Saffron Road Chicken Tikka Masala Review

Hello, again folks. This week is my Saffron Road Chicken Tikka Masala review. Saffron Road makes a good line of Indian and Indian-influenced products, including several varieties of frozen dinner. I got this one at Whole Foods in Union Square, not too far from my work. Whole Foods is usually pretty expensive, and this product is no exception. I got two of them on sale for $3.99 each. I don’t like to pay much more than that for a frozen lunch or dinner item, but this one usually goes for $5.99! Six dollars for the amount of food you’re getting here is pretty crazy, and I would never pay it, so the only way I’d be getting this again is if it was on sale.

This product has pretty good nutritional values, for a frozen dinner. It has twelve percent of the daily recommended amount of total fat, and eight percent saturated fat. It has twenty-nine percent sodium, which is acceptable to me, if not great. There was also a little dietary fiber, at eight percent, and some protein. Tikka Masala is a thick, creamy tomato sauce, lightly spiced, in which chunks of chicken have been stewed. I typically like to get chicken curry or chicken vindaloo when I go out to eat at an Indian place, but tikka masala is pretty good if prepared properly. I needed to nuke my lunch for about four minutes to get it ready. \

So how was it? Well, it was pretty good, but what doomed this for me, and the reason I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, was the appearance of onions in the tomato sauce. The sauce was flavorful, leaving a slightly spicy tingle on the tongue that went nicely spooned over the white rice, and the pieces of chicken were tender and juicy. But, like so many other frozen dinners, I had to work my way through it carefully, so as not to get one of the tiny pieces of onion in my mouth that were floating through the sauce. Every time I tasted one accidentally, I was grossed out by the texture and flavor. If onions don’t bother you, this won’t be a problem for you and you’ll probably enjoy this product. However, for me, who has such a strong dislike of this most hated vegetable, I don’t think I’ll be getting this product again. That’s it for this week, folks. Happy hunting!

Hormel Turkey Chili Review

Hi again everybody. Today is my Hormel Turkey Chili review. I was at work and needed something for lunch, so I went to the grocery store near my job and looked over the frozen foods section, soups, and so forth. Hormel’s turkey chili caught my eye. It was going for $2.99, which is pretty reasonable for lunch. I looked at the nutritional information, and liked the total fat and saturated fat amounts, which were ten percent and ten percent, respectively. I also really liked the amount of protein and especially the amount of daily fiber, which I’m always trying to find in boxed or pre-packaged items. This chili, loaded with beans, has forty-eight percent of your daily requirement. The only drawback is the daily sodium, which comes in at a pretty crazy one hundred-and four percent of your daily requirement. That’s way too much! Based on that alone, I knew I couldn’t get this for lunch very often. A picture of the chili is below. I poured it into a big paper cup and microwaved it for one minute, which heated it nicely.

Hormel Chili Cup

 

The chili was very tasty. Maybe not as good as my own homemade turkey chili, but the beans and ground turkey meat offset each other nicely, and there were no onions or things I don’t like. The only drawback was that it was a little bit salty…how could it not be, with that much sodium? It made me thirsty.

So, do I recommend this product? Although I liked the taste, cost, and the total and saturated fat and fiber contents, I can’t really give it a thumbs up, just because of the massive sodium amount this packs in every can. More than one hundred percent of the daily recommended amount is way too much. Hormel, if any of your people are reading this, you need to find a way to reduce the salt in this product, if you want me to buy it regularly. I understand some is needed for a preservative, but there should never be this much. That’s it for now folks. See you next week.

Grand Sichuan House Review

Hi everyone. This week is my Grand Sichuan House review. Grand Sichuan House is one of the best Chinese restaurants in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and some people hold this hole-in-the-wall establishment up as being worthy competition for some of the other Chinese spots around the five boroughs as well. It’s located at 8701 5th Avenue, accessible via the 86th Street stop on the R train. I think part of the appeal is how massive the menu is. There’s more stuff on there than you could try in any ten visits, even for someone like me who disdains vegetables. The other key selling point for this spot is simply this: the food is delicious. I’ve never had anything at Grand Sichuan that I didn’t like, and there are several dishes that I think are really a cut above some of the other Chinese places I’ve tried in this area. I normally get delivery from Grand Sichuan. I’ve eaten there twice, but both times I felt a little out of place; on one occasion I and the rest of my party were the only Caucasians in the establishment, and we were subjected to some sort of Asian game show playing at a high volume on the TV set behind us for most of our meal, drowning out all attempts at conversation. For this review, I got delivery, and tried the following dishes: the dan dan noodles, which is the featured picture for this week, and also the soup dumplings and the boneless spareribs. Megan tried the lamb with cumin and the shredded pork in garlic sauce.

I’ve tried the lamb with cumin, and it’s very tasty, with a fiery kick to it (several of Grand Sichuan’s dishes are very hot. When they say hot, they’re not messing around). Megan enjoyed it, and also the shredded pork. I’d gotten the dan dan noodles before, at a cost of $3.95. Basically, it’s a small bowl of spaghetti-like noodles doused in hot, mouth-watering chili oil with some spinach leaves on top and a garnish of shredded pork bits. I discarded the spinach easily enough, leaving me with the noodles, pork, and chili oil. This was another one of those sinus-clearing situations. My tongue tingled as I slurped up the noodles, and it was every bit as good as I remembered from the previous times I’d gotten it.Next up were the soup dumplings, at $6.00. They’re pictured below.

Soup Dumplings

As you can see, they come eight to an order, with a bowl of sauce that tastes of soy and ginger. You can dip them in the sauce, but they’re actually just fine on their own. The thin membrane of noodle contains a dollop of minced pork and a rich, savory gulp of broth. Each one of these is basically bite-sized, and they filled me up nicely combined with the dan dan noodle. The two appetizers together made quite a satisfying meal after a long day at work. I took the boneless spare ribs to work with me the following day, along with some white rice. They cost me $5.75, and they’re pictured below.

Boneless Spareribs

Boneless ribs is something that most Chinese places have, and they’re hard to mess up, but just because they’re not unique to Grand Sichuan, that didn’t make them any less tasty. Spare ribs are pretty unhealthy for you, but it’s not something that I eat with any regularity, so I allowed myself the treat, and was glad I did. Man, they were delicious, tasting smoky and sweet with the sauce in which they were braised. With apologies to all the vegans out there, if eating pork is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

So, overall, I highly recommend Grand Sichuan. I’d be more inclined to direct you toward getting takeout or delivery rather than dining in, and I’d cheerfully recommend any of the dishes I mentioned. The thing is, though, with such a huge menu, with Grand Sichuan you can probably go here ten times and try something different each time, and I doubt you’d get anything of less than excellent quality. The only reason I’m more inclined to go to Win Hing, the other Bay Ridge establishment that I reviewed a few weeks ago, over Grand Sichuan is because of the free order of General Tso’s or Sesame chicken that you get from Win Hing with every thirty dollar order. Grand Sichuan has no such deal, so if I’m feeling the budget crunch, as I often am, Win Hing gets my vote. By try Grand Sichuan, by all means. They have something for vegetarians, omnivores, or meat-and-starch guys like myself, and the quality is really top notch.

Smart Ones Thin Crust Cheese Pizza Review

Hi true believers. This week is my Smart Ones Thin Crust Cheese Pizza review. Smart Ones is a pretty good line of frozen dinners and snacks. I like their turkey medallions with mashed potatoes dinner, which I take to work sometimes, and they also have some pizza variations that are appealing to me with my dietary preferences. The Thin Crust Cheese Pizza is described as “a blend of reduced fat cheeses with a tangy pizza sauce on a crispy-thin crust,” and it delivers on that assertion. I bought this at the corner grocery store here in my neighborhood, for the cost of $3.49. The slice of pizza is pictured below, uncooked.

Smart Ones Uncooked

The nutrition information I always look for, of course, is how high are the total and saturated fat contents of any given entrée, as well as sodium content and dietary fiber. In this case, the pizza is nine percent total recommended daily fat, fourteen percent saturated fat, and sodium is seventeen percent. All of those numbers are pretty good, right in the wheelhouse of what I’m looking for, health-wise. It also has seventeen percent dietary fiber, which I appreciate, since I’ve been on a mission to incorporate more fiber into my diet. So this was all encouraging to me before I actually took a bite. About two-and-a-half minutes in the microwave was sufficient to melt the cheese. A picture of the pizza, hot and ready, is below.

Smart Ones Cooked

So, how is it? Well, it was pretty tasty, but I have to qualify that…it was as tasty as you’re going to get from a frozen pizza that’s been nuked in a microwave. Look, with these mini-meals, the quality is probably not going to be as great as a fresh hot slice from your local pizza spot, but this was perfectly acceptable…the crust is thin but crispy, and the cheeses, even though they’re low in fat, were savory, melty and gooey. I would have maybe wanted a little more sauce, since I felt like it was a bit dry. The only other objectionable thing to me was that the slice stuck to the silver tray underneath it, so as I was trying to lift it, some of the crust on the bottom came off. Still, that’s a minor quibble, and overall, I was pleased with this selection, and would make it again. The nutrition was what I like to look for, the price was reasonable, and I was able to enjoy it on the go while at work. All of that adds up a worthy addition to my proverbial lunchbox! More next week, everybody.

 

Rana Ravioli Review

This week is my Rana Ravioli review, which is some very fine alliteration. Try saying that three times fast! As an admittedly picky eater, it can be challenging for me sometimes to come up with new entrees, side dishes, and snacks to supplement my diet. I have my go-to things that I like, both those that I cook and those that I buy pre-packaged. I try not to eat as many of the ready-made items as I get older, because they usually contain preservatives that aren’t so good for you. I try to strike a happy medium between natural food stuffs like dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, etc, along with microwaveable dinners and things of that nature that I take to work. But sometimes as I’m going through the grocery store I come across an item that seems to fit the qualifications of what I’m looking for in terms of dietary requirements (meaning an acceptable level of total fat, saturated fat, and sodium), and also looks like something that I’d find tasty. I spotted Rana Ravioli the other day at a grocery store near my work in the Flatiron District. The kind I tried is the chicken and rosemary flavor, which is described as “chicken breast and rosemary wrapped in thin pasta.” A picture is below.

 

Rana Ravioli

The cost of this item was $5.59, and you get twelve ounces in a refrigerated bag. That’s a bit expensive, because if you have a good sized appetite like mine, that’s probably going to equal out to approximately two servings. Still, I felt like it was time for something new, so I gave it a try. The preparation at home was very quick and easy. I boiled a small pot of water and cooked the ravioli for about six minutes. Then I added some Contadina Pizza Squeeze, about a third of a bottle, giving the ravioli a tomato sauce flavor. I think it would have been good tossed with just a little olive oil as well.

So how was it? I thought it was pretty tasty. The chicken and rosemary mixture inside each pasta pocket was savory and smooth, and there were no onions or other vegetables that I detest. Ultimately, there were two problems with this product, which might not prohibit me from ever getting it again, but will probably make this an occasional buy for me rather than a regular one. The first is the price, which, as I already mentioned, I think is a little high. The other is that according to the bag you get three-and-a-half servings at seventeen percent total fat for the day, twenty-three percent saturated fat, and twenty percent sodium. That’s a bit higher than I’d like any of those three things to be, particularly since the idea of you getting three-and-a-half servings out of this bag is ludicrous. I’d eat half a bag at one sitting, meaning that I’m actually ingesting approximately thirty-something percent of my daily recommended total fat and forty-something percent of my daily recommended saturated fat, along with about forty percent of my daily sodium. And this is for a fairly small, if enjoyable, bowl of pasta. None of those numbers are bad enough for me to completely shun this product, but, as a health-minded person, it’s not great either. Do I recommend Rana Ravioli? I would say yes, with the qualification that it not be an everyday meal. See you next time, everybody, and good eating!

Hudson Valley Duck Farms Review

Hello all, this week is my Hudson Valley Duck Farms review. More specifically, I’ll be reviewing the duck hot links, which are applewood smoked duck sausages available at the Hudson Valley Farms booth at Union Square market. For those not in the know, Union Square market is Monday-Wednesday-Friday in Manhattan, year round. They have some great food there, and it’s my go-to place for apples, sweet corn, and several delectable meats. Also, getting stuff from there is an excellent way to support local farmers and craftspeople.

I’ve mentioned on the site before how much I love duck. Some people don’t care for it, thinking it to be too fatty, but if you get yourself a nice lean duck breast, or crispy duck from a Chinese restaurant, it can be a tantalizing experience. I also love sausages (no snickering), especially healthier ones like chicken sausage, an ingredient of the gumbo recipe I featured here on the site a few weeks ago. When I saw the duck hot links at the Hudson Valley Farms booth, I knew I had to try them. You get a package of four for twelve dollars, which comes out to three bucks a sausage, if my basic math is accurate. I went to a nearby grocery store and got a hoagie roll, then retreated back to the break room in my building with my treasures. I split the hoagie role in half, then cut it in two. I figured I would make myself a pair of sausage sandwiches, two sausages per sandwich.

Duck Sausage

As you can see in the above picture, there’s no nutritional information on the package of hot links, so there’s no telling how much sodium and total and saturated fat you’re getting per serving, but I’m betting these bad boys are pretty unhealthy. As such, I wouldn’t make a habit of eating these, readers. But I usually pack pretty healthy things for my work mini-meals, so I felt okay about breaking up the routine this time. The sausages are fully cooked, so I just slit them open with a knife and popped two of them in the microwave. In about four minutes I took them out, steaming and smelling amazing. The paper towels I’d put underneath them were soaked with grease, and I couldn’t wait to give them a try.

So how were they? Sublime. Amazing. Really, words fail me. They come in a thin pork casing, and the meat inside was succulent and rich, flavored with cracked black pepper that really gave them a zing. They were so juicy that several napkins were required, even after splitting them open and draining some of that grease out. I had this for lunch two days in a row, and the second day, I couldn’t wait for lunch time to eat the remaining two. This was one of the better lunches and better foods I’ve tried in a while, and do I recommend Hudson Valley Duck Farms? Hell yes I do. It’s probably better that there’s no nutritional label on these things, since I’m sure they’re terrible for you, but sometimes you’ve got to live a little, and if scarfing down a duck hot link doesn’t epitomize the need for that cliche, I don’t know what does.

Nature Works Review

Welcome back, carnivores. This week is my Nature Works review. Nature Works is a small chain of restaurants; I think there are three locations in Manhattan. Last week I was sitting behind my desk in the lobby of the building where I work in the Flatiron District, and a guy came in with a bunch of menus. He looked kind of like an extra from the cast of Jersey Shore, but he gave me a coupon for a free meal from Nature Works. He also gave me a song-and-dance about how healthy Nature Works is, and how they don’t use butter or lard, they don’t fry anything, they use brown instead of white rice and whole grain pasta, and how their food is generally better for you than most of the other places around. Honestly, I was a little turned off by it, since I love white rice and i don’t eat whole grain anything, but, since I saw that one of the locations was nearby and the coupon did indeed seem to be for a free meal with no catches or restrictions, on my break I walked over there to give it a try.

The location I went to was at 113 East 31st Street, between Park and Lexington. It was a small place, a hole in the wall, pretty much. I gave the counter guy my coupon, which was for a free “Bob’s Plate.” This was described as “grilled chicken breast over whole wheat pasta or brown rice topped with lentil soup.” I got mine with the brown rice. I got the meal in its brown back and took it back to my building, where I went down to our break room and unwrapped it. I have to say that it didn’t look very appetizing…actually, it looked kind of like cat puke, and, as someone with two cats, you can trust me on that. But it smelled good, and I was encouraged by the fact that there weren’t really any ingredients that I don’t like, not that I could see. I like lentil soup. It’s got a ton of fiber, which is great for you. You can’t go wrong with grilled chicken breast, and, while I prefer white rice, brown rice is at least acceptable to me. I had never thought to combine these three ingredients, but I was hungry, so I dug in.

So how was it? Pretty good, actually. The appearance aside, it was a nice combination of flavors, and it was a good amount for a single portion. It came with whole wheat pita bread for dipping, which was nice. I finished it off and was satisfied with my meal. Now, do I recommend Nature Works? Well, yes…and no. The Bob’s Plate was good, no doubt. But I saw on the menu that if I’d had to pay for it, it would have cost me $9.30, which is way higher than what I would have been willing to spend. It might be a good deal at half of that, but almost ten dollars is a lot to pay, especially in light of the fact that there are places within a couple of blocks where you can get a slice of pizza for a dollar. Of course, the guy who gave me the coupon would be quick to point out that pizza is nowhere near as good for you as what Nature Works is offering, but the simple fact is that it’s highly unlikely I’m going back there and shelling out $9.30. However, gentle reader, if you’re ever in the area and fancy spending ten bucks on lunch, I think you’ll be pleased. I’m sure Jersey Shore guy will be happy to see you.

Win Hing Review

Hello all. This week is my Win Hing review, a very good Chinese restaurant located at 9816 4th Avenue here in Bay Ridge. I’ve never been to Win Hing in person, but they’re the go-to delivery place for Megan and myself if we’re in the mood for Chinese. It’s American-style Chinese food, and, as such, it’s pretty typical. Staples such as General Tso’s, orange or sweet and sour chicken or beef, and lo mein abound. I’ve never gotten anything from Win Hing that wasn’t good, and some things that were excellent. But really the best thing about the place is the coupons that come with the menus that get slipped under our door at least once a week. The best is the one that gives you a free order of General Tsos or Sesame Chicken with a purchase of thirty dollars or more. When we order from Win Hing it’s pretty easy to spend thirty dollars, and with that coupon, we’re basically getting a free meal. Our orders usually end up being about forty bucks, and we’ll get enough food to last at least two days. Below are some of my favorites from Win Hing, along with the price and pictures.

Wonton soup is a good place to start. The wontons are like thick, chewy pasta pockets filled with succulent pork in a clear chicken broth. This is great any time but especially on a cold night in the winter. It warms you up wonderfully and gets you on the road to recovery if you’re sick. A quart is only $2.95.

Wonton Soup

Next up is General Tso’s chicken. This is a staple of American-style Chinese food, pieces of white meat chicken in a crispy coating that provides a satisfying crunch and is covered in a savory, sweet yet slightly spicy sauce. This comes free with the thirty dollar order, and it’s pictured below. If you want to get it without ordering the thirty bucks worth of food, it goes for $9.45. It also comes on a bed of broccoli, but needless to say, I throw it out. Wasteful, I know, but you’re not going to catch me eating any veggies, free or otherwise!

General Tso's Chicken

There are plenty of other things I can recommend from Win Hing. The beef stick appetizer is very tasty; you get four for $4.75, and Megan is fond of the steamed dumplings. You get eight for $4.85, very reasonable. But my favorite thing to get from Win Hing, hands down, is the half crispy roast duck, for $12.95. I love duck. It’s pretty unhealthy for you, as it’s high in both total and saturated fat. In fact, I can’t really recommend any of my favorite things at Win Hing for their health value, so this tends to be an occasional treat for us rather than a staple. The crispy duck is duck breast with the skin on served on a bed of veggies, which I discard. It comes with a dark, rich sauce that is really fantastic. I dip the duck pieces in the sauce and serve it up with white rice, and it’s just heavenly. Every time I eat it I probably take a couple days off my life, but you know what? So worth it. And so is Win Hing, in my opinion. The coupon makes it light on your wallet, you get plenty of food to feed yourself for a couple of days, and it’s pretty damn tasty. So check it out if you’re in Bay Ridge, and be sure to give that duck a try. You’ll be glad you did.

McCain Smiles Review

Hey folks. I’m back with another product review. This time I’ll be giving you my two cents on McCain Smiles, which are a frozen food item from McCain, which has a whole line of frozen food choices. They’re best known for their frozen potato products, veggies, and desserts. This product is available at many grocery stores. At the one in my neighborhood they go for $4.99 a bag, but I got this bag when they were on sale, two bags for four dollars, which is pretty awesome.  I used to live on frozen fries when I was younger. Now I don’t have them as much; they’re processed foods, which tend to have preservatives that generally aren’t great for you, and they’re high in sodium and sometimes total and saturated fat as well.  Smiles are a product that might not be great for you health wise, so you might want to eat them sparingly. I do, but whenever I get a bag, I really enjoy them. Basically, Smiles are crispy potato outsides and mashed potato insides, in, you guessed it, the shape of a smile. With Smiles, you get the best of a french free and mashed potatoes, together! Hard to argue with that. A picture of the bag is below.

SmilesThe total fat in one serving of Smiles is eight percent, and the saturated fat is three percent. That’s not ideal, considering that there’s seven servings per bag and a hungry guy like me is probably going to eat about half a bag at one sitting, but it could be worse. Below is the nutritional panel.

Smiles BackAs you can see, you’re at least getting some dietary fiber with this product, which is good. The Smiles can be cooked in a conventional oven. I did mine at 450 degrees on a baking pan for about eighteen minutes, turning them over once halfway through to make sure they browned evenly on either side.

Uncooked Smiles

I must say, these were delicious. With a dab of ketchup, they’re a perfect side dish to go along with a turkey burger, or reduced-fat hot dogs or chicken tenders. There’s something about food like this that I think is never going to get old for me, even now that I’m into my thirties. It’s the same stuff I liked as a teenager, and I still like it on occasion now. It reminds me of simpler times, times with less responsibility…and my food is actually smiling at me as I eat it!  I do recommend McCain smiles. They never fail to cheer me up, and fill me up.

Review of Vesuvio’s

Ask anybody in New York who has the best pizza, and you’re likely to get a different response every time. There’s about a million different pizza places, they’re constantly opening and closing, and everybody has their own style that they prefer. Here in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, our neighborhood, we’ve tried a lot of the pizza places, and today I’ll be doing a review of Vesuvio’s, located at 7303-07 3rd Avenue, just a few blocks away from us. Vesuvio’s has an extensive menu of Italian favorite, pizza, pastas, hero sandwiches, etc, but our favorite thing to order is the Family Meal, which we get delivered to us. It costs $18.95, and it comes with a large plain cheese pizza, ten garlic knots, a large garden salad, and a two liter of Coke or other Coke brand product. Without a doubt, it’s the best deal we’ve found around here. I don’t eat the salad, needless to say…nor do I have a picture of it to show you guys, since if I ever showed a salad on here, I’d feel compelled to change the name of the site! The pizza, garlic knots, and two liter are all fine with me, though. A picture of the garlic knots are below, and they’re the best way to start the meal.

Vesuvio Garlic Knots Looks pretty tasty, no? The only thing I would recommend is that when you call to order, you ask them to go light on the oil. If you don’t, these things will be pretty much drowning in them. Too much oil can kind of ruin your garlic knot experience. Other than that, these are great, fresh baked, smelling of garlic and oil, a little crunchy, a little chewy, a perfect comfort food indulgence. Below is a shot of the large pie.

Vesuvio Whole PizzaEverybody’s idea of what constitutes pizza perfection is going to be different, but this is a pretty good entry in my book. The crust is not too thick, not too thin, kind of medium, chewy rather than crispy, but not excessively doughy. There is a generous portion of cheese, it’s greasy but not too greasy, and there’s a good ratio of sauce to crust. As I’m sure you’d agree, too much sauce or too little ruins a pizza.

So overall, yes, I recommend Vesuvio’s, for it’s high quality and value. Whenever it comes, I think about Kevin McCalister in Home Alone, sniffing appreciatively as he inhales and says “Ah, a lovely cheese pizza, just for me.” There’s something about pizza that brings out the child in all of us, and Vesuvio is our go-to spot around here. The only drawback is that, of course, it’s pretty unhealthy, high in total and saturated fat, loaded with carbs. So this shouldn’t be an everyday food…but if you’ve been sticking to your diet, everybody deserves an occasional treat. This sure fits the bill nicely. Till next time, fellow picky eaters.