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Digiorno Self Rising Pizza Review

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logoIt may not be delivery, it’s “Digiorno,” but for me, another “d” word motivates me to buy this brand: “desperation.”

Translation? I’m in the mood for a frozen pie and happen to be someplace where this is the only thing available. In the case of last night, at a 7-Eleven, where the self-rising pepperoni was priced at $6.99.

Opening the box, right away I don’t like it, there’s a weird “chemical” smell from the box, which isn’t from the vacuum sealed pizza, but rather ingredients or ink in the cardboard? In any regards, it’s unappealing to me.

Pie-wise, I’m not a fan of thicker crusts. I prefer more cheese and toppings make up the calorie count, rather than bread.

Digiorno is owned by Nestle, along with Jack’s, Tombstone, and some other brands, it was part of a 2010 $3.7 billion acquisition from Kraft, who needed to raise money for other acquisitions. Regardless of what I personally think, apparently Digiorno is the number one frozen brand in the U.S. There’s a reason, I’m sure and it’s not to do with ‘value pricing,” though I did see a woman earlier in the day at a grocery picking up a half dozen, as they were on sale for less than $4 a pop.

It’s a very “non offensive,” pizza, mild toppings, mild sauce, fairly adequate cheese, and it’s probably very filling for a family meal, due to the calories in the bread.

In all fairness, before this pizza hits by pie hole, it has been seriously altered at home, with more toppings, spices, and herbs. So it’s not a very unbiased ‘review.’

The pies are made at a massive factory in Little Chute, Wisconsin, at USDA establishment M5754. Little Chute is parked along the Fox River adjacent to the Appleton-Neenah area. (pix below).

The pies have a whole raft of ingredients, including the dreaded mechanically separated chicken, something I try and avoid.

INGREDIENTS: ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), WATER, LOW-MOISTURE PART-SKIM MOZZARELLA CHEESE (PART-SKIM MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, ENZYMES), PEPPERONI MADE WITH PORK, CHICKEN AND BEEF (PORK, MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN, BEEF, SALT, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF SPICES, DEXTROSE, PORK STOCK, LACTIC ACID STARTER CULTURE, OLEORESIN OF PAPRIKA, FLAVORING, SODIUM NITRITE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, PAPRIKA, NATURAL SMOKE FLAVOR, BHA, BHT, CITRIC ACID), TOMATO PASTE, SUGAR, 2% OR LESS OF WHEAT GLUTEN, VEGETABLE OIL (SOYBEAN OIL AND/OR CORN OIL), DEGERMINATED WHITE CORN MEAL,YEAST, SALT, DEGERMINATED YELLOW CORN MEAL, SEASONING BLEND (SALT, SPICE, DRIED GARLIC), BAKING POWDER (BAKING SODA, SODIUM ALUMINUM PHOSPHATE), DATEM, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, ASCORBIC ACID (DOUGH CONDITIONER)

CONTAINS: MILK, WHEAT.

Digiorno Review

Before baking

Digiorno Review

Side view slice

Digiorno Review

Wisconsin Factory

Digiorno Self Rising Pizza Review

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Circle A Ranch Country Fried Beef

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Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef ReviewI’ve written a whole lot about  the products from Cincinnati-based Advance Pierre, the premiere “heat and eat” and “gas station sandwich” maker in the U.S.  Often, besides in vending and C-stores, you’ll find their frozen products at dollar stores.

You know how much I love chicken fried steak?  I’ve tried it all over the country, both from restaurants and the heat and eat varieties.

This product was made in the plant pictured below, and is comprised of beef, mechanically separated turkey, and, not kidding, about 150 other ingredients.  Nuke of 90 seconds, stir “gravy,” nuke another 30, let sit for 30, and then “enjoy.”

Now ordinarily, I’d put this product in the category of “I tried so you don’t have to.”  But I didn’t really “try” it.  I had one bite and it was so awful, I couldn’t go on.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef Review

Frozen, pre microwaving

Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef Review

After microwaving

Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef Review

Advance Pierre Plant, Amherst, Ohio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circle A Ranch Country Fried Beef

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Kojaks Review – Cary, IL

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One of hundreds (thousands) of independent “hot dog” (for lack of a better description) stands, Kojaks, in the Chicago NW suburb of Cary, serves satisfying Chicago staples, cooked to order, at value pricing.  Dogs, sausage, burgers, gyros with the proper side dishes, and an expanded menu that includes items beyond what most of its competitors offer.

Located right across the street from the Cary Metra station, Kojaks is apparently a big supported of local youth sports, too, which is a good thing.   Kojaks is similar to Mr. Beefy’s, just down the street, but I think Kojak’s has a leg up (or two) on them.

Open Monday through Saturday, 11 AM – 9 PM, closed on Sundays.

Restaurant menu.  Catering menu.

Kojaks Review Cary

Cheeseburger and Fries

 

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Kojaks Review

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National Hot Dog Day at Meatheads

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July 23 each year is designated as “National Hot Dog Day,” (July is National Hot Dog Month!)  and why not? Each summer, during the “hot dog season” Americans consume 7 billion (yes, with a “B”) hot dogs between Memorial and Labor Day.

Meatheads, a fast growing burger chain in the Chicago area, serves their hot dogs “New England Style” which means the bun is more like a piece of toast in the shape of a bun, but not as crunchy, of course.

While many places had special hot dog deals for the “holiday,” I chose Meatheads because they serve the top quality dogs from Chicago’s Vienna Beef company.

I had mine with mustard and kraut, and a side of Meathead’s most excellent fries.

Check this company out. Locations. Menu.

National Hot Dog Deal Meatheads

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National Hot Dog Day

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For Love of the Game – Minor League Baseball

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Schaumburg BoomersFew people that know me, know that I love going to baseball games – provided they are played in an outdoor stadium in pleasant weather.

But major league baseball lost its appeal some years ago, and now I limit my attendance to minor league games, the A, AA, and AAA affiliates of the ‘bigs,” and even more than that, I enjoy going to minor league professional games that are made up of independent teams – those leagues not affiliated with an majors.

For one reason, and one reason only. These guys, mostly “kids,” play almost solely for “the love of the game.” An infinitesimal amount of them ever get noticed by the majors, and most get paid about $600 a month. The particular league I am following the salary cap FOR THE ENTIRE TEAM is $75,000 a year. Wow.

There are guys in the majors that make that, and more, per GAME.

Also in this league, the players can be no older than 26, 1/3 of the roster is permitted to have 2 or more years of experience, 1/3 of the roster can have 1 year experience, and 1/3 of the roster has to be rookies. Most players come from the ranks of undrafted college players, or guys that did get a major league call and didn’t last a season.

In other words, these guys are playing their hearts out, not for money, not for fame, but for love of the game. None that I have observed have ever been too busy to high five a kid in the stands, or autograph a ball or program.

The team owners, on the other hand, are there to make a profit, and try every conceivable method to bring in money, whether it’s the advertising on the outfield walls, video monitor, sponsorships on uniforms, renting out the stadium for other events. I’m pretty sure no one is getting rich owning these teams, whereas in the leagues affiliated with the majors, you’ll find very profitable enterprises, as the affiliated major league team pays most of the operating expenses of the minor league affiliates – travel, salaries, equipment and so on.

Since I generally write about food, I will here as well, and at most parks, you’ll find food and beverage prices to rival the majors, but with a more limited selection. Whereas the majors, the past few years, are all about dazzling culinary choices, at these small independent teams, you’ll find dogs, burgers, beer, peanuts, popcorn and the like.

At the ballpark I just attended, the burgers were from Glenmark, a Chicago manufacturer of IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) burger patties, so they weren’t very satisfactory. Add a couple of bucks to the price and you can have a ‘deluxe’ with fresh cut vegetables, which probably would have amped up the whole experience. I didn’t. The condiment table was kind of lacking, as well, and the mustard pump, didn’t.

Beer was around $7, a bottle of water $3.75.

It was “fake Jimmy Buffet” nite, so they had his music playing throughout the game and margaritas on sale.

Parking was free, and the most expensive game ticket (a couple rows up, first base line, was $10. The last time I priced a major league game, tickets were from $40 – $250. How do you take your young son at those prices?

But with the minors, you can go weekly, or more, if you’re so inclined.

Because you’re going “for the love of the game.”

The home team lost last night, but the real action came at the top of the 2nd, when the visitor’s coach had a fit and got ejected. That was exciting.

Baseball food

 

Baseball food

 

 

Minor League Baseball

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Kim’s Key Lime Gourmet Cookies Review

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Kims Key Lime Gourmet Cookies

Decorative Tin

As sweet and intense as the recollection of my first kiss is my memory of the first (and second) time I ever tasted Key Lime Pie.

I was attending a broadcaster’s convention at the fabulous Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. I was wasting a little time between sessions and stopped for a cup of coffee, and observed the table next to me being served a slice of green pie.

I inquired of the waitress.

Key Lime, sir, our specialty.”

I better try a slice.”

It came. I took a forkful, let it hang around my taste buds for a few moments. I swooned. I was in love.

Key Lime pie is a baked “custard like” confection, with a graham cracker crust, sugar, eggs, sour cream, condensed milk, and the zest and juice of Key limes.

(The Key lime is a citrus hybrid, smaller than traditional limes, with a thinner rind, native to Southeast Asia, but the name comes from its association with cuisine of the Florida Keys. It is aromatic, juicy, and much more flavorful than conventional similar citrus fruits).

I liked the pie so much that while journeying home, having a layover at Chicago’s O’Hara airport, I again found myself with time to waste, and wandered over to the airport’s Hilton, and lo and behold, there on the menu in the coffee shop, was my adored pie. I indulged.

I’m not much of a baker, and although Key lime pies are available commercially, they are just not very satisfying.

Then along comes inventor/entrepreneur Kim Harvey. Kim’s kitchen dream was to attempt to replicate one of her grandmother’s confectionery specialties, the “Mexican Wedding Cake” cookie. A small round sweet baked cookie, dusted in powdered sugar. People of German descent make a variation of this cookie that is anise, nutmeg, and cinnamon flavored, called “Pfeffernusse.”

Kim’s desire to make the best cookie available provided her with the inspiration to make her cookies have a “Key Lime” flavor, and genius was born. Kim’s cookies, in a 7.75 attractive tin (which can be personalized for use as corporate or affinity gifts) are packed full of tart/sweet Key lime flavor, and are available at a number of retailers, as well as online. They are available in the dusted powder sugar recipe, or dipped in white chocolate. Buy them by the tin or in bulk.

It’s refreshing to find a confection like this, just the right amount of sweet, right size portion, where each bite gives you a burst of delicious yet cleansing citrus flavor.

Kims Key Lime Gourmet Cookies

 

 

Kim’s Key Lime Gourmet Cookies Review

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Tulkoff Spicy Kimchi Aioli

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Kimchi is the national dish of Korea, a melange of fermented vegetables, primarily cabbage,  seasoned with garlic, cilantro, scallions and radish. It has been around since ancient times.

Tulkoff Kimchi Aioli ReviewThe original  “aioli” is like mayonnaise, an emulsion of egg yolk, oil, and garlic. It is thought to have originated in Provence, France. There are many variations on the recipe in different cultures and regions across Europe.

Tulkoff Foods of Baltimore is seizing on the trend of introducing exciting flavors to American consumers, and has rolled out Spicy KimChi Aioli. It can be used as a mayonnaise replacement on sandwiches, burgers, as a dressing or dip. It has an orange tint, and pieces of cilantro, garlic and cabbage are very evident.  Hving lived in Asia for a number of years, I’ve become aware of some of the subtle nuances of regional foods, and am happy Tulkoff, for one, is introducing these flavors to the US market.

This is an exciting new addition to my condiment choices, and I usually have a raft of them, many sampled to be never used again.  Not this.  My first pass was on a chicken sandwich, and it took my lunch to an entirely new level.  Added to a hamburger the next day, with “non-conventional” vegetables, such as raw cukes and radishes, it was an entirely new taste and texture sensation, transforming anold favorite into an all new favorite!

Tulkoff’s Spicy Kimchi Aioli comes in a partially clear 18 ounce squeeze bottle, with a hinge squeeze cap and sealed for safety on store shelves. It’s Orthodox Union certified Kosher.

Now in its third generation of family ownership, Tulkoff dates back to the early 1930s, when Harry and Lena Tulkoff started a small concern to sell produce. As their business grew, costumers took a special shine to the Tulkoff’s prepared horseradish, and the family opted to focus on that segment.

From that humble beginning, Tulkoff has grown into a national manufacturer and wholesaler of dressings, horseradish products, sauces, dips, and garlic products, in fact, over 400 products!

They are also well respected as a co-packer; a co-packer is a company that is contracted by other brands (or stores) to make products to the brand’s specifications.

The company has some very creative recipes on their website, worth checking out.

You can find Tulkoff products at many fine supermarket chains nationwide, check out this list for a chain near you!  We’ll be reporting on more of Tulkoff’s offerings in the future, I am sure.

(Eds. Note) Product was furnished by the manufacturer for this review.

 

 

 

 

Tulkoff Spicy Kimchi Aioli

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Kookers Review – Barrington, IL

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Kookers Review BarringtonI am one of the world’s biggest fans of mom and pop businesses of any ilk, and that goes double for the restaurant biz, a segment so terribly difficult even under the best of circumstances.

Kookers has served the posh Chicago suburb of Barrington for at least thirty years, that I am aware of, perched on US Highway 14.  It was previously in a smaller facility on the north side of the road, and within the past few years, moved to a larger facility across the street.  It was for sale for awhile before the move, not sure if it changed hands or not, but based on visits years ago, I would guess it has different owners.

They serve a typical “Chicago” menu of fast food, burgers, hot dogs, Italian beef, gyros, fried sides, plus some extended offerings in different day parts.  Menu.

I so wanted to come away from my latest visit bubbling over with enthusiasm, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

I popped in mid afternoon and was the only customer, except for a man engaged in conversation with the counter person, apparently a conversation so engaging that it was more important than waiting on me.  Strike one.

I place my order, for a cheeseburger (they have many cheeses to choose from, I went with blue) and walked into the bathroom.  Wasn’t antiseptically clean and parts of it seemed to be held together with scotch tape and wire.  The entrance to the men’s room is through a hallway which was stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of various restaurant supplies.  Strike 2.  I don’t want to see that.  I fear that standards of (lack of) organization or ‘cleanliness’ extends throughout an establishment.

It didn’t take long for the burger to be ready, but it really wasn’t anything special, a machine-formed patty and put together with a not very aesthetically pleasing appearance.  Strike 2.5?

I gathered up some sections of newspaper that were laying around, perused them while eating my burger, which I finished in short order.  Got up to leave (still the only customer) without any acknowledgement from the employee (“thanks!”  “come back soon”).

My recollection of the previous long-time owner was people supported him for a couple reasons;  one, he made a point to ‘know’ every customer and be hospitable, and two, he prided himself on quality ingredients.

Neither appears to be the case at the “new” Kookers, sadly.

Kookers Barrington Review
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Kookers Review

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Pepper Park Coffee Review – Barrington, IL

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Pepper Park Coffee Review BarringtonI admire anyone who starts a business from scratch; I’ve done it several times, and I know a whole lot about the pitfalls, anticipated and unanticipated, that can crop up.

I double dog admire anyone who starts a business in a crowded space like coffee, but the nice folks at Pepper Park Coffee were apparently undeterred, and opened up a great shop in one of Chicago’s fanciest suburbs, Barrington, about 55 minute NW of the Loop on the Metra commuter train.

Pepper Park has thought of it all.  Great coffee drinks, amazing pastries, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, free wi fi, and ample space to spread out by yourself, as a couple or even as a group, as they have a community room that can seat 20.   Plenty o’ parking and a drive thru.  Nailed it.  May even be just the place for a secret rendezvous!

Online and in the store, they have a great infographic that shows you just how your coffee drink will be constructed.  You’ll be an expert instantly if you’re new to coffee, and it’s a good refresher for caffeine veterans.

Pepper Park is on Pepper Road, NW of town, just off Highway 14.  Convenient to the local medical complexes, hospital and many other businesses, but in any case, worth a trek just to avoid the big, boring chain coffee places.

 

 

 

 

 

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Microwave Magic Cookware – New Product

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Microwave Magic Cookware ReviewKim Harvey may well be the woman of my dreams – inventor, entrepreneur, kitchen magician,  bakery brainiac, yard yoda – she has  all the bases covered.

Ms Harvey reached out and asked me if I’d like to try out her “Microwave Magic” cookware – patented technology to cook burgers (and other foods) in your microwave in minutes.

With proprietary technology, the unit steams, vents and browns ground beef with less mess and hassle than your usual cooking methods.

That’s right, no spattering grease or clean up from a skillet, no pre-heating your outdoor BBQ just to use for a couple of minutes.

As the internet’s acknowledged “burger expert” (LOL), I admit I was skeptical. If you’re a regular reader, you know that even if I have a product that CAN be microwaved, I usually opt for the conventional oven method.

So the trial began. I took a pound of 85/15 chuck and divided it into four portions and pre-seasoned  (Generally Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning). The utensil has three pieces – a collection tray, the burger tray, and cover. The burger tray has pinholes in the bottom of the wells to allow fat to drip through to the collection tray – and yes, that means a healthier burger, as well!

Since this is the first time I have used this tool, I experimented with time, and after six minutes in a 1000w microwave, I produced a perfect medium well burger. I was amazed, truly, starting to eat the burgers, that there was absolutely no taste or texture difference than if I had fried or grilled the burgers. In the pic, you’ll even notice the patty browning, generally associated with direct heat cooking!

Here’s the even better news. A minute in soapy water and the Microwave Magic cookware is clean and ready to go. No wiping the range top, no scraping the grill grates. Sweet.

Microwave Magic kitchen tools will soon be available at selected outlets everywhere including TV shopping channels; until then, get ’em here. Dishwasher safe, unbreakable, and made in the USA!  Highly recommended.

Microwave Magic Cookware Review

Ground Beef in the Tray

Microwave Magic Cookware Review

Cover on, ready for microwave

Microwave Magic Cookware Review

Perfect Burgers in Minutes!

Microwave Magic Cookware Review

So Much Healthier, Fat Runs Off!

 

 

 

 

Microwave Magic Cookware

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