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Archive for the ‘Other’ 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

Matt’s Zion Cookies Review

Matt's Fig BarsUntil the late 19th century, physicians thought most physical maladies were related to digestion, and recommended daily doses of biscuits and fruit.  A Philadelphia baker,  Charles Roser, invented a machine and process that would insert fig filling into a pastry dough.   Kennedy Biscuit Company, out of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, purchased the recipe and began mass production in 1891.  The name “Newton” was taken from the nearby town of Newton, MA.

Kennedy Biscuit developed a relationship with New York Biscuit Company, and they merged to become Nabisco, and shortly thereafter trademarked the name “Fig Newtons.”   Now stuffed with different fruit fillings, Nabisco recently dropped the word “Fig” from the name; the cookies are now known just as “Newtons” and are sold in 12 oz packages as well as individual snack packs.

Whew.  That’s a lot of words just to tell you I like Fig Newtowns and tried a different brand this week.  Nabisco’s run between $3.50 and $5.00 for the 12 oz packages.  Imagine my delight to find a local Chicago brand, “Matt’s Zion,” selling for about three and a half bucks for a one and three quarter pound package!

Matt’s cranks out 20,000 pounds of different kinds of cookies every day, at their factory in Wheeling, IL.  They’ve been doing it since 1980.

I picked up the raspberry ones, and the ingredients are thus: Figs, corn syrup, unbleached wheat flour, sugar, flaked corn, baking oil (palm, soybean, canola), corn sugar, salt, baking soda, citric acid, vanilla, natural flavor & color.  That’s about as pure a recipe as one can find for shelf-stable baked goods.  They use all natural ingredients, and their cookies are Kosher Pareve.

These are damned good, and a great value.  Nice consistency on the fig paste, and great natural raspberry flavor.  Find some if you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt’s Zion Cookies 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

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

Bremer Lasagna Review

We can probably file this one under my heading of “things I’ve tried so you don’t have to.”   I have written about products from Aldi before, the large German based grocery corporation that also owns Trader Joes.  Aldi sell most their own label of foods, manufactured for them by the “big guys” but heavily discounted.  Shop only at Aldi and you can probably save 25-30% off your grocery bill.  Supplement your Aldi trips with getting your staples at dollar stores, and you’ll save even more.

I’m not much for frozen or canned pasta “meals”, but somebody dropped by an Aldi brand lasagna, which is branded “Bremers,” but according to the USDA plant number on the package, is made by Chicago’s “On-Cor.”  I shouldn’t be surprised, the packaging is very similar and the contents and dietary label are identical.

As always, I went with the oven style prep instead of microwaving, which took about 45 minutes.  Below are pix of the package, the frozen product, and the plated product (with added Parmesan) and the street in Chicago where the product was born.

How was it?  Surprisingly meatier than I expected, yet for some reason, I find all pre-prepared Italian and Mexican foods (especially Hormel Tamales) to have a slight “burn” to the tomato sauce which I personally find unappealing.  I can’t really identify the source of that discomfort for me, just has always been that way.

In any regards, would I buy it again?  Well, yes, over big name brands like Stouffers, it’s just a much better value.

But nobody, but nobody makes lasagna better than Mrs. BurgerDogBoy, unless she tries to slip in turkey Italian sausage.

Bremer Lasagna Review

 

Bremer Lasagna Review

(Added Parmesan)

 

 

 

 

 

 

bremer lasagna review

Chef Movie Review

I seldom write about movies, but every once and awhile, (“Big Night”, “Hyde Park on the Husdon“) there’s one with significant food content or a subject that resonates with me on some level, so I utter a few words about it. In the case of the movie “Chef”, I suspect this missive might be lengthy, as there were a number of elements in the story line that meant something to me.

The film, described in the trades as a “small indie”, was written, directed and stars Jon Favreau, who cut his acting chops in similar small indies, before moving behind the camera and directing blockbusters like “Iron Man” 1 and II, and some other big hits, as well as some not so hits (“Cowboys and Aliens”).

Chef tells the story of Los Angeles chef Carl Casper, stymied in his career while heading a semi-posh L.A. eatery owned by autocrat  “Riva: played by Dustin Hoffman. Previously lauded by critics for his kitchen creativity, Caspar is now locked in an artistic battle with Hoffman’s character, who insists on keeping the menu as it always has been, and not allowing Caspar the artistic kitchen freedom he was offered when hired.

After Rivas’s menu and Caspar’s prep get a scathing review from food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), Caspar discovers he has the ability to rebut the review via social media, a tool previously unknown  to Caspar. He gets pointers from his eleven year old son, from whom he is somewhat estranged.

The result is Caspar “got quit” from the restaurant, and his ex wife suggests he get back to his passion, cooking food he loves, and go the food truck route. Pooh poohing the suggestion at first, Caspar eventually warms up to the idea, flies to Miami to meet with his ex’s first ex (Robert Downey, Jr) who finances the food truck operation, the cuisine of which focuses on Caspar’s Miami roots, as well as those of his Cuban ex-wife.

I won’t go any further into the plot other than to say Caspar gets the truck rolling, and heads across the country with his former sous chef (John Leguizamo), and Caspar’s son, and along the journey makes the all important discovery of “what’s important in life.”

It’s a funny, sometimes poignant movie, worth seeing, especially for restaurant workers and self-proclaimed foodies.

Caspar’s food truck offering is a Cuban Sandwich, on my top three list of favorite things between bread. Here’s a typical recipe.

Chef Movie Review

Cuban Sandwich @ Versailles

Featured in the flick is the Versaille  restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana, but they could have used  one of the locations of a small chain  of the same name in Los Angeles, Versailles, who have a garlic chicken and roasted pork in garlic sauce that are so good they will make you cry.  I’ve had many great meals at the L.A. Versailles, and two of the worst social occasions of my life.

Among my favorite bits in the movie are a stop in New Orleans,  one of the places I hang my hat these days, and a pop into Austin’s red hot Aaron Franklin’s  BBQ shop, which is open Tues – Sun for lunch only, from 11 AM until they are sold out.  Spectacular ‘cue.

Side note:  A few weeks ago, on a different site, I said I was completely over movie and tv shows that showed Twitter messages or IMs on the screen as plot devices or dialogue.  That gimmick is featured prominently in “Chef”, but it’s necessary to the plot line, and they made it ‘cute’ by including an animation of the Twitter bird.

Here’s the movie trailer.

 

 

 

 

 

Chef Movie Review

Chef Movie Review

Opaa Gyros Kit Review

Opaa Brand Gyros ReviewA few weeks ago, I reviewed the home gyros package from Chicago manufacturer Devanco; today I checked out a competing brand, Opaa! from another Chicago company called Grecian Delight.

Opaa is priced about 30 % less than Devanco, but the contents reflect that as well.  Both kits have claims on the box of the contents making six sandwiches.   The difference is Opaa contains a third less meat, fifty percent less sauce and pitas (3 split instead of 6 whole).

I don’t recall looking at the meat content on the Devanco box;  usually this stuff is beef and lamb with seasonings, and while the Opaa box states those ingredients, the lamb is waaaaaaaaaaaaay down the list, so – maybe – less than two percent by weight.

But what matters is taste, right?  I called the Devanco “just like you get in a gyro shop,” and I stick to that claim.

The Opaa?  I like it.  Good value.  Meat might be a little spicier than Devanco, but the sauce is tamer.  It’s all gonna come down to you deciding do you want a full size folded over gyro, or a half size split?

If the latter, then the Devanco kit will make 12, and becomes a better value.

Oh, where are they made?  According to the USDA stamp, in Elk Grove Village, IL, about a mile west of the O’hare runway (pic below).

At the bottom of the page is a YouTube video I found of a couple of guys demonstrating assembly of this product.

 

Opaa Brand Gyros Review

Frozen Contents

 

Opaa Brand Gyros Review

Made Up Sandwiches (add tomatoes and onion)

 

Opaa Brand Gyros Review

Gyro Factory

 

Opaa Gyros Kit Review

Southern Fried Chicken Recipe

Mrs. Burgerdogboy asked me to take a whack at fried chicken; usually we’d head to that chain the late New Orleanian Al Copeland created – Popeye’s, but it was one of those (one?) gloomy Portland days and we were resolved to (mostly) not leave the bedroom.

So here’s my concocted recipe, which turned out real well, by all accounts.

Ingredients

  • 8  Chicken pieces of  your choice with bones-in, skin removed (if that’s your preference)
  • 1/2 C half and half creamer
  • 1 C Zatarain’s Spicy Fish Fri
  • 1 C Panko
  • 2 T Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning
  • 1 T Garlic powder
  • 1 T black pepper
  • 1 T paprika
  • Peanut oil or lard

Instructions

Combine dry ingredients in plastic bag. Wash chicken thorough, pat dry and dip in half and half, let excess liquid run off.  Toss the chicken vigorously in the plastic bag with the dry ingredients.

Fry, bone side down, in a cast iron skillet for 15 minutes.  Flip chicken once and fry for another 15 minutes.  Remove chicken from fry pan, place on baking sheet, and finish in oven at 350 for 20 minutes.

Crispy outside, juicy, flavorful meat inside.   “Louisiana fast!”

Fried chicken recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southern Fried Chicken Recipe

Iowa Machine Shed Review

Iowa Machine Shed Review“Dedicated to the American Farmer” – was the slogan of a restaurant we used to pop into in Davenport Iowa.  The “Iowa Machine Shed”, just outside of town, served wholesome American food in large quantities.   We had moved to Davenport to build the first radio station I owned.  Back in Marconi days.   Today there are a half dozen Machine Shed restaurants in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The restaurant cooks from scratch and uses top notch suppliers.  Some people might compare it to Cracker Barrel, and I guess there is a similarity, but Machine Shed is better, in my opinion.

These places seat a big mess o people, so remember that when setting out to visit.  They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with slightly different menus at each meal.

After your drink orders are taken, the server will bring the table complimentary “fixins”, which is comprised of an ample bread basket with super soft large dinner rolls, a family sized bowl of slaw and one of cottage cheese.  I love cottage cheese, and this has to be some of the best I have had, ever, anywhere.  High milk fat content, small curd.

This trip, I ordered the country fried chicken, which was nice and crisp on the outside and juicy inside.  Dinners come with a vegetable and your choice of a large variety of spud preparations.  I got fries and some nice gravy to go with it.

If you’re in for breakfast, or need a little sweet thing (besides Mrs. Burgerdogboy), they have these massive breakfast rolls in a couple of different varieties, and I swear, they must weigh two pounds.

Next time I zip through the Upper Midwest, I’ll angle to hit a Machine Shed at breakfast, as they have a platter which covers all the breakfast pork options.  Nice.  And BTW?  There is no better place to be during summers in America than the farm belt.  County fairs, small town festivals, block parties.  The best.

Typical dinner menu.

Iowa Machine Shed Review

Complimentary “fixins”

 

Iowa Machine Shed Review

Country Fried Chicken

 

The Machine Shed on Urbanspoon

 

Iowa Machine Shed Review

Timballo Recipe

Timpano (Timballo) Recipe

In one of the best “foodie” movies ever made, The Big Night, Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub (“Monk”) try to save their failing restaurant by putting on the feast of all feasts to impress Louis Prima, who they have heard is coming to visit. One good word from him, they figure, and all will be right with the world.

One of the dishes they create is the “timpano”, a traditional holiday feast in Italy, featuring pasta, meat, cheese and sauce baked in a pastry shell.

Here’s my version:

Ingredients:

  • 1 ball pizza dough
  • 3 Italian sausages (cooked), thin sliced on a bias
  • 36 meatballs (cooked) sliced in half
  • 32 oz shredded Italian cheeses
  • 1 c tomato sauce (toss the cooked pasta in it)
  • 1 package of salami or prosciutto
  • 10” glass or steel pan, preferably domed
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • ½ package dry ziti
  • Fresh basil leaves (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Cook the pasta and drain while you are waiting for the oven to preheat.

Roll out pizza dough, large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the pan, reserving enough to make a cap. Butter the dish and the outside of the dough.

Now you are going to layer the ingredients as if you were making a parfait, beginning and ending with the pasta. Pasta, meat, sauce, cheese. Repeat, ending with a layer of pasta. Place the dough cap on the timpano, cover, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove cover and bake another 45 minutes.

Remove from oven, let cool in pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a plate. Let cool another ten minutes before slicing like pieces of cake. Drizzle additional tomato sauce and decorate slice with basil leaves.

Variants: Some recipes use a layer of quartered hard boiled eggs; others use layers of peas or other vegetables.

Shortcuts: I made everything from scratch here (except the pasta) but you don’t have to. You could purchase pre-cooked meatballs. You might also try the pre-cooked lasagna noodles in criss-crossed strips in the pan in lieu of the pizza dough for an interesting effect.

 

 

Timpano Recipe

Ball of pizza dough

 

 

 

Timpano recipe pictures

Dough stretched out in deep baking dish

 

Timpano recipe pictures

First row of ziti down

Timpano recipe pictures

2nd layer of pasta over meat and cheese

Timpano recipe pictures

Dough cap in place, ready for oven

 

Timpano recipe pictures

Out of the oven, ready to slice!

 

Timpano recipe pictures

Dig in!

 

Timpano recipe

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