cascal. 
  2. Go to Dave's Cupboard on Facebook and comment on the status update that mentions the contest.
THREE WINNERS will be selected at random on MONDAY, OCTOBER 17 2011.  Your entry must be received by 11:59 PM, Sunday October 16th 2011 in order to qualify. Don't wait for the last minute - I'm not responsible for misdirected or unreceived email.  ONE ENTRY per person, please.

Should you win, your prize will be sent to you directly from Cascal.


Dat Lunchbag


05 October, 2011

Shameless Plug

If you ask my daughter Lynnafred what her earliest memory is, she'll tell you, "The time Dad was locked in the freezer."

She was about two years old, and we were grocery shopping at Edwards, a now-defunct store in Enfield.  At the end of one of the frozen food gondolas, they had a large stand-up freezer case for bagged ice.  It happened to be empty the day that we were there.  I was walking on ahead of the wimmins - Lynnafred in the toddler seat of the shopping carriage Maryanne was pushing.  I stepped into the freezer and waited, and as they came around the corner I pressed my hands and face to the glass and called out, "Maryanne!  Help! Help me!"

Maryanne (briefly) looked surprised, but Lynnafred's reaction was awesome - an initial look of shock and then total, uncontrollable laughter - an "I BROKE YOU!" kind of laughter.

All of her life, I've tried to give her unique, challenging, and - most of all - stupidly funny experiences. She's grown into a exceptional human: confident, adventurous, curious, creative, and with a rare outlook on life that's part wonder and part cynical.  She's been a writer since she could hold a pencil, and you've read some of her food and pop culture reviews here on Dave's Cupboard.

She's got a blog of her own:  A Porchful of Geezers, where she's been posting book and video game reviews and, most recently, some of her more general writing.  Check it out.

04 October, 2011

Vintage Marshmallow Fluff Jar


On weekends, I haunt estate sales. Some people look for jewelry, others go for rare books or vintage clothing. I usually check out the kitchen first and then head for the cellar or garage - wherever there might be a workshop. I have an old house, and I love discovering a handyman's cache of old repair/maintenance supplies that I can buy for use here.  Most of the time, no one else is ever interested in that kind of stuff, and there is a significant quality difference in switches, light sockets, and other hardware that was made fifty or sixty years ago in the factories of Connecticut and New York over the flimsier stuff that now flows from overseas.

Anyway, last Saturday, down in the workshop of a house in Longmeadow, I found this awesome old 1940's Fluff jar (filled with pushbutton and toggle switches.)  Too cool.

02 October, 2011

Burger King Onion Rings

Burger King's onion rings are on their "value menu" for a buck. They'd be too expensive at half of that.

Right out of the fryer, they're tolerable I guess, but the second they start cooling down the quality starts dropping sharply. They have a slippery mouthfeel, they have an artificial salt/onion powder flavor, and the grease coats the inside of the mouth.  

I can't figure out why they're so damn bad.  They're made from real sliced onions as far as I can tell, and they've got a fairly standard crumb coating. And yet, they're far and away the worst thing on the menu.

What's worse, I already knew all of that when I ordered them, so I have no one but myself to blame for giving them a second chance.

01 October, 2011

Because You Don't Poop Correctly


"Digestive Health" products are everywhere.  The most famous, I guess, is Dannon's Activia brand yogurt, with ads starring Jamie Lee Curtis as The Poop Lady.  And now the Jolly Green Giant jumps in the shit with DIGESTIVE HEALTH VEGETABLES.  

"I'm so proud of that last one that
I left it in the bowl for you to admire."
Yeah, that's definitely the smile of someone who takes regularly-scheduled dumps. I bet when he pinches one off, it's the size of a redwood.

30 September, 2011

Harvesting Black Walnuts

My house was built by Maryanne's grandfather in 1926. We have pictures of it, standing new and proud, surrounded by...nothing, for even though we live in the middle of a densely populated area today, in the 1920's this was farmland, only two blocks away from downtown Thompsonville.

Today, on the south side of the house, just the other side of the driveway, stands a magnificent old black walnut tree.  It's somewhere around fifty years old or so, wide enough around that I can't embrace it, and taller than the peak of the house.  In our family, no one alive today knows how it got there - whether it was planted, or grew from a seedling, unnoticed and unmolested until it was too large to bother with.  There are several disadvantages to having a black walnut so close.  They're filthy bastard trees that make a mess around them - twigs are always falling, and they have enormous compound leaves radiate from a stem that is heavy enough to be a twig in its own right.  Anything the leaves or fruit touch gets stained black and that includes the paint on my truck. And the tree itself emits a chemical compound called juglone, which poisons the ground around the tree and prevents many other plant species from growing well. Juglone is present in every bit of the tree and, while harmless to humans, can be deadly to horses and dogs - even to the point that black walnut shavings shouldn't be used in animal bedding.  And it ensures that I have to bag up the rakings from under the tree and put them out at the curb for the town to pick up (all my other yard waste is composted out back.)

For all that though, I enjoy my black walnut tree.  It's large, spreading, and handsome and provides a lot of shade in the summer which keeps the house cooler (south side, remember?) And then there are the walnuts.

Once upon a time, black walnuts were more common than English walnuts in New England. They have a richer and deeper flavor than English walnuts and today they are very pricey when you can find them for sale commercially.  Because the heavy, dense wood is prized for things like furniture and gunstocks, black walnut trees are a lot less common now than they once were (though small stands of them are still found here and there.) I have a feeling that these days, more black walnuts are harvested by foragers like me (and squirrels) than by the commercial segment.

Right now - late fall - is the time to be gathering and processing the nuts.  By now, most of the nuts have fallen to the ground, and the ones still on the trees can be easily shaken loose.  And so, I present to you this primer about how to gather and process black walnuts. Beware: it's a lot of work.

First of all, before I say anything else:  If you intend to go through with this, be aware that it is MESSY.  Before you go forward, get a good pair of heavy rubber gloves to protect your hands from the juices produced by hulling and handling the nuts.  Black walnut juice is initially kind of a yellowy-green, but it quickly oxides to a dark brown, and it PERMANENTLY STAINS clothing, processing materials, and - especially - skin. Seriously. The first time I did this stuff, I used some shitty disposable nitrile gloves while hulling the nuts. The gloves leaked and I ended up with deeply stained brown hands that stayed that way for weeks.

OK, here we go:

1. Harvesting the nuts

Black walnuts, ripening on the tree, look like slightly small green tennis balls. While they are green, they are immature and the nuts within will be of inferior quality.  About in the middle of September, the tree's leaves will start falling and the nuts will finally be ripe enough to harvest. The hulls turn a lighter color - sort of yellowish green, and will develop brown spots. And you will easily be able to dent the hull by pressing it with your thumb.  Gather the newly-fallen nuts from the ground or pick them from the tree at this point. Gather as many as you care to process, and as long as you don't mind the work, you will never have too many. It takes about a pound of unshelled nuts to make a cup of nutmeats.

2. Removing the Hulls

Here's where those gloves are essential.

The hull is a little tough, but it cracks open easily. An easy way to do it is to simply put the nuts on a hard surface like a sidewalk and step on them. The hull will split open and you can remove the nut.  Put the nuts in a bucket and put the hulls in a trash bag for disposal. Don't leave them out where your dog will find them and chew them, and don't compost them, remember?

Other ways you can remove the hulls:

 - My favorite way it to put the nuts on the dropped tailgate of my truck and press them with the heel of my (gloved) hand. It works just as well as stepping on them and seems faster.

- Fill your driveway with nuts and drive back and forth over them until all the hulls are split. Your car tires will do nothing to harm the actual nut, but will split and remove the hulls.  Don't laugh. There are several agricultural extension offices that actually recommend this.

3. Washing the Hulled Nuts

Keep your gloves on.  Put the hulled nuts into a pail or bucket and spray them well with the garden hose. When the bucket fills up with water, agitate it so the nuts knock and rub up against each other - this will help remove the remaining hull fibers.  A few nuts might float to the top of the water - those are no good; pick them out and throw them out. Pour off the water (which will be stained dark brown) and refill the bucket and repeat the process.  After three or four times, the water will start running clear and the nuts are clean enough to cure.

4. Curing

The nuts need to thoroughly dry and cure for two weeks or so before they can be shelled and stored.  They should be spread out with plenty of air circulation in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Traditionally, black walnuts were put into loosely-woven burlap sacks and hung from the rafters of the attic.  However, I prefer to set up an old screen door on a couple of sawhorses in my cellar and spread the nuts out on them to dry, but there are other methods you can use if you don't happen to have an old screen door or some burlap sacks handy. You can spread them no more than a couple layers deep on racks, or put them in wicker baskets according to some sources. In a few weeks, they'll look like the picture to the left, and they'll be ready to shell and store.

5. Shelling and Storage

Black walnuts are damn hard to crack. They have a thick shell, and they are nearly impossible to break with handheld nutcrackers - and even most lever-action crackers will quickly become destroyed trying to break them open. You can hit them with a hammer (which has to be done carefully to avoid smashing the nutmeats to tiny bits) or you can slowly squeeze them in a bench vise until they split.  Best of all, though, is a device called the Master Nut Cracker, invented by a gentleman named Gerald Gardner in Sarcoxie, MO and made in the USA from very high-quality parts. This cracker, which Mr. Gardner sells on eBay and from his website, has the muscle required to split all sorts of very tough-shelled nuts like black walnuts, butternuts, hickories, and macadamias.

The Master Nut Cracker. Photo by Gerald Gardner.


After the nuts have been shelled, pick the nutmeats from them and store them in the refrigerator. They'll keep in the fridge for three months or so, but remember that nutmeats are filled with oil that easily goes rancid, so they won't keep forever. For long term storage, nutmeats should be frozen.


I told you it was a lot of work. But I think it's worth it.

28 September, 2011

A Sack Of Frozen Pancakes???


Really, now...is it that difficult to make pancakes?

No, of course it isn't.  And homemade pancakes are a small fraction of the price of bagged, and they taste better, and they don't take all that much time to whip up.

Now, you really should have a pancake recipe somewhere in your recipe collection, but just in case you don't, here's the one Maryanne uses.  It's easy to remember, too, because the ingredients are "a symphony of ones."

Maryanne's Pancakes
Makes about 10 4-inch pancakes
Recipe may be doubled

1 cup of flour
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1 cup of milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a large bowl, stir the flour, sugar, and baking powder together.  In a smaller bowl, beat the egg, milk, and oil together.  Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture with a fork just long enough to make a smooth batter.  Set it aside for a few minutes to allow the baking powder to start to work.

Heat up a skillet until drops of water flicked off your fingers onto the skillet dance around and sizzle. If you have a non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet, you will not need any grease, otherwise grease the skillet lightly.  Pour batter by the ladle onto the skillet and allow the pancakes to cook until the edges are kind of dry and the top surface is studded with little bubble craters.  Turn the pancakes and cook briefly to brown off the top.

Blueberry option: After the batter is mixed, stir in half a cup or more of blueberries.

27 September, 2011

Doritos Creator Arch West Dies at Age 97

Photo courtesy of the West family.

Arch West was a marketing vice president for Frito Lay, Inc. in 1964 when he took a family vacation to San Diego that would change the snack food industry forever.

Hungry for road munchies, the family pulled up to a roadside stand and bought a bag of tortillas which had been cut up and fried to greasy, crispy awesomeness.  Arch knew with one bite that he had stumbled upon an epic snack.

Back on the job, Arch pitched his idea to his corporate overlords:  a thin tortilla chip - heartier than the company's best-selling Lays Potato Chips, lighter than Frito's Corn Chips.  The company was skeptical, but when they agreed to do some consumer testing and found that the chips were very well-received, the new snack dubbed Doritos were introduced to California test markets in 1966.  They were so popular that Frito Lay rolled them out nationwide in 1967, and Doritos have been unstoppable ever since.

Today's Doritos are a little different than the originals.  Besides being available in a wide variety of regular flavors, Frito Lay brings out a stream of special flavors and packages every year. And in a mid-1990's revamp of the recipe, the chips were made a little thinner, a little larger, and given rounded corners.

Mr. West was born in Indianapolis in 1914 and graduated Franklin College where he was a member of the Delta Rho fraternity. He served as a Lieutenant in the US Navy during WW2 and worked in advertising on Madison Avenue in NY before being lured to Texas by the Frito Company, which offered him a vice presidency in marketing.  After retirement, he and his late wife Charlotte served as volunteers on his local FEMA's disaster relief team.  He's survived by three sons, two daughters, and eighteen grand- and great-grandchildren.  The family plans an October 1 service and burial, and daughter Jana Hacker says the family plans to sprinkle the grave with Doritos before lowering his remains to rest.

View Mr. West's obituary on legacy.com here.

Various news stories were used as sources for this post.

25 September, 2011

Marie Callender's Baking Mixes: Honey Butter Corn Bread

I bought an assortment of Marie Callender's baking mixes a little while ago - back when the weather cooled down and I thought that autumn was finally here and I'd be running the oven more.  Here it is a week later, and it's been kind of warm and humid again, much more like summer, and I only had time to make one of the mixes before the weather turned.  So I've decided to review the mixes one at a time, as we make them, rather than go on a baking bender and review all of them at once.  This review - for Marie Callender's Honey Butter Corn Bread Mix - will be the first of four reviews over the coming weeks.

First, though, let me explain a little about the difference between Northern corn bread and Southern corn bread.

Northern-style (or New England style, if you prefer) corn bread is generally moist, rather dense, and somewhat on the sweet side. Some of my Southern friends have described it as being more like a cake.  I never thought of it as particularly sweet - at least, it wasn't all that sweet the way my mother made hers, but it is certainly sweeter than most Southern recipes.

Southern-style cornbread calls for less sugar, has a drier and more delicate texture, and crumbles more easily.

Which variety you prefer seems to depend entirely upon where you grew up and what kind of cornbread your mother made. Serving a pan of each variety to a mixed crowd of Yankees and Southerners can be a real hoot: the Southerners mock the Northern corn bread for being a cakey dessert, while the Northerners choke and grab for glasses of milk to wash down "that dry-ass Southern stuff."

Now, the reason I've gone off on such a long tangent about types of corn bread is because Marie Callender's Corn Bread Mix produces a dense, sweet, and very moist corn bread - Northern style - and I want to forewarn Southern readers that they might want to skip it because it's not going to be anything like you've come to expect.  On the other hand, it's wicked easy to whip up - just add water to the mix and stir, then pour the batter into an 8 x 8-inch brownie pan and bake - and it makes quite an excellent corn bread (to my New England palate.)

Speaking of tangents:

As far as I can tell, there are at least three entities out there in Corporate Food Land, operating more or less independently under the Marie Callender's name:  

  • The original California restaurant chain, Marie Callender's Restaurant and Bakery
  • A line of frozen foods produced under license and made since 1993 by ConAgra, who purchased the frozen food company and retained the rights to the name, and
  • Marie Callender's Gourmet Products, which make the baking mixes.
Other than the name, I don't think the companies have much in common. It's all very confusing.