Van de Kamp Crispy Haddock Filets Review

Van de Kamp Crispy Haddock Filets Review

Van de Kamp Crispy Haddock Filets Review

"TV dinners" (frozen, pre-cooked, heat and eat meals) have been around for more than 70 years.  In all that time, very few manufacturers seems to have mastered having fried food emerge from the oven or microwave with any semblance of "crispiness."  Why is that? Van de Kamp's brand has been around since 1915 and started as a potato chip stand on the streets of Los Angeles.  Today it's own by ConAgra, and is one of the largest producers of frozen seafood in the country.  No doubt you have had many ConAgra products in your kitchen at one time or another.  Their diverse portfolio includes Slim Jims, Hunts, Duncan Hines, Redi-Whip, Vlasic, Birds Eye, Orville Redenbacher and many more. Couple months back I reviewed Young's brand frozen fish and chips, and I was quite happy with it.  You can read my review here.  I was looking for Young's the day I purchased the Van de Kamp product, but in retropsect the only place I have seen it is WalMart and I wasn't about to make a special trip.  Young's has nailed the crispiness factor and the fries are pretty good as well. Van de Kamp's is an adequate substitute.  While not as crispy as Young's, it's pretty good, and the fish is flaky with good flavor.  Some of the breading does come up when removing it from the pan. Incidentally, if you're a new reader, any frozen product that gives you the option of conventional oven heating or microwave, my reviews will always be based on conventional oven results. Call me old-fashioned. Anyway, I have VdK filets left over, think I'll go grab a couple!“TV dinners” (frozen, pre-cooked, heat and eat meals) have been around for more than 70 years.  In all that time, very few manufacturers seems to have mastered having fried food emerge from the oven or microwave with any semblance of “crispiness.”  Why is that?

Van de Kamp’s brand has been around since 1915 and started as a potato chip stand on the streets of Los Angeles.  Today it’s own by ConAgra, and is one of the largest producers of frozen seafood in the country.  No doubt you have had many ConAgra products in your kitchen at one time or another.  Their diverse portfolio includes Slim Jims, Hunts, Duncan Hines, Redi-Whip, Vlasic, Birds Eye, Orville Redenbacher and many more.

Couple months back I reviewed Young’s brand frozen fish and chips, and I was quite happy with it.  You can read my review here.  I was looking for Young’s the day I purchased the Van de Kamp product, but in retropsect the only place I have seen it is WalMart and I wasn’t about to make a special trip.  Young’s has nailed the crispiness factor and the fries are pretty good as well.

Van de Kamp’s is an adequate substitute.  While not as crispy as Young’s, it’s pretty good, and the fish is flaky with good flavor.  Some of the breading does come up when removing it from the pan.

Incidentally, if you’re a new reader, any frozen product that gives you the option of conventional oven heating or microwave, my reviews will always be based on conventional oven results. Call me old-fashioned.

Anyway, I have VdK filets left over, think I’ll go grab a couple!

"TV dinners" (frozen, pre-cooked, heat and eat meals) have been around for more than 70 years.  In all that time, very few manufacturers seems to have mastered having fried food emerge from the oven or microwave with any semblance of "crispiness."  Why is that? Van de Kamp's brand has been around since 1915 and started as a potato chip stand on the streets of Los Angeles.  Today it's own by ConAgra, and is one of the largest producers of frozen seafood in the country.  No doubt you have had many ConAgra products in your kitchen at one time or another.  Their diverse portfolio includes Slim Jims, Hunts, Duncan Hines, Redi-Whip, Vlasic, Birds Eye, Orville Redenbacher and many more. Couple months back I reviewed Young's brand frozen fish and chips, and I was quite happy with it.  You can read my review here.  I was looking for Young's the day I purchased the Van de Kamp product, but in retropsect the only place I have seen it is WalMart and I wasn't about to make a special trip.  Young's has nailed the crispiness factor and the fries are pretty good as well. Van de Kamp's is an adequate substitute.  While not as crispy as Young's, it's pretty good, and the fish is flaky with good flavor.  Some of the breading does come up when removing it from the pan. Incidentally, if you're a new reader, any frozen product that gives you the option of conventional oven heating or microwave, my reviews will always be based on conventional oven results. Call me old-fashioned. Anyway, I have VdK filets left over, think I'll go grab a couple!

Out of box frozen

"TV dinners" (frozen, pre-cooked, heat and eat meals) have been around for more than 70 years.  In all that time, very few manufacturers seems to have mastered having fried food emerge from the oven or microwave with any semblance of "crispiness."  Why is that? Van de Kamp's brand has been around since 1915 and started as a potato chip stand on the streets of Los Angeles.  Today it's own by ConAgra, and is one of the largest producers of frozen seafood in the country.  No doubt you have had many ConAgra products in your kitchen at one time or another.  Their diverse portfolio includes Slim Jims, Hunts, Duncan Hines, Redi-Whip, Vlasic, Birds Eye, Orville Redenbacher and many more. Couple months back I reviewed Young's brand frozen fish and chips, and I was quite happy with it.  You can read my review here.  I was looking for Young's the day I purchased the Van de Kamp product, but in retropsect the only place I have seen it is WalMart and I wasn't about to make a special trip.  Young's has nailed the crispiness factor and the fries are pretty good as well. Van de Kamp's is an adequate substitute.  While not as crispy as Young's, it's pretty good, and the fish is flaky with good flavor.  Some of the breading does come up when removing it from the pan. Incidentally, if you're a new reader, any frozen product that gives you the option of conventional oven heating or microwave, my reviews will always be based on conventional oven results. Call me old-fashioned. Anyway, I have VdK filets left over, think I'll go grab a couple!

After baking 

"TV dinners" (frozen, pre-cooked, heat and eat meals) have been around for more than 70 years.  In all that time, very few manufacturers seems to have mastered having fried food emerge from the oven or microwave with any semblance of "crispiness."  Why is that? Van de Kamp's brand has been around since 1915 and started as a potato chip stand on the streets of Los Angeles.  Today it's own by ConAgra, and is one of the largest producers of frozen seafood in the country.  No doubt you have had many ConAgra products in your kitchen at one time or another.  Their diverse portfolio includes Slim Jims, Hunts, Duncan Hines, Redi-Whip, Vlasic, Birds Eye, Orville Redenbacher and many more. Couple months back I reviewed Young's brand frozen fish and chips, and I was quite happy with it.  You can read my review here.  I was looking for Young's the day I purchased the Van de Kamp product, but in retropsect the only place I have seen it is WalMart and I wasn't about to make a special trip.  Young's has nailed the crispiness factor and the fries are pretty good as well. Van de Kamp's is an adequate substitute.  While not as crispy as Young's, it's pretty good, and the fish is flaky with good flavor.  Some of the breading does come up when removing it from the pan. Incidentally, if you're a new reader, any frozen product that gives you the option of conventional oven heating or microwave, my reviews will always be based on conventional oven results. Call me old-fashioned. Anyway, I have VdK filets left over, think I'll go grab a couple!

Cross-section

 

“TV dinners” (frozen, pre-cooked, heat and eat meals) have been around for more than 70 years.  In all that time, very few manufacturers seems to have mastered having fried food emerge from the oven or microwave with any semblance of “crispiness.”  Why is that?

Van de Kamp’s brand has been around since 1915 and started as a potato chip stand on the streets of Los Angeles.  Today it’s own by ConAgra, and is one of the largest producers of frozen seafood in the country.  No doubt you have had many ConAgra products in your kitchen at one time or another.  Their diverse portfolio includes Slim Jims, Hunts, Duncan Hines, Redi-Whip, Vlasic, Birds Eye, Orville Redenbacher and many more.

Couple months back I reviewed Young’s brand frozen fish and chips, and I was quite happy with it.  You can read my review here.  I was looking for Young’s the day I purchased the Van de Kamp product, but in retropsect the only place I have seen it is WalMart and I wasn’t about to make a special trip.  Young’s has nailed the crispiness factor and the fries are pretty good as well.

Van de Kamp’s is an adequate substitute.  While not as crispy as Young’s, it’s pretty good, and the fish is flaky with good flavor.  Some of the breading does come up when removing it from the pan.

Incidentally, if you’re a new reader, any frozen product that gives you the option of conventional oven heating or microwave, my reviews will always be based on conventional oven results. Call me old-fashioned.

Anyway, I have VdK filets left over, think I’ll go grab a couple!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Van de Kamp Crispy Haddock Filets Review

Van de Kamp Crispy Haddock Filets Review

 

Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review

Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review

 

Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review

Johnsonville Italian Meatballs ReviewMy Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review – they are pre-cooked and run about $6 for 28.  That’s very competitive pricing.

They are pretty flavorful for a mass-market product.  Maybe Johnsonville could come up with a “sweet” and “hot” version like Italian sausage?  I heated them in my own sauce and served over pasta.  They are a finer grind and denser than ones I make at home.  (Recipe).

Ingredients are straightforwards,  pork, water, bread crumbs (bleached wheat flour, yeast, sugar, salt) and less than 2% of all those usual things that we have no idea what they are. Usually, mostly salt derivatives.   Happy there are no “corn syrup solids” in these guys.

This product is not in a resealable bag if that’s a consideration for your purchasing power.

Johnsonville’s balls come in a variety of styles in addition to Classic Italian, you’ll find “Homestyle,” and “Cheese Italian Style.”

You can quickly bring the balls to serving temp on the stovetop, oven, or microwave, in most cases, less than twenty minutes, shorter if thawed.

These are manufactured for Johnsonville by a Chicago based value-added protein processor OSI Industries, one of the largest privately held companies in the United States.   They boast 65 facilities and over 20,000 employees in 18 countries. They started in 1909 founded by Otto Kolschowsky as a family-owned meat market and butcher shop in the Chicago area as Otto & Sons, USA.  In 1955, they were named the first fresh beef supplier to McDonalds. They are also one of the co-manufacturers for Impossible Foods plant-based protein items.

To find a local outlet that stocks Johnsonville balls, use the company’s product locator.

I’d buy them again.

Inside the ball

Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review

 

 

 

 

 

Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review

Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review

 

My Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review – they are pre-cooked and run about $6 for 28.  That’s very competitive pricing.

They are pretty flavorful for a mass-market product.  Maybe Johnsonville could come up with a “sweet” and “hot” version like Italian sausage?  I heated them in my own sauce and served over pasta.  They are a finer grind and denser than ones I make at home.  (Recipe).

Ingredients are straightforwards,  pork, water, bread crumbs (bleached wheat flour, yeast, sugar, salt) and less than 2% of all those usual things that we have no idea what they are. Usually, mostly salt derivatives.   Happy there are no “corn syrup solids” in these guys.

This product is not in a resealable bag if that’s a consideration for your purchasing power.

Johnsonville’s balls come in a variety of styles in addition to Classic Italian, you’ll find “Homestyle,” and “Cheese Italian Style.”

You can quickly bring the balls to serving temp on the stovetop, oven, or microwave, in most cases, less than twenty minutes, shorter if thawed.

To find a local outlet that stocks the balls, use the company’s product locator.

Inside the ball

Curlys Pulled Pork Review

Curlys Pulled Pork Review

Curlys Pulled Pork Review

Curlys Pulled Pork ReviewCurlys is one of the brands of (now Chinese owned) Smithfield, the world’s largest pork processor.  They slaughter about 50,000 hogs a day to keep up with your demand for Nathans wieners, Kretschmar deli meats, Cooks hams, and many other product lines.

Curlys makes seven different BBQ products: pulled pork, beef, and chicken in sauce; sauceless versions of the pulled meats. And fully cooked whole slabs of baby back ribs.

The pulled meats are in the refrigerated or freezer cases of your grocer; they come in one pound tubs, and rings up at about .43 cents an ounce.  I purchased the pulled pork in sauce, and it can be heated (it’s fully cooked already) in the microwave or stovetop.

There’s a considerable amount of meat in the sauce.  The BBQ sauce itself is thick and fairly sweet. (Ingredient list below).  The meat has an authentic pulled ‘cue’ taste and texture.

I ladled it out onto a Turano sandwich roll, a popular Chicago brand.   It’s a bakery type roll, soft but substantial enough to hold “wet” meats. I like my BBQ sandwiches like they serve in the Southeast US, topped with slaw.

The product will appear in my kitchen again in the future, tho if I can find it, I’ll go with the sauceless choice, and try some of my own preferences, like “Carolina Gold.”

Curlys Product LocatorCoupon.

INGREDIENTS: Pork, Water, Tomato Paste, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Vinegar, Sugar, Salt, Mustard Bran, Modified Corn Starch, Natural  Smoke Flavor, Caramel Color, Spices, Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate (Preservatives), Tamarind Extract.

Curlys Pulled Pork Review

In the tub.

Curlys Pulled Pork Review

Factory in Sioux City, IA

 

 

 

 

Curlys Pulled Pork Review

Curlys Pulled Pork Review

Rex Italian Foods Review – Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review – Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, ILCouple of years ago, I was driving down one of the major north/south surface streets in Chicago, Harlem Avenue.  It’s one of the streets chock-a-block full of ethnic eating and grocery establishments, primarily Polish, but more than a couple of old-timey Italian joints.  I stopped at one, Nottoli’s, a few times in the time since that drive, they have a great selection of imported groceries and a delicious meat counter.  Here’s what I wrote about it.

I had heard about, but not visited another joint close by, Rex Italian Foods, which has counter service to eat in or take out, plus a whole host of prepared Italian specialties in bulk to take home.

I went to purchase stuff to take home, but got caught up in the energy of the regulars who were ordering food, so I had to take the plunge.  Modestly dipping my toe in, so to speak, got an order of meatballs, a side of garlic bread, and a San Pellegrino to taste.  Companion went with a Caprese Panini which she raved about.

We then loaded up on a half dozen prepared dishes to tote home, along with a few pounds of Italian sausage, some olives, and olive salad to adorn muffalettas next time I’m feeling ambitious.

I regret not purchasing more, cause it is kind of a hike from me to thee.

The meatballs were delicious, great texture, pork/beef maybe, strong flavor of herbs and fennel.  Just the way I like them, and I’m tough to please, because I make damn fine meatballs at home.  Damn fine.

I will return. I have to.  They stuff their own sausage and cook their home Italian beef.  And have been for the past sixty years or so.

Here’s a quick look inside, courtesy the daughter of the late Chicago Bear’s legend, Walter Payton.

 

Complete menu below, click on pages for better view. Catering available.  Order online for take-out.
Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, IL

 

Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, IL

 

 

Rex Italian Foods Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Rex Italian Foods Review – Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review – Norridge, IL

 

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Buona Beef Meatballs ReviewBuona Beef is a local Chicago restaurant chain, started about thirty years ago. They have been on an expansion tear recently, and it seems like they are popping up on a regular basis. As well, they have a few of their products in the grocery stores now. The chain specializes in “Chicago foods,” Italian beef sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, subs. I’ve previously written about having the beef sandwich in one of their restaurants, as well as having the same product from the grocer. Quality stuff.

They own their own manufacturing facility, where they not only make their products but also do private label business. Not sure if that’s for restaurants or groceries.

I spotted their meatballs in sauce, recently, and picked up a package to take home. It was around $7. The packages are hard frozen, so it’s best (IMHO) to let them thaw completely in the refrigerator before heating (they are pre-cooked).

The package weight is two pounds, and contains eight fairly good-sized meatballs and the marinara sauce. I did not weight the individual balls.

What’s in the Package?

Their own description of the product is: Authentic hand-rolled meatballs, seasoned with garlic, parsley, and Italian spices in a rich Marinara.

The ingredients listed on the package are thus: Marinara with Meatballs (Marinara Sauce {Fresh Vine-Ripened California Tomatoes, Sugar, Sea Salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sunflower Oil, Modified Food Starch, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Spices, Natural Flavor, Naturally Derived Citric Acid], Meatballs [Beef, Pork, Water, Romano Cheese (Cultured Cow’s Milk, Enzymes, Salt), Textured Soy Flour, Bread Crumbs (Bleached Wheat Flour, Salt, Dextrose, Yeast), Seasoning (Salt, Dried Garlic, Spice, Dried Parsley, Brown Sugar, Cottonseed Oil, Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate, Citric Acid, BHA, BHT), Ricotta Cheese (Whey, Milk, Cream, Vinegar, Salt, Stabilizers), Caramel Color]).

I was quite happy with the meatballs, they have the density, texture that I like, and great flavor. The sauce is good, but leans towards a little too much “sweet” for my personal taste, for red gravy I’m more in the heavy garlic/fennel camp.

My only real “beef” is I yearn for — say — a 24 pack of balls with no sauce. I’d be a regular. More than regular. I see their fresh (not frozen) Italian sausage in stores, as well. Haven’t tried it, but will. I go through a lot of Italian sausage in my kitchen, both link and bulk ground.

If you can’t find their products in your grocer, some of them are available for shipping on their website.

I previously reviewed one of their local restaurants.

 

 

Buona Beef Meatballs Review
Buona Beef Meatballs Review

 

Devanco Gyro Sandwich Kit Review

Devanco Gyro Kit Review

Devanco Gyro Sandwich Kit Review

As ubiquitous in Chicago as hot dogs or pizza, the gyro (however you choose to pronounce it, ”yero’, ‘jy-ro’, ‘geer-o’) is a sandwich of Greek origin consisting of vertically spit-roasted meat, cucumber sauce, onion, and tomato on a split or folded pita.

The name comes from the Greek word which means “turn” – a description of the meat roasting on the revolving vertical spit. The meat is thin sliced and placed into the folded pita with the condiments. The documented history of the sandwich dates back to the 19th century.

Chicago’s Devanco Foods is one of several large suppliers of gyro sandwich fixings; they supply to both restaurants and package in retail for purchase by consumers at groceries. The kits are “heat and eat” affairs, weighing in at one and a quarter pounds, and priced in the $6-7 range, for the smaller kit.

What’s Inside

The company makes two sizes of these kits. Contents in the smaller one include three pitas, 6 ounces of tzatziki (cucumber) sauce, and 8 ounces of gyro meat, which is beef, lamb, breadcrumbs, flavoring, and spices.  The kit is supposed to make three sandwiches, which comes out to about two bucks each, considerably less than restaurant pricing. Consumers may add tomatoes and onions to their sandwich, which they must supply from their home pantry.

The product is sold frozen (hard) and can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator. Or not. Further instructions allow for heating the thawed product in the microwave or in a skillet on a stovetop. The box further directs consumers to place ‘about’ 5 slices of meat in each sandwich. ( went with four), but was overly generous with the sauce.

Devanco Gyro Sandwich Kit Review

Assembled, prior to folding

Growing up in a small town in the Midwest, I wasn’t aware of gyros until the advent of adulthood, and later, when work took me to the Middle East, the variations became a favorite. The sandwiches were also quite plentiful when I lived in Paris, in the 10th, as our neighbors were primarily Turkish and there were a lot of shawarma/gyro shops in the neighborhood.

In addition to gyro fixings, Devanco makes other Chicago favorites, including Ditka’s Italian Beef (review), Italian Sausage, Barbecued Beef, frozen burgers from Chicago’s famous Billy Goat Tavern, and various types of Giardiniera, a pickled vegetable mix Chicagoans enjoy on hot dogs and other sandwiches.

As always, I went with stovetop prep, believing “slow and low” the key to success in the kitchen, most of the time.  I did add tomatoes and onions to my pita, which are not included.

Will you notice much of a difference between these heat and eat versions and ones you’d purchase at a shop?  Not really.  One exception would be at a shop you can ask for ‘crispy’ bits of meat, and some shops add lettuce, which I eschew on any sandwich. Devanco’s meat is tasty, they include an ample amount of cucumber sauce, and their pitas are about as good as any anywhere. Funny, near my old house in Portland there are some hummus shops, and the one that specializes in hummus has the worst pita and chips I’ve ever consumed anywhere.

Would I buy the kit again?  Absolutely!  Tasty food, great value.

Devanco Gyro Sandwich Kit Review

Included ingredients

 

Devanco Gyro Sandwich Kit Review

Devanco’s Suburban Chicago Factory

 

 

 

 

 

Devanco Gyro Sandwich Kit Review

Devanco Gyro Sandwich Kit Review

 

Lloyds Barbecue Company Review

Lloyd's Barbecue Company Review

 

Lloyds Barbecue Company Review

Lloyds Barbecue products are part of the line of Austin, MN based Hormel Foods.  I can’t say whether they started it organically or acquired it, just haven’t found that info.  The product is made and distributed out of a modern facility across the Missississippi River from the Minneapolis St Paul airport.

Lloyds Barbecue Company ReviewThey produce three different types of shredded meat in sauce – pork, beef, and chicken; and six different styles of a full slab of ribs in two different sauces, original and “Kansas City, Style.”

The product line can be found in the refrigerated section of your grocery, usually near the deli or alongside other “heat and eat” products, for both of these products are fully-cooked, and need only heating, with instructions included for your choice of heat source, microwave, stovetop, or grill.

I tried the shredded pork and the original ribs and found really no fault with either one, despite not being the world’s biggest barbecue fan.

The ribs come fully sauced, some people would probably prefer that the sauce was included but set aside so they could apply as desired.  The pulled pork is also sauced, and very finely shredded, more so than you would find in most barbecue restaurants, I suspect, or how you would prepare it at home.  The taste is fine. Again, probably pre-sauced is not the best idea.

The ribs required an hour in the oven, wrapped in foil.  The pork I did in a saucepan on the stovetop, which is really overkill, you could just pop the entire container in the microwave and it would be just fine.

The ribs were served with a side of Ore-Ida Crispy Crowns, per the diner’s request.  I piled the pork atop an “Everything Ciabatta” roll from Trader Joe’s, topped with Wal-Mart original coleslaw.  Martin’s Potato Rolls would have been a better choice than the ciabatta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lloyds Barbecue Company Review

Lloyds Barbecue Company Review

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review – With Black Garlic and Wine Risotto

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review I personally think that the sudden glut of frozen heat and eat meals at the grocery is due to the success of the “meal kit” business.

Those deals where they send you portion cut ingredients and a recipe and it’s supposed to be so easy to create a gourmet meal with no fuss.  ( I tried them when they came out, read about that here. Spendy and no less work, sez I).

So all sorts of frozen food companies have come out with meals, kits, and there are fast food branded ones, and even the big grocery chains and WalMart have their own take on the concept.

My experiment today is from the Gorton’s company, (over 150 years old)  the people you’re used to buying crispy seafood filets and fish sticks that never get crispy.  This is a shrimp bowl, with ‘black garlic and wine” (sauce) rissotto.

I know a dozen people who won’t even try risotto from scratch at home, so this is a surprise.  In smaller print, there’s a reference to ‘parmesan cheese,’ but to me, that was the predominant flavor in the rice.

Here’s the full ingredient list: (Cooked arborio rice, Shrimp (Shrimp, salt, sodium di-, tri-, and polyphosphate [to retain moisture], sodium bisulfite and sodium citrate [preservatives]), water, mushrooms (mushrooms, water, salt), olive oil, cream, Parmesan cheese (pasteurized cow’s milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, black garlic and wine seasoning (maltodextrin, dehydrated garlic, vinegar solids, modified corn starch, spices, malic acid, dehydrated parsley, black garlic powder, soy lecithin, lactic acid, jalapeño pepper, white wine solids, natural flavors), onions, corn starch, garlic (garlic, water), butter, white wine (contains sulfites), sea salt, parsley, tara gum).

There were  about 8-9 shrimp in the bowl, which are frozen solid, of course, so when you microwave (three minutes, stir, one minute) a lot of the trapped moisture in the shrimp is going to escape and they are going to shrink.  So I added a half dozen, because I had them on hand, and I could.  There are mushrooms, which retained their texture well. They look like slices of baby bellas.  The box says a “hint of parmesan” but as I said above, I think it’s a pretty dominant flavor.

The risotto was creamy as it should be and the shrimp remained very firm, as they should be too.

Bottom line?  I surprised myself and liked it.  Not sure if it’s supposed to be two servings or not, it wouldn’t have been at my house.  It was a comfortably sized serving for me.

It was $5.99 and a bogo yesterday.  There’s a coupon below you might want to try.  Their Entire product line.   Where you can pick some up.

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Frozen, out of the box

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Plated after microwave

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Coupon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Gortons Shrimp Bowl Meal Review

Jewel Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Jewel Osco Hot Food Bar Review 

First time I ever recall seeing a “hot food bar” was in the corner delis and bodegas in New York City, must have been 30-40 years ago.

That made sense, people rushing home from work, late, wanted a hot, somewhat balanced meal that they didn’t have to fuss with it.

Along came the concept of “groceraunt” (but years before that term was coined) and grocery stores started adding full service hot deli counters, which then evolved into the “bar” – a dozen or more hot entrees along with mass appeal sides – mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, stewed carrots and the like.

They accompanied fairly standard hot dishes, meatloaf, fried chicken in various forms, chicken and dumplings, stews, baked or fried fish and the like. I’m willing to be a lot of money that none of these foods are prepared in-house, but come in large tinfoil pans fully cooked, probably frozen, waiting for the “heat and eat” stage and to be dumped onto the food bar.

A giant version of TV dinners, if you will.  If it’s a large grocery, it’s likely there is an accompanying “salad bar” that also includes a half dozen soup offerings. Both the hot food and salad are priced by the pound, and it varies depending on the chain and the zip code.  I’ve seen them from $6- $9 per pound. (Expert tip – “liquid” has weight. Watch that you keep liquid accompanying your entree or side to a minimum.

There are only two or three massive grocery holding companies any more, they’ve gone out and bought all the regional chains up. Jewel-Osco, in the Upper Midwest, is part of Albertson’s, which is part of SuperValu.  Then there is Kroger Company, which owns a gaggle of brands, and of course WalMart and the member only clubs. Jewel Osco, was originally the grocery chain “Jewel T” and Osco was a drug store chain. They are co-located and co-named now, obviously.

If I’m ever in the mood for the hot bar concept, I limit my grazing to the upmarket groceries, Whole Foods or regional choices. Better quality, larger variety, but more expensive, of course. Whereas your regular grocery might have beef burger tomato goulash, the upmarket places are going to offer pad thai and that type of thing.

So passing by one of my local Jewel-Oscos (I purposely avoid them, they are spendy compared to competitors, and with no real right to be spendy, plus their big “sale” prices, especially the BOGOs are hilariously dishonest), I thought I’d graze the hot bar just for something to write about.

Friday is “wing day” apparently and they were offering maybe eight different styles of chicken wings, and a couple types of “boneless wings” which aren’t wings at all, are they?

So I retried some “Buffalo” boneless wings,  meatballs in marinara, and fried cod (hey, it is lent).  My feelings about the dishes are as follows:

Why do they call them “boneless wings?” I realize anything “nugget” related is associated with McD, but why not bits? Mini tenders?  Something. The buffalo flavoring wasn’t.  I think they mixed up the trays, and what I ended up having was boneless wings of General Tso variety. They were sweet, with a little heat, and deep fried.  Not a trace of buffalo seasoning flavor.  These weren’t billed as “all white meat” because they weren’t. There was some white, some grey, whatever that was.  Diced chicken parts rolled together in the batter.

Meatball.  Zero flavor, very dense.  Now it wasn’t billed as “Italian” but swimming in a red sauce, one might (like me) assume it would be Italian, but no garlic, oregano, basil, fennel. Just meat. Of an unknown origin.  I’m gonna go with pork, because of the color.  No noticeable bread crumbs or filler.

Fried cod. Like the chicken, these are bits of fish rolled into a batter and fried.  It was the best of the three things I tried, and I’m not a big cod fan, but on any Friday night in Chicagoland or Southern Wisconsin, you’ll see restaurant offering all you can eat cod, fried or baked, at a pretty low price. There must be a lot of cod left in the ocean, though Newfoundlanders would disagree with you.

That’s about it for the Jewel Osco hot food bar.  I won’t make it a regular thing.

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Meatball

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Meatball, Dissected

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Boneless “Wings”

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Inside a “Wing”

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Fried cod

 

Jewel-Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Deep inside a fish

Jewel Osco Hot Food Bar Review

Jewel Osco Hot Food Bar Review

 

 

Richards Cajun Foods Review – Heat and Eat Meals

Richards Cajun Foods ReviewI was suprised to find Richard’s Heat and Eat Cajun foods in a grocer a thousand miles from Louisiana.

It’s not a big company, tho it is on its second private equity owner in a decade, so maybe they have a line on some distribution.

Richard’s is a pretty small company, in a pretty small town in Louisiana, Church Point, population about 5 thou, twenty mile or so NW of Lafayette.  It started in the 80s, so it doesn’t have the longevity of its many competitors (there are over 200 small food companies in Louisiana), not even the legs of Savoie’s – a much larger concern, ten miles east in Opelousas. They’re about twice as old as Richard’s at least.

If you’re the adventurous DIY type, Richard’s has some recipes on YouTube.

I picked up their Etoufee and their Gumbo.  Both are in microwave proof bowls with a cello covering, and should be ready from the microwave in about 5-6 minutes.

Given a choice of microwave, oven or stove top for products like this, I’ll usually opt for non-microwave, but I wanted to see how this worked.  Spoiler alert? It didn’t work.

Instructions were to nuke for 3 minutes, stir, nuke for another 2-3 minutes, let sit a minute before consuming. After the first 3 minutes, still hard as a rock. After the second 3, no improvement.  No, it’s not the microwave, it’s brand new.

So I plopped them into a sauce pan and for the first time, could see the contents. 90% by weight has to be the rice, which cost them about a nickel. A minimum amount of the required “holy trinity” of Cajun vegetables.  A 2-3 shrimps in each dish. Small shrimps, maybe 60-90 size. The gumbo could pass for etoufee or jambalaya, as there was no liquid in it. WTF?

OK, you’re asking, where are the pics of the finished product, plated?  I didn’t plate them. I had a spoonful of each and passed. Rare for me, I’ll eat anything.

You should pass to. Anytime you see private equity move into an industry, you can count on two things. Cutting costs, raising prices. I say that from experience, because not only have I had Richard’s product before and found it perfectly acceptable, but I’ve been in their factory and watched it being made (some years back).

So if you want frozen eat and eat Cajun meals, I have two suggestions. Go with Savoie’s if your grocer carries it, or ask them to get it or buy it online direct.  I also like Chef John Folse’s products, which are available from CajunGrocer.com, a company I’ve used many times with great satisfaction.

There ya having it.  No “mukbang” of Cajun tv dinners for you today!

P.S. I am a big fan, YUGE, of Savoie’s various smoked meats. Especially their andouille, tasso and venison.  The pic below of their facility is deceiving. They started selling out of the little roadside market that you see there, and kept adding on and on and on, so out of sight there is a very modern USDA inspecting processing plant.  Yo, Freddie!

 

Richards Cajun Foods Review

Out of the box, prior to heating

Richards Cajun Foods Review

Richard’s Plant

Richards Cajun Foods Review

Savoie’s

 

 

 

 

 

Richards Cajun Foods Review

Richards Cajun Foods Review

 

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