31 July, 2011

Mama Cozzi's Mega Meat Pizza

As promised on the box
I'm not a big fan of frozen pizza. There are too many genuinely good pizzerias in my area and too many fairly decent "take and bake" refrigerated pies in the supermarket for frozen pizzas to compete. Let's face it - when the majority of the frozen pizzas out there are on the horrid level of Mama Celeste or the equally nasty faux-gourmet crap of California Pizza Kitchen, you can see why I hardly ever look to the freezer case for a pizza fix.

And then yesterday I'm walking by the freezer cases at ALDI, and I saw this Mama Cozzi's Mega Meat Ultimate Five Meat Pizza box gazing up at me.  Props to the food stylist and photographer who worked on that label: that photo was irresistable. Seriously. It practically made my mouth water just looking at it.  And since we've had other Mama Cozzi's pizzas (the aforementioned take-and-bakes) without being disappointed,  Maryanne and I decided to give it a try.

As delivered from the oven.
For the most part, this pizza totally delivered on the photo's promise. There was capicola, pepperoni, sausage, "beef pizza topping (beef-and-TVP blend)," and bacon along with a decent amount of mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  The oven-rising crust was crispy on the bottom and pleasantly doughy below the sauce; not the type of pizza a New Haven pizza diehard would go for, but roughly comparable to a Western Massachusetts pizza crust (i.e. kind of halfway between a New Haven and a Sicilian style crust.)

Way better than the average frozen pizza, and under four bucks. Quite a deal. 

30 July, 2011


My 4½ pound bug
Shop-Rite had lobsters on sale this week - $6.99 a pound with your Shop-Rite card, $5.99 a pound with your card and a coupon from the flyer.  The smaller lobsters were all softshells, which meant that they had recently moulted and would have less meat within - the tradeoff being that the meat often has a sweeter and more delicate flavor.

I selected a 4½-pounder from the tank and found out that the coupon wasn't good on the really big bugs - only on the smaller ones - but when all is said and done, $6.99 a pound is still decent for a 4-plus pounder.  I don't often buy small lobsters to cook at home any more - none of us really care if we get individual lobsters, and I wind up making lobster rolls, lobster cakes, or just warming up the meat in a pan of hot melted butter and serving "lazy lobster."

The amount of meat inside a lobster varies. Softshells have the least amount of meat in relation to the size of the shell because they have recently moulted and the new shell has to give the creature enough room to grow inside.  Hardshell lobsters have the most amount of meat in relation to the size of the shell because the bug has already grown to fill the shell and will be moulting again soon. Larger lobsters have a somewhat better ratio of meat to shell and it's a lot less work to shell one big one than it is to shell a bunch of smaller ones. So, if you're buying lobster to serve other than "in the rough," or for a recipe that will serve several people, you're better off buying a big lobster and cutting it into chunks than you are buying several small ones.

There is a myth that large lobsters are "tougher" than small ones.  This isn't really true; if they're cooked correctly, a big lobster can be tender and delectable.  I think people have a tendency to overcook large lobsters because they think that a great big lobster has to be cooked a lot longer than a small one.  I always steam my lobsters (it's more efficient and, in my opinion, gives the cooked product a better flavor) and I do it this way:

  1. I use a large roasting pan with a rack in the bottom and a lid.  I put a couple inches of water in the bottom of the roaster and put it over high heat on the stovetop.
  2. When the water is at a full rolling boil, I put in the lobster(s), on their back, onto the rack and cover the roaster tightly with its lid
  3. Lobsters should steam for 13 minutes for the first pound, plus 3 minutes per pound for every pound thereafter.  So, my 4½-pound bug steamed for 23 minutes and it came out awesome. (13 minutes for the first pound + 9 minutes for the next three pounds + 1½ minutes for the last half pound = 23½, rounded down to 23 minutes for the hell of it. Who's kitchen timer measures in half-minute intervals anyway?)
  4. Take the bugs out of the steamer, set them in a bowl, and allow them to cool for a few minutes before serving or shucking.
I got about a pound and a half of lobster meat from the 4-and-a-halfer, plus half a cup or so of tomalley and some white lobster fat (I chill the tomalley and fat, then blend them together and use them for a spread on toast for breakfast - or you can use tomalley to flavor melted butter for popcorn.)  I used the meat to make foot-long lobster rolls.

This is a "hot" lobster roll, made with lobster meat and melted butter.  A "cold"
lobster roll is made with lobster meat and mayonnaise. Usually, I make the mayo
version, but I didn't have enough mayo in the house for a bunch of footlongs, so
this time I made the butter version instead.
Incidentally, there seems to be quite a controversy about lobster rolls.  No matter where you go in New England, a lobster roll is usually a top-sliced hot dog role piled high with dressed lobster meat. The disagreement centers around what the meat is dressed with. In Connecticut, it is most common to find "hot" lobster rolls, dressed with melted butter.  In most other maritime New England states, "cold" lobster rolls are found, dressed with mayonnaise.  Butter purists claim that adding mayo makes it "lobster salad" not a "lobster roll;" meanwhile mayo fans know that mayo rolls are everywhere in Maine (aka Lobster HQ) and if mayo is delicious enough for Maine it's delicious enough for them too.

Personally, I enjoy lobster rolls both cold and hot. But when I make them at home, I usually make cold lobster rolls, dressed with mayo, because that's what I usually had when I was growing up in Massachusetts.  I'd be interested to learn which way you prefer your lobster rolls - let me know in the comments.

29 July, 2011

Kielbasa from Strum's Deli & Meats, Holyoke

Strum's Deli and Meats is a little hole-in-the-wall butcher shop on Westfield Road in Holyoke.  Lynnafred and I visited it last week when, after months of having driven by the place and saying "Hey we oughta stop in there sometime," sometime finally arrived.

It's a decent store, much bigger on the inside than it looks from the small storefront. They've got quite a variety of cuts available, and they do some sausage making as well.  I'll write more about the store in coming weeks - I want to go there again and sample some of the other stuff they offer - but today I'm going to tell you about their kielbasa.

Strum's kielbasa is very good. The spice blend is traditional and not too salty, and the smoke is well-balanced and not overpowering. The pork they use is high-quality without gristly bits being evident. It's a bit less fatty than I'm used to, which makes for a dryer sausage, but being a little leaner didn't detract from the flavor or enjoyability of the kielbasa - and it made it somewhat easier to grill without huge uncontrollable flareups.

Seriously, if the only kielbasa you've ever had is the crap packaged by Hillshire Farm, you owe it to yourself to find a good, small-label kielbasa, and preferably one that's made practically in your backyard (like Strum's if you live in Holyoke, or Janik if you live a little south of there in Enfield.) You'll be blown away by how awesome the local stuff is, and you'll wonder why you put up with that mass-marketed garbage for so long.

Strum's Deli & Meats
502 Westfield Road
Holyoke, MA 01040-1633
(413) 532-8020

27 July, 2011

Tiny Shrimp, Revisited

Not too long ago, I mentioned Sau-Sea Shrimp Cocktails and making my own with "salad shrimp" I occasionally bought at local supermarket Big Y. The salad shrimp there is always, without exception, nasty. Overly salty, wet and spongy and with the texture of wool felt, Big Y's salad shrimp barely taste like anything but salt. They are disgusting little grubs, and after my last experience with them I was ready to write off salad shrimp forever.

And then it was ALDI to the rescue.

ALDI's Sea Queen brand Cooked Salad Shrimp are just about as awesome as salad shrimp can be given their size.  They're plump and tender and they taste like shrimp, not saltwater. I made a couple of fake Sau-Sea-style shrimp cocktails with the Sea Queen shrimp and they were pretty good, about the same level of pretty goodness as I remember the originals.

The difference between the two products is stunning; after trying the Sea Queen brand, it amazes me that any store would put their name and logo on something as bad as the Big Y shrimp.

But aside from flavor, texture, and general edibility, there are other differences between the two products.  Sea Queen salad shrimp come in a 12-ounce package for $3.99.  In order to get 12 ounces for that price from Big Y, you have to wait until they're holding one of their "Buy One Get Two Free" sales, during which they mark the 4-ounce package up to give you two more of them "free." The Sea Queen brand specifies that the shrimp are wild caught, tells you which waters they are caught in (in this case, Guyana and Ecuador) and where they were processed (USA.) They also note the species of shrimp and the catch method on the package. This kind of labeling is unusually transparent, and it's one of the reasons why I'm not hesitant to buy frozen seafood at ALDI: I always know where it's coming from.  Would that some other big supermarket chains do the same thing - you get nothing but a terse country of origin line on the Big Y brand.

So, if you're still game to try making your own little shrimp cocktails at home, stop by ALDI and pick up a bag of their salad shrimp while they're still featuring it. You won't be sorry.

25 July, 2011

Shop Rite San Marzano Tomatoes

Behold another reason why I love having a Shop-Rite in my town.  They have their own store brand San Marzano tomatoes.

24 July, 2011

Nasty Meat Tubes


The review which follows is ostensibly about "sausage," and thus it's important for readers to understand the distinction I make between "sausages" and "hot dogs."

It's true that franks, hot dogs, wieners, etc. are "sausages" in the strictest sense of the word.  But in my writing - and indeed, in most other frankfurtological literature - a more colloquial approach is taken, wherein the word "sausage" implies charcuterie items like kielbasa, Italian sausage, pepperoni, chorizo, bratwurst and so on, while the words "hot dog," "frank," "wiener," etc. implies those narrow little tubular meat products one eats on a bun at a ball game.

Sausage has traditionally been a kind of cheap eat; it called for strong seasonings and spices that would mask the less-desirable and sometimes somewhat "off" cuts of meat used to make it.  But as time has passed and food safety laws have been passed, sausage has come to be thought of as a worthy food in its own right.  And "hot dogs," that cheaper subset of sausages, have taken on an identity of their own - one that is not immediately associated with "sausages" in the public's mind.

Lynnafred is no friend of hot dogs. It might be the endless footage of cheap dogs my mom fed her when she was just a sprog.  I've no idea.  But when Maryanne and I are going to have dogs for supper - even really good, natural-casing snaps - Lynnafred is  not interested.  I usually get her an alternative tubesteak.  The various excellent chicken sausages made by Aidells Sausage Company, for example, are among her favorites.

It was with this in mind that I bought a package of Thin n Trim Garden Vegetable variety Chicken Sausage by Demakes Enterprises in Lynn MA. They looked pretty decent, and the "garden vegetable" ingredients (onions, bell peppers, carrots, and celery) offered a flavor profile that I know Lynnafred has enjoyed in the past.

Unfortunately, what was promised was not delivered.

These are little more than fancily packaged crap-quality chicken hot dogs. They taste like the cheapest, most nasty dollar-store skinless chicken wieners you've ever had.  Calling these "chicken sausage" is just bullshit.

The dogs liked them.  Buy them for your dogs.

Other lies on the packaging:  That color photo of onions, basil, garlic, and tomatoes? There aren't any tomatoes or garlic in the ingredients, not even in the part that lists the "2% or less of" section.  Maybe the tomatoes and garlic are part of the "flavorings" also listed on the label. 

20 July, 2011

Cheez-It Horror

I poured out some Cheez-Its (the Four Cheese variety) onto a plate and this lump dropped out with it.  It's the largest of a number of cheese amalgam chunks I've found in the box. Properly dusted on the crackers it tastes okay, but in massive chunk form, it's rather disgusting.

Let's have a bit more quality control, eh Keebler?

19 July, 2011

Le Delice de Bourgogne Cheese from Trader Joe's

I'm a big fan of St. Angel cheese (a triple-cream soft-ripened variety of brie which is gorgeously buttery, but my local ShopRite, where I used to buy it, seems to have taken it off The List.  I guess it just wasn't selling well enough to keep it on the Gourmet Cheese Island.  So I've been doing some sampling and searching. It would be great if I could find St. Angel again, but if I can't maybe I can find another triple-cream cheese that is (nearly) as good.

At first glance,  Le Delice de Bourgogne cheese, an exclusive Trader Joe import from France, seemed to be what I was looking for. The appearance was right - rich, soft innards surrounded by a thin edible crust with a subtle bloom of white mold. 

Le Delice is an excellent cheese.  Typical of a triple cream cheese, it's rich and buttery, spreads velvety smooth on warm, crusty bread, and has that slightly nutty-earthy flavor that sets it apart from other brie-like cheeses. But it also has a distinct roquefort flavor, one which runs through the entirety of the cheese. Not at all unpleasant, but  not something I had expected. I really enjoyed the Le Delice we bought, and it would make a great and unusual addition to a cheese plate, but alas, it is no substitute for the missing St. Angel.

18 July, 2011

Hénaff Pork Pâté

This morning, I posted a picture of a French pork product, Pâté Hénaff, freshly tipped from its tin onto a festive and colorful paper plate.  It looked pretty awful plopped down like that. Perhaps some of you wondered what it tasted like.  Never having been one to let a can of good pigmeat go to waste, I invited the somewhat fatty puck of pâté to lunch.

Other than the thick and drooling crust of pork fat on the surface of the pâté when freshly freed from it's steel-clad prison, the Serving Suggestion on the lid of the can is remarkably faithful to the real thing, right down its depiction of what the typical slice looks like in cross section. There seems to be little (if any) photoshopping involved.

Pâté Hénaff is a reasonably decent chopped ham product. It is both less heavily-seasoned and less fatty than Hormel's SPAM, but don't let that fool you; there is still plenty of fat to go around here.  The can says "ready to eat, cold or hot," but Pâté Hénaff is less than optimal when cold - the fat is unpleasant and the texture slightly grainy. It's much better sliced and fried, when it becomes rather pleasant, with a crispy browned crust over a tender hammy inner core.  It was okay for what it was, but if I feel the overwhelming need to buy highly processed canned pork loaf product again, I'll probably get SPAM instead because it's less expensive and the square can makes it easier to get uniform slices.

Out of the Can: Henaff Pork Pate

Henaff Pork Pate,  a kind of French version of SPAM.

17 July, 2011

Sau-Sea Shrimp Cocktails & Tiny shrimp

Do you remember Sau-Sea shrimp cocktail?  When I was a kid, this was one of my favorite treats;  my mother would buy them for semi-special occasions.

Sau-Sea cocktails consisted of tiny little shrimp, swimming in a bland, almost ketchupy, cocktail sauce and packed in small fluted juice glass. Each glass was sealed with a litho'd tin lid, as shown in the photo, and the glasses were reusable.  Go to a church rummage sale and you'll find a testament to Sau-Sea's onetime popularity - you'll almost always find a dozen or more of those heavy little glasses for sale (often for about a dime each.)  Up until the mid-eighties, when she finally sold off her own hoard in a tag sale, I bet you could tell how many times our family had eaten Sau-Sea shrimp cocktails by the number of old Sau-Sea tumblers lurking in my mother's kitchen.

When Sau-Sea first started business in the late 1940's, shrimp was a luxury food that most people almost never ate outside of a restaurant.  These days, of course, you can get really good fresh or freshly-frozen shrimp at just about any supermarket, and they're big enough to actually see with the naked eye.  Even so, sometimes I get nostalgic for Sau-Sea Shrimp Cocktail. It doesn't seem to be as ubiquitous as it once was, so I often try to make my own version.

Big Y sells small bags of what they call "salad shrimp." Like most of what Big Y sells, they're hideously overpriced - except for a few times a year when the store jacks the price up a bit and then pretends to do everyone a favor by selling it as a "Buy One, Get Two Free!" special. That's when I'll buy three bags and make my own bastardized Sau-Sea imitations.

Thanks for selling me that
bag of krill, Big Y.
I make up some cocktail sauce - not the boring Sau-Sea cocktail sauce of my sprogdom, but my own kickass version - and pack the salad shrimp into juice glasses. It's never the same.  Those salad shrimp are completely nasty. They're not tender and meaty like shrimp should be, they're soggy and wet and feel like shrimp-shaped cut-outs from a kitchen sponge when you chew them. And even though they're about as tiny as they can be and not qualify as Sea Monkeys, size doesn't really have anything to do with their crappiness - that's purely the fault of whatever cutrate company Big Y deals with.  And, of course, it's my own damn fault for buying them again. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now, but  no - there I am,  back at the frozen food counter, buying shitty little fingernail-clipping-sized shrimp from Pig Y. Whatever else you may think of Sau-Sea, back in the day the shrimp might have been small as hell, but they were always pretty decent and they have my respect in that regard.  Also, those glasses. Until I was like 14 years old and started chugging it right from the carton, I never had orange juice at home unless it was served in one of those repurposed Sau-Sea glasses.

I hardly ever find Sau-Sea shrimp cocktails in the store anymore.  When I do, I rarely buy them. They're more expensive than when I was a kid, when the Waldbaum's Food Mart in town sold them for something like $1.25 for three little jars, and those little tiny shrimp just don't seem to be such a good deal as they used to.  My perceptions of "shrimp cocktail" have changed since I was 7, I guess.  And the Sau-Sea company has changed, too.  In 1993 they  decided to become a marketing company rather than a manufacturer.  They stopped processing their own shrimp in Yonkers NY, released the 70 employees who had processed 10 tons of shrimp per day, and handed over production to a company in Virginia.

Sau-Sea newspaper advertisement, c. 1960

16 July, 2011

New Kellogg's Crunchy Nut

Hey look! It's NEW! Kellogg's Crunchy Nut cereal, with Nuts in Every Bite!  (That is an important point.  Biting nuts just isn't worth it if one can't have nuts in every bite.)

I am totally not wowed by this cereal, which is basically a sugar-coated corn flake with little bits of peanuts glued in place by the sugar coating. There aren't enough peanuts to lend much flavor, and despite the cover art clearly depicting a honey dipper drooling with bee poop, they don't taste much like honey either.

What they do taste like is Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, i.e. nothing special. Because Crunchy Nut is new and Kellogg's is trying to get people to buy it, you're likely to find it on sale at your local supermarket and you should be able to find some coupons for it as well.  So if you have someone at home who likes Frosted Flakes, you might want to give them a try while they're really cheap.

And then, who knows?  Maybe stack the promotional sales with the coupons and stock up on enough of them to last you until they make it into the job lot stores when they're discontinued.

15 July, 2011

Snacky Bones

One of the reasons Stop & Shop is one of my favorite stores here in Enfield is because of their awesome Pork Policy. There are a lot of folks in town who make their own sausage, and Stop & Shop caters to them, selling hog casings, and pork fat, liver, and skin.  And along with this offal, they also sell random pork bone trimmings.  Sometimes they're neck and back bones (great for making stock) but sometimes, they're rib trimmings.  This might not sound like a big difference, but rib trimmings are excellent for making little pork snackers - and Stop & Shop sells them pretty cheap.

What follows is a basic recipe for Snacky Bones, but it's more of a method and guideline than it is a true recipe.  The instructions section will include suggestions and options.

Snacky Bones
Makes 1 batch

Meaty pork bones, rib trimmings suggested, any quantity
Salt, pepper, other seasonings

Put the bones in a shallow roasting pan and season with salt, pepper, and a flavorful seasoning blend of your choice.  Bell's makes an excellent Onion & Herb seasoning ostensibly for chicken, but it's awesome on pork as well.

Roast the bones in the oven for about 50 minutes at 350 F.

Remove the roasted bones to a dry skillet on the stovetop. Without adding any oil or fat - there will be enough on the bones to do the job - pan fry them over medium heat to crisp them up.

Just before they're done, I like to splash the ribs with some brandy, bring the brandy to a sizzle, then tip the pan to flame off the alcohol.  The brandy gives an extra dimension of flavor to the pork, and the blue-and-yellow fireball is frigging awesome and impresses the hell out of visitors who might be hanging around the kitchen getting underfoot while I'm trying to cook.

To serve:  Pile the bones on a plate and put them in the middle of the table. Make sure everyone has plenty of napkins or access to a roll of paper towels (we don't stand on ceremony at my place.)  You can serve them straight up, crusty with the herb seasonings you added, or you can dress them with a sauce (your favorite barbecue sauce if you like - or try some Japanese tonkatsu sauce, it's great) or just set out little bowls of sauce for dipping.

14 July, 2011

Millie's Arroz con Gandules

I have a friend at work named Millie.  She and I have this sort of informal food exchange at lunchtime. If I'm bringing leftovers in for lunch, I usually pack enough for her, too.  And when she's got leftovers for lunch, she usually packs enough for me.  Sometimes I think I'm getting a much better deal than she is, because I will tell you this:  Millie is an amazing cook.

One of the absolutely incredible things she makes is Arroz con Gandules - Rice with Pigeon Peas. It is so delicious that if I had to choose a last meal, it would be a plate of Millie's Arroz con Glndules, because then I could die with a smile on my face. Seriously, I could eat that stuff every damn day. But, of course, she won't make it for me every day so I had to learn how to do it for myself.

She cooks like I do - "some of this, some of that" so the "recipe" she gave me was a little sketchy, but I managed to get a fairly good grip on it and got the ingredients down to a proportion that winds up tasting really good.  Not as good as Millie's, mind you, but as close as I think I'm going to get.

Millie Gonzalez's Arroz con Gandules
About 12 servings

7 ounces (half of a small tub) Goya frozen sofrito
¼ cup oil (Millie uses corn oil, I prefer olive oil)
1 14-ounce bag of frozen pigeon peas (gandules) OR 1 15-ounce can of them, drained
Leftover meat, diced (whatever you have on hand)
8 ounces (1 small can) tomato sauce
7 cups water
4 packets Sazon Goya
Pimiento-stuffed green Manzanilla  olives (optional)
1 pound long-grain rice (about 4 cups)

Sofrito and oil simmering in the
pan. There are no words to describe how awesome this smells.
In a large Dutch oven, combine the sofrito and oil over medium heat.  Heat until the mixture is bubbling and sizzling.  Add the pigeon peas and meat  and olives if you care to use them and saute over very low heat until the meat is heated through.

Stir in the tomato sauce, water, and Sazon Goya into the pot.  Taste the broth and adjust the season accordingly.

Thoroughly stir in the rice, cover tightly, and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is done and has absorbed the liquid.  Serve it up hot.

A note about meat for this dish:  Use anything you've got left over. Ham is traditional, but leftover pork chops or chicken are great, too. For extra flavor I usually dice up a couple of chorizo sausages to throw in.

Lucky Charms

Andrew Green, author of the excellent blog Who Wants Taters? mentioned Lucky Charms in a comment. And I just happened to have a box of them in the pantry, so of course Andrew INVOKING them like that was like giving me a posthypnotic suggestion.  So yeah, I just had a bowl of Lucky Charms.

I used to like these when I was a kid. It seems that Dry Crumbly Marshmallow technology has come a long way since then.  Most of the marshmallow back then were white or, at best, some kind of solid color.  Nowadays, though... check it out, that's a rainbow!

I just noticed a minute ago that the cereal shapes are pretty interesting. I think they might be Satanic. Or they might be the result of an industrial accident at the Alpha-Bits factory. I'm sure that one of those scenarios would work.

13 July, 2011

Awesome Savings, ShopRite

First, I'm gonna buy a Hershey bar.

Then, I'm gonna take the two cents I saved and buy an apostrophe.

And then I'm gonna take that apostrophe and fix that damned sign.

General Mills vs. Kellogg's

Take a look at the headers on these cereal boxes (General Mills' Kix in the background, Kellogg's Apple Jacks in the foreground.)

Notice how Kellogg's has mimicked the General Mills "G" logo with their loopy ampersand, and added a five-leafed plant logo oddly reminiscent of their competitor's "whole grain" symbol.  Both headers also prominently declare "whole grain" goodness.

Coincidence?  I think not.

12 July, 2011

Coffee Flakes Cereal

Coffee Flakes, a product of Italian company Cereal Vit, are a case study in BREAKFAST AWESOMENESS. They're hearty cornflakes coated with genuine Italian coffee, and they taste like a bowl of crunchy espresso.

Really, they're seriously delicious. They hold their crunch in milk for a long time, and the coffee flavor is noticeable and pronounced. Although there's some sugar in them, they've got a rich bitter espresso aftertaste that reminds you with every spoonful that every flake is coated with joe.  And when you're done eating your cereal, it leaves behind delicious coffee milk! The only thing I found a bit odd was the thickness of the flakes.  I guess I'm used to the thinly-milled cornflakes from Kellogg's - the Cereal Vit flakes are thick and somewhat coarser, like corn kernels smashed with a pair of pliers.

And I love the way they're labeled. There are all sorts of tags and logos to tell you how amazingly healthy Coffee Flakes are for you: all organic, gluten-free, enhanced with Omega-3 to give your heart mutant superpowers, low in sugar...oh, yeah, and did we mention that they're coated with real Italian coffee BTW? Since there is nothing on the box to indicate that the coffee is decaffeinated, I'm pretty sure that it isn't. There's also nothing on the box estimating the amount of caffeine in each serving. I don't think there's enough to get a buzz unless you eat the whole box at a sitting, but I can tell you that there's just enough to give you a little extra pep.  I'm guessing half a cup of coffee's worth maybe?

I was tipped off to them by Steve from Connecticut Museum Quest, who found them at his local Ocean State Job Lot.  When I went looking for them in the Enfield store, however, there were none to be found - I finally tracked them down at the Ocean State in Chicopee MA - so those of you who might go on a quest for these, remember the quirkiness of job lot stores when you start your search.

By the way...mix Coffee Flakes with Cocoa Puffs, like Lynnafred did, and you get delicious MOCHA MUNCHIES.

11 July, 2011

Please Stand By

Sorry for the lack of posts over the past few days. I'm having some issues with my internet connection and right now I can't upload or edit photos. I'll be back in a day or so with some new stuff. In the meantime, thanks for your patience.

05 July, 2011

Test Your Ingredient Panel Literacy

The online magazine Slate has a cool activity up right now - The Slate Ingredients Quiz.  The quiz presents the published ingredients list from various processed foods and offers you an opportunity to select the product corresponding to the ingredients.  Select the correct one, and the panel will turn green and allow you to continue with the quiz.  There are eleven questions in all, and the average Slate reader got a little better than 5 of the eleven correct.

I scored 9 correct out of 11.  Can you beat my score?  Click here to find out.

Mexican Lasagna

A couple of weeks ago I noticed something at ALDI called "Mexican Style Lasagna."  It was a layered casserole, kind of like lasagna, but with corn tortillas instead of noodles, and various Mexican-inspired ingredients layered in.  I didn't buy it that day - unfortunate for me, because when I went back to get one a few days later I found that it had been put on markdown for clearance, and they were sold out. Serves me right for not buying it the first time I saw it; when something on sale at ALDI says it's a "special purchase" I should know by now that it's not going to be around forever.

The worst thing about wanting to get something like that and not getting it is the unscratchably itchy jones which inevitably results. Lynnafred and I had both gotten it in our heads that we wanted MEXICAN STYLE LASAGNA for supper and nothing else would do. So we made our own.

Mexican Style Lasagna
Serves10 - 12, recipe may be halved for smaller groups.

2 pounds ground beef
2 envelopes of your favorite taco seasoning
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes with chili peppers
1 tsp cumin
2 cans (27 ounces each) enchilada sauce
2 packages (16 - 20 count) corn tortillas
3 cans (16 ounce each) refried beans
2 cans (4 ounces each) diced green chilis (Ortega's fire roasted are great,) drained
2 pounds shredded Mexican-style cheese (cheddar and Monterey Jack blend)
1 pound queso panela (Mexican basket cheese,) crumbled
½ cup sliced black olives
Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Brown beef in a skillet and pour off the fat. Stir in the taco seasoning, the cumin, and the two cans of drained tomatoes. Stir well over low heat until hot and well-blended.  Set aside.

Into the bottom of a lasagna pan, pour in enough enchilada sauce to just cover the bottom. Arrange a layer of corn tortillas on the sauce.  Spread the tortillas with the refried beans. Use all three cans and make it a good thick layer.  Dot the beans with a can of diced green chilis and pour on just enough enchilada sauce to moisten it up.  On top of this, arrange another layer of tortillas.  Spread the prepared beef in a layer over the tortillas, and sprinkle this layer lightly with shredded cheese.  Add some more enchilada sauce and then another layer of tortillas. 

Pour on more enchilada sauce; this time, be generous and allow the sauce to run down inside the layers you've built. There should be a layer of sauce atop the last tortilla layer.

Generously cover this top layer with crumbled queso panela, then add the second can of drained diced green chilis.  Put on a generous layer of shredded cheese and sprinkle the top with the sliced black olives.  Bake for about an hour at 350 F.  Cut like lasagna; serve with sour cream and, if desired, shredded lettuce.

04 July, 2011

Clover Cheese-Flavored Snack Chips

Clover chips are one of the best-selling snack chips in the Philippines. They come in a wide variety of flavors, and they're kind of hard to classify.  They're kind of like a cheese puff, only flat; kind of like Munchos, only thicker and mostly made of corn; kind of like Fritos, only lighter and puffier.

I bought a bag of the "Cheesier with Vitamins" variety at Dong's last week, and found them to be crispy and fairly declicious. Despite the "cheesier" claim, I found the cheese flavor rather subtle and not at all like the in-your-face cheesiness of American snacks like Cheetos or Jax.  Luckily, Clover Chips do a fairly good job of staining my fingers orange, and therefore I found the cheese flavor perfectly acceptable thanks to the placebo effect working through my orange digits. Although I couldn't actually taste any of the Vitamins also advertised, it certainly was reassuring to know that the calories I consumed here were not empty of nutrients.  I would buy them again.

03 July, 2011

McDonald's McCafe Mango-Pineapple Smoothie

McDonald's just introduced their latest McCafe offering: a mango-pineapple smoothie, and it's delicious.

It's got a nearly perfect balance of mango and pineapple; both of the flavors are fresh-tasting and distinct in the blend, without either of them overpowering the other. And like the other smoothies in the McCafe lineup, this one is icy, refreshing, and satisfying. It's yet another indication that McDonald's lineup continues to evolve as they go after the beverage market in fast food land.

02 July, 2011

Vlasic Homestyle Relish

None of my recipes for sweet pickle relish call for Splenda/sucralose, so obviously Vlasic is using a different definition of "homestyle" than the one found in the dictionary.

Once upon a time, sweet relish was made with plain honest sugar, but I can't remember the last time I found a national brand of relish produced that way.  Either it's cucumber bits swimming in high-fructose corn syrup goo, or it's some bullshit "homestyle" crap with artificial sweeteners. It's pretty shameful that I have to go to Dollar Tree and buy jars of sweet pickle relish imported from India to find all-natural, sugar-sweetened relish.