Costco Has the Worst Burger EVER

My husband went to Costco the other day and I asked him to get me a BBQ brisket sandwich for lunch. Unfortunately, our local Costco in San Leandro (at least) no longer carries them. Instead, they have added a burger to their menu and my husband figured he’d get me that instead. Bad, bad move.

He said he had an inkling that the burger wouldn’t be good when he saw the patties coming out of the steamer. And he was right. This has to be the worst burger I have ever eaten, bar none. And I’ve eaten many bad burgers in my time.

The meat (and I’m assuming it’s meat) was so incredibly dry, that I have to believe it’s mostly filling. It also tasted just like the burgers they used to serve in middle school when I was a kid – not a good memory. Except these were drier.

The patties are enormous, which in this case it’s just not a good thing. It only means you have more unappetizing food to get through.

I didn’t want to waste food, so I ate through almost half of it until I decided that I just couldn’t do this to myself. The dog ate the rest. She, at least, did not complain.

But you are warned: stay away from these burgers.


My chicken has a blue spot

Yesterday I cut up some chicken and marinated it full fat yogurt and homemade tandoori massala. Today, when I went to cook it, I discovered that several pieces had bright aqua spots on them. Spots that I know for sure weren’t there when I cut the chicken up and put it to marinade.

What are they? One theory is that the garlic powder in the massala may have reacted with the yogurt to change colors. Garlic has been known to do that. Another, is that it’s “oxidation” or mold.

I’m posting this here in case it happens to someone else and they go around searching for answers in the internet. I may not have them, but at least they’ll know they are not alone.

BTW, I decided to cook the chicken and eat it. It’s been a few hours and so far, I haven’t dropped dead. I’ll update if I feel like I wish I was dead tonight or tomorrow.

Update: It’s now the next morning and I’ve felt no ill effects from making the chicken.

I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about a week old, but still under the expiration date – it didn’t smell at all), a homemade tandoori masala made from ground coriander, cumin, garlic powder, ginger, cloves, mace, fenugreek seeds, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom and nutmeg, and Mountain High original plain yogurt (which contains
Cultured Pasteurized Milk – cultured with
S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, B. bifidus, and L. casei -, Fruit Pectin, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3) . The leftover yogurt shows no discoloration.

Foster Farms says they’ve never seen anything like this.


Review: Freshly’s Low County Bowl

Rating 6/10

I got this meal for my husband. It consists of shrimp and
andouille sausage  with green beans and corn – and a side of roasted potatoes. My husband found it overall tasty, but he thought the shrimp were tasteless and soggy (a problem with all of Freshly’s meals).

The meal had 450 calories, 16 g fat (2.5 saturated), 47 g of carbs & 6g sugar. It had 34 g of protein.

I paid a little under $7 for each of these meals, with a special offer.


Review: Freshly’s Teriyaki Salmon Cakes and Ranch Chicken

Here are my reviews of my final two weeks of my Freshly subscription.

Teriyaki Salmon Cakes with Brown Rice & Spicy Green Beans

Rating 8/10

I got this meal for my husband – who, unlike me, likes salmon – and he liked it quite a lot. He liked the spice on the beans, and thought the rice & salmon was very flavorful. It was supposed to be salmon cakes with rice, mind you, but one of them came completely apart as I transferred them from the microwaved trade towards the plate.

I think the fact that you don’t need a knife to eat this meal is also a plus in terms of taking it with you to work.

This meal had 460 calroies, 20 grams of fat (4 saturated), 54 grams of carbs, 12 g of sugar and 560g of sodium, which is relatively low for Freshly. Only 18 g of protein, though.

Ranch Chicken with Broccoli-Cheddar Cakes

Rating 4/10

This was, by far, the worst Freshly meal I got in my first week. The chicken was tough and dry and the ranch sauce was pretty bland and tasteless. I’m not sure how you get Ranch sauce wrong – maybe when you are trying to make it healthier, but it was just so blah.

The cheddar broccoli cakes were only marginally more flavorful.

The meal had 500 calories, 20 g fat (7 saturated), 33 g of carbs & 9 sugar. It had 48 g of protein.

I paid a little under $7 for each of these meals, with a special offer.


Review: Freshly’s Spring Garden Veggie Bowl and Steak Peppercorn

Despite all the different companies offering meal kits out there, I wasn’t able to find any that had enough offerings in their menu that appealed to me this week. I thus decided to finally give Freshly a try.

Unlike other companies, Freshly doesn’t send out meal kits – rather, they sell refrigerated meals – basically an upgraded version of TV dinners. They have 30 varieties, each with one serving, but the menu doesn’t seem to change weekly.

Last night, only my vegan daughter and myself were hungry enough for dinner, so we tried two of the kits. They were pretty good.

Garden Veggie Bowl

Rating 7/10

This, as far as I can see, is the only semi-vegan option offered by Freshly. It does contain honey, which my daughter wants to start avoiding – a fact she didn’t share with me until after I made this order. In any case, she ate it and she enjoyed it. Indeed, this was one of her favorite meal kit meals.

The meal is basically a quinoa bowl with veggies: peas, sweet potatoes, radishes and cauliflower. She didn’t like the radishes, though, and there was only one piece of cauliflower. It has a vinaigrette dressing made of oil, vinegar, orange and lemon juice, honey and spices. This was a pretty filling meal and she didn’t finish it. It was a rather substantial meal as well – clocking at 580 calories and 34 grams of fat, but it had quite a lot of fiber and protein as well. She’d have it again, if I didn’t let her know it had honey in it. In all, she’d prefer to make her own bowl and add more cauliflower.

Heating the meal required microwaving for 2 minutes and then resting for another 2.

Steak Peppercorn

Rating 6/10

Update: I got this meal again and I was nowhere as pleased. The steak wasn’t as red or as juicy and it was underseasoned. The consistency was also a bit weird. The mashed potatoes were the same, tasty but a bit too salty.

Original Review

This is the only steak meal that Freshly offers. It’s not too surprising as steak can both be expensive and it’s hard to keep its quality through pre-cooking and microwaving. Freshly did a fairly good job in this case, though it definitely didn’t taste or had the consistency of a freshly made steak. The flavor was a little off, but I tend to be a purist about my steaks and usually prefer them unadorned by sauces or spices.

The steak was sent cooked medium rare, though I’m sure you can microwave it for an extra minute if you want it more cooked. It had enough juice to bleed into the plate.

The mashed potatoes were pretty tasty as well, sinfully so. They were too thin for my taste. They might have been gummy if not that thin, but the flavor was excellent.

I don’t like green beans, so I served these to my husband who was not hungry enough for a meal of his own, but was happy to get “something” for dinner. He thought they were OK. I wasn’t particularly hungry myself, so I was satisfied with just the meat and potatoes. In all, I think this meal is sized pretty correctly.

It took 3 1/2 minutes to heat up this meal in the microwave, and 2 more to rest.

I was surprised that this meal had both less calories and fat than the vegan one (480 calories & 27 grams of fat), though, of course, it has much more saturated fat (12 g vs 3g).

In all, this is a meal I’d have again though I wouldn’t feel compelled to.

I paid a little under $7 for each of these meals, with a special offer. They normally cost $10 each. I think at $10, they are probably overpriced. You can probably get something tastier for lunch from a restaurant for about that much. At $7, they heat the right balance between what a refrigerated meal would cost at the supermarket (and none of the ones I’ve had, have been that good) and what takeout costs.


Sky Valley Tikka Masala Sauce Review

My local Grocery Outlet store is currently currying a variety of Sky Valley bottled sauces. I picked up the Tikka Masala sauce because it’s vegan, and I’m always looking for stuff that my vegan daughter can eat. Unfortunately this was a bust.

The sauce itself wasn’t bad. While I wouldn’t say it tastes like the tikka masala you can get at Indian restaurants, it’s better than anything I could make myself. Indeed, it tastes very much like Trader Joe’s masala sauce. They are both far more acidic and less sweet than your restaurant tikka masala sauce.

The big problem for my vegan daughter was that the sauce was too spicy. She ate it with lots of rice, but still couldn’t get past the spice. Now, she doesn’t like spicy food, so in terms of level of spice I’d say this sauce is “medium” spicy.

The 13.8 oz bottle of Sky Valley tikka masala sauce sells on their website for $5.30, but it was just $2 at Grocery Outlet and it was on sale for just $1.75 at Walmart (regular price $3.65). It’s produced in Danville (so not to far away from where I live) and exported all the way to the UAE!


Refrigerated Meal Review: Cedarlane Cheese Tortellini with Creamy Tomato Sauce

I had not heard of Cedarlane before I found this refrigerated Cheese Tortellini meal at Grocery Outlet. It turns out that Cedarlane is a 40-year old company that sells frozen and refrigerated food. I couldn’t find this exact item in their website, but they do show several intriguing vegan meals I’ll try to find (they apparently sell this brand at Lucky Supermarkets).

This tray meal of tortellini in tomato sauce was basic but tasty. I liked how soft the tortellini were. There are three servings in this meal, but I can’t imagine that it would satisfy more than one as a full meal.

It was $5 at Grocery Outlet, so I imagine it costs significantly more at the supermarket. At $5 is a good meal, I’m not sure I’d pay any more than that.


Refrigerated Meal Review: Heat.Eat.Done Chicken Marsala with Penne Pasta

Chicken Marsala with Penne Pasta Review

Last week I found this refrigerated tray meal for Chicken Marsala with Penne Pasta at Grocery Outlet, and decided to give it a try. I love chicken marsala. At $5 for what is really a portion for one person (unless you are eating something else), it’s not exactly cheap for a pre-made, refrigerated meal, specially when bought at a bargain store, but I figured it was worth a try. Unfortunately, that was all that it was worth.

The chicken in the dish was incredibly dry. Now, this is very unusual for microwavable meals, but somehow Heat.Eat.Done managed it. The sauce also didn’t actually taste of Marsala wine – it lacked the sweetness of the wine -, and it was too liquidy and tasteless. I would not buy it again.


Barilla Veggie Pasta Review

Like pretty much everyone in the whole world, my kids love pasta. Alas, I wish it was more nutritious – so whenever I can find some pasta that seems better, I give it a try.

Barilla veggie pasta is made with zucchini and spinach pure and supposedly gives you a full serving of veggies. However, it doesn’t have any more fiber than regular pasta – perhaps because it’s not made with whole wheat. It does have some vitamin A, though I think it may be better to get this by adding some shredded carrots to the pasta sauce you’re using (something which I just thought of, so never tried – but will now). Still, substituting this pasta for regular pasta is a painless way to get a bit more nutrition.

There are some minuses, however. Now that Barilla has abandoned its anti-gay practices, the main one is the price. It can cost about twice as much as bargain regular spaghetti brands, and it costs 25% more than the regular Barilla pasta. However, it’s still far cheaper than other enhanced pasta brands. It’s sold in a 12 oz package, which is perfect for a four-person family, but may be too little for larger families.

In all, I’ll probably buy it, particularly when it’s on sale, though I’d like to try the more nutritious brands as well.



Belgian Waffles

One of the delights of downtown Brussels is their waffle stores.  Here, you can eat freshly made waffles with a variety of toppings.  A big variety.  The ones I tried were delicious but a pain in the but to eat on the go, specially as the plastic forks provided were too weak to easily cut the thick waffles.  The flavors were great, however.  I might want to recreate this at home.