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Two of My Favorite Tuna Recipes

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Favorite Tuna RecipesMy late mother made tuna a regular part of our family’s meal rotation. One was an entree, what we call in Minnesota a “hotdish.”

Her recipe called for two cans of tuna, drained, stirred into a  can of cream of mushroom soup simmering in a sauce pan.

It was plated by ladling it piping hot over crunchy “Chinese noodles.”

We affectionally called the dish (polite version) “tuna stuff.”

Tuna melts entered the scene as we got older, and she followed a pretty standard recipe. As we children got older, we all adapted our own variations to our individual tastes.

My long term tuna melt recipe is to take two cans of solid  white in water, drain, break up with a fork in a mixing bowl. Add in 1 T of mayo, and 1 of yellow mustard.

My mom would add in diced dill pickles or celery for crunch. I’ve elevated it to used diced quality Kalamata olives. On white toast,  covered with your favorite cheese, under the broiler til the cheese is bubbling. I like mine when the cheese takes on a  little burn!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Tuna Recipes

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Applewood Farms Bacon Review – Aldi In House Brand

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Applewood Farms Bacon ReviewI’ve been a little hotter than usual for bacon. For about a year, I’ve been buying whichever pre-cooked brand was on sale.

Seemed like a no muss, no fuss opportunity to me, and often a lot cheaper than raw bacon.

Lately, I’ve noticed that most all of the pre-cook brands the slices are nearly translucent, and I like my bacon a little thicker.

Of course, there’s a certain joy of having that aroma waft through the house; it was one of the few ways I could motivate my ex to get out of bed. (At home anyway).

Applewood Farms is the in-house brand for bacon, sausages and ham at Aldi stores, a global chain of discount grocers. Aldi is part of the same German company that owns US lux foods retailer, Trader Joes.

I’ve reviewed a lot of Aldi products, including  braunschweiger, smoked sausage, ham, pre-cooked bacon, summer sausage, pizza and many others.

This bacon was more than satisfactory. Thick enough, flavorful, nice smokey aroma. I cooked the whole package at once, I bake bacon  (350 for about 12 minutes) on cookie sheets (some people cover their sheets with foil for quicker clean up).  There’s no flipping, less shrinkage, and your slices stay perfectly flat.

So I was happy. I’ll buy it again, as long as it stays price competitive, and with Aldi, you never have to worry about that.

Aldi contracts with established manufacturers to make products to its own recipes and specifications.  This bacon is produced in the Elkhart, Indiana plant (pictured below) of Plumrose USA, the American division of the European food company of the same name. Plumrose USA was sold in the past few weeks to the giant South American meat processor JBS.

They paid $230 million and picked up five plants and two distribution centers in the deal.

What did I do with my bacon? Why made a monster BLT of course!

Applewood Farms Bacon Review

Cooked Aldi Bacon

Applewood Farms Bacon Review

Impressive BLT

Applewood Farms Bacon Review

Plumrose Indiana Plant

 

 

Applewood Farms Bacon Review

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Food Club Liquid Eggs Review

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Food Club Liquid Eggs ReviewI’ve never tried “liquid eggs” (industry term: breaker eggs), but I see them used quite a bit at charity breakfasts I attend. I do recall having powdered (dehydrated) eggs, which have been around for more than a hundred years.

My experience was on Scout trips – the eggs were pretty awful.  So I set out to do my home experience, and picked up a pint carton of Food Club (TopCo) brand “Great Egg0-Spectations.” The carton promises “contains 99% real egg product. (See full ingredient list at the end of this post).

I can see why they use these at the mass breakfasts, or in commercial bakeries and restaurants. Speed, little waste, consistent product. (As you know, “fresh” eggs can vary in taste and size).

So these were a buck. The carton contains the equivalent of eight eggs. 3 T equal 1 egg.  A reason for buying them would not be value, certainly at any store in any given week, you can find at least one brand at around 50 cents a dozen. Of course, you can pay up to $6 a dozen from the same display case, and obviously, people must buy them or they wouldn’t be there, but I sure don’t get the idea of $6 eggs.

I assumed I could use the product as I would fresh eggs, so I set out to make scrambled eggs, adding a dollop of milk to my mix, cooking them in a non-stick skilled at medium heat. They turned out just fine. Tasted like…………….spoiler alert……………scrambled eggs!

Food Club brand is part of Topco, which is based in suburban Chicago, and started as a co-op of producers in the 1940s. They sell thousands of different products (frozen, refrigerated and dry)  under their own brand names, to a wide variety of retailers. They also produce their products in three different value segments, from a economy type product to an added value kind.

My conclusion is that liquid eggs are tasty and convenient. Would I buy them again? Nah, like I said above, I really don’t “get it” for home use. Plus the carton instructs you to use in a week, and most people keep fresh eggs around for weeks without a care. If you’re really concerned with product longevity, powdered eggs can last 5-10 years, depending on the brand and storage method.

Do you use liquid eggs at home? How do you use them? Do you have a preferred brand?

INGREDIENTS

EGG WHITES (99%), LESS THAN 1%: NATURAL FLAVOR, COLOR (INCLUDES BETA CAROTENE), SPICES, SALT, ONION POWDER, XANTHAN GUM, GUAR GUM, VITAMINS AND MINERALS: CALCIUM SULFATE, IRON (FERRIC ORTHOPHOSPHATE), VITAMIN E (ALPHA TOCOPHEROL ACETATE), ZINC SULFATE, CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, VITAMIN B12, VITAMIN B2 (RIBOFLAVIN), VITAMIN B1 (THIAMINE MONONITRATE), VITAMIN B6 (PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE), FOLIC ACID, BIOTIN, VITAMIN D3.

Food Club Liquid Eggs Review

 

 

Food Club Liquid Eggs Review

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Southern Belles Restaurant Review, Suburban Chicago

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Southern Belles Restaurant Review

I went to try a new place today, the 5th outlet of a local chain called “Southern Belle’s” a breakfast and lunch place with a “Southern” twist.

In addition to “regular” breakfast and lunch dishes, you’ll find their take on Southern foods like “Shrimp and Grits,” “Biscuits and Gravy,” and “Pork Belly and Eggs.”

For some reason, apparently, the proprietor’s definition of “Southern” extends out to Arizona, as there are also Tex Mex breakfast and lunch dishes.

Burgers, sandwiches, wraps and salads round out the midday offerings.

I went for breakfast around 9AM, business was fairly brisk for the time of day and the place being new. There was a mix of demographics, young families, seniors, singles, and there was a large group standing in the lobby – – I thought they were waiting to be seated in one of the large private rooms, figuring them to be a company, church group, or extended family. Nope. Turns out they were local Chamber members participating in the traditional “giant scissors” photo op out front.

Southern Belle’s has done a clever thing, the front of the restaurant, where the cashier station is, the area doubles as a coffee/smoothie bar, I imagine, creating another revenue stream by roping in passers by (Not sure if this option is in all locations). Only problem I noted with this concept, is there no signage for this segment outside. Maybe it is still to be installed.

The restaurant is in a strip mall, across the street from a major mall, and has good street signage, so traffic should be fine. It’s on the large side for the casual segment, I think, immaculately clean, as were the restrooms.

My server, Genevieve, was friendly, and  attentive without being intrusive. She stopped by a couple times to make sure I was happy. A person that clearly understands what the words “hospitality industry” mean.

Ordering coffee, I was happy when she brought a large thermal pot to leave at the table. They also have an “amuse,” 3 mini corn muffins. I’m not a corn bread fan under any circumstances, I ate one, but I can’t really give you an opinion on whether they are good or not.

I opted for Country Fried Steak and Eggs, which comes with a split buttermilk biscuit, hash browns, and a substantial quantity of sausage gravy.

I’m also not a big biscuit eater, so I won’t opine on that, either, except to say it was buried under the gravy, so if you’re an egg mopper (my mother would slap you if you are), ask for the biscuits on the side.

Hash browns? Not made there. Shreds that most likely came frozen or dried from a supplier like Sysco. I apologize to the owners if they aren’t, but that’s what they seemed like.  I’m a big fan of really, really great breakfast potatoes.  I’ll drive a long way to try some that somebody has bragged about.

I’m split on the steak. Good flavor, nice texture to the batter, not particularly flavorful, and I was unable to tell whether this was also a heat and eat food service item or made from scratch in house.  I was quite happy with the sausage gravy. Flavorful, a little spice, and large chunks of pork sausage. To my liking.

All in all? It’s pretty OK. I lean more to favoring greasy spoon type diners, but this is a nice alternative for local families. They boast that a number of items are sourced locally and they are fans of “farm to table.”

There’s also Healthy, Vegan and Gluten Free portions to the menu, if you’re fussy about that kind of stuff.

Here’s the menu, and the locations. Breakfast and lunch seven days.

$20 for breakfast, coffee, tax and tip for me today.

Southern Belles Restaurant Review

Complimentary Mini Corn Muffins

Southern Belles Restaurant Review

Country Fried Steak and Eggs

Southern Belle's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Southern Belles Restaurant Review

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Sokolow Hunters Sausage Review

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Sokolow Hunters Sausage ReviewI love sausage. Smoked. Cured. Uncured. From Chicago. China. Spain. Louisiana. France. Italy.  Poland. Anywhere.  Sokolow is a major meat processor in Poland, dating back to 1899.

They sell under the brand names of Gold, Sokoliki, Uczta Qulinarna,  Naturrino and Darz Bór. Lucky for me, some of these are imported to the states, and in Chicago, there are numerous, many, many, Polish groceries and delis who stock imported foods.

So I picked up a pack of their “Hunter’s Sausage,” a dry cured product, lightly smoked, made from pork, salt, pepper, and juniper. No matter who the manufacturer is, these are the standard ingredients for “Hunter’s Sausage.” One company in Poland makes a beef version for export to the UK.

(Sidebar).  I was literally amazed at my first trip to Poland.  It wasn’t long after the divorce from the Soviet’s, so “western style” businesses hadn’t really sprung up yet. I stayed in a creaky old Soviet style hotel, heated by coal, I can still remember the smell of that furnace.  I spent my days and nights with my local colleague, a former shipyard co-worker with Walesa – turned journalist – who had fascinating tales and was more than willing, eager to accommodate my desires to “be local.”

Restaurants were limited to “private meal houses” wherein a citizen would cook lunch or dinner in their house, and have seating for four or six, and you’d know about these places and eat there.  And he took me way out in the country to experience a local sausage haven, including sour sausage soup. Man oh man.

So Sokolow Hunters Sausage. Very dry, very smokey, not sure I can taste the juniper and have never seen that as an ingredient outside of gin. Kind of fatty, but that’s where the flavor comes from, eh?  Best used as a snack stick or on an app tray I suspect, too dense for sandwiches.

Check it out if you run into it. Sokolow makes bacon, hams, and other sausages. I’ll keep my eye out for more of their products.  The company has a promotional video on YouTube.

Sokolow Hunters Sausage Review

Hunter’s Sausage / Cross Section

 

 

 

 

 

Sokolow Hunters Sausage Review

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Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

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Boston Market Country Fried Steak ReviewBear with me as I take you on this journey of magical heat and eat meals. Today’s example, “Boston Market” Country Fried Steak.

A frozen entree, with mash potatoes and cream gravy. Boston Market, like many companies, does not actually produce this product, but licenses their name to  Bellisio Foods, a company I know a bit about.

Bellisio is the successor to Michelina’s, which in turn was the successor of two early heat/fix and eat food companies, Jeno’s Pizza, and Chun King Chinese foods.

Both companies were started on a shoestring in Northern Minnesota, by local son of an  immigrant entrepreneur, Jeno Paulucci. He built both companies to attain tens of millions in annual revenue, and sold them off, Chun King first, to RJ Reynolds, followed by Jeno’s, which was spun to General Mills to combine with their own “Totino’s” brand.

Most of these foods were produced in my hometown of Duluth, MN, until Jeno had a hissy fit, threatened to move production out of state, and ultimately did – to Ohio. Jeno could be incredibly generous and civic minded, and meaner than moose piss other times.

Years later, he starts a new frozen food company, “Michelina’s,” also based in Duluth (including some production) which he builds up by acquiring other brands in the segment.  Jeno was successful in building another monster company, with production facilities around the country, and distribution around the world.

A number of qualified buyers approached him during the last part of his life, but he rebuffed them all, asking far more than the company was worth. Finally, literally on his deathbed, a transaction was negotiated, but for less than the company was worth.  Fine tuning the operations, the principles flipped the company a few years later to a Thai conglomerate, and made a bundle.

So now you know where this product comes from – intellectually. Physically, it is produced in a factory in Jackson, OH, about a hundred miles east of Cincinnati.

“TV dinners” were introduced by the Swanson Company in 1953-1954.  Swanson was started in 1899 and is stilled around, owned by Pinnacle Foods (formerly Vlasic). The dinners came in tinfoil trays, with separate compartments for entrees, vegetables, and starches. They were heated in a conventional oven – from frozen – for about an hour. They weren’t very tasty.

Today, they are microwave friendly, of course, packaged in plastic, a few minutes from frozen to ‘edible’ tho I still use a conventional oven if the directions are on the box as an option.  Which is what I did today, about 45 minutes at 350, with a ‘potato stir’ in the middle.

And here’s what I say about every single “heat and eat” fried thing I try. After sixty years, don’t you think they could have figured out the science to make crispy things crispy? There are few experiences worse than biting into something you expect to be crispy/crunchy, and having it have practially zero texture.

I like chicken fried steak for breakfast, so I prepped it that way, added eggs, toast. Usually mashed potatoes aren’t a breakfast dish, are they? But that’s how this meal is packaged. How were the potatoes? Better than fast food, not as good as those heat and eat tubs they sell nowadays.

Tactile experience aside, the flavor of the meat was OK.  As was the gravy, but the plate (pictured) becomes one big mess, not at all (of course) like the corporate marketing image. It might help to put the gravy in a separate ramekin. Just sayin’.

I’ve tried other brands of this same entree –  Banquet, Claim Jumper, Advance Pierre, among others.

They’re all about the same. At restaurants, you hit the jackpot when you find a cook that makes his own.  Would I buy this again? Nah. Just did for the novelty, and for the sake of YOU. LOL.

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

Frozen, out of the box

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

Corporate Publicity Photo

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

Out of the Oven

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

Plated as breakfast

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

First TV Dinner – 1954

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

 

 

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

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Fast Bites Sliders Review – Advance Pierre

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Fast Bites Sliders Review Advance PierreI’ve reviewed a lot of products that I commonly call “gas station foods,” or ready to eat and heat and eat sandwiches.

Often these are from one of the industry giants, Advance Pierre, (hereinafter AP) which also recently acquired a sizable competitor, Landshire. Past reviews on this site include Advance Pierre’s Sausage and Cheese Biscuit, Big Az Cheeseburger, and their Pretzel Cheeseburger.

Today I checked out their cheeseburger sliders, which were found at Dollar Tree, packaged two in a box. These can generally be thought to compete with frozen White Castle sliders.

The Advance Pierre sliders are microwave ready, about a minute, but using the “old method” of removing the sandwiches from their plastic wrapping and tucking them into a paper towel.  This used to be White Castle’s instructions also, but now theirs are heating directly in their packaging.

In the case of either sandwich, it can be difficult to master the heating process.  One can end up with a part that’s rock hard or ice cold. Today, heating worked out pretty universally successful.

The AP‘s buns are much softer than White Castle’s, tho substantial enough to deal with the burger and any toppings you care to add. The burger has less flavor than White Castle, probably due to the latter having the equivalent of the restaurant’s flavor/method of being cooked on a bed of onions.

The AP ingredient list lists “cooked onion” but the flavor isn’t evident.  I was surprised, but happy about the fact, that AP’s patties aren’t bathed in liquid smoke, as a lot of heat and eat burgers are, a method to simulate outdoor grilling.

All in all, with condiments of my (or your choice), this is a pretty good product for a quick snack, or to pop something economical in your kid’s mouths. They aren’t terribly unhealthy in terms of fat, sodium, or carbs.

I’ll buy them again, and keep a few on hand. Why not?

Fast Bites Sliders Review Advance Pierre

Frozen out of package

 

Fast Bites Sliders Review Advance Pierre

After 60 seconds in microwave

 

 

 

 

Fast Bites Sliders Review Advance Pierre

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DiGiorno Bacon Me Crazy Pizza Review

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DiGiorno Bacon Me Crazy Pizza ReviewQuite often, when I buy frozen pizzas, I feel like Charlie Brown’s experience with Lucy holding the football. Yet I don’t learn. (P.S., I have had relationships like that, too! LOL)

There are two or three frozen pizzas I rate as exceptional on every level, but unfortunately, as one might suspect, none of these are in the ‘mass market’ offerings.

DiGiorno (Delissio in Canada) was created in the mid 90s by Kraft.

Apparently bored of the segment, they sold off their pizza brands to the international robber barons of water, Nestle. (DiGiorno, Jack’s, Tombstone and California Pizza Kitchen).  Kraft picked up $3.2 billion. Nestle got the #`1 frozen pizza brand.

“It’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno” goes their commercials.  Good thing it’s not delivery, I would have asked for my money back.

The “Bacon Me Crazy” stuffed crust pie (crust rim is stuffed with cheese and ‘bacon’) falls into the higher price range of thin crust frozen pizzas, at about $8.  Taking it out of the box, frozen, it looks more like the one dollar variety pies from Totinos.  At least to me.

The box informs me this pizza is made at USDA establishment number 1682 A, which is a contract manufacturer called “Nation Pizza,” in Schaumburg, IL. They manufacture frozen foods of all ilks. I’ve driven by the plant many times. (Pictured below, as well).

Following the baking instructions precisely, the crust remained rather doughy, and the minuscule diced toppings might not have even been there. They didn’t really provide any flavor or tactile experience to the pie. The sauce leans towards the sweet side. The “smoke flavoring” is very present.

Whether or not the rim is actually ‘stuffed’ is open for debate.

I had two squares, and then did something I NEVER do. Tossed the rest. Perhaps the raccoons will like it. I sure didn’t.

Lots of ingredients:  Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Part-Skim
Mozzarella Cheese with Modified Food Starch (Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese [Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes], Modified Food Starch,
Methylcellulose), Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese (Part-Skim Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes), Applewood Smoked Cooked Bacon (Bacon [Cured with Water, Salt, Sugar, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Nitrate], Smoke Flavoring), Tomato Paste, Genoa Salami (Pork, Beef, Salt, Dextrose, Spice, Lactic Acid Starter Culture, Wine, Flavoring, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Nitrite, Citric Acid), 2% or Less of:
Vegetable Oil (Soybean Oil and/or Corn Oil), Yeast, Bread Crumbs (Bleached Wheat Flour, Yeast, Sugar, Salt), Vegetable Oil Shortening
(Palm Oil, Natural Flavor, Beta Carotene [Color]), Sugar, Salt, Seasoning Blend (Salt, Spice, Dried Garlic).

Nation Pizza photos from their website.  Product photos are my own.

DiGiorno Bacon Me Crazy Pizza Review

Prior to baking

DiGiorno Bacon Me Crazy Pizza Review

Close up – slice – “stuffed” part is bottom right

Exterior Nation Pizza

Exterior Nation Pizza

Digiorno Bacon Me Crazy Review

Nation Pizza Sauce Squirter

Digiorno Bacon Me Crazy Review

Nation Pizza – Fixing the toppings before packaging

 

 

 

DiGiorno Bacon Me Crazy Pizza Review

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Village Squire Review, Dundee, IL

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Village Squire ReviewSporting an English pub decor, the Village Squire is a mini chain with four locations in the W / NW Suburbs of Chicago.

They’ve been around since 1958. It’s casual dining, with an extensive menu as well as daily specials. Special kid’s menu has more options than you’re used to seeing at fast casual restaurants.

The menu includes quite a few small plates that you could share (but you don’t have to!), burgers, sandwiches, salads, pizza, steak, chicken, fish, and pastas.

We happened to land on Tuesday, which is half-price burger day, any burger on the menu, and there are a lot of combinations to choose from.

They start with a half pound, served with pickle, lettuce, tomato and any other toppings you choose, with side options including steak fries, house made chips, cottage cheese, cole slaw, rice, baked potato,  sweet potato fries, rings, fruit, or soup.  (the last four require a slight up charge, but less than you’re used to seeing!).

I zeroed in on the bacon/bleu burgers with rings. Superb. Tasty meat patty, good grind, substantial bun.

Full bar, occasional live music, sports tvs, video gaming, nooks and crannies for tables.  And like most places, the thing that made the experience was the deft handling by server Jackie F.  She was not only affable and menu knowledgeable, she asked questions above and beyond standard service expectations.

A simple example, we asked for glasses of water, and she asked if we’d like lemons with it. YES! So she brought a small dish. And like that.

So, two burgers, sides, drinks, $14.  I’ll be back. Often.  Thanks, Jackie!

Village Squire Review

 

 
Village Squire Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Village Squire Review

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Sheboygan Sausage Natural Casing Wiener Review

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Sheboygan Natural Casing Wiener Review From their site: Since 1933, Sheboygan Sausage Company has been crafting a wide array of sausages with all the Old World goodness our customers expect. Our products include natural casing wieners, bratwurst, Italian sausage, summer sausage, little smokies, and braunschweiger.

They make quality products, using old world recipes and is now part of American Foods Group, out of Kansas City.

I stumbled upon the ‘coarse grind’ natural casing wieners, and I’m glad I did.  I am a weenie snob, and always delighted to find a quality dog in a casing. Not too many stores stock natural casing hot dogs, as they represent less than 5% of the dogs sold in the U.S.

And the ingredient list for these is a dream: Pork, water, beef, salt, spices.  No filler. No corn syrup solids. No vegetable protein. A dog eater’s dream.

If you can find these, buy them. They’ll cost you. Whereas you can find some brands of “hot dogs” (usually with a lot of chicken or turkey as an ingredient) for a buck a pack or so, a package  of good natural casing wieners will cost you about a buck per dog. For my money, well worth it.

 

 

 

 

Sheboygan Sausage Natural Casing Wiener Review

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