I had Safeway’s Signature Cafe Jambalaya soup today and it was pretty good. It’s basically a thick tomato-based broth with sausage slices, cubed chicken and rice. There is supposedly bacon and uncured ham, but it’s not really distinguishable.
The soup is quite good and it has a fair amount of umami. It is, however, a bit spicier than I would have preferred. The only problem is the sausage: it really lacks flavor. I’m not sure why they chose such a mild sausage, but it really could be improved. Still, it’s good enough to be worth keeping in your fridge for an improvised lunch or dinner. Unopened, it lasts about 6 weeks in the fridge.
I should note, however, that it’s *extremely* caloric. A single cup/8 oz of soup has 270 calories and no one, ever, in the history of humanity, has ever been filled up by a single cup of soup. A 24-oz container currently costs $8, when not on sale.
In the “battle” between Safeway’s and Panera’s Tomato Bisque, Panera is the clear winner.
I have never been a fan of soup – ramen excluded -, but I became fond of Panera’s creamy tomato soup during the pandemic. It’s warm, creamy and hearty – and most importantly, not too acidic – and feels just like a hug. In retrospect, it’s not a surprise that I would like it. It’s really just a thinner version of pasta sauce, and we all know that pasta is just a vehicle for sauce.
During the pandemic, when I still had kids at home (insert empty nest tears here), we usually got the soup as part of a family feast – my vegetarian daughter didn’t really like the sandwiches, but she did enjoy the soup. Later, I found out that they also sell the soup at the supermarket, it’s almost as good, and at $12 for 32 oz, it’s considerably cheaper than at the store (unless you are ordering a family feast). The store-bought soup is also vegetarian and, as I mentioned, quite tasty. Here are the ingredients: Tomatoes, Water, Heavy Cream, Onions, Contains 2% or Less of: Butter (Cream, Salt), Sugar, Salt, Spices, Corn Starch, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Nisin Preparation and Garlic.
This week, Panera tomato soup wasn’t available at Safeway, so I decided to get their Signature Cafe Tomato Basil Bisque instead. It looks very much like Panera’s and, truth be told, it doesn’t taste that differently. It’s a bit spicier – something I don’t really like -, and seems to have less umami than Panera’s, but it’s also very comforting and good. What it is not is vegetarian. The soup contains chicken base and chicken broth.
Safeway’s soup also uses tomato paste instead of tomatoes, as well as a variety of other ingredients to, I presume, enhance the flavor. That, I imagine, is the purpose of the chicken base and broth. It’s thus interesting that it’s not as tasty as Panera’s far simpler one. For just $2 less for a 32 oz container, it makes little sense to buy the Safeway Signature Cafe brand, unless the Panera brand is out of stock, or they change it.
Here are the ingredients for the Signature Cafe tomato soup:
We are not huge alcohol drinkers, but I do like cream liqueurs from time to time, and Baileys Irish Cream is our “default.” Irish Cream consists of Irish whiskey, cream, cacao and sometimes other flavorings. It was invented by an ad agency back in 1973, but the Irish seem to have adopted it as their own.
We usually buy Baileys when it’s on sale, or Kirkland Irish Cream, the Costco brand, if we shop at Costco. But I saw that Safeway also carried O’Connery’s Irish Cream Liqueur for just $8-9, and I figured it was worth a try. It gets fairly good reviews and is made by a well known distillery. I do most of my purchasing online, however, and despite the fact that I always ask for no substitutions, Safeway invariably substitutes unavailable products for ones that much more expensive. So unsurprisingly Safeway sent me this Black Irish Irish Cream instead of the O’Connery. At $25, it was over 3 times the price I expected to pay, but fortunately Safeway gave me a refund. I kept the bottle, however, and today I gave it a try. It tastes just like Baileys.
I don’t really know how to describe Irish cream, and there might be some minute differences that a connoisseur could tell, but to me they taste pretty much the same. The same can be said about Kirkland Irish Cream, btw. Unfortunately, both Black Irish and Baileys cost approximately the same – at least when not on sale.
Doing some digging online, I found out that the Black Irish brand is owned by singer Mariah Carey, who realized you can make far more money selling alcohol than singing. Given the very commercial origins of Irish cream, I don’t think anyone can be upset. Still, no reason to buy it or not buy it instead of Baileys – if I had to choose between the two, I’d go for whichever one is on sale.
I made this recipe last night, as Safeway had a great sale (great as in, the same price that short ribs were at just a handful of years ago – yes, I’m not an old lady that decries how expensive everything has gotten) on short ribs last week. The NYT has a similar sounding recipe, but it’s behind a paywall, so I looked for something that approximated it.
It was good, but nothing to write home about. Just a standard short rib recipe. On the plus side, it was an easy recipe to make and my non-vegetarian daughter liked it. She thought it looked horrible and had no hopes for it, but she was hungry enough to try it, and was pleasantly surprised. I skipped the parsley and lemon zest at the end, simply because I forgot about it. They might have given the recipe the ummph need it to elevate it. I’ll see if I remember to add them to the leftovers.
5 lbs bone-in short ribs
salt & pepper to taste
2 whole garlic, sliced in half crosswise
2 white onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef stock
4 sprigs thyme
1 cup parsley, roughly chopped (optional)
1 Tbsp lemon zest (optional)
Preheat oven to 275°F
Season short ribs with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a thin layer of oil in a large, lidded, oven-safe sauté pan over high heat. Working in batches, add the short ribs and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.
Turn heat down to medium and add the garlic, cut side down. Push to a side of the pan.
Add the chopped onions, celery and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft – about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables.
Add the wine, deglace the pan, and let boil for 2 minutes. Add the beef stock and the thyme and bring to a boil. Gently return the short ribs to the pan. Add enough water to cover the ribs. Bring to a boil, cover, turn off the heat and carefully place the pan in the oven.
Cook for 3 to 4 hours, until the ribs are cooked through and tender. Add the parsley and lemon zest and serve.
Here are some other short ribs recipes I’ve cooked in the past, if you are looking for inspiration. All of these were good as well, just not the ultimate recipe:
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.
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 meat sauce 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.
I have been juicing oranges for decades, but I usually juice them a few at a time, and had never actually done a whole bag. Still, I got an 8 lb from Safeway not too long ago, and figured I’d juice all of it and see what I got. The answer: 4 cups of orange juice, a quart.
Navel oranges are selling at Safeway now for $6/7 for the 8 lb bag.
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.
The 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.
Gilbert’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.
Finally, 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.
The Safeway in downtown San Leandro offers children a free cookie from their bakery. This is a great strategy by Safeway, not only does it create good feeling on parents but it means that kids rae eager to actually go grocery shopping with the parents. Parents shopping with kids are more likely to buy stuff they wouldn’t otherwise.
Yesterday, my kids (and I!) got a Safeway Chewy Peanut Butter cookie and I have to say it may very well have been the most delicious cookie I’ve ever had. As promised, it was very chewy, it almost felt like it had caramel inside (but I don’t think it did). The flavor was out of this world, not too sweet, not too peanut butterish, with a chocolate chip here and there to balance the flavor. Even though it was so chewy it did feel a bit dry (a common problem with peanut butter cookies), so I think it’d be best eaten with a cup of milk or coffee.
These cookies retail at Safeway for $4.50 for a dozen (I think) – almost twice as much as their “regular” cookies cost (on sale). But as they’re twice as good as their regular cookies, I can’t complain. I just wish they sold them by the unit, as good as they are I can’t expect to buy a box and not eat them all (so I won’t).