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Posts Tagged ‘Breakfast’

John Morrell Little Smokies Review


John Morrell Little Smokies ReviewI continue my quest for the world’s tastiest Little Smokies.  So far, by a wide margin, Hillshire Farms Beef are my favorite….in the number two slot is the in-house brand at discount grocer Aldi.   It’s not a close second as far as the primary criteria, flavor and texture, no, Aldi places for value… regularly nearly half the price of the big brands.  (Hillshire Farm are usually $4.99, sometimes $4.49, and Aldi clock in at $2.99 always.

Today I tried out John Morrell; a product that the package promises “Plump Meaty Bites.” Morrell is a meat company that traces its roots back to 1827 England.  They sell products under a number of brand names that they have acquired over the years:  Ekrich,  Armour, Kretschmar,  Krakus.   Morrell itself is now owned by Smithfield, which of course, became a Chinese owned company recently.  (Not sure if it’s a good idea for US food companies to sell out to Chinese, just sayin’).

There can be some confusion between “little smokies” and “cocktail franks.”  Cocktail franks taste like mini wieners and are most often found floating in a chafing dish full of barbecue sauce at a party or event you wished you hadn’t attended.  Little smokies are more “sausage-like” in both texture and flavor.

I grabbed the Morrell package because it was substantially discounted compared to Hillshire, maybe $3.49.  Although the package says ‘little smokies,”  these are clearly cocktail franks, an extruded type sausage with the same fine grind and ingredients, and seasonings of one of Morrell’s hot dog products, I am sure.  Not only do they taste and feel like a frank, they are a much lighter color than the Hillshire Farm beef products.

What is an extruded sausage?   A slurry of ingredients is produced, and squirted into a collagen casing, which can be edible or non-edible.  If the latter, it is stripped off in the last state of manufacturing (fascinating to watch).  Newer technologies offer ‘spray on’ collagen casings, the operator can designate different thicknesses, in order to emulate the feel of a natural casing (intestines).

Morrell’s product is pork and mechanically separated chicken.  Hillshire Farms, ain’t.

Does the Morrell product place on my ‘consider regularly’ list?  Nope.  If I wanted little wieners, I’d buy wieners and chop them.  My taste in Little Smokies requires a resemblance in flavor and taste akin to “real sausage”, so I’ll suck up on the purchase price and stay with Hillshire Farms.

The Morrell package does not indicate a USDA plant number.  I don’t understand why some packages must have it, others don’t.  I asked the USDA and got pawned off from one department to another – ultimately not receiving an answer.

I generally don’t care for any ‘sausage’ product that contains chicken or turkey.  Yeah, I know they are supposed to be better for you, but the taste and texture just doesn’t appeal to me.

Speaking of confusing?  The regulators could help me out by coming up with definitions for “franks,”  “wieners,”  and “hot dogs.”

John Morrell Little Smokies Review

In the pan,, unheated



John Morrell Little Smokies Review



Jones Canadian Bacon Review


Jones Dairy Canadian BaconGrowing up within spitting distance of Canada, I never gave much thought to “Canadian Bacon” as a kid;  we had it quite frequently, I just figured my parents smuggled it in from Ontario like they used to have to buy bootleg margarine in Michigan. I rarely buy it for home use, I generally find it is pretty flavorless, and not a great value.  Maybe,  McDonald’s product, which is about as unbacony as a product can be has also put me off a bit.

As I progressed through the years, I came to understand what we call “Canadian Bacon” in the US is not Canadian at all, but rather a product similar in taste and texture to ham.  And here’s where it gets really confusing:  ham comes from the butt of a hog, bacon from the belly, and Canadian Bacon from a pork loin.  Whew.  Canadian bacon is usually leaner than ham, and lacks the sweeteners ham is sometimes cured with.

“Real” “Canadian Bacon” is called ‘back bacon’ up thataways, and “streaky bacon” in Canada’s motherland of jolly old England and other points in the crumbling empire.

And that product is generally more flavorful, with better texture, than most anything sold in the US, save for premium brands, no matter what ‘country’ label it has on it.  In fact, hasn’t most processed pork in the US become a real disappointment?  Whether you buy chops a tenderloin or roast, most mass market pork in the US tastes like nothing. At least to me.  If I want real pork flavor, I’ll buy fresh from a farmer;  some Carolina and Virginia hams are spectacular as well.

Anyway, back to the subject.   Jones Dairy Farms is a meat producer located in Ft. Akinson, Wisconsin.  They’v been selling processed pork products to the masses for over a hundred years.  I’m not sure how wide-spread their distribution is, but they have a product locator on their website.  I punched in zip codes at both ends of the country and found outlets.

(By the way, if you’re ever in Ft. Akinson on a Friday nite, (118 miles from the Sears Tower, 25 miles from Madison), there’s an exceptional fish fry at the Fireside).

Anyway, a package of Jones Dairy Canadian Bacon headed up in my fridge as a result of it being in the ‘scratch and dent’ bin at my local grocery.  It was a buck and a half as opposed to a regular price in the range of $4.50 – $5.00, the equivalent of around $12 a pound.

How was it?  As expected.  Reminiscent of mild ham.  Slightly sweet.   The ingredient list, if you’re interested: Cured with Water, Potassium Lactate,Salt, Sugar, Natural Flavor, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Nitrite.

I’d be interested in trying their Old Fashioned Hickory Smoked Whole Ham.


Jones Dairy Canadian Bacon

Bacon, from package, prior to heating









Jones Canadian Bacon Review


Crystal Lake, IL – Andys Family Restaurant Review


Andy's Crystal LakeLanding at O’Hare after an overnight flight from Honolulu, I was starving.  Why didn’t I eat on the plane?  Conked out on the new lie flat seat/beds in first class, very comfy, a little too comfy.

Was heading from Chicago to Madison, so I thought I’d stop en route and get a tasty breakfast on the back roads, and my back road of choice to Madison is US 14, so I hit Andy’s Family Restaurant in Crystal Lake, IL.

Over ordered, not a surprise, went with the Chicken Fried Steak and eggs, the place was jammed, but service was prompt and friendly, they have had lots of practice, this place has been around for years.

Played “butter Jenga” while I was waiting, scarfed the meal and hit the road.  Great place.

Andy's Crystal Lake

Andy's Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Andys Family Restaurant Review


Eckrich Lil Smokies Review


Eckrich Lil SmokiesI’m a fiend for “little smokies” – give me a mess of good quality, fine tasting ones, and I’ll pass on the rest of breakfast.  You never see them on a restaurant menus, not really sure why.

Like all pork (and meat in general) products, they have gotten really spendy lately, pushing over $6 a pound. While I have some very specific favorite brands, determined by taste and texture, I am a sucker for sale priced ones, and that’s why I picked up a pack of Eckrich “Li’l Smokies” yesterday.  They were half the price of the other brands.

Eckrich is part of John Morrell now, and according to the USDA plant number on the package, these babies were made at the Morrell plant in Cincinnati (pictured below).

How were they?  OK, especially at the price.  A pork and chicken product (I prefer all beef), they aren’t as flavorful as some brands I prefer, tasting more like cocktail franks, which should be an entirely different recipe than smokies.  I’d buy them again tho, at the sale price.

Why the ‘char?’  I prefer sausages with natural casings, and you’ll never see little smokies in a casing. Too expensive, troublesome for mass production I imagine.  For me, putting a little char on the baby weenies gives them a texture more again to a casing product. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 Eckrich Lil Smokies

 John Morrell Cincinnati



Lil Smokies Review


Eckrich Lil Smokes Review


Eckrich Lil SmokiesI’m a fiend for “little smokies’ as a breakfast meat.  Give me enough of them of good quality, and I’ll skip the eggs, toast, and potatoes. You never see them on restaurant menus, though I don’t know why.

My personal preference is for the all beef variety, though I am motivated by price point too, and that’s why I grabbed a package of Eckrich’s yesterday, which were on sale for half the price of the other brands. Like all pork products, the price of smokies has skyrocketed lately, and they easily tip the $ scales at $6 a pound, plus.

Cooked them up this morning and they were ok, especially considering the price.  They aren’t as flavorful as some of the other brands, and taste more like “cocktail franks”, which should, and usually are, a totally different product than little smokies.

Why the ‘burnt’ appearance?  I am predisposed to prefer sausages with a natural casing, and as far as I know, there are no little smokies with casings. Too difficult and expensive for mass production, I imagine.  So the ‘char’, presents a texture that more closely resembles a natural casing sausage.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

I’d buy them again at the same price, but at the same price point as other brands, I’d opt for my usual favorites. According to the USDA plant number, these babies are manufactured at John Morrell’s plant in Cincinnati (pictured below).

 Eckrich Lil Smokies


 John Morrell Cincinnati







Eckrich Lil Smokes Review


Parkview Cocktail Sausages Review


I love cocktail sausages;  not if they are swimming in barbecue sauce in a chafing dish mind you, but as a breakfast meat, or an anytime, low carb snack. Most brands are generally smoked, so if you’re inclined, you could eat them right out of the package. For me, I prefer them a little crispy, a little char,  fried up in a cast iron skillet. “Overcooking” this treat for me makes them have a sensation (to me) of having a natural casing, gives them a little “snap.”

I’m choosy about my brands and their composition, preferring all beef, and usually latching on to Hillshire Farms (Sara Lee).  Lately, tho, the texture of them seems to have changed a bit, at least to me, and I  have been looking for an alternative selection.

I might have found a successor.  The discount grocer Aldi uses a number of co-packers around the country to manufacture products to their specifications; in the sausage realm, Aldi’s house brand is Parkview. Their cocktail sausages are made by a small company in Nebraska, an old family concern named Wimmer’s, which distributes several different brands of smoked sausages and meats in the Upper Midwest. Wimmer’s was purchased a couple of years ago by a larger Midwestern family concern from Illinois called “Land O’ Frost.

The USDA plant number that cranks out these little gems is Est. 5600, in West Point, Nebraska, a burg of 3500 about 40 miles NW of Omaha.   They have about 130 employees, so they are an important part of the community.

The Parkview cocktail sausages vary in composition from my usual preferences, in that they are made up of pork, beef, with some poultry.  Usually that third ingredient would be a deal killer for me, but in this case, I believe it provides a smoother texture.  I like the flavor and texture both of these sausages.  Not to mention since they are an Aldi product, they are value-priced.  If you’re shopping at a major chain for brand name cocktail sausages, like all meat and especially pork products, the prices of sausages and bacon have skyrocketed lately, and you can count on Aldi to come in at a good 25-33% less than the national brands.

Good deal. Good food.

Parkview Cocktail Sausages











Parkview Cocktail Sausages Review


Oscar Mayer “Bun Size” Smokies Review


I’m so old, “Little Smokies” weren’t around when I was a little smokie.  Yet Hormel ‘full size” smokies were a regular part of my family’s weekend breakfast. Saturday breakfast was a big event at our house, my dad often cooking, and it was such a spread that kids often slept over on Friday nite to gorge on the feast which may have included any or many of the following: scrambled eggs, pancakes, waffles, toast, smokies, ham, steak, turnovers.

Oscar Mayer has brought back the ‘large size’ smokies, 8 to a pack, all natural, no artificial ingredients, a skinless sausage of beef and pork with seasonings, and hardwood smoked.

They are about the same size of hot dogs, larger than I remember them from back in the day, a coarser grind than hot dogs, with a bit more distinctive seasoning.

Verdict? They are OK, but not something I would pick up regularly. I have been spoiled by Hillshire Farms Beef Lil Smokies over the years.

The good news at the moment is Hormel has introduced a raft of new products, and they are all highly discounted.

BTW, some Hormel products are distributed on a regional basis, and I’ve found they have an ecommerce website for items that might not be available in your area. Cool.

 Hormel Smokies








Smokies Review


Is the Waffle House the Key to Humanity’s Problems?


(This was written a couple months post 9/11)

Waffles – The Key to Harmony?

“We Will Make No Customer Pay in Advance!” Is one of the many “rules” posted by the door as you enter an outlet of 1300 strong location “The Waffle House,” (or TWH), apparently the result of a lawsuit launched in ’93, similar to the discrimination mess at Denny’s.

TWH wants to make DAMN sure you feel welcome, regardless of race, creed, color, religion, physical affliction, sexual preference, and they say so, in bold letters, just inside the door. The “rules” are posted on the interior walls of the shops as well.

You may recall the circumstances of the Denny’s suit – it started in California with some Asian students, actually, who were seated and waited and waited to be served while customers who had come in after them received their orders. TWH addresses this point with another posted rule: “Since our food is cooked to order, and some orders are less complicated than others, customers who entered AFTER you, may receive their food BEFORE you.”

There were further incidents at Denny’s: four black Secret Service agents in Maryland told to pay in advance of ordering – a couple of kids in Florida that had a problem – which ultimately led Denny’s to pay tens of millions of dollars in damage (end result, $180.00 per customer in the class action suit); the CEO to resign; and a highly publicized deal with the NAACP to embark on a program to hire more minorities and get more minorities involved in store ownership.

As I sipped my first cup of coffee at TWH, I was reminded of a similar nationwide chain that was around when I was growing up, called “Sambo’s” and thinking of what a field day lawyers would have with that company were they still around today. The original location is still open and operating in Santa Barbara, California, and although the name of the restaurant wasn’t taken from the children’s book “Little Black Sambo,” the chain did use illustrations from the story as their logo and identifying marks. The name of the restaurant actually was a combination of the two founder’s real names, Sam Battistone and Neil “Bo” Bohnett. The chain grew from one beach location in California to 1200 nationwide, and, mired in debt in the early 80s (Who wasn’t? Gee, if Ivan Boesky had only come to the neighboring community of Goleta earlier, rather than later, when he served his federal prison term there), all of the locations, except the original, were sold off or closed. What is curious about the Sambo’s story to me, is, that on the first page of their website, you can buy a copy of the original book. However, if you look immediately left of the book offering, you’ll see that the company logo (the small boy and tiger featured in the story) (and left, here) , the boy has taken on the physical characteristics of some hyphenated imaginary ethic group – a kind of white Eur-Asian.

The author of “Little Black Sambo,” Helen Brodie Bannerman, born in Edinburgh in 1826, married a doctor in the Indian Medical Service, and they spent much of their lives in India, where she penned the story in 1899. Even at the time, reviews of the book called it at least insensitive, if not racist, but for a much different reason than similar materials would bring such an outcry today. Popular consensus among the critics was Bannerman’s mixing of the two cultures – African and Indian – as the protagonists of the story are a small African boy and his family, and a tiger. (There are no tigers in Africa, unless you happen to be in a zoo).

Her response was basically “nonsense, she was perfectly aware of the cultural differences, but the book was written for her children and was meant to be fantasy.”

You can read the entire book of “Little Black Sambo” online and come to your own conclusions.

At 3AM this morning, sitting in a Waffle House on I-10, contemplating whether I wanted my Thanksgiving “double-size hash browns” “scattered,” “smothered,” “covered,”, “chunked,” “topped,” “diced,” or “peppered,” I was lamenting the fact of how sad it is that after some 5000 years of recorded history, we’re still living on planet of “unequals.” Sometimes I think that the quickest solution to this problem would be for all of us to enter into interracial marriages, and as quickly as possible, produce a planet full of people of the same color, stature, eye shape, and so on. I know that practically, that is silly, but it’s a solution at least.

My China experiences always made me think we all came from there, anyway. There are at least 27 different major ethnic populations in China, and if you go into the various regional museums, look at photos, study statues, you will find native Chinese that physically resemble most any people on the planet – there are certainly Chinese groups that look like Western Europeans, American Indians, Inuits, Mayans, and even Africans. Most people aren’t aware the Chinese roamed the world years before the Europeans – there is an absolutely fascinating book about this called “When China Ruled the Seas.”

A planet of unequals – even 150 years of legislation in the “greatest country in the world,” hasn’t solved this problem. We’ve even invented new words and phrases to cope with the situation – how do you like “racial profiling?” I’m a stickler for words, as some of you may know. The scientific definition of “race” is a taxonomic category of actual or potentially interbreeding group within a species. Hey, in my mind, that says the only race on the planet is “the human race” which is made of subsets of peoples of different geographical origins. We could go so far as to say “ethnic” origins, as long as we accept the definition of “ethnic” as meaning peoples who share a common national, language, religious, or cultural origin, and don’t associate anything demeaning with the word “ethnic.” I doubt we are able to do that, as a people, today. Maybe someday.

As any culture, we look to our leaders and ‘heroes’ to set an example, however, in our case, at this point in history, we have a President who seems to believe racial profiling is A-OK, as he sets out to interview at least 5000 college students of Middle Eastern dissent who are presently in the U.S. (He would have been able to round up more, but best estimates are at least 40% of the Middle Eastern students in the U.S. have left the country already out of fear that the next step will be internment camps like we built for the Japanese in the U.S. during WW2).

The Portland, Oregon Police Department this week had the guts (common sense?) to tell the Justice Department that they wouldn’t cooperate – that the law prevents them from randomly interrogating people in our country legally, unless those people are suspected of a crime.
Mr. George Dubbya continues to strip away the very rights of citizens that he claims to be fighting for. All in the name of the Constitution (which has apparently now become porous), and with “God at the American people’s side.” (Do you think he realizes that Jesus was an Arab?)

If you’re a conspiracy buff, read up on Operations Northwoods. In 1962, both the CIA and the Pentagon were desperate to start a war with Cuba. “Northwoods” was planned, but (hopefully) never executed. It called for covert attacks against American bases, equipment and personnel. They even manufactured an airplane that looked like a Russian MiG to shoot down an American airliner! Why?

Documents released under the FOIA say the result of the operation “would be to place the United States in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances from a rash and irresponsible government of Cuba and to develop an international image of a Cuban threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere.”

Many historians believe George Sr was involved with the CIA as early as 1960. And now his son has overruled an act of Congress with a single stroke of an executive order pen by sealing all post-Reagan presidential papers in perpetuity, possibly. (They were to be released to the public last January).

Hard core conspiracy theorists opine about what measures the U.S. would take to control the largest remaining untapped oil reserves in the world, along with more than half of the world’s heroin trade?

I don’t buy it. That would be acknowledging that politicians have a modicum of intelligence, which I steadfastly refuse to believe.

“America” is a melting pot. Always has been. The very values that made this country great are in danger of collapsing. The constant influx of various groups of different cultures, who all came with their idea of obtaining the “American dream” has built this country. Many came penniless, and worked hard to create a life and bring over more and more of their friends and family – Scandinavians, Western Europeans, Irish, Germans, Italians at varying times in our history – then refugee Jews, Russians, Vietnamese, Mexicans, and more. The last five years have seen an influx of Arabs and Indians.

We’re putting them all into a group of “madmen” and punishing them for being born in the “wrong place,” just as we have done to group after group throughout our history.

At the Waffle House in Slidell last night, Chinese Americans, Black Americans, White Americans, Mexican Americans, gay and straight Americans, drunk and sober Americans, sat, survived, laughed, shared a meal, in peace and harmony for an hour or so. Maybe waffles are the key to harmony?

I started off this missive with the idea of writing about other taxonomic subgroups – like bacon and eggs, perhaps. But I never know where these experiences will lead me, and this one has brought me to write about something I am terribly unqualified to address.

For I know that of all the characteristics that people on this planet possess, whether those traits come from genetics, geography, environment, education, language….

I am only three things:



And ashamed.



Market of Choice – Asparagus & Prosciutto Strada


Strada is an egg-custard type casserole, frequently served for breakfast or lunch.  It’s a riff on the word “strata”, which mean ‘layers’ as found in natural formations of geology.

My mother first introduced me to the dish, which she made on occasion for her social gatherings – using a relatively common standard list of ingredients of eggs, milk,  ham, cheese, and crust-less bread.   One layers the bread in the bottom of a baking dish, layers ham on top of the bread, and fills the remainder of the dish with a mixture of eggs, milk (or cream) and cheese, which is whipped into a frenzy.  Refrigerate overnight before baking in the morning.  The end result is reminiscent of quiche.

I created my own variation later in life, with a “reuben” strada, using corned beef, swiss, and kraut.   I squeeze as much moisture out of the kraut as possible, lest the dish become a mushy mess, and substitute rye bread.  It’s pretty damned good.

One of the great things about living in Portland is the plethora of a choice of gourmet markets, and one of my favorite is “Market of Choice,” a decidedly upscale grocery, with the requisite separate counters for a fishmonger, butcher, and deli.  The deli (and bakery) have a bevy of prepared dishes designed to delight the taste buds and seriously injure your bank account.

We picked up a single serving of their asparagus and prosciutto strada yesterday for our Easter breakfast.  It was a very hefty serving, easily enough for two, and the register topped $7.50 f0r the slice.

Market of Choice’s variation is heavier on bread than my own, and also heavier on savory, creamy cheese.  On a per ounce basis, it’s not very economical, but then, there is no measure on “cents per taste sensation”, otherwise this version would be very economical.

It’s a delight.

One thing you can’t tell from the photo is the size of the piece, it’s more than ample.

Here’s a basic recipe for strada; you might try your own variations, like salmon and cream cheese, for instance.

Asparagus and Prosciutto Strada from Market of Choice




Home Cookin’ – Uli’s Sausage from Seattle, WA


Mrs. Burgerdogboy love getting our pork on for weekend breakfasts, and this can take many forms:  bacon, ham chops, jowls, links, patties, smoked or fresh sausage.  This weekend, we picked up some linguica from Uli’s Sausage of Seattle, being sold in the Portland area at Sheridan Fruit Market.

Linguica (for those of you who didn’t click the link to wikipedia) is  “Portuguese sausage” a smoked pork link seasoned with garlic and paprika.  Outside of the Iberian peninsula, you’ll find it popular in Massachusetts, NJ, Washington and environs, and most of all, in Hawaii.  Especially Hawaii, where you’ll find it even on the McDonald’s breakfast menu.

Uli’s is a fresh sausage, that is, one has to cook it prior to consuming.  I have a habit of parboiling fresh sausage before frying or grilling, a holdover from days in the Upper Midwest and they want locals treat bratwurst sausages (parboiled in beer).

Uli’s is a very fine grind, which I personally prefer (if you’ve ever ordered andouille in France, you’ll know what I mean).  The flavors are strong, but I can’t identify them to you, as the label only lists (in addition to garlic, paprika and red wine), “spices” as an ingredient.

After some discussion on the home front, and multiple tastes, we’re gonna guess that Uli has some finely ground fennel in the links, as well.

It’s a great product.  I’ll try others of his as I run across them.

Uli's Sausage

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