My Pantry

Hello fellow picky eaters. Today I wanted to welcome you inside my pantry, where I keep some of the staples that I try not to ever be without. First off, you’re not likely to ever find me without an extra bottle or two of my favorite condiment, trusty Heinz Ketchup, pictured below.

 

To me, ketchup is the condiment that never fails. I’ve never been fond of mustard, so this is my go-to…you’d be hard pressed to find anything that doesn’t taste better with ketchup on it. Hot dog, hamburger or turkey burger, pork chop, meatloaf, french fries, hash browns, home fries, latkes, or just about any other potato-related item that you can think up…all of them are given just the right kick with a dab of ketchup.

 

 

 

 


Next up is chicken stock. What’s good about chicken stock is that you can use it as the base or one of the ingredients for a number of different sauces, or you can use it as the base for good old-fashioned chicken soup. If you have a flavorful stock, that plus canned chicken plus any shape of pasta and you’ve got chicken noodle soup, without the celery and carrots that I always want to avoid that you seem to get in just about any canned variety. A picture is below.

Chicken Basics is a good one. It’s available on Amazon Pantry too, and the sodium content, which I always watch out for, isn’t nearly as bad as some equivalent brands.

 

 


Finally, there’s chocolate syrup, and when you think chocolate syrup, you usually think of Hershey’s, the longtime national standby. I like to get the Lite version, which has far fewer calories. I like to have this around to put on ice cream, if I have some, but more often to make chocolate milk, which I’ve loved since my childhood. If you get skim milk, like I do, and you add some Lite Hershey’s syrup, you have fat-free chocolate milk, which is loaded with calcium. That’s the sort of thing that helps me keep a lean and healthy physique.

 

 

That’s it for now folks. I’ll be back next time with another edition of what can be found in my pantry.

 

Exotic Foods Butter Chicken Review

This week I’ll be reviewing Exotic Foods Butter Chicken, one of the mini-meals I take with me sometimes for work. Butter curry chicken is an Indian dish that is essentially stewed chicken pieces in a savory gravy, usually served over rice. Sometimes it’s also made with onions, too, so watch out for that. This particular version can be found at Jack’s, the discount food outlet with several locations in the New York area. I have yet to find it online. It’s pictured below.

Butter Chicken 1, 14,14, 18It goes for $1.49, which obviously is very reasonable. It has fourteen percent daily total fat, fourteen percent daily saturated fat, and eighteen percent sodium, all of which are in the range that I like for my meals. You get the chicken and sauce on a bed of “rice and peas pilaf,” mostly rice, with a few peas scattered in. Although peas are (gasp!) a green vegetable, I usually don’t mind eating a couple of them. At least it’s not broccoli or cauliflower or something. I definitely recommend this product, if you can find it, and I often go out of my way to Jack’s just to see if they happen to be in stock. The only drawback might be that the portion size isn’t too big, so one of these probably won’t fill you up completely. I just wish they would start carrying this on Amazon Fresh, so I could get them delivered to me that way. You listening, Amazon Fresh? Anyway, this is one of my favorites, and well worth trying if it’s in your area.

Hormel Compleats Chicken Review

Compleat Chicken 1Hello again, today I’ll be reviewing another lunch entree that I like to take to work with me as one of my mini-meals I eat during the day. Hormel Compleats Chicken Breast and Gravy with Mashed Potatoes is the full name of the product in question, part of Hormel’s Compleats line. These are meals that don’t need to be refrigerated, which is convenient, as you can have a few sitting on the shelves in your pantry, rather than taking up space in your fridge or freezer. The nutritional info is kind of a mixed bag. The total fat content is five percent, and the saturated fat is eight percent, both of which are very reasonable in terms of dietary concerns. The problem, as is often the case with pre-packaged meals, is sodium, which comes in at forty percent. That’s definitely more than I look for in a meal of this size, as it will probably only account for a small portion of an average 2000 calorie diet. That doesn’t mean that you should never eat this. It just means that you probably shouldn’t have it too often, maybe once a week or so.

 

Compleat Chicken 2For a picky eater like myself, this is pretty much a perfect meal, in the sense that there’s no vegetables at all to be seen, so there’s nothing to pick through, no onions or tomato chunks, or anything else I don’t care for. You can dive in and enjoy this, without worrying about any of that. It’s pretty tasty, the only minor critique I have is that it tastes kind of salty (no surprise, with that much sodium). Other than that, this is one of my favorites, and I’ve enjoyed it many times over the years. Since I became more conscious of reducing salt in my diet, I don’t have it as much, but I go back to it again and again because of the dependability in quality that I know it provides. So, in short, I do recommend this product, but with the high salt content, it’s not something I would go for every day. A link to it on Amazon is below. So you again next week, fellow picky eater.

Hormel Chicken Breast & Gravy with Mashed Potatoes, 10-Ounce Units (Pack of 6)

Barilla Italian-Style Entrees Product Review

Heads up folks, I’m back with another product review. This time I tried another of the Barilla Italian-Style Entrees, Bacon Flavored Tomato Sauce and Macaroni. I’ve tried a couple of others from this line before, and I found this particular one available for sale on Amazon Fresh, so it was conveniently delivered right to me. It cost $1.99, and I brought it to work to have as one my mini-meals during my ten hour shift. The link to the product is below.

Barilla Italian Entrees, Bacon Flavored Tomato Sauce & Macaroni, 9 Ounce (Pack of 6)

Barilla PastaThe total fat for this product is nine percent of your daily recommended amount, and saturated fat is ten percent, which is right in my wheelhouse in terms of what I’m looking for from a microwaveable meal. The sodium is thirty percent, which is a little higher than I like, but, as I’ve talked about on the site before, it’s almost impossible to get too much lower than that with prepackaged meals. This product doesn’t need to be refrigerated, so that’s always nice. I just kept it in my bookbag until lunchtime.

 

Barilla Pasta 2One minute in the microwave and it was ready to go. It smelled and looked pretty good, but as I added the sauce to the pasta, I noticed immediately that the tomato sauce was chunky, with some visible bits of tomato and onions. Regular visitors to the site know that I regard chunks of vegetable, and onions in particular, to be my sworn nemeses. They’re the things that you really have to watch out for most in Italian cooking, if you’re a picky eater.

 

Barilla Pasta 3The rampant chunks of vegetable were really a problem for me with this entree. I had to spend most of the time picking through the pasta to make sure that I wasn’t going to be biting into an onion, or tomato chunk. Ultimately, that’s why I didn’t much care for this product, and I won’t be getting it again, or recommending it. The pasta was a good texture, the sauce had a nice smoky taste that was indeed reminiscent of bacon, but the amount of time I had to spend sifting through to avoid the veggie chunks really didn’t seem worth it to me. That remains the problem I have with this particular line of entrees. If Barilla reworks them so that the tomato sauce is smooth and free of chunks, they might make a repeat customer of me. That’s it for now, fellow picky eaters. Till next time, stay vigilant! Veggies lurk everywhere…

Easy Matzo Ball Soup

As a child who was raised in a Jewish household, albeit in a pretty much non-religious one, I was still exposed to several different foods that appear as part of the traditional Jewish menu. I’ve posted a couple of different brisket recipes on the site, and another one of my favorites growing up was matzo ball soup. My mom’s was, and is, the absolute best, and part of the reason for that is her use of schmaltz, or chicken fat, to make the rich broth…rich, and not exactly healthy for you. Still, all things in moderation, as I often say.

As an adult, finding an easy matzo ball soup recipe was a must, even when I didn’t have the time to actually make it from scratch. I found the boxed version of Manischewitz Reduced Sodium Matzo Ball Soup mix, which features a powdered soup base, and one for the matzo balls as well, to which vegetable oil and two eggs are added. Then the mixture is blended and put in the fridge to chill. What I like to do once the water is added to the soup mix is add about half a box of pasta, and two or three cans of chicken breast meat. Then, when the mixture has chilled and you take it out of the fridge to form it into balls, the pasta can cook at the same time the balls can, once the fire under the soup is turned down to a simmer.

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After twenty minutes, when you turn the fire off, the soup is ready, and you can just stir it up, wait for it to cool, and serve it. I tend to like sprinkling a little dried parsley on top, more as a garnish than for any significant flavor it brings.

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Like a warm hug on a cold night.

What I like about doing this is that at the end of about forty-five minutes, you get matzo ball chicken noodle soup, savory, filling, and extremely easy to throw together. Is it the same as Mom used to make? Well, no, let’s be honest. But it’s still pretty good, if you feel like having a Jewish comfort food meal, but you don’t feel like getting involved in a major cooking project. You can use any kind of noodle or pasta shape that you have handy, and with the reduced-sodium soup mix, this is reasonably healthy. Plus, you should get several servings out of it, so if you make it on a Sunday, you can have it for dinner a couple of days during the week.

 

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It’s pretty great having the house smell like chicken soup as this is cooking.

Product Review: Stonewall Kitchen Garlic Rosemary Citrus Sauce

DSC_0402 (2)I’m a big fan of marinating and baking chicken breasts. It’s a method that’s easy and usually fairly healthy for you. Stonewall Kitchen makes a line of tasty sauces and marinades, several of which I’ve tried, including Jamaican Jerk Sauce, Sesame Ginger Teriyaki Sauce, and Maple Chipotle Grill Sauce, among others. Today I tried their Garlic Rosemary Citrus Sauce, which I bought for the price of $6.99 at a grocery store in Manhattan. Here’s a link to but it on Amazon.

Stonewall Kitchen Garlic Rosemary Citrus Sauce – 11 oz

 

DSC_0404I added the sauce to a baking dish, along with pieces of chicken breast meat, trimmed of any visible fat. Then I baked them at 400 degrees for about forty-five minutes, turning the chicken pieces a couple of times during the process. I also made some rice in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl. The smell that filled the house was quite tantalizing…citrus, like lemons and oranges, but also slightly reminiscent of some Indian curries.

 

DSC_0406I served up some of the chicken pieces, and drizzled a little of the extra marinade over the rice. I was quite pleased with the meal. The marinade was sweet, with citrus accents, most noticeably orange, but it was also just slightly spicy, suggestive of red pepper flakes. Based on this experience, I would certainly try this marinade again, and I would recommend it as well. When you’re looking to make a semi-gourmet meal but you’re feeling too lazy to throw a marinade together yourself, this might be a good way to go. It’s also fat free, which, of course, is always going to get a thumbs up from me.

Product Review: Jack Link’s Jerky

It should come as no surprise that a guy like me, an avowed carnivore, loves beef jerky. But of course, jerky can also be made from other meats, and Jack Link’s demonstrates this with its BBQ seasoned pork jerky, which they sent me to review, as well as two other varieties. This was my favorite of the three that I sampled. It has a very pleasant smell, somewhat reminiscent of bacon, and a nice smoky aftertaste. A link to it is below.

Jack Link’s Meat Snacks Pork Jerky, BBQ, 5.85 Ounce

Next up was the jalapeno carne seca beef jerky. This is the one for those who crave a little burn with their beef. The jalapeno smell and taste are readily apparent, and this left me smacking my lips and feeling a warming sensation on my tongue and in my cheeks. It’s noticeable, but not overpowering.

Jack Link’s Meat Snacks Beef Jerky, Jalapeno Carne Seca, 5.85 Ounce

Last was the peppered beef jerkey, seasoned with cracked black pepper. I like black pepper, and use it a lot in my cooking. If you look at the texture of this jerky, you can see the pepper actually cooked onto it, and you get a nice dosage of it in every bite.

Jack Link’s Premium Cuts Peppered Beef Jerky, Seasoned with Cracked Black Pepper: 3 Packs of 4.05 Oz – Sms12

Overall, you can’t go wrong with Jack Link’s Jerky, and there’s a reason they’ve become a powerhouse in the market. I’ve never tried a variety that I didn’t like, it’s really just a question of finding which one suits you best. As someone who tries to stay weight conscious, I appreciate that all three of these varieties has only two percent of your daily total fat and no saturated fat per serving. You’re also getting plenty of protein. The only thing to keep in mind is that the sodium content in this snack is high, particularly with the pork, at twenty-nine percent. The beef varieties are more to my liking, at seventeen and eighteen percent, respectively. I heartily recommend this line of products. Can’t go wrong with meat!

Product Review: Barilla Sausage and Tomato Rotini

Hi everybody, on this blog I’ll be reviewing another product that I sometimes take to work with me for one of my mini-meals. Today it’ll be the Sausage and Tomato Rotini, from Barilla’s Italian-Style Entrees. The Italian-Style Entrees are freeze-dried, so they can be stocked on your pantry shelf at home rather that refrigerated or frozen. These can be found on Amazon, purchased as a pack of six for $14.16, which comes out to just a bit more than two dollars each, which is quite reasonable. They’re 320 calories, 12 percent total fat and 10 percent saturated, and 29 percent of your daily sodium, all of which are in the range that I usually look for.

Despite the fact that I use this product semi-regularly, I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly, for the following reason: vegetables. The pasta itself and the robust tomato sauce with the sausage are quite good, the only problem is that there are also some chunks of vegetable lurking. When I make a red sauce at home, I build it from the ground up, so to speak, so that there are no pieces of vegetable, like onions or tomatoes, to pick around. Not so, here…as I eat, I have to pick around a few chunks, which is time consuming and a bit annoying. Since I continue to use this product, I think I’ve found that the good taste more than offsets the time to pick out the bits I don’t like, but I can’t be completely enthusiastic in my recommendation.

So, to sum up…this is a pretty tasty product, but if you’re picky about veggies, like me, keep in mind that you’re going to be treading carefully, to avoid swallowing an offending morsel. Maybe if Barilla ever sees fit to redo this recipe, it will be more to the liking of myself, and you, my fellow picky eaters.

Danger Always Lurks

As a picky eater, I’ve gradually tried, in my adult life, to integrate new foods into the repertoire of things I like. That makes it easier for me when I go to new restaurants, and it makes it less embarrassing when I’m a guest in someone’s home, say, and I have to tell them that I’m turning down what it is they’re offering me because I don’t care for it, or even am completely grossed out by it. Still, there are certain situations that arise where my dislike of individual foods or ingredients rears its head, and the best I can do is hope to ride it out.

A good example was a few weeks ago, when me and my wife went to a restaurant in the neighborhood, a self-styled English pub that we’d been to a few times in the past. The special this time around was a “porky burger,” which essentially was a hamburger with mozzarella cheese, bacon, pulled pork, and coleslaw piled on it. Definitely pretty decadent, and about a zillion calories, but I figured, it was an occasional treat, and hey, what is life about but treating yourself once in a while?

The only thing on the burger that didn’t appeal to me, as you may have guessed, was the coleslaw. No problem; I just told our server, who seemed new to the job and a bit flustered, to leave it off. So the food came, and the burger looked good, but rather than check it to see if any of the offending coleslaw was on it, I just took a big bite. Big mistake. The coleslaw, which turned out to be chock-full of onions, had been left on, and I had chewed it up and swallowed it before I was really aware of it. It was only as I was really experiencing the taste and aftertaste of it that I realized what had happened, and, needless to say, I was pretty grossed out by it.

What we are talking about, really, gets at the heart of being a picky eater. Did anything physically harmful happen to me here? Was some sort of physical torture inflicted on me? No, of course not. But the experience, which would have seemed so minor to most people, really turned my stomach. I felt like I wanted to puke, I was queasy, and it really took a good deal of effort to maintain my appetite. What I ended up doing was scraping the coleslaw off as best I could, but it seemed like all the other ingredients had been permeated by the taste of it. I was unable to finish the burger, and it kind of put a damper on my evening.

This is what it’s like to be a picky eater. You have to be constantly vigilant, and while there are plenty of people that can’t understand an experience like this, for someone like me, it’s a real problem. Life is full of these little episodes. The best you can do is laugh them off…and next time, try to remember to check your burger, or sandwich, or whatever else, before biting into it!

Product Review: Thomas’ Toast R Cakes

It’s me again, with another scrumptious product review. Today I’m looking at Toast R Cakes, by Thomas’. Thomas’ Toast R Cakes are available in packs of six on Amazon Fresh, for the cost of $3.19, which is quite reasonable (edit: I guess that since Amazon Fresh is only available in a few cities, they’re sort of secretive about their selection and for some reason Toast R Cakes aren’t available on their regular website…or anyone else’s website that isn’t a geographically specific grocery for that matter, so I can’t get you a link to buy online. Sorry guys!). I’ve also seen the six pack for sale at my local grocery store. Before I started getting Amazon Fresh, I was getting low-fat muffins at the grocery stores nearby. I wanted a similar product to replace those, and when I took a look at Toast R Cakes, it seemed like they might fit the bill.

Kind of like the infamous Seinfeld episode, the Toast R Cake is essentially a corn muffin top with no bottom, a kind of corn muffin disk, if you will. Each one has five percent of your daily recommended total fat, and three percent saturated, which are similar numbers to the Kellogg’s Nutragrain bars I eat. They’re very tasty, so no problems there. The only drawback I see to this product is that they’re pretty small…just three or four good-sized bites, and they’re gone. If you’re looking for portion control, this is a good thing, but if you have more of an appetite in the morning, you might want to eat two of them instead of one, or supplement the meal with a protein shake, as I sometimes do. With the decadent taste of a chocolate protein shake and the cake-like texture of the Toast R Cake, it’s almost like having dessert for breakfast! So I definitely recommend this product. It’s low in fat, delicious, and not a hint of a vegetable to be seen.