Every Friday, Safeway supermarket has a bunch of items on sale for $5. Usually this includes a couple of items from their deli, and more often than not, it includes their “Signature Cafe All American Sub,” which is normally $10. This 14″+, 2lb sandwich includes ham, cured turkey, white American cheese and romaine lettuce. The ingredient list says it also has beef, mayo and mustard, but these never seem to make an appearance in my sandwiches. Adding the latter two improves the experience. The sandwich could probably also used more cheese, there really isn’t enough to cover all the meat.
Despite these shortcomings, it’s a damn good sandwich. For $5, it’s an excellent sandwich. It provides enough food for easily 3-4 meals and it actually keeps fairly well in the fridge for 2-3 days.
The bread is usually on the hard side, but the sub I got today was in a soft roll, which I prefer.
All in all, this is one of the best deals at Safeway. Look for it on Fridays.
Surprisingly tasty dinner is not the best deal in town
In the last couple of years, I’ve tried a few of Costco’s ready-to-heat meals and I have generally been pleased enough with them. I don’t remember exactly what tempted me to get this particular kit, but it got fairly good reviews online, it wasn’t as carb-heavy as Costco’s pastas and I probably had no other plans for dinner that night. In all, I was fairly happy with it but I found it to be overpriced at the $19 instacart price, so unless I’m actually at Costco and it’s significantly cheaper, I don’t think I’d get it again.
The kit consists of moderately spiced cooked chicken, shredded cabbage, shredded Mexican cheese, a quartered lime, pots of salsa and cilantro lime crema and 12 small flour tortillas. The chicken had a pretty good flavor and it was fairly moist. To warm it up I simply heated up some oil on a skillet and cooked it, stirring often, for a few minutes. It didn’t dry out but it did acquire a nice charred flavor on some parts. The salsa was pretty standard and also a tad spicy – I would have preferred pico de gallo myself, but then again, I often do. The cilantro lime crema was OK, but I also would have preferred plain old sour cream and chopped fresh cilantro. Now, I understand the difficulty of including cilantro in a kit like this, but the crema was really not a good substitute. Finally, I did miss the kit not including guacamole.
Altogether, the ingredients put together on a tortilla made very tasty tacos. Perhaps not as good as those from my corner’s Mexican restaurant, but still tastier than I had expected.
The main problem with the kit is that it’s just not very large. I’d say it feed 2 hungry people or 3 if you use up all the cabbage and tortillas. Now, that’s not bad for $19, but not great either, in particular when compared to the just-cooked and ready-to-eat fiesta packs from El Torito – which cost twice as much but give you more than twice the food, plus which you don’t need to heat up.
I wouldn’t have paid $20 for 4 oz of Ibérico cold cuts if it wasn’t my birthday. But it was, so when I saw this tapas sampler at Cost Plus I threw caution to the wind and put it in my cart. I’m glad I did. While ridiculously expensive (but, Ibérico ham is ridiculously expensive in Spain too – though a sampler like this would cost about half to a third as much), it was absolutely delicious. As good as any pork product I’ve had in Spain, at stores or restaurants. Even as good as the Ibérico ham my friend’s mother – a butcher – would send from Extremadura to her house in Madrid.
The sampler comes with one ounce (28g) each of jamón ibérico, ibérico pork loin, ibérico salchichón and ibérico chorizo. I had meant to eat these with bread or crackers, but I ended up eating them all on their own. The paper thin slices of each were so good that I couldn’t bear to add other flavors to it. I really can’t say which was my favorite,
“Finca Helechal” is a brand of Ibérico pork products producer “Embutidos Fermín“, a small family company based on La Alberca, Salamanca. They have different levels of products, the top ones made from pigs fed acorns. These ones are made from grain-fed free range pigs that are only 50% Iberian. Unless you are tasting the two products side by side, I don’t think you’ll notice.
I’ll definitely buy this again. And maybe next time, I’ll share it.
For years, as parents of children and then teens, the only salad dressing we had at home was ranch. There was the occasional diversion into Italian, Thousand Islands or, more recently, Caesar’s, but blue cheese was well out of the question. Now, the kids are grown and family meals are the exception rather than the rule. The silver lining to that is that I can finally cook and buy what I want to eat.
So I went google searching for the best Blue Cheese dressing and Brianna’s came at the top of several lists – I bought it, since I found it at Sprouts, and it exceeded all my expectations. It’s absolutely delicious. It has a very, very strong flavor however, and it’s incredibly rich, so less is definitely more with this salad dressing. That, of course, is not a bad thing.
For some reason, Brianna’s decided to use a picture of a red onion on the packaging, so they had to specify that the salad dressing doesn’t actually contain red onions. They claim, instead, that it’s delicious on fresh red onions, and if you want to eat it that way, be my guest. I’ve both used it to dress onionless salads and as a general dip for whatever item I felt like dipping (the last thing were shawarma slices from Costco). It was $4.29 through Instacart, but given how little you need to use of it, it’s actually cheaper than brands like Kraft.
Yesterday I was introduced to a completely new ingredient to me: calamansi fruit. These tiny citrus fruits are also known as kalamansi, calamondin and Philippines limes or lemons. They are extremely sour, and their juice is used instead of lemon or lime juice in Filipino and other southeast Asian cuisines. They do have a more orangy taste profile than lime, and a common substitute for their juice is a mixture of equal ratios of orange juice and lemon or lime juice (though I imagine the result will be less sour). Calamansi start out green, and turn orange when they are ripe. I don’t know that their taste changes much, however, the ones I got were mostly orange (see picture) but they were extremely sour.
I came across them in a recipe for Ambonese fish, which called for their juice. I was excited to see that calamansi juice was available at my local big-chain supermarket, but disappointed when I got my order and found out that what they sell is actually calamansi nectar, a drink whose first and second ingredients are water and sugar. Basically, it’s a lemonade made with calamansi fruit instead. As a drink, it’s rather good. I liked it much better than lemonade though les than limeade. It did feel the particular brand I bought was rather watery, but perhaps in my old age I just need more intense flavors (I don’t have a problem with commercial limeade, however).
As much as I enjoyed the drink, I still needed to find calamansi which, fortunately, was an easy task in California. Not only do we have a large Filipino population which consume these fruits, but it seems that we have a good climate for growing them. I found several ads on Facebook Marketplace for people who had trees in their backyards and sold them for $4/lb.
However, I ended up buying these at a local Asian supermarket with a large Filipino selection. A 1/2 lb bag was $2.25 and it produced 1/3 cup of juice. So it is definitely more expensive than lime/lemon/orange juice. I think there might be commercial brands selling calamansi juice, but I didn’t think it was worth my time seeking them out at the local Asian markets.
Juicing the calamansi turned out to be very easy if a bit time consuming. You basically cut off the side with the stem and then squeeze them by hand into a strainer – they are full of seeds. Alternatively you could just squeeze them into a bowl and then strain the whole thing, I imagine. At least when they are ripe, they are very soft and very easy to squeeze.
I’m actually looking forward to find another dish that calls for these little fruit, they are that cute and fun to cook with. Meanwhile, I’ll just drink the calamansi-ade.
I got this honey by mistake. I’d order a different one through Instacart, asked for yet another as a substitution, but ended up with this one all the same.
All in all, this taste like a pretty generic, uncomplex and yet very tasty honey. At 65°-70°F, it’s quite thin and flows very easily. It has a perfectly delicious, mild, not overly sweet, honey flavor. It seems like a sort of general purpose honey.
Despite its name, Nature Nate’s 100% Pure Raw & Unfiltered Honey is not really raw nor unfiltered. While the honey is not pasteurized, it is heated to some undisclosed temperature and studies have shown that heating for a short time will degrade the nutrients, enzymatic activity and water soluble vitamins in honey. So this honey is probably best left for uses that require heating it anyway – such as sweetening hot drinks or creating a syrup by mixing it with water and heating it.
Similarly, while this honey is “unfiltered,” it is strained. I’m guessing that what they mean is that the filter they use has holes too small for impurities to go through but too big for pollen.
My biggest concern with honey is adulteration. There is a big problem with adulterated honeys, and only one laboratory in the US has the capacity to test them. According to a lawsuit filed against Nature Nate’s in 2019, some of the samples of their honey were found to be adulterated with other syrups. That still means that other samples were fine, but it also means you can’t be assured you are getting what you paid for. The lawsuit, btw, was dismissed but on technical rather than substantive grounds.
In all, this is not a premium honey but it’s tasty enough and should serve most of your needs. If you are looking for a top grade raw honey, I’d probably hit the farmer’s market instead.
Note: the link to Instacart is a referral link, if you subscribed immediately after you click on it, I might get $10 credit and you would as well. Instacart refunded me the cost of this honey, as it wasn’t what I’d ordered.
I continue in my quest of finding a commercial orange juice that can rival fresh squeezed. Basically, I want something that tastes as good as Odwalla did back in the 90’s, before an e-coli crisis forced them to pasteurize their juice. I realize it’s quite hard.
At $7-$9 for a 52-oz bottle, Uncle Matt is priced as a premium supermarket brand (similar to Nature, Evolution and the former Odwalla), and it seems to achieve pretty much the same quality. It’s closer to orange juice than the cheaper brands, but not quite fresh. I still prefer the Costco brand more, but this will do in a pinch. I did find it too sweet for my taste.
I got these frozen beef empanadas by mistake in an Instacart order. They come 4 to a package, each individually wrapped. They are on the small side, each weighing about 2.5 oz. You are supposed to deep fry them, but I air fried them instead after spraying them with olive oil. The ones in the photo were cooked for 8 minutes at the default setting, but you can add a couple of minutes more to get them darker.
The little empanadas do pack a lot of flavor – both natural and “enhanced” -; while they don’t seem to have vinegar, they taste like they do. They’re aren’t bad, but not something that I would seek out. The dough is on the salty side as well, and I can only imagine it’s better if deep fried.
In all, I wouldn’t buy these even if they weren’t Goya brand, as they aren’t that special. But I’ll finish the box.
Note: the link to Instacart is a referral link, if you subscribed immediately after you click on it, I might get $10 credit and you would as well. You probably can get a better deal elsewhere, though. Links on the margins may also be referral links, check.
Tonight for dinner, I made a fabulous oxtail stew from a recipe from Jerez de la Frontera – I will publish it shortly. Making the stew, however, was far easier than actually procuring the oxtails. They used to be a relatively cheap cut of meat, but I guess demand has gone up as prices are through the roof and all over the place.
I ordered my first four pounds of oxtails from Safeway, as they were on sale for $7/lb. This is what passes for a very good price right now for a cut that is mostly bone, fat and gelatin and, as a result, has very little meat. As usual, I asked for no substitutions as Safeway almost invariably substitutes the meat on sale I order for far more expensive stuff. Indeed, I’ve had to call to complain about these substitutions so often, that the day before I placed this order I spoke with two different Safeway employees about the fact that I did not want any substitutions, no matter how well intentioned they were.
Anyway, I digress, but as I half expected, Safeway did not send me the 4 lbs of $7/lb oxtails I ordered, but instead sent me two small packages of vacuum packed oxtails for $13/lb! To add insult to injury, those packages included some of the thinnest bones from the tail. I was not happy. I got a refund, but was still left in need of another source for oxtails to have enough for my recipe.
Enter Cardenas supermarket, which also had fresh oxtails on sale, for $9/lb (though closer to $11/lb when you add Instacart fees and tips). That might seem a lot, but the price of oxtails at other supermarkets was even higher. They were $10/lb at Costco, $13/lb at Raleys, $17.3 at 99 Ranch Market and $23/lb to $34/lb at Hmart! Now, these are Instacart prices, but what the hell???!!!!
There were significant differences between the oxtails I got from Cardenas (those seen at the top of the pan) and Safeway (bottom). The former were all medium to large pieces, and had a fresh red color. The latter included quite a few small bones, and they had a weird purplish color, that didn’t quite show up in the picture, probably from the packing method. Still, once I cooked them they were all very good. Indeed, the tiny pieces had very little meat but what they had was particularly succulent, probably as it shared more surface area with the sauce.
I was telling my husband how this could have been an $80 dish if I hadn’t shopped so carefully (frankly, it’d have been more – I’d forgotten about the $16 bottle of sherry I’d pour into the stew). He said he felt it’d have been worth $80. He is a smart man.
Note: the link to Instacart is a referral link, if you subscribed immediately after you click on it, I might get $10 credit and you would as well. You probably can get a better deal elsewhere, though.
Signature Reserve appears to be a premium version of Safeway/Albertson’s store brand. They cost more than twice than regular Signature pasta sauces and this one, at least, was imported from Italy and claimed to be made from a “Porchettini family recipe”. I’m not sure who they are, but a recipe needs to come from someone or other.
This particular sauce wasn’t bad, if you really like the flavor of artificial truffle. Basically what you get is a pretty fresh, tomato forward sauce, immediately followed by an intense black truffle flavor that lingers on. Now, I learned last year that the flavors of actual truffles and artificial truffle is quite different, and what most of us understand as black truffle is artificial – so I was expecting this sauce to taste that way. Perhaps not as intensely as it does, however. It’s not bad, but the truffle in the sauce will obfuscate any other flavor that surrounds it.
While I wouldn’t order this particular pasta sauce again, I might try one of the other ones – they have at least five other flavors.
I am a huge fan of meatballs but I don’t make them often enough because if I have ground beef and I’m going to eat it with pasta, I end up making a meatball instead and then it feels redundant. I figured that if I buy the meatballs already made, I could would just eat them with pasta and store-bought tomato sauce for a very quick dinner. I have yet to find a good brand of refrigerated or frozen meatballs however and these, despite its fancy packaging, weren’t them.
The main problem is that they are too dense and heavy. Indeed, these meatballs only contain ground pork, cheese and spices. They don’t have bread to make them light and airy. Baking them as per the instructions, doesn’t contribute to making them any lighter.
I wasn’t thrilled by the flavor either, but that’s my fault for buying spicy meatballs. Who knows what prompted me to do that. Still, having tried them their dense consistency is enough of a deterrent to try any other flavors.