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Oct 20, 2008 06:40 AM

grocery store food finds -- shortcuts that taste great!

i want to share four (maybe more later) food finds that are outstanding in flavor -- and easy to use or prepare when time is at a premium -- and even when it is not!

first, "idahoan" brand instant flavored mashed potatoes:

i've had the "baby red potatoes" and "loaded potato" versions. excellent flavor, and you just add boiling water. tastes like you made them yourself (without the lumps) i highly recommend them.
second: "indian river" brand 100% valencia orange juice:

i grew up in florida with fresh squeezed, and this is the closest i've tasted in a national brand (excluding store-squeezed, or local fresh-squeezed). their grapefruit juice is pretty good, too. good flavor and body in both oj and the grapefruit.
third, i highly recommend harris teeter's carolina style bbq, from siler city, nc. it has no discernable fat, and is tender, genuine pit smoked pulled pork with an addictive flavor -- and the eastern style q vinegar sauce (very light). i'm not kidding -- it is addictive. mr. alka and i have just finished our fourth 12 oz. container within a week and a half! (maybe i shouldn't share this secret!) i love it on the martin's potato dinner rolls.
to me, they taste better than the maier's brand.
fourth: this is shelf-stable half-and-half that is cheaper than that in the fridge case -- and tastes better, in my personal opinion. it is called "special request half and half" from "farmland dairies" in new jersey.

do you want to share some of your food finds that are great tasting and convenient? thanks.

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  1. I'm keen on the Southwestern Corn Soup in Campbell's V-8 line of boxed soups. (Last year it was in a gold box in Campbell's Select line.) It has good flavour and a bit of heat, and lots of corn. It's nice with a garnish of chopped cilantro. The Butternut Squash Soup was good last year, too (topped with crumbles of Maytag blue cheese...mmm!), as was the Portobello Mushroom Soup. I hope those haven't changed.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Channa

      thanks channa, i like v-8, so i'll give that soup a try, for sure. the spicy v-8 is a quickie shortcut -- with a shot of worcestershire and a bit of horseradish -- for a nice bloody mary -- or even alone, for a virgin mary pick-me-up. a little celery seed is a nice kick, too. regular v-8 makes a good base, too, for simple cabbage soup. zap it with a little cumin or garam masala -- or fresh curry leaves.

      sometimes, those quickie soups are a good place to toss in some leftover roast chicken, or whatever. the fresh herb garnish/accent always transforms it up a level ( i love cilantro or flat leaf parsley.) also a touch of sherry -- or even sherry vinegar, for those soups like cuban black bean soup. sometimes, too, just stirring in a bit of sour cream can really move flavors forward -- or a squeeze of lemon/lime/citrus. also, sometimes a touch of balsamic vinegar.

      channa, can you answer my question about butter chicken here?

      mr. alka is from sri lanka, and we love indian and sri lankan food, and other se asian cuisine. nice to meet you! ;-)

      1. re: Channa

        I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered that I'd forgot to say that some of the soups in the V-8 line are NOT good. The Broccoli, for example, is baaaad, and some are non-descript. I'll give a money-back guarantee only on the three I mentioned. ;D

      2. The Trader Joe's brown rice that's already cooked, comes in a bowl and gets microwaved for 90 seconds has become a must have in my household of one, as has their frozen steel-cut oatmeal and their frozen roasted corn.

        2 Replies
        1. re: CeeBee

          Totally agree- steel cut oats are awesome, as is the frozen roasted corn.

          1. re: CeeBee

            Once, I found frozen precooked brown rice in a large 5-pound bag at Costco. We loved it! My husband works at home, so he was able to warm up some rice and make a quick stir-fry for lunch. But, alas, it is no more at our Costco. We've gotten the TJ's rice. It is much more expensive, but still handy to have around at times.

          2. Bisquick!
            For great pancakes and biscuits in a hurry.
            I have also used the biscuit recipe, added herbs, and rolled out to about 1/4" for a topping for chicken pot pie, a recipe from one of the Frugal Gourmet books.

            1. shortcut for cholesterol-free egg white pasta: "no yolks" noodles. good in soup and as a base for chicken paprikash (for example).

              1. I like the Trader Joe's refrigerated pizza dough. It's really cheap- $1- and I always have one on hand in the freezer.

                I also like Kellog's cornflake crumbs. They can be seasoned with anything and they always get really crunchy when baked.

                9 Replies
                1. re: cheesecake17

                  they make the pre-made crumbs, or do you just crush the flakes? my sister used to make an oven-crispy "fried" chicken using the crushed flakes. the flakes were combined with butter, i think. she got ithe recipe published in southern living magazine back in the '70s.

                  1. re: alkapal

                    ATK had an oven fried chicken that used melba toast because it gave it that crispiness, after baking. It was pretty good. I get a similar effect with kettle cooked potato chips.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      You know Pal, when I was a young mommy I used whatever I had in the pantry to use for crumbs for oven baked chicken or pork. If I had a bag of potato chips, corn chips, tortilla chips, corn flakes, rice krispies, anything that was getting down to the bottom of the bag and had a bunch of small pieces, that was my "bread" crumbs! I just mixed them with some seasonings, and I would either dip the chicken in milk and then in the crumbs, or coat with mayo and press crumbs into chicken. It was a great way to get my frustration out as well smashing the crumbs to tiny little pieces. ;-)

                      I have had those Idahoan brand baby reds before and they were really surprisingly good.

                      1. re: danhole

                        I used Cheez-its once to crumb coat chicken tenders. I got the recipe from Gourmet a couple of years ago. You toss the chicken in Dijon mustard and then in crumbed Cheez-it crackers and bake. Tasty and, of course, kid-friendly.


                      2. re: alkapal

                        They make premade crumbs. They're in the breadcrumb aisle/section in a rectangular box- like a smaller scale cereal box.

                        1. re: cheesecake17

                          I'm also a big fan of cornflake crumbs, but the boxed ones seem to get stale quickly, plus I think they are relatively expensive. I just buy TJ cornflakes or house brand/what's on sale, then whirl them in the processor.

                          But: must have panko in house at all times.

                          1. re: coney with everything

                            I never found them to get stale. My mother stores them in a tupperware, rather than the box, in the freezer. Maybe that makes a difference?

                            1. re: cheesecake17

                              Might be, cheesecake. But since my son wil eat cornflakes for breakfast and TJ's organic ones are like $2 a box, it's easier just to make them on demand.

                              1. re: coney with everything

                                Very true. My father eats cornflakes for breakfast as well, but for some reason he can tell if the crumbs came from the cereal box or if they were precrushed.

                                I've been using panko recently. My husband likes the different taste and texture.. as he also grew up eating the cornflake crumb crusted chicken.

                                Food Should Taste Good tortilla chips also work really well as a bread crumb type coating. They just need to be ground up first.