Friday, February 29, 2008
Review: Hormel Compleats
The most obvious issue is taste. Rather, the problem is lack of taste. I tried two varieties: beef steak & peppers, served over noodles, and Santa Fe style chicken with rice, black beans, and corn. Darned if I could detect much in the way of identifiable, or even existing, favor. Bite into a piece of chicken or beef, and you can tell there's a difference in texture, but not much else.
Now let's move to the "healthy lifestyles" claim. I looked at the USDA guidelines. There are many versions of caloric and nutritional suggestions for different genders, ages, and lifestyles. But look at Table 2, and you see that for 2,000 calories, total sodium should be roughly 1,800 mg and 65 g fat. Now, Hormel says that the dishes are all under 320 calories, with less than 10 grams fat and not more than 600 mg of sodium. Let's say there are 300 calories in the one you're eating. That's roughly 15 percent of the calories you're allowed, and the fat falls roughly in line with that. But 600 mg of sodium is a third of the daily allotment, so you're hitting double the average sodium you might want.
Clearly you can't expect everything to come out on the average, but this makes me want to re-evaluate the healthy lifestyle claim. You could say that you are meeting the requirements by eating a lot less, which doesn't mean that the food is "healthier." And why is there so much sodium as a percentage? Because there is little flavor, and many packaged foods know that the salt taste is a major taste trigger to people. Which brings us back to square one. Convenience may be ... convenient, but as with convenience store prices, which are generally higher than grocery stores, you end up paying for that ease one way or another.
UpdateI had an email from Hormel's PR firm about the review, challenging my remarks about the sodium content. Here's the entry with the exchange.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Review: Seneca Apple Chips
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
More on Plastic Food Containers
BPA is routinely used to line cans to prevent corrosion and food contamination; it also makes plastic cups and baby and other bottles transparent and shatterproof. When the polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins made from the chemical are exposed to hot liquids, BPA leaches out 55 times faster than it does under normal conditions, according to a new study by Scott Belcher, an endocrine biologist at the University of Cincinnati. "When we added boiling water [to bottles made from polycarbonate] and allowed it to cool, the rate [of leakage] was greatly increased," he says, to a level as high as 32 nanograms per hour.The chemical also leaches more quickly when exposed to other heat sources, like dishwashers and microwave ovens. The problem is that no one seems to agree on whether this is a health risk or not:
The Food and Drug Administration has approved its use and the EPA does not consider it cause for concern. One U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel agreed, but another team of government scientists last year found that the amount of BPA present in humans exceeds levels that have caused ill effects in animals. They also found that adults' ability to tolerate it does not preclude damaging effects in infants and children.It does seem that the biggest problem is for infants and pregnant women, but who knows what else might be an issue? The plastics industry is pushing to keep using BPA because they don't have a substitute that would make plastics shatterproof and lightweight.
But the question comes up as to whether individuals want to take a greater chance than is necessary. (Polycarbonate containers, specifically, is usually marked with a 7 somewhere.) My family has been talking about moving to glass containers and away from plastic entirely, but we've yet to find products other than canning jars that have tops that can fasten down. I'll be doing some research into non-plastic alternatives and will report/review when I have something in hand.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Review: Honest Kids Drinks
Monday, February 25, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (2/25/08)
- What's In a Name? A strip club owner in Boulder, Colorado is trying to claim that the cut up fruit, ice, and cups used in serving drinks makes his establishment a restaurant, which would get him out from under a zoning challenge. (Rocky Mountain News)
- Taco Terror A California man was assaulted and then robbed of a bag of tacos at gunpoint. (AP)
- Just A Little One? Some Chinese producers of alcoholic beverages are trying to overturn a government ban on officials drinking at lunch. (AFP)
- Take This F-ing Bill Ten diners found an invitation to oral sex listed (though with no charge) on their computer-printed bill. (BBC)
- Do Drink the Water Los Angeles and Clearbrook, British Columbia, Canada recently tied as having the best tasting municipal water in an international competition. Will we soon seen a bottled brand called LA's Finest? (AP)
- Put the Bun Under the Burger A California McDonald's is trying to boost sales with feng shui. First order of business: get some real food in. (AP)
- But Don't Ask For Their Doughnuts On apprehending a freezing burglary suspect in the winter cold, Canadian police offered a cup of coffee. What, no bagel? (The Toronto Sun)
Friday, February 22, 2008
Review: Veroli Three Cheese and Meat Lasagna and Marinara Sauce
The lasagnas were surprisingly good - not just because of the tomatoes, but the pasta, which comes out al dente, something I've never seen in a frozen pasta-based dish before. We liked both the cheese and meat ones (between $8.99 and $9.99). One box could serve four people, but expect heating in a regular oven to take 90 minutes total. I misread the package of the meat lasagna, took off the covering film at one hour, and was surprised by how loose it was. My fault; the extra half hour is key.
Unfortunately, distribution right now is thin. You can get the products in Central Markets if you live in Texas, or Kings Supermarkets in New Jersey. They're supposed to launch in other markets "in the near future," which means I haven't a clue, so check with the company itself.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
I didn't try any of the supplied drink recipes, because I think an ingredient must be able to stand on its own. And it did - neat, in a wine glass. The berry flavor has deep earthy depths, which they described it as "notes of chocolate," a description I didn't find completely accurate, but close enough, as I couldn't figure out how to describe it. It's an unusual taste, and a tad astringent on the finish, but quite pleasant. I can see how this would work in mixed drinks as well. It's certainly worth trying, even if you do run the risk of becoming an eco-centric celebrity follower.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Moving Into Different States of Food
That reminded me of the edible foam that's become a bit of a gastronomic craze, and that was started by Spanish chef Ferran Adrià Acosta. Much of such experimentation seems to come out of the idea of molecular gastronomy. I'd probably put gelatin filtration into the same category, and would probably argue that ceviche, in which you "cook" fish in a citrus marinade, could also qualify. How about steamed milk? The resulting liquid is sweeter than regular milk and has a different mouth feel because of the encapsulated air.
I do wonder what might be next. Maybe we can use the steam wands on espresso makers to foam up liquids other than milk and serve them as hot dollops over some dish. Perhaps films of food supercooled into fragile sheets to drop into drinks and melt as they cool them, or one ingredient frozen about a second. Maybe we'll see thin marinated sheets of vegetable dried, like nori, the Japanese seaweed sheets, used to encase some finger food. Think I'll heat up the steam wand and try some experiments.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Review: Guiltless Gourmet Baked Tortilla Chips
Monday, February 18, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (2/18/08)
- Space Pickle A bacteria-free version of the Korean hot pickled cabbage dish, kimchi, is ready for a space mission later this year, along with instant noodles, cinnamon tea, uncooked organic food, and the world's first Korean astronaut. (AFP)
- No Eggroll For You Asian restaurants in Israel went on a one day strike to protest a new government plan to replace Asian restaurant cooks with Israelis. First off the menu were eggrolls. Next? Sushi and noodles. (Reuters)
- Do You Take This Slyder? Three couples got married on Valentine's Day at a White Castle in Columbus, Ohio, the chain's home town. The flower girl threw salt and pepper packets instead of rice, and the grooms' lapels sported employee name tags. (AP)
- What You See Isn't What You Get The Omnivore Food Festival in Deauville, France featured some trompe-l'oeil cuisine, like slices of meat that were actually made of watermellon, or an edible bar of soap with honey bubbles. (AFP)
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Review: Ito En Teas' Tea
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Review: Ghirardelli Filled Chocolate Bars
I actually found that I liked the fillings more than the chocolate itself. The flavors inside over powered those of the coating. I particularly liked the raspberry and even the mint, which is unusual, as I'm generally not a big mint fan. (After a taste, I passed it on to my daughter, who snapped it up so fast that it was a good thing my hand was open. Do you detect a pattern in my family?) The caramel was also good.
Suggested retail price of the bars is $2.29, which isn't bad compared to the price of many higher end chocolate bars.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Review: Weil by Nature’s Path Pure Fruit & Nut Bars
Monday, February 11, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (2/11/08)
- Step Away From the Restaurant Three legislatures in the Missouri legislature had filed a bill that would prohibit restaurants from serving obese people. (AP)
- I Am Not a Leftover After nearly 50 years, an Illinois man still has a buffalo sandwich that was half-eaten by Richard Nixon. And, no, it's not a lot of bull. (AP)
- Whale of a Meal According to a poll, 56 percent of the Japanese public supports eating whale meat. (AP)
- How Much By the Glass? A London diner was sure that the £18,000 bottle of wine he ordered at a restaurant was actually a fake. (AP)
- How About Official Picnic Bucket? PETA tried to keep fried chicken the official food of Kentucky. Maybe everyone should take a time out and have a mint julep. (AP)
Friday, February 08, 2008
Review: Tribe Mediterranean Hummus Snackers
The small containers come in two ways. One is a four-pack, whose suggested retail price is $2.99, "which is line priced with their most popular 8oz hummus product line." In other words, apparently they're not charging a premium for smaller packaging. Nice to see for a change. There is also a single 2-ounce snack pack that comes with a few crackers and runs ... $1.49 suggested retail, or roughly twice the unit price in the four-pack. Ah, well, so much for avoiding premium pricing.
The hummus does have to be refrigerated, so don't plan on keeping it in a hot lunch box all day.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Review: The Stop & Go Fast Food Nutrition Guide
Let's take an example or two. Like the Starbucks apple fritter? That's 790 calories, with 37 milligrams of fat and a whopping 830 milligrams of sodium. Death on a dish. A plain old 16 ounce latté? That's a grande at 260 calories. How about a Hardee's Big Country Breakfast Platter with country steak? Just 1150 calories, 455 milligrams of cholesterol, and a completely astounding 2660 milligrams - otherwise known as almost 2.7 grams - of sodium. Personally, I'd double check the numbers for the green, yellow, and red coding: a Subway sweet onion chicken teriyaki 6-inch sub may have only 5 milligrams of fat and 370 calories, but it's got 1220 milligrams of sodium.
At $6.95 list, it's a great investment, and if you want to go to the web, you can get all the contents for free. Take it with you when you're out and get rid of some weight, because you'll surely lose your appetite.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Trends in Hand-Held Foods
Multiculturalism- Indian, Chinese and Latin American street foods, such as dosas, empandas, and bao, encase sweet or savory fillings in unique carriers. Now, making a cultural cross-over and expanding American palates, these hand-helds have intriguing shapes, and can be filled with a wide variety of ingredients.If you've been feeling left behind by the world of foodies, now's the time to get a handhold ... uh, handful?
Fresh & Wholesome- Paletas are bright, Mexican frozen pops made from fresh fruit or vegetables, spices, water or milk and just a little sugar. They feature chunks of hand-mashed fruit, rice or nuts for texture and ingredients such as cucumber, mango, avocado, corn, chili, lime, salt and mint.
Premium Twists to the Familiar- Sliders are craveable mini burgers that elevate the typical burger experience through creative variations of protein like premium beef or lamb, unique sauces and specialty cheeses. Their appetizer size encourages sampling for the culinary curious and also appeals to kids.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Review: SunGold Foods SunButter
PR materials from the company say "Tastes Like Peanut Butter, But Is Peanut-Free." I'd disagree. The three varieties I tried - smooth, organic, and natural crunch - were perfectly fine if you like the taste of sunflower seeds. I don't mind them, but am not a huge fan, so this is not a product I'd regularly purchase. Also, no one in my family is allergic to peanuts. But if that is a problem, I could see how these products could be useful. They also have a pretty wide distribution, so finding them shouldn't be that difficult.
There is another use I can see, as well. If you use peanut butter in baking or cooking, this could let you experiment with an alternative taste.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Strange News from the Food Front (2/4/08)
- Hope The Chairs Don't Melt As part of a Valentine's Day promotion, Godiva creates a chocolate room, including furniture and art work. (AP)
- And Tater Tots Are Grenades Laramie, Wyoming police charged some junior high girls who threw french fries during a food fight with hurling missles. (AP)
- Next, Exercise Suppressing Walks Scientists experiment with food additatives, that could be put into snack foods, that could reduce hunger. (Press Association)
Friday, February 01, 2008
Review: Schwartz Appetizing
Pickled herring in cream sauce and a Mediterranean style had subtlety and a continuing echo of flavors that makes any other brand I've had from a store taste like so much library paste. Like lox? Try the creamed pickled variety and realize that you only need to nibble on a piece - forget the bagel and absolutely avoid the cream cheese. The whitefish chubs were magnificent, and although my wife didn't care for the Matjes herring, it was the first time I've tried this style and found myself looking forward to a second bite. (Don't care for that dear? Don't toss the rest of that piece - here, let me take care of it for you.) Finally, smoked sable, when prepared this deftly, is something you should start with, because the delicate flavor is something you should savor and enjoy before more raucus tastes come into play.
If you live anywhere near Cedarhurst, Flatbush, or Boropark, drive over immediately. (Well, not during Shabbos starting Friday afternoon and lasting through Saturday.) If you don't, look up the number of one of the stores and call - if you're lucky, maybe they'll ship some to you. And if it's expensive, pay for it anyway, as this is an experience that you should have at least once in your life.