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Posts Tagged ‘Home cookin’’

Home Cookin’ – DiGiorno Frozen Pizza Review, Pizzeria Style (new product)

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Busman’s holiday. A funny phrase. It means I’m taking time off from my job as a write to write this, which is supposed to be a hoppy, but has turned into a second job. No rest for the wicked, as they say.

Developed originally by Kraft, the DiGiorno frozen pizza line now calls Switzerland based Nestle “momma”, and markets their pies under the DiGiorno name in the United States, and under the Delissio label.  No idea why the split.

DiGiorno has long used the advertising tag line “it’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno” as a reference to there being a frozen pizza product that is every bit as good as a pizza delivered from a shop.

They have a host of types of pizza products and configurations; from classic thin crust, to flat bread – garlic bread pizza and rising crust. One of their more interesting products is the “pizza and sides” concept, emulating the offerings of the budget delivery chains, from DiGiorno you can get a frozen pizza and boneless chicken “Wyngz” in one box. A little sauce as well. Or pizza and breadsticks.

Nestle’s latest offering is “Pizzeria style”, which strikes me kind of funny, since the previously mentioned tag line would seem to indicate the manufacturer thinks ALL of their pies are “pizzeria style.”

The difference, apparently, according to the fat cats in Vevey, is that this pie has a “crust that’s crispy, yet soft and airy on the inside, a flavorful sauce and premium toppings.”

I guess it’s too much that we hope all frozen pizzas are crispy and flavorful with premium toppings. I wonder what the opposite would be?

Nevertheless, I picked one up to give it a whirl.

DiGiorno Pizzeria StyleThe box is designed and shaped to give the impression of a large pizza than actually comes in the box.  The frozen pie is pictured to the left, and yes, I DID rearrange the pepperoni for the photo. Yes, of COURSE it came out of the box with all the toppings on one side of the pie.

The box states this is ‘primo pepperoni pizza” and it is “created with care.” (Which Nestle has trademarked.  Are their other pies created with not so much care?)

Further there are “no artificial flavors.”  I’m not really sure what that means.

375 at 18-20 minutes say the operating instructions, with a cautionary ” not ready to eat – cook thoroughly” warning. Thanks for telling me!

I am a  bit predisposed to not favor this pie, pizzeria style or not. The crust is going to be a little too thick for me.

The first thing I noticed when the pie came from the oven was the aroma, or rather lack of it. No pizzeria smell.  Not like local product Vito and Nicks II which we tried last week.

The crust?  Yes, while it is ‘crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside’, it’s too thick for my personal preference. It would definetly be labeled “thick crust” at any pizzeria.  The sauce is rather non-intrusive, not imparting any particular flavor one way or another, but the cheese is good, albeit sparse, and the pepperoni flavor is nice, but the slices cupped during baking, which generally indicates a higher fat content.  I know, I know, some people insist real flavor comes from fat.  Each slice of pepp here is dotted with some herbs.

Overall?  Nothing new, tastes like dozens of other frozen pizzas.

See, here’s where I don’t get it.  Why can’t these giant multinationals make a good frozen pie?  For goodness sake, Nestle is the largest food company in the world!  Yet lots of little guys kick their butts when it come to making a good frozen pizza.

I have a suggestion for Paul Bulcke, the current CEO of Nestle.  On your next trip to the US, step inside a Trader Joe’s grocery store. Trader Joe’s imports frozen pizzas from France and Italy, and have several different varieties including flatbreads.  The truffle one is out of this world.

Now skedaddle back to Europe and buy the companies supplying Trader Joes.  Now rebrand those pizzas with the DiGiorno name, and toss out your current recipes.

Just a thought.  Wanna try a great frozen pizza?

DiGiorno Pizzeria Style

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DiGiorno pizza review

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Skyline Frozen Chili Review

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Skyline Chili ReviewI have had a few words to say about the massive coney island or chili dog infatuation that exists in Ohio, particularly between two rival chains, Skyline and Gold Star.  In the past I tried out Skyline’s dry spice packet and found the results ultra satisfactory.   (I think the dry packet is from Skyline, even tho the brand is “Skytime” and the package is labeled “Cincinnati Style Chili.” Some disgruntled family member?)

Today I’m checking out Skyline’s frozen “Original Chili,” which can be microwaved or heated on the stove top.

Ingredients include:  beef, water, tomato paste, yeast, corn starch, spices, salt, onion, garlic, paprika and natural flavors.

The chili is produced at Skyline’s own plant,  (USDA est 1691)  at  4180 Thunderbird Lane, in Fairfield, OH, which according to Google maps, appears to be in the image below.  It’s important to me that a brand has control of its manufacturing, rather than contracting it out to someone else, which is very common today.

You can get the goods at grocers in about a dozen states, or order some of the products direct online.  I’ve ordered the dry mix packages  through Amazon.  24 packages for $37, which includes shipping.  If you want the best results, follow the packet instructions precisely.  The only variation I’ve done is to add more ground beef and simmered longer,  just my preference for a  very meaty, crumbly sauce.

This frozen pack is easy-peasy, five minutes in the microwave and you’re ready for your coney/chili dog.  I love the flavor and the convenience.  The main difference you’ll find between using the dry spice packets and this preparation, is like I previously said, I use more ground beef with the dry mix.  Beef in the frozen version?  Eh, not so much.  Maybe less than 10% by volume?  More reminiscent of the “hot dog sauces” of the deep south than of Detroit style coneys.  In the pic below, of the sauce out of the microwave, but still in the tray, you can see a little oil slick, and to me, that’s ALWAYS a good sign for coney sauce.  I used Old Wisconsin natural casing wieners, my current favorite.

Prepared them in the traditional coney style, with a squirt of yellow mustard, diced onion and sauce. ONLY. The serving instructions, for hot dogs, suggests 4 T of sauce per dog.  Seems like a lot, but it’s up to you.  I went with 2 T.

In any case, I will pick the product up again and keep one in the freezer, for lazy weekends.

Skyline Chili Review

Out of the Microwave

Skyline Chili Review

Coney Style Hot Dog

Skyline Chili Review

Skyline Chili Plant in Ohio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skyline Frozen Chili Review

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Southern Fried Chicken Recipe

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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

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Home Cookin’ – Old Wisconsin Polish Sausage

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Unless you count wieners as sausage, Polish are my favorite smoked sausage product.  My mother’s idea of a barbecue was a combo of two sets of links on the grill (which my father manned), bratwurst and something called “dinner franks.”   I liked the latter, never cared for the former.   Bratwurst to me are kinda like English bangers.  Really nothing distinguishable as far as flavor.

Polish are made with high quality pork shoulder, and fairly simple seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic and marjoram.   There’s enough seasoning to be distinctive, and the smoking process brings out the flavor.  I like this product, it has the right snap, flavor and grind to suit my personal palate.

Old Wisconsin’s wieners and Polish are natural casing sausages, and that’s always my preference.  Old Wisconsin has been around for more than fifty years and is based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.   There’s a company store at the plant, if you’re ever in the neighborhood.  old Wisconsin is part of Carl Buddig these days, a Chicago area meat processor that dates back nearly 130 years.

 

 

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Home Cookin’ – Ovenworks Frozen Pizza

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Ovenworks brand frozen pizza is a pie that hails from Eau Claire (“oh clare”), Wisconsin, and proudly brandishes a phrase on their packaging “featuring 100% Wisconsin real Wisconsin cheese and premium ingredients.”  The company has been in business for over twenty-five years, and the pies are shipped out of a factory in tiny Glen Flora, Wisconsin, and the products have limited geographical distribution in the Upper Midwest.

I got the combo, which for Ovenworks means sausage and pepperoni.  In the Upper Midwest, this crust is called “thin”, in other parts of the country it would qualify as “ultra thin.”   Whichever label you affix to it, it’s the style I prefer.

Instructions call for 10-14 minutes at 425.  At 12, it seemed to be done.  The first thing I noticed upon taking it out of the oven, was it SMELLED like a pizzeria.  A nice surprise.   And using ‘shaved’ cheese instead of shredded is brilliant, it provides for a nice edge to edge melt.  There is a smattering of cheddar mixed in, I don’t think I have seen that outside of the St. Louis area before, where it is common.

I would like a larger quantity of toppings, but their flavor is good.  The sausage is very mild.  The sauce has a little tang to it, and the crust is extra crispy on the outer perimeter, and gets chewier as you work your way in.   That’s a good thing.

Their full line includes several different choices of crust styles, and some gluten free offerings as well.

I’d never heard of this pie before.  It’s a nice addition to the frozen pie choices.  I like it.

Ovenworks Frozen Pizza

Prior to baking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ovenworks Frozen Pizza

Baked Pie

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Home Cookin’ – Fatburger Frozen Hamburger Patties

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Fatburger is a fast casual hamburger chain, which was launched and is headquartered in Southern California.   The original restaurant was opened by Lovie Yancey in 1948, and was called “Mr. Fatburger” for the first several years.

Until recently, the chain has been mostly California-centric, but a limited amount of growth has come from international franchises.   There have been a number of celebrity investors who at one time or another opened franchised outlets, most of which did not survive.

I’ve never understood why this chain didn’t explode with growth.  It’s a good product, limited menu.  Burgers, fries, rings, shakes.   The burgers can be customized by adding additional patties and toppings like chili, cheese, guac, peppers.  The fresh, not frozen,  burger patties are cooked on a flat top until a crusty surface occurs, which is very appealing to me personally.  The shakes are hand-scooped real ice cream.  What’s not to like?

Like most franchise operations, the company is not so much in the business of operating actual restaurants, but rather, selling franchises, supplying them, and making sure they comply with corporate mandates.   As such, a company like that has a single asset, the proprietary value of its name and image, and tries to find different ways to exploit that property to create additional revenue.

I can’t say for sure which restaurant chain was the first one to place product in grocery stores, bearing their name, but it’s hard not to bump into that kind of thing today.  Off the top of my head, I’ve seen Marie Callenders, TGI Fridays,  Burger King, Taco Bell, Chili’s  Bob Evans, Cracker Barrel, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and at one time, Stouffer’s was a restaurant.  There are many more.

Lo and behold, Fatburger licenses its name, image for frozen burger patties.  This kind of surprised me, because the product is a six pack of 1/3 pound patties, and ‘thick’ burgers are really not a Fatburger thing.  The deal seems exclusive to Wal Mart, and at $7.99, comes out to four bucks a pound, steep for ground beef.  (I have previously reviewed a number of different brands of frozen burgers). The product is apparently distributed (manufactured?)  by a separate Los Angeles company and I wasn’t able to find very much info on that concern.  The USDA ‘sticker’ did not have an establishment number on it; that number identifies the plant where the product was made.

The stove top grilling instructions call for 14 minutes at medium heat, turning frequently.  That’s distinctively different than most frozen patties that I have tested.  The most common set of instructions call for throwing the frozen patty in a pan, cooking on one side til ‘blood runs through’, and flipping it for another short period.   The exception of course would be pre-cooked patties, like Ball Park.

The packaging inside the box is a single cello pack, non-resealable;  I would prefer patties are individually wrapped if the package isn’t resealable.  The burgers are separated by “patty paper” but the flash-freeze process can still make the patties stick together.

Fatburger Frozen PattyThe raw patty in the pan is pictured at left.  It is manufactured to look like it is hand-formed, but there have been patty making machines in plants that have accomplished that for quite some time.   I’ve never seen a frozen patty that wasn’t ‘dimpled’, and this one is no exception.

The ingredients listed on the box are:  beef, and seasoning salt.  It seems from the way the ingredients are printed, that the seasoning salt is made up of salt, spices, sugar, cornstarch, garlic, onion, and canola oil.   So they are saying what’s in your patty is beef and salt.  Wow.  That’s a departure from most similar products.  Which is a good thing.

I went with the entire suggested 14 minutes, to witness the outcome as directed on the packaging.  It has an pleasant enough look, and the flavor is good, there’s no hint of artificial smoke here, some companies use that to emulate grill flavor.  The grind is of average size, and is appealing.  I’d say the Fat frozen is in the top three of all the ones I’ve tested.   Of course, it’s no substitute for hitting my favorite locations when I am in L.A.   I like the Venice and Van Nuys locations, personally.

The only time I purchase frozen burgers is to test them out, but I’d be ok with having these in my freezer regularly.

Fatburger Frozen Hamburger

Cooked Fatburger Frozen Patty

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Home Cookin ‘ – Ball Park Brand Flame Grilled Beef Patties

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I’ve tested a lot of ‘heat and eat’ burger patties at home, from the frozen varieties like Fred Meyer Frozen Mini Cheeseburgers, Private Selection Angus Beef Patties, and Trader Joes Kobe Style, White Castle,  to the convenience store types like Big A Angus Charbroil, and the 7-Eleven Cheeseburger,

With the exception of the mini mart burgers, the other patties all come frozen and uncooked.   Ball Park Flame Grilled Beef Patties are frozen and fully cooked, and only have to be heated in a microwave, on a skillet or grill.

If you’re a regular reader, you know even if a product calls gives a choice of being microwaved or some other cooking method, usually I chose to heat on a stove top; tonight was an exception, and I followed the manufacturer’s instructions for microwaving:  microwave safe plate, cover patty with a paper towel, heat 60-75 seconds.

Here’s what the patty looks like right out of the resealable pouch:

Ball Park Flame Grilled Beef Patties

And in nearly less than a minute, “plated”, this burger looks like a hand-formed, quality hamburger:

Ball Park Flame Grilled Beef Patties

I was quite surprised at both the taste and texture of this product. I liked it. I’d buy them again, and you should too.

Ball Park Beef patties come in three varieties, and are packed 6 to a bag, at my store they were $7.99.

Here’s their latest TV commercial to tell you the whole story.

Ingredients:

Pretty standard: beef, water, salt, beef stock, flavoring, oil, starch, corn syrup and lemon juice concentrate.  That last ingredient is a puzzler!

 

 

ball park beef patties

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Home Cookin’ – CP Brand Shrimp Tom Yum Soup

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Found this gem in the frozen/refrigerated section of the grocery recently. CP Brand is one of the largest conglomerates in Thailand, making everything from food to motorcycles, to plastics and pharma.

This soup  comes in a compartmentalized package, the soup, and some fresh frozen shrimp separately.  Microwave the soup, drop the shrimp in when it is heated, cover for one more minute to thaw the shrimp.

This product contains no added MSG and is zero gram trans fat.

The flavors are very authentic Thai, with ingredients including lemongrass, red chili, and lime.

It’s a bit spicy for many American palates, but a huge leap in quality and flavor over similar dried products or ramen.

CP Brand Shrimp Tom Yum Soup

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Burgerdogboy’s Bolognese Sauce Recipe

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Burgerdogboy's Meat Sauce RecipeThis is a great recipe for meat sauce, for pasta, or on a bun for “sloppy joes.”  I’ve spent decades perfecting it!  If you weren’t aware of it, the original sloppy joe was invented in Iowa as a variation of the “loose meat” sandwich. Read all about Maid-Rites to learn about “loose meat.”   If you’re not ladling it on top of pasta, stir it into cooked elbows for a Midwestern variation of  “goulash“.  That’s my personal favorite.

Burgerdogboy’s Meat Sauce Recipe

Ingredients

1 # ground beef

1 # bulk hot Italian sausage

1 # hot Italian sausage links

2 large cans San Marzano DOP imported tomatoes

1 diced white onion

4 cloves diced garlic

2 stalks sliced celery

2 T olive oil

1  C red wine

1 T fennel seeds

1 T oregano

1 T basil

Instructions

Place oil in frying pan.  Lightly saute vegetables and herbs until they are clear.  Set aside.  Brown ground beef and bulk Italian sausage.  Drain in a colander and rinse with water, letting drain again.  Par boil link Italian sausage before frying until done.  Slice on a bias to make angled pieces.

Smash or hand wand the  tomatoes, and add wine, vegetables, meat in large sauce pan, simmer for at least two hours.  Refrigerate overnight, scoop fat off top of pan, reheat to serve in your chosen manner.  You may cook down the tomatoes first, if you prefer a ‘smoother’ sauce.

Get extra fancy by making and adding meatballs!

1 # ground beef

1 # ground bulk Italian sausage

1 egg

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 T fennel seed

1/2 T oregano

1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs

Combine all ingredients with your hands, in a large mixing bowl.  Let refrigerate for at least four hours.   Hand make meatballs to your favorite size.  Now here’s the trick:  Cook the meatballs in the sauce!  That’s right, don’t bake them ahead of time.  They will turn out perfect!

 

bolognese sauce recipe

 

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Home Cookin’ – Uncle Giuseppe’s Sausage & Pasta

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Uncle Giuseppe's Two sidebars before getting to the meat of the matter:  I like Italian sausage (or ground beef) tomato sauce and pasta.   When I lived in Hong Kong, and I’d only get back to my apartment once a week or less, I’d make big batches and freeze in “me size” containers.   There’d always be something to eat when I rolled off a plane.

Second:  Mrs. Burgerdogboy makes some of the best home cooked Italian food in all the land.   So on the occasions we have these ‘heat and eat’ meals, they have a tough haul ahead of them to reach any level of decency.

We picked this product up at Grocery Outlet, which we’ve been hitting lately for two reasons:  inexpensive wine, and Harris Ranch ground beef.  The former for the Mrs., the latter for Burgerdogboy.

This was pretty inexpensive, compared to say – Stouffer’s or Marie Callendars.  So we thought we’ d try it.

A quick search of the interwebs shows this product is made under the auspices of Michael Angelo’s of Austin, TX, a large manufacturer of frozen entrees and sides.

50-60 minutes in a conventional oven (you know I always use one, even if nuking is permitted), and out comes the dish, looking not too appetizing straight from the fire.

Uncle Giuseppe's

 

But stir it up, and it doesn’t look so bad, plus you’ll love the ingredient list: tomato sauce, sausage, and pasta. Period.   Voila!

Uncle Giuseppe's

How was it?  Mrs. Burgerdogboy and I were both surprised.  There was plenty of flavor, and the texture was fine.  In either the sauce or the sausage, there was a hint of fennel, which I always appreciate.

Would I buy it again?  Yep.

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