Foster Farm Recall Throws Light on Private Brands that Use Their Chickens

foster-farmsFoster Farms is the most ubiquitous brand of fresh(ish?) chicken in California. Go to a supermarket and your chicken choices tend to be Foster Farms, the store’s brand or some organic chicken brand you don’t know much about.  As it turns out, many of those privately branded chickens also come from Foster Farms. This came to light this week when Foster Farms issued a recall for chicken that had been found to have salmonella.  That chicken was sold in March, so it’s unlikely anyone has any left in their freezers.

The private brands that are really Foster Farms chicken  (but often sold at lower prices) are:

  • FoodMaxx (parts)
  • Kroger (friers & parts)
  • Safeway Eating Right (boneless chicken breasts & thighs)
  • Safeway Farms (chicken parts)
  • Savemart (drumsticks & thighs)
  • Sunland
  • Val Best


Three Sausages: Gilbert’s, Open Nature & Aidell’s

I’ve been kind of lazy about making dinner lately, and what is easier and tastier than grilling some hot dogs or sausages?  Grocery Outlet, meanwhile, has had an explosion of sausage choices this week so we were able to try a few new ones.

open-nature-sausage-pork-171009The winner of this batch was Open Nature Smoked Uncured Sausages. This is actually the Safeway brand of sausages.  These are 100% pork sausages. They are pretty big, with four sausages in the 12 oz package, and very tasty.  That’s probably because they are full of fat, 23 grams for one of these vs. 15 grams for one of the Gilbert sausages below (which are 1/2 oz smaller).  Still, if you’re going for flavor, you can’t go wrong with these sausages.  Mike rated them an 8.5.

gilbertsGilbert’s Craft Sausages is a very new company (started in 2010) offering “gourmet” uncured beef sausages.  I got the beef & cheddar and we thought it was pretty good.  Mike would rate it a 6.5.  Camila, my 9 yo, liked it – and she can be picky.  It had a nice flavor, not very overwhelming, and was pretty juicy.  I think I might enjoy it more without the cheddar.

One convenient thing about Gilbert’s sausages is that they are individually wrapped.  The bad thing is that they don’t have the type/expiration date printed on the plastic, so I still have to keep the carton in the fridge to remember what they are.  A 10 oz package of 4 sausages was, I think, $3 at Grocery Outlet.

aidellsFinally, one of my kids like chicken sausages and we often buy the Aidells kind.  There were none at Grocery Outlet, buy they had Awesome Apple uncured chicken hot dogs.  The 10 oz package has 5.  Both kids really liked them and they seem marginally healthier, with 7 grams of fat each.  But one kid had to eat two to get full, and the other 3 .  Of course, the kids gave them a “10”.  My oldest says she prefers these to the sausages as they are thinner and easier to eat, plus they look smaller.  Less messy too.

One good thing about these chicken apple hot dogs is that they don’t have pork casings.  Aidells chicken sausages don’t either, but other manufacturers do.  If you are specifically avoiding eating pork products (as my daughter is), this matters.

Simply Homemade Bread Mixes – Product Review

countrywhiteI got a breadmaker for Christmas, and Mike picked up one of Fleischmann’s Simply Homemade bread mixes at the store.  I thought it was sort of silly, isn’t the whole point of having a bread maker to be able to throw some ingredients together and get great bread?, but after a couple of failures doing exactly that, I decided to try it.  It was delicious!  Seriously, soooo good.

I think I got the Country White, though I threw away the box and the bread was actually sort of brown.  I also cooked it for 3 hours, rather than on a rapid cycle.  You don’t get a particularly large loaf – but if what you want is flavor, this has it.  I think next time I’d select light crust rather than medium, however.

I don’t know how much the package was, my bet is that it’s not cost effective, but if I found them on sale I might buy a couple to keep to make some quick bread without having to put much thought into it.

Hormel Natural Choice Apple Gouda Chicken Sausages – Review

AppleGoudaChickenSausage-largeI got these at Grocery Outlet yesterday.  They were only 50-cents, or so, as today was the expiration day.  I was going to use them in quesadillas, but we ended up eating them whole.

All in all, they were good, but so sweet that none of us wanted to have a second sausage (and at 3 oz, they aren’t that big).  My youngest particularly enjoyed how juicy it was.  The cheese, indeed, seems to be there more to provide juiciness than flavor.

They are actually made from “natural” ingredients: chicken, Gouda cheese, dried apples, brown sugar, vinegar, salt, paprika and spices.  They are in pork casings.

I don’t know that I’d buy again, unless they were on sale at 50-cents.

Trader Joe’s Classic Lemon Bars

Lemon-BarsI got these to serve as the last course of my 13-course Xmas Eve dinner and they were perfect.  Indeed, these were very good lemon bars overall. They come frozen, and the curd is perhaps more cream-like and less sticky than that of a regular lemon bar, but it had the right degree of balance between sweetness and sourness, and they were the perfect size for an after dinner bite.  All in all very satisfying for anyone who likes lemon bars.

Rougette Grill Meister Grilling Cheese – Product Review

GRILLMEISTER-PACKAGE I found this packaged cheese at Grocery Outlet yesterday, and I went back today to pick up four more packages. My haste was due to the fact that at 50-cents a package (regular retails is $5!), they will disappear soon, plus they expired on Dec. 16th – two days ago.  I don’t know for how much longer it’ll stay good, but surely a few more days.

This soft cheese is made in Germany, and is specifically made to be heated before serving.  It doesn’t have a crust, per se, though the outer layer becomes harder, while protecting a semi-melted middle.  It’s very good.  While officially a camembert, it reminded me more of a brie, though it’s milder and less bitter than most of those. It had a slightly nutty flavor, which I liked.

It was also very easy to prepare. You can either put it on the grill or on a lightly oiled pan on the stove. Cook for six minutes, flipping from time to time.  That’s it.  The 3.2 oz portion is definitely dainty, and I wouldn’t buy it at its regular $25-lb price, but for $5-lb, it’s well worth it, even if I have to hurry and eat it all this week 🙂

Ciao Bella Blood Orange Sorbet

CB_bloodorg_lgI have a pretty nasty cold, so I only want to eat things which are smooth going down my throat and so flavorful that I can taste them despite my stuffed nose.  Ciao Bella blood orange sorbet fit the bill perfectly.

Of course, I can’t tell you how someone that has their 5 senses would experience it, but to me it was delicious.  The sorbet had a strong orange flavor, with some welcome bitter undertones.  It was very creamy and smooth.

They have these at Grocery Outlet here in San Leandro for $2 now, and I think I’ll stock up.

Soul Indian Wraps – Review

soul_butter_chkn_3dIf you’re tired of having the same old frozen burrito for lunch, Soul’s Indian wraps provide a reasonable alternative.  They have four flavors, butter chicken, chicken vindaloo, chicken tikka masala and vegetable curry.  I’ve tasted the three chicken ones, and I can’t say I could really distinguish their flavor. They all tasted like mildly spicy generic chicken curries, acceptable but not exciting. Of the four choices, the tikka masala has slightly less calories/fat (370 c/11 g. fat) than the others, so that may be your best choice.  The vegetable curry, which I haven’t tried, has the greatest fat content.

The wraps were about $1.50 at Grocery Outlet and they cook in the microwave in about 3 minutes (you have to turn it half way).

Starbucks Via: So 20th century!

I will admit it.  I’m an instant coffee drinker.  I know I’m not the only one in America, but I’m one of the few who will admit to it.  I drink instant coffee because it’s easy to make, but also because I like my coffee fairly mild.  I do have a strong preference for Taster’s Choice and Nescafé – so I do have some standards of sorts, but clearly they are not very high.

I first heard of Starbucks VIA last May when I won a raffle for a Starbucks gift card and the card came with a 3 individual samples of French Roast instant coffee.  I tried them and they were great.  The coffee has a rich flavor, stronger and more developed than any instant coffee I drink, but without the bitterness of the real thing.  As far as instant coffees go, it’s by far my favorite.

But… it’s expensive.  Ridiculously expensive, about 83-cents per cup, though if you buy it bulk you can get it down to 60-cents a cup.   A cup of Taster’s Choice costs less than 10-cents by comparison.  So needless to say, I haven’t been buying it.

Soon after I received my sample pack, I saw VIA at Safeway, and not too long after that, at Grocery Outlet.  But even at Grocery Outlet it was too expensive, though I don’t remember exactly what the price was.  Today I noticed that the 3-cup packages are down to 99-cents (though they expired in June).  33-cents a cup is not too bad, so I bought a few packages to have it as the occasional treat.  Lately, I’m drinking tea anyway.

The biggest problem with VIA, besides the price, is all the needless packaging.  I guess they need it to make you think you are getting more from your money than you really are.  It’s unlikely that anyone seeing a $40 7-oz jar of VIA placed next to a $10 jar of Taster Choice would reach towards the former.  But all of this means a lot of wasted materials which come at a significant environmental cost.

I’m sure that Starbucks did a lot of market research before introducing this product, but I just don’t see who it would appeal to.

Raymundo’s Caramel Flan – Product Review

I got this at Grocery Outlet last week.  The 21 oz package was on sale for about $2, I think.  Its first ingredients were milk and sugar so I thought it was worth trying.  It wasn’t bad but I wouldn’t but it again.

I found the flan both a bit insipid and too smooth for my taste.  I prefer flans that are a bit rougher, with air bubbles throughout.  I assume this is because this flan is made with whole eggs, but I imagine the fillers don’t help either.