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Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

Odoms Tennessee Pride Sausage Gravy

Odom's Sausage Gravy ReviewPicked this frozen packet up on a whim.  Now part of the food giant ConAgra, which was started in Nebraska in 1919 by four farmers who merged a few small town grain elevators.  Today ConAgra does $14 billion a year, with oh so familiar brands:  Hebrew National, Hunts, PAM, Jiffy Pop, Peter Pan, Banquet, Bertolli, Parkay, Wesson, Libby’s, Marie Callenders, Slim Jims….. and Odom’s Tennessee Pride.

This frozen packed can be heated in the microwave in seconds, ready to use a side or ladle over your momma’s home made biscuit recipe.

Ingredients include water, flour, spices, corn syrup, milk, MSG,  pork. sugar and more stuff.

Hard to find the bits of sausage in this gravy, and it could use more pepper for my taste. It’s rather gelatinous in texture and kind of a funky color.  I guess it serves a purpose, fast and cheap if that’s what you’re looking for.   Fast and cheap doesn’t suit me for gravy.  Wives, yes. Gravy, no.  I’d rather take the time to make it.

Pick some of this up if you’re desperate.  (I added the black pepper here).

Odom's Sausage Gravy Review

 

 

 

Odoms Tennessee Pride Sausage Gravy Review

Jack Links Smoked Sausage Review

I’ve previously puked out a lot of words on the Jack Link company, which went from a teeny tiny country butcher shop in a teeny tiny Wisconsin town to a global powerhouse manufacturers and distributor of meat snacks.   I even stopped by their outlet store, near their original factory in Minong, Wisconsin last year.  It’s about 30 miles south of Duluth-Superior on U.S. 53.

The company has prospered and prospered, and grown despite all the odds against them, their small town origin and the usual family in-fighting and lawsuits that often occur in a closely held company.

Jack Link’s has come out with a line of smoked sausages in different flavors.  They’re pretty good-sized, four to a 12 ounce package and sell for around $4.00.  So they are about a buck apiece, which is also about what I pay for my favorite natural casing wieners.

I picked up the ‘regular flavor’ rolled a couple in the cast iron to heat them up.  (Smoked products are generally full cooked, as are these).

I have an opinion or two about the sausages.  They are made for Jack Link by a contract manufacturer near Green Bay called Salm Partners; the company was started by four brothers and a co-hort in 2004, to take advantage of ultra-new technology in the sausage and wiener business, including ‘spray out’ collagen casings and cooking in the package technology.  In a video on their website, Salm says these processes make a product preferred by customers and that have a longer shelf life.   The factory is located at 70 Woodrow Street, Denmark, WI .

Sidebar:  the package makes a couple of claims:  “no fillers” and “hardwood smoke.”   These are some of the undoubtedly unregulated terms in the food industry,

To me, some of the stated ingredients (corn syrup solids, hydrolyzed corn protein) ARE fillers.   Hydrolyzed corn protein is a kind of MSG, but to my understanding is rarely used in foods, due to its strong fermented flavor. As for “hardwood smoked?”  The manufacturer’s video clearly shows the ‘smoking process’ at their plant is a shower of liquid smoke, which to me, isn’t “hardwood smoked.” There are plenty of manufacturers out there still smoking with wood.

It’s the same problem I have with restaurants who have “Kobe Hamburgers” on their menu, or that call California sparkling wines “Champagne.”  Bullshit.

The collagen casing on this sausage is very light, not much snap, which is why I prefer natural casings.  The flavor?  Kinda weird, to me.  In my opinion, smoked sausages should be ‘smokier’ and have a distinctive flavor from spices.  The biggest flavor I get out of this sausage comes from the soy sauce powder ingredient.  Just doesn’t fit.

There are dozens of choices for smoked sausage buyers;  this one (nor Guy Fieri’s) shouldn’t show up on your shopping list.

Jack Link Sausage Review

Jack Link Sausage Review

 

Jack Links Smoked Sausage Review

Chicago Fire Mexican Casserole Recipe

A Chicago fireman taught me this, he used to make it for his station mates when it was his turn to cook.  There’s really nothing “Mexican” about it, it’s just what he called it.   It’s fast, filling, and covers the food groups.

Ingredients

  • 2 tubes Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (don’t try generic, trust me)
  • 2 Cups cooked chicken, chopped in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup (do not dilute)
  • 1/2 C sliced jalapenos
  • 2 C your choice cheese (if you use ‘taco-seasoned’ cheese, it is “kinda” Mexican).

Prep

  • Pre heat oven to 350
  • Spray non-stick in a 13X9 baking pan
  • Unroll the crescent rolls, place flat on work surface.
  • On each piece of roll, put a dollop of soup, some jalapenos, chicken and cheese
  • Roll them up and place them symmetrically in the baking pan
  • Drop teaspoons of the soup between the crescent rolls
  • Cover with cheese and decorate with more jalapeno slices
  • Sprinkle paprika on cheese for browning if desired
  • 45 minutes in the oven will do
  • Place under broiler last couple minutes if you are so inclined

Will make 6-8 servings. Easy peasy!

Mexican Casserole Recipe

“Mexican” Chicken Casserole Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mexican Casserole Recipe

“Boy Scout” Pepperoni Snack Stick Review

Country Meats Snack SticksWhen I was in Boy Scouts, we had two fund raising events per year; in the summer we went door to door and sold packs of light bulbs, in winter we sold Christmas wreaths.  I have no idea if we raised any significant amount of money, but if we did, it was supposed to support the troop and summer camping programs.

The last few years, pretty much everywhere I see scouts hocking goodies on the sidewalk, it’s been tubs of popcorn. (unpopped).  I remember the brand as being “Trail’s End” and I see that’s a division or subsidiary of Pop Weaver Popcorn, out of Indiana.

I think Scouting is a good thing, and I try and buy the popcorn when I see it available.  Besides, I like Pop Weaver corn.  They have it at Wal-Mart, and the microwave one is a bargain compared to say, Pop Secret.

Today I saw Scouts selling jerky and pepperoni snack sticks, loaded up on a few, glanced at the package and see they are made in Ocala, FL by a company called Country Meats, who appears to only be in the fundraising segment, offering many different flavors of snack sticks.

The pepperoni ones have an impressive list of ingredient:  pork, salt, spices, and natural smoke flavoring.  That’s substantially it.  And they are damned tasty. I like Slim Jim’s and Jack Links, but they are mostly beef sticks, so to have a pepperoni pork one suits me fine. The snack has great flavor and a nice grind, the collagen casing gives a nice snap reminiscent of a natural casing.

Apparently, you can do business with Country Meats if you want to have a fundraising deal for your organization. A case contains 144 snack sticks and is yours for $89, with a suggestion you sell them for a buck apiece. You can order online.  Country Meats operates a USDA inspected facility at 7650 SW 75th Avenue, Ocala FL.    They even have a YouTube video to show you how they are made (below).  I like transparency, especially in the food industry.

Snack Stick Review

Orv’s Pizza Review

Orv's Frozen Pizza ReviewOrv’s Pizza was originally from Kaukauna, WI, and may still be produced there, but it’s now under the ownership of Minneapolis pizza company Bernatellos, that also makes and sells  Roma and Brew Pub  brands.

I wonder if Kaukauna Cheese is still made in Kaukauna?   Hold on.  OK, seems like its still made nearby, but now owned by a cheese brand collecting company from Chicago.  (BTW, cheese company, I see you also hold Merkt’s, which I prefer, especially for burgers.

Wow, talk about careening wildly off track!

This Orv’s “Tasty Toppings”  Sausage & Pepperoni Think Crust weighs in at a hair over one pound, and they were on sale today at 2 $8.00.  That’s about the right price-point for the weight.   I’m having a hard time seeing any quantity of  sausage, and they may have missed a few spots with the “Real Cheese,” (as is noted on the front of the package.

BTW, before I tell you what I thought of the experience, I give the company props for the ‘real’ ingredients.   Sausage is pork and seasonings, pepperoni is pork, beef, and seasonings, and tomato sauce is just….tomato sauce.  So they got that going for them.

The pepperoni slice was paper thin.  Say have you seen Jack Link’s is making thick “crinkle cut” pepperoni?  Ain’t that interesting?  Saw it at that store that John Boy and Mary Ellen started….you know, the Waltons?  Right.

So how is Orv’s pizza?  The thin crust is crispy, the tomato sauces leans towards being more sweet than savory and I think they shouldn’t be so stingy with the cheese.   I’d say this pizza belongs at the top end of the budget lines like Totino’s, Jeno’s, and no-name brands, but even at this sale price, is pretty spendy for that category.   I tried the parent company’s premium pie, Bellatoria Ultra Thin Sausage Italia, about six months ago, and it was pretty ok. 

425 at 10-12 minutes brought the result shown below.

Orv's Frozen Pizza Review

“Tasty Toppings”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bernatellos, Bellatoria, Roma, Brew Pub

 

Orv’s Pizza Review

Friendly Farms Cottage Cheese Review

Friendly Farms Cottage CheeseI love cottage cheese – not that lowfat crap, but delicious creamy max fat small curd. I use it as a dip for ruffled potato chips and tell myself I’m eating healthy. I usually sprinkle a little Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning on the top.

Friendly Farms cottage cheese is another in-house product from Aldi, the German discount food chain scattered across the US.  I’ve reviewed some of their stuff before.  Generally for “staples,”  you can’t beat Aldi in price, except at the Dollar Store, which has become my new “go-to” place for tomato juice, chicken and beef broth.  They’re a buck. :-)

You can check where your dairy products originate (you’ll probably want the producer to be as close to you  as possible) by deciphering the numeric production code on the carton or bottle.  It is usually near the expiration date in the format of XX-XXX or similar.

Then you trot over to this website and enter the code. Voila!  So I find out this cottage cheese is packaged for Aldi by a company called PET O’Fallon, outside of St. Louis and seemingly a part of Dean Foods, one of the nation’s largest food producers, and a company with a pretty boring website.

I’m picky about cottage cheese, and I like this one.  Since it is from Aldi, it’s a great value too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

friendly farms cottage cheese

Schaumburg, IL – To Pho Review

I used to work for a company that was owned by a reclusive jillionaire. My office was in Europe, but I maintained a household in the Chicago area that I would escape to on occasion.  On one of those occasions, I got a call from a couple of my superiors at the company, direct connections to the recluse, and they asked me to meet them.  I did.  When I inquired why, they said the man owned Woodfield Shopping Center and had never seen it, so they were gonna go kick the tires and report back.  At the time, Woodfield was the largest and finest mall in the country, and the centerpiece of Schaumburg, a Chicago suburb about ten miles west of O’Hare.  Schaumburg exists primarily to house corporate headquarters, shopping and dining outlets.  I’ve never actually met someone FROM there.

I digress.  I was in Schaumburg, and feelin’ my combo urges of Asian and French, we headed for To Pho to satisfy my craving for a Bahn Mi, and Mrs Burgerdogboy’s favorite  - pho.  (Still don’t know how to pronounce that?  it’s basically said “FAH.”)

It’s  a small place in Schaumburg, where fancy pants restaurants lean towards places like Mortons and Ruths, and casual places are more along the lines of Hooters  or Buffalo Wild Wings.

It was immaculate, and we were seated and waited on promptly.  I opted for the special pork  Bahn Mi, with pork roll, ham, and pork belly, dressed as per tradition with mayo, shredded carrot, cilantro, cucumber and daikon (Asian radish). The baguette used was spot on perfect, could have been from a street bakery in Paris.  Flaky soft exterior, soft as butter in July inside.

Mrs. Burgerdogboy must have not been feeling rightly, as her usual tact is to cram as many calories into a meal as possible, so usually she would have gone with the pho that had beef and pork, and she would have ordered a double side of extra fat back.  But she had the chicken.  The broth is served with traditional accompaniments, including  lime, sprouts, basil, and cilantro.  In the broth with the rice noodles and chicken were green onions.  She be a soup fiend!  I have seen her take an entire week’s worth of groceries and make them into a single bowl.  Truly a magic act (except for trying to figure out dinner for the balance of the week).

We had the spring rolls as a starter, shrimp and pork mixed with rice noodles  and sprouts with a side of peanut sauce.  The  rice paper wrappers were clear and tightly wound.

This place is great. Ultra fresh, great value for the money.   Plus if you buy four sammiches, you get one free!  The restaurant is in a strip mall at 823  E. Algonquin Road in Schaumburg.  Neighbors in the mall include a Chinese restaurant, liquor store, tarot reader and a Subway.

Here’s the full menu.  And now, back to the new farm.  I’ll start a new site / blog about that soon. I’m definitely old, and definitely not “McDonald.”

To Pho Bahn Mi Review

Special Pork Bahn Mi

 

To Pho Review

Chicken Pho

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Pho Review

Algonquin, IL – Algonquin Mexican Restaurant Review

Back in Chicagoland for the last time this year, had a craving for Mexican food since Mrs. Burgerdogboy has been on a cooking strike lately and she makes some fine Mexican platos.

I was out in the NW burbs, some areas of which are increasingly populated with people of various Latin heritages, and mercados and taquerias are popping up like pop-ups.

Not wanting to cause confusion among any potential customers, one entrepreneur labeled his restaurant as plain as plain could be: “Algonquin Mexican Restaurant.” (AMR)

With tables that will accommodate thirty and a counter with room for eight more, the AMX serves breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday with hours from 10A – 8 PM. They were doing a brisk take-out business, but I was in the mood to be waited on, so I took a seat a booth looking out at the Algonquin intersection the corners of “Road Construction” and “Needs Road Construction.” The gajillion dollar downtown bypass appears that it will take another generation of works before it is actually finished, and from where I sit, will do little do alleviate the REAL area traffic problems, which are East – West, while the bypass is north-south. DOH!

The menu is straight forward and straight Mexican. Order ala carte or a plate which includes beans and rice.  (Me and the Mrs were forever spoiled by the refried beans in Aberdeen, WA one day).   Turns out tho that these were pretty tasty.  I wish I had ordered an additional side of them. (The ones in Aberdeen were so tasty we ate two orders at the table and got an order to go).

Polished off the complimentary chips and pico, and then  I ordered three tacos, chorizo, shredded beef, and ground beef.  Chicken, steak, pork, and pork skin were other options.  No tongue here.  I thoroughly enjoyed the tacos, even tho I had them with the gringo flour tortilla.  They come loaded with lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. A second “filling” option is straight chopped onion and cilantro.  Should have tried that.

In order of favorite – chorizo one, then shredded beef, and lastly ground beef.  The accompanying rice was nothing to write home (or here about) so i won’t.  I rarely eat rice as a side anymore. Can’t say why and sure you don’t care.

Circumstances were such that I spent a fair amount of time in Mexico this year, and of course little North of the border can match local street food in Juarez or TJ,  just like after living in China I was spoiled to that type of food in the US.

But in any case, if you happen to be driving around the NW burbs, or live in Algonquin, Dundee, Lake in the Hills or Crystal Lake, the Algonquin Mexican Restaurant is worth a stop with freshly prepared food at great prices.   I’ve posted there menu over in our menu section, check it out.

Algonquin Mexican Restaurant Review

Pico

 

Algonquin Mexican Restaurant Review

3 Taco Plate

 

Algonquin Mexican Restaurant Review

Storefront

 

 

 

 

 
Algonquin Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Algonquin Mexican Restaurant Review

Making Hot Dog Recipes at Home – From Scratch!

Stuff it!  (Your own sausages).  It’s not that hard, I do it a couple times a year, though it is definitely an easier task if you have a partner or two helping.

I’m not going to go through the whole process here, you’ll have to decide whether to use all beef, beef and pork, or poultry as a meat base, and whether to grind it at home or purchase pre-ground meat.  There are simple manual stuffing tools (I sometimes use a modified caulking gun), or attachments for devices like KitchenAid mixers.  You’ll have to learn about and purchase casings, natural or made from collagen.

This article is just focused on the seasoning mix, a very traditional hot dog flavor.  Here are the ingredients for 20 pounds of franks, cut down the recipe proportionately for less meat.

Ingredients

4 Level tsp. INSTACURE #1 (add only if smoking the sausages) 
8 Tb. Paprika
12 Tb. Ground Mustard
2 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
2 tsp. Ground White Pepper 
2 tsp. Ground Celery Seeds
2 Tb. Mace
2 tsp. Garlic Powder
8 Tb. Salt
4 Cups Non-Fat Dry Milk or Soy Protein Concentrate
8 Tb. Powdered Dextrose
4 Cups of Ice Water

Mix the dry ingredients and crush as needed with a mortar and pestle, and then  you’re going to blend these ingredients into your meat mixture making sure it is thoroughly distributed throughout the slurry. You’ll be much happier if you allow the mix to sit in the frig overnight so that all the flavors fully take, but it’s not absolutely essential.

From there, you’ll embark on the stuffing part of the task, and either refrigerate the finished franks, freeze some, or put them on the smoker before storage for additional old world flavor.

Home stuffed wieners

hot dog recipes

Applegate Naturals Uncured Genoa Salami Review

I’m not sure how many consumers even know what the word “uncured” means when they see it on processed meat packages, like deli meats, hot dogs, ham and bacon.   I am also not sure where there is an “official” government definition, but I personally take it to mean free of the preservatives generally found in such products, like sodium nitrites and nitrates.

Often, in my reading, I have seen references to these types of meats being ‘cured’ by celery juice or celery juice powder, substances which contain nitrates naturally.  Uncured meats must be kept refrigerated or they will spoil.

Applegate Farms makes a living selling uncured, natural, and organic meat products from a variety of protein sources. They say they source their meat from sources that raise animals humanely and do not use antibiotics.

In addition to the products mentioned in the first sentence, Applegate Farms also markets poultry products, including chicken sausages and turkey “burgers.”  They are based in New Jersey and have been around 25 years or so.  On the packaging, their UPC code is also used as a “barn code” and tells you where the meat was sourced.  In the case of my purchase, Uncured Genoa Salami,” apparently the pork came from farms in South Dakota, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Ontario and Quebec.

The label says the pork was raised on “sustainable family farms in a stress-free environment that promotes natural behavior and socialization.”   Another thing I have no idea what it means, other than perhaps the piggies are allowed to socialize on Facebook prior being driven off to the kill zone.

After the piggies socialized, they went on a  (albeit brief) vacation to California, where (according to the USDA establishment number) they were manufactured into salami by Busseto Foods in Fresno, CA, decidedly a giant among pork producers.   In fact, their Genoa salami looks very similar to Applegate’s.

I’m one of those consumers that doesn’t really care if animals we’re going to kill are ‘raised humanely,” as it seems like a contradiction anyway.  At my age, I also don’t care about whether or not I ingest preservatives, maybe more of them will actually keep me on the planet a little longer.

What I care about, particularly with salami, is appearance, taste, texture and value.  Applegate meets the first three of those categories excellent, but at near $20 a pound, value isn’t at the top of their game.  But then, all meat is expensive now.  Seems to me like it dramatically shoots up weekly.

Bottom line, would I buy Applegate salami again? Yep.  It’s tasty, no matter how the piggies were raised or what they ‘et’ prior to my chowing down on them.

Postscript:   By coincidence, the following day I spotted Busseto’s product in another store, at the equivalent of $10 a pound.  Not organic, not uncured, but are those designators worth twice the price?  Not to me.

Applegate Farms Uncured Genoa Salami

 

Applegate Farms Uncured Genoa Salami

 

Applegate Farms Salami

Bussseto Brand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Applegate Naturals Uncured Genoa Salami

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