I found this item today at Grocery Outlet San Leandro, while looking for actual Gruyère cheese for a recipe. Normally, I would stay away from anything that calls itself a “cheese product,” but nothing in the ingredient list seemed scary (though it does contain sodium phosphates, emulsifying salts and sorbic acid) so I figured, why not?
It was a great choice. This cheese tastes *just* like Laughing Cow cheese, but it’s more solid. You can cut it into slices and have it melt on your burgers. As other processed cheeses, it melts beautifully. It’s also damned tasty to eat by itself – and I’m thinking of including it on my Christmas Eve dinner cheese plate.
It turns out that processed cheeses can last a long time because they have preservatives added. Plus they are fattier. Amazingly, a lot of the cheeses we know – such as Mozarella, Cheddar, Brie, Camembert and Swiss – are processed cheeses. Who knew?
Amazingly, I haven’t been able to find any references to this cheese in the internet. Grand European is a trademark of Pacific Cheese Co., located in Hayward (next door to San Leandro), which distributes it. Costco sells a Havarti and a Gouda with the same label. This Gruyere cheese products says it’s made in Germany.
My fear is that this cheese will be difficult to find – cheeses at Grocery Outlet come and go. Fortunately, it’s very cheap ($2.20 for about 7 oz) and it will last until March next year.
I have recently started trying “meal kits” and while I love the idea of simple meals I can make in under an hour, I hate how expensive they are. At $20-$28 per entree for two people, they cost about the same as take out and there are no leftovers! Still, they are super convenient.
Today, I decided to try to recreate one of those kit-meals buying the ingredients myself to see how they worked and whether I saved money. Now, if you are a professional billing $500/hour (or even $100), the time spent at the supermarket hunting these ingredients will surpass any savings you may have – so these meals are really ideal for people for whom time is literally money. But my time is far cheaper than that.
I chose this recipe for French Onion Burgers with Gruyere and Arugula because I had read good things about it while looking through Plated reviews and it has fairly common ingredients, which I hoped I could easily find at the quirky discount grocery store near my house. I wasn’t able to get all the ingredients I needed, but I think the substitutions worked well enough. I haven’t tried the Plated kit dish, so I don’t know how it compares to mine as far as flavor goes, but I don’t think it’s likely to have been significantly better. My version was far cheaper, however. While the Plated meal for 2 costs between $22 and $28, depending on where you buy it, I spent a mere $15 in groceries and had enough food for 3 people (alas, neither of my kids would eat this, so we have leftovers for tomorrow) with groceries remaining.
Here is a list of the ingredients in the recipe, what I bought and the price.
|PLATED Ingredient||My Substitution||Cost|
|Beef Stock, 1 container||Beef broth, 1/2 cup||pantry|
|Yellow Onion, 1 small||Yellow Onion, 1 regular||$0.70|
|Thyme, 1/8 oz.||Living thyme plant||$2|
|Lemon, 1||Lemon, 1||$0.80|
|Ground Beef, 12 oz||Ground Beef, 16 oz||$3.50|
|English muffins, 2||English muffins, 3||$2.80|
|Baby Arugula, 3 oz||Mixed Greens, 5 oz||$3|
|1 Tbsp||Flour, 1 Tbsp||pantry|
|Gruyere, 2 slices||Processed Gruyere Cheese product, 7 oz||$2.20|
|Unsalted butter, 3 packets||1 Tbsp||pantry|
|Dijon mustard, 2 packets||Coarse Dijon mustard||pantry|
Note that I had to substitute baby arugula for mixed greens as all the packages of baby arugula at the grocery store had expired yesterday. The price was the same than for the mixed greens, however.
Where I did save a lot of money was by using “Gruyere cheese product” instead of Gruyere. Unfortunately, my discount grocery store didn’t have it and I decided to substitute with this product as at least it had Gruyere as its main ingredient. Alas, it didn’t take anything like Gruyere and rather it was a more solid version of Laughing Cow cheese. Delicious, but far cheaper and different than real Gruyere. In reality, I don’t think the substitution mattered – the flavor of the onions was so strong that I doubt any cheese would have broken through. The cheese did add to the creaminess of the burger, however.
All in all, I felt the burgers were interesting and tasty but the combination of burger and fresh onion flavors wasn’t a big winner for either me or my husband. I sort of liked the English muffing for a bun substitution, but that’s because I was smart enough to eat the burger with knife and fork. My husband didn’t and wish he had a bun instead.
Neither of us were that fond of the lemon juice/olive oil dressing on the greens, however.
Still, I’m left with 4 English muffins I can have for breakfast, some newly discovered and delicious cheese “product” I’ll eat as a snack (indeed, it’s so fun and unexpected that I may serve it as part of my Xmas cheese course), some more greens to eat as a salad and a very cool thyme plant. I can’t complain at all.
I was making Soy-braised Chicken and Mushrooms for my family, as part of my exploration of Hakka cuisine, and decided to try making it with tofu for my vegetarian daughter. She liked it well enough, though did mention that the tofu didn’t quite absorb the broth and she didn’t think it was as flavorful as she’d liked. Perhaps seitan would be a better bet for this dish.
I do a lot of my grocery shopping online, and Safeway is not particularly attentive to what they send me. I had ordered pork belly, but I got pork shoulder instead. It most definitely didn’t work for my recipe, so I looked for something online so the meat would not go to waste. The recipe below was just perfect. It was super easy to make and the “crust” was just delicious.
3 Tbsps. olive oil
3 Tbsps. minced garlic
Salt and black pepper to taste
4 lbs pork shoulder
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Mix together the olive oil, garlic and salt & pepper in a small bowl. Brush it all over the pork shoulder.
Place the pork shoulder on a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325°F and roast for four hours. Remove from oven and let sit for 20 minutes before slicing.
Based on Aaron McCargo Jr.’s recipe at the Food Network.
I had a couple of pie shells that I had to use today so I decided to make pies – I had bananas and coconut, so banana and coconut cream pies were the obvious choices. The recipe for the custard on the pie is the same, I just doubled it and used half over bananas and half mixed with coconut. The pies were simply delicious. I used the egg whites to make a meringue topping – just so I I could do something with them – but you can serve the pie with whipped cream instead. Unfortunately I don’t have a broiler in my oven, so it didn’t come out as well as it could. The pie itself was delicious, however.
- 1 9″ pie shell
- 3 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups milk
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 large bananas, sliced OR 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
- whipped cream
- 3 egg whites
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 3 Tbsp sugar
Bake the pie shell according to instructions or your recipe. Let cool.
Preheat oven to 350F
Beat egg yolks in a small bowl and set aside.
Place sugar, flour and salt in a medium sauce pan and place on the stove over medium heat. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, lower the temperature and cook for two minutes. Scoop a ladle of custard from the sauce pan and transfer to the bowl with the egg yolks. Mix well. Pour egg yolk mixture back into the sauce pan, mix and cook for two more minutes. Mix in the butter and vanilla extract, stirring until they are incorporated.
If making a banana cream pie, place the banana slices on the bottom of the pie shell, then pour custard over it.
If making a coconut pie, stir the coconut into the custard.
Pour the custard into the pie shell. Bake for 12′. Cool and then transfer to the refrigerator for an hour.
If making the meringue, using the whisk attachment in an electric mixer, beat together the egg whites and cream and tartar until it becomes foamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until it forms stiff peaks. Spoon meringue onto the cooled pie and put under the broiler for 3-4 minutes.
Adapted from Rudy Pfeffer’s recipe at Allrecipes.com
I made Ropa Vieja for dinner tonight, one of my old-time favorites, and decided to serve the same thing to my vegetarian daughter. She was quite happy with the results. Really, all I did was make the sauce, reserve some of it before I added the beef, add some vegetable base and tofu. She was happy and I was happy I was able to feed her. I’m sure you can substitute another meat substitute for tofu, but that’s what I had at home. I always serve this with fresh sourdough bread.
Tofu Ropa Vieja
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 onions, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cups tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp vegetable base
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 lb extra-firm tofu, cubed
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium sauce pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until they start to caramelize. Add the bell pepper and cook until soft. Add the tomato sauce, wine, bay leaf and vegetable base. Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Uncover, and the tofu cubes and cook for another 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve.
Tonight I made chicken Marsala for Mike and I and adapted the recipe so that Mika, my vegetarian daughter, could have it with tofu. Really, all it took to adapt it was to use a separate pan to cook the chicken and substitute tofu for the chicken. But here it is in case she ever wants to make it herself. It was truly delicious.
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp Marsala wine
- 1 1/2 tsp vegetable base
- 3/4 cup water
- 2/3 cup whipping cream
- 1 lb extra firm tofu, sliced
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- dash of dried or chopped sage
- salt & pepper to taste
Melt butter over medium heat in a frying pan. Add the shallot and cook for one minute. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates. Set aside.
Bring Marsala wine to a boil in a medium size sauce pan. Boil for 30 seconds and then add vegetable base, water, whipping cream and reserved mushrooms. Comine and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, pan-fry tofu slices.
When sauce is ready, add the remaining 2 Tbsp Marsala wine, the lemon juice and the sage. Stir and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve the pan-friend tofu with the sauce.
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.