US Food Safety Recalls and Tips

Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

Chicago Suburban Theater Chain – Classic Cinemas

What am I doing reviewing a chain of movie theaters?   Just letting you know how impressed I was  with this operation.  For first run movies, value pricing, clean facilities, enthusiastic employees, reasonable concessions, this family owned chain of theaters in suburban Chicago is just the ticket for your night out.  Classic Cinemas 13 theaters are strategically located across Chicagoland, and the company has been around since starting with one theater in 1978.

A first run movie will cost your $5 all day Tuesday,any day matinees, if you’re a kid or over 60.   Most other times it’s just a couple bucks more.  Here’s the rub.  Ready? Wait for it.  Free refills on popcorn and soda.  Wow.

I’ve been out to a movie in other cities and the evening has cost me over $50, each.  Today, first run movie, soda, corn,  less than $20.  The movie?  Bill Murray in St. Vincent.  Superb.

Classic Cinemas Review

Theater Locations







Butterball Turkey Reviews

A registered trademark since 1940, “Butterball”  came into wide use in the 60s by Swift & Company and the brand was eventually spun to ConAgra.  Today the line of fresh and frozen turkeys and a host of turkey derived products is owned by Kansas based Seaboard Corporation, a diversified multinational, that also operates other food companies like Prairie Fresh pork products, heat and eat pork products featuring Sweet Baby Ray’s sauces, and Daily’s processed pork products, like bacon, hams, and sausage.  Vertically integrated in the pork business, Seaboard owns their own kill plants, processing 19,000 hogs daily at their Guymon, OK location.

Today Butterball, based in North Carolina, sells over a billion pounds of turkey annually, which includes the processed products, like hot dogs, sausage, cold cuts, bacon, and ground turkey.  (Do you realize that a billion pounds translates roughly into 66 million turkey legs?  Who knew there was enough Renaissance Fairs to handle all that product?)

One such product is a heat and eat meal, “Everyday Chef Selects” Turkey Breast and Gravy.  This 15 ounce package can be heated as a boiling bag or 5-6 minutes in the microwave, and seems pretty straightforward on the ingredient side.  According to the package, this product is put together at Smithfield’s  RMH Foods plant in Morton, IL, USDA establishment 17789B (pictured below).

The most important thing about the ingredient list is that it does NOT include the phrase “may contain a solution of XX %……To me, brine injected beef, pork, and poultry has the most horrible texture.  I just can’t stomach (or chew) it.

So I went with the boiling bag heating option, simmered for about seven minutes (after bringing the water to a boil).  I was pleased to open the bag and find actual ‘chunks’ of turkey muscle meat, and not “chopped, pressed, and formed” slices.  Whew.  This product is good, surprisingly good.  And for the single person or couple that can’t or doesn’t want to shell out $25  – $30 for a whole turkey,and go to the hassle of fixing a huge holiday meal, this is a good solution.   Product plated, pictured below (mashed potatoes not included in package).  I generally don’t enjoy reheated poultry of any kind, but this product doesn’t give you that tactile/taste sensation. I’d buy it again.  I might stock up if they can be frozen.  Time to make a call!

The only exception I take with the packaging is that it suggests it serves “three.”  Doubtful.

There’s probably not a person in the country that doesn’t know you can contact the Butterball Hotline (1-800-BUTTERBALL) (800-288-8372) during holiday periods, or check their website for everything you’ve ever wanted to know about cooking a turkey.


RMH Foods Butterball Plant

RMH Foods, Morton, IL


Butterball Heat and Eat  Review

Consumer Packaging

Butterball Heat and Eat Review

Cooking Bag


Butterball Turkey Review







Butterball Turkey Reviews


Ethnic Gourmet Frozen Entrees Review

“Ironically” –  where I fell in love with Indian food was when I lived in China for six years.  It was available in abundance, and especially on the little island I lived on in the South China Sea.   We had a couple of Indian restaurants there, my regular stop was “Toochtka’s”, run by Malloy, hiding from his Philippine wife, and sidekick Bgosh, trying to save money for some schooling somewhere.

I was particularly fond of their garlic naan and a mess o chicken tikka, boneless pieces of chicken, marintaded in spices and yogurt, and cooked to a turn in an outdoor tandoor oven until it has a nice crispy char on the edges.  I also like saag paneer, the Indian version of creamed spinach with hunks of homemade Indian cheese (recipe).

Wash it down with a Kingfisher beer.

They’d always over serve me  because I was such an incredibly nice guy big tipper and I was a regular.  Except when I was irregular.   (I would sometimes travel for weeks at a time for work, living in hotels in China, across Southeast Asia, Turkey, South Africa.  But I’d always return to Toochtka’s when I’d return to the island).

I  knew I would have to enjoy it while I could, because there was a huge banyan tree growing in the middle of the restaurant that would take out the building at some time, and the Chinese would have thought it would bring terribly bad joss to chop down the tree.  So it would stay, the restaurant wouldn’t.

In any case, this post is about some heat and eat Indian food I saw at the market this week,  the chicken tikka, spinach, rice, and naan.  The packaging and colors were similar, so I thought it was all the same manufacturer, but it wasn’t, two were from the Hain-Celestiral tea people, a brand called Ethnic Gourmet, the other, Tandoor Chef, was from a New Jersey company called Deep Foods.

The only thing “wrong” with these products is there simply wasn’t ENOUGH!   I love this stuff!   I guess this was about $8, which is a little steep for a single meal, but not only will I buy it again, I may just stock the freezer.

Ethnic Gourmet Revue

ethnic gourmet frozen entrees

Ethnic Gourmet Frozen Entrees

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.


  • 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).


  • 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

Buy Me a McDouble or Two?

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I Needa McRib!