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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: http://www.idahoan.com/grocery/index1...

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.
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second: "indian river" brand 100% valencia orange juice: http://www.indianriverjuice.com/index...

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.
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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. http://www.potatoroll.com/pages/produ...
to me, they taste better than the maier's brand.
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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.
http://www.farmlanddairies.com/Farmla...

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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? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/560146

      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). http://www.noyolks.com/no_yolks_produ...

              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.

                        http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                      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.

                    2. alkapal, tell me more about these instant mashed potatoes...the link didn't work.

                      I recently had instant mashed potatoes at a costco sample station and holy crap were they good. Unfortnately I can't remember the brand name. Do you buy yours at costco?

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: bitsubeats

                        no, i got mine at harris teeter. the brand is "idahoan" and they come in a plastic-foil "envelope-type" package (for lack of a better description) that is about 8" tall, and about 4-5 " wide, predominately red in color overall. i'll see if i can find a good link.

                        okay, here is the homepage. http://www.idahoan.com/

                        go to the menu bar for "products", then noodle around. many of the flavors on the site i haven't seen. also, it seems like the company has a range of products, from just the instant spuds, to various packages/combos of the "flavored" ones. looks like they might do a big pack of several that costco might carry. (i'm only a hitchhiker at costco, for the time being, so i don't know if they carry it.) the package runs about $1 on sale recently, and is regularly about $1.29 or so.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          I have a big ole carton of Idahoan instant mashed potatoes in my cupboard from Costco. They're not bad. We eat them when we're sick--fast, easy comfort food.

                          1. re: fallingup

                            Instant mashed potato is good for thickening soup. I make clam chowder using canned minced clams, onions, potatoes, butter, and milk, or corn chowder using canned cream-style corn, milk, and odd bits of onion and leftover bacon or ham, and then adjust to the consistency I want by adding milk for thinner and instant mashed potato for thicker.

                          2. re: alkapal

                            I broke down and made my boyfriend buy it for us at super walmart over the weekend. We haven't tried them, but I can't wait to!

                            I also told my boyfriend to buy them "because someone online said they were tasty" and he didn't hesitate

                            1. re: bitsubeats

                              bitsubeats, did you get the little packet of the "flavored" ones, not the big box? btw, fallingup, i haven't tried the big box. regular flavor, right? no seasoning included?

                              1. re: alkapal

                                Big box: http://provenbestsellers.com/IdahoanP...

                                It's the same as the stuff in the packets. I've tried both. It's good stuff, I enjoy eating it, but it's not great...the taste always seemed a bit metallic or "off" to me.

                                1. re: fallingup

                                  it is the same brand, but not the same product as i recommended -- the "flavored" varieties, like "baby red potatoes" or "loaded", for example.

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    You're right, the "baby red potatoes" is a different product. With little bits of potato skin in it. That stuff IS good.

                                2. re: alkapal

                                  We don't like "skins" in our potatoes. I mean I'll eat them, but he won't....so we opted for the big box. I figured i'd just add my own flavoring to it like parmesean or garlic.

                            2. re: bitsubeats

                              I may have bought those, bitsu, and they are good--IMO best instant potatoes I've ever tasted.

                              Paradise Valley Yukon Golds. Ingredient list: potatoes, butter, salt.

                              Costco being Costco, I hope they still carry them. I'm down to the last pouch.

                            3. another food find: "glory" brand seasoned collard greens in a can. warm them up in a skillet for about 15-20 minutes, mostly covered, and you will be amazed how close they are to home-made -- GOOD collards made the southern way.
                              http://www.gloryfoods.com/product.asp...

                              i learned about them when my aunt had mom and me over for dinner, and she served them. i was unaware they were canned when i told my aunt how delicious they were. she said, "well, let me show you my secret." and took me into the kitchen, where she produced the "glory" can!

                              she is a southerner, and mom and i are southerners, so we know some collards. you'll actually be amazed.

                              i didn't know "glory" had frozen, or fresh-ready foods, too. i will definitely try more.

                              i've tried the blackeye peas, but the seasoning is a little strong -- esp. if one is sodium-averse. but not bad in a pinch -- like this morning at 4 am when i wanted to eat some, and nuked 'em for a minute. (needed a minurte and a half, probably ;-))

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: alkapal

                                I happy the hear that about Glory... I love collards, but hate them when they're over seasoned, so I've been afraid to try Glory, but will give it a shot now. I've also seen Glory brand fresh produce (bagged greens I think) in Target, probably won't try those though since all manner of greens are cheap and plentiful at the farmer's market.

                                1. re: mpjmph

                                  I agree with comments about high sodium and seasoning but try this: just dump a bag of frozen chopped collards in the crock pot with some ham bits and YOUR idea of seasoning and a little water and cook them overnight.

                              2. Piling on in praise of Trader Joe: their prepared sauces taste great on chicken, fish, pork...great varieties include Thai green chile, a couple of Indian curries, Italian, Cuban. They are company worthy, use them all the time.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: City Kid

                                  TJ's tetra-pak quarts of Cream fo Tomato Soup and Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup. Great on their own, or with add-ins to create minestrone and other hearty soups.

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    Have to second the Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup. It's really good. I keep a box of it in the fridge at work.

                                    Sometimes I mix it 50/50 with their chicken broth to bring down the calorie and fat content. Sometimes I add basil and a splash of balsamic. Sometimes I put in a tiny bit of puréed garlic. But, really, it's very, very good just the way it pours from the box.

                                    The Creamy Corn and Roasted Pepper is also delish.

                                  2. re: City Kid

                                    cuban mojito was discontinued. it was our fave. is it back?

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      I swear, it's some kind of sick joke TJ's plays on their customers. "Oh, so you like that product? A lot? Well nanny nanny bo bo, we discontinued it!"

                                      No, I'm not bitter. Not at all.

                                      1. re: jencounter

                                        i can't figure them out either! mojito was so well balanced.

                                        1. re: jencounter

                                          Amen! And you never know until you go to the store with a real Jones for something. Like the tall jars of Hot and Sour Soup they used to have. Or the big tub of truffle butter they had 2 Christmases ago. Or the truffle oil they had last Christmas.

                                          I mean, if they gave some warning that they weren't going to re-order, you could stock up. :-/

                                    2. I always have a couple of boxes of low-sodium Zatarain's red beans & rice on hand in my pantry.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: weezycom

                                        low sodium ia the key when buying zatarain's. otherwise, the regular is too salty.

                                      2. We loved the Farmland Dairies Skim Milk (when we used to use it for cereal) - we use 1/2 -n- 1/2 in coffee, so I think I'll check that out. I'm sure I've seen it when I walk down that aisle.

                                        My shortcuts:
                                        Better than Bullion (I wrote about it before) Chicken Base
                                        Bertolli Fire Roasted Jar Sauce (It's not too sweet, not too acidic)
                                        Alessi Tuscan Bean Soup (We sometimes add cooked chicken, more broth, more macaroni, cooked diced sausage, etc- to stretch it)
                                        Ghirardelli Triple Chunk Brownie Mix (heaven in a box)
                                        EZ Peel Shrimp (is that really a short cut?)

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                          Want to second and add to Boccone Dolce's Better than Boullion Base. So powerful (made with real chicken) and IMO irreplaceable. I have the Beef, Turkey, Veggie and Chicken Base at all times. I believe they also make a Seafood Base, and a lot others... my grocery just didn't carry it. http://superiortouch.com/btb.htm Can't find it at all when in NZ or OZ...it's a hassle to import into the countries; so I always throw some in my suitcase when flying over.

                                          I've never tried the Bertolli Fire Roasted Jar Sauce, I do grab cans of Muir or Hunts Fire Roasted tomatoes to boost the flavour of anything requiring a tomato sauce. Nice also for that grilled flavour during the winter months when the weather forces me to fake the great outdoors inside of my little kitchen.

                                          Goya beans, all of them, canned, rinsed and thrown into salads, soups, etc. are an affordable necessity, plus I recently read that eating 1/2 cups of legumes a day reduces diabetes risks by something like 40%. See your doctor before making any dietary changes :-).

                                          Low sodium chicken broth which I use for deglazing, loosening up sauces, and simply cooking greens and veggies in general. It greatly reduces the amount of oil needed in many savory recipes. The veggie broth works just as well if eating flesh is a problem.

                                          TJ's Roasted Corn Kernels also add depth to recipes requiring corn, again with that smoky flavour instantaneously!

                                          TJ's multi grain Veggie Lasagne, with just a few slices of fresh Mozz over the top, makes me look like a miracle worker for last minute suppers, especially with a whole grain baguette, usually found wrapped in foil in the freezer, just waiting for that moment when it will shine!

                                          1. re: ideabaker

                                            What is different about Goya beans, as opposed to any other type of canned beans? Can you really tell the difference?

                                          2. re: Boccone Dolce

                                            Better than Boullion is splendid when mixed with your home made stock. I use just a touch of BTB in my stock to give it a little kick but not so much as to erase the goodness of my own efforts.

                                            If, however, you have to use BTB on its own you will be pleasantly surprised.

                                          3. Mary B's Tea Biscuits, they are frozen in bags with Pilsbury in your grocer's freezer. They are bite size biscuits. Heavenly!
                                            Another convenient trick, I buy a cheese frozen pizza, Frescheta Wood Oven cheese is my fav and then I go get toppings off of the salad bar spinach, peppers, onion. Most salad bars in grocery stores even have pepperoni. So easy for a quick bite.

                                            1. -Zatarain's Black Beans & Rice mix
                                              -Far East pilafs and whole grain pilafs and couscous, I particularly like the almond pilaf
                                              -Lidia Bastianich's red sauce
                                              -I'm not sure why but I'm a fan of non-dairy creamer. I know, I know, but it makes your coffee or tea so rich and creamy
                                              -TJ' fresh pizza dough
                                              -TJ's sliced, packaged fresh mango - sure beats cutting it up yourself
                                              -TJ's cubed, packaged fresh squash - " "

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: lynnlato

                                                *near* east pilafs are good. we like the red lentil one. (i'll check on the exact name -- maybe it is the couscous.) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                                                interesting that it is a quaker brand, who also makes "rice-a-roni, the san fran-sodium treat!" http://www.quakeroats.com/qfb_OurBran...

                                                i have to disagree on the tj's fresh mango, though. mine was very underripe and tasted green and hard.

                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                  As for the mango, perhaps you got a bad mango. I've never had that problem and I get it often.

                                                  I didn't know that Quaker makes Far East - very interesting. Go figure!

                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                    TJ's sells pre-cut green mango? I use that stuff in cooking all the time, it's such a pain to peel and slice. One man's junk is another's treasure I guess!

                                                  2. re: lynnlato

                                                    I'm also a lover of non-dairy creamer ); I prefer it over cream in my coffee.

                                                    YEAH I KNOW, jeez

                                                    1. re: bitsubeats

                                                      once in my mom's home , i was without milk, so used non-dairy creamer over cold cereal. it fit the bill in a (big) pinch.

                                                  3. Mary B's Open Kettle Dumplings. They're just like homemade rolled dumplings for chicken and dumplings with none of the work! You add them into the broth frozen and in a few minutes it's done.

                                                    http://www.homadefoods.com/about.htm

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: bw2082

                                                      i'm going to look for those. i love chick and dumplings!

                                                      1. re: bw2082

                                                        bw2082: Where are you finding the Mary B's Open Kettle Dumplings? I have never seen them but would like to try.

                                                        1. re: Querencia

                                                          they sell them at Krogers around here.

                                                        2. re: bw2082

                                                          My mom would make chicken and dumplings when I was a kid and she would use canned bisuits, cut them in fours toll them into footballs, dredge in flour and drop them in. They work perfect.

                                                          1. re: waitress

                                                            I have made emergency chicken and dumplings by putting frozen potato-filled pierogies in a casserole with chunks of boneless skinless chicken breast then filling the dish to the top with chicken stock from a box, covering tightly with foil, and baking until chicken is done and pierogies have absorbed the stock. Don't know if you can get frozen pierogies everywhere but Chicago is Pierogi City, having as many Polish citizens as Warsaw, or so goes the local story. If you're not familiar with pierogies and come across them, try these filled dumplings.

                                                        3. delicious, refreshing (all year round): SIMPLY APPLE. this juice is always very good, but the bottle i got yesterday seemed especially good. http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/pr...
                                                          =============
                                                          bbq sauce: "pat's ho-made" looks like this, but i have bought it in the publix in the fort myers, florida area. https://www.allaboutgrills.com/pages/...

                                                          it is really good sauce, and makes for an easy "pulled pork" treat. not eastern carolina style, but very good. like the sauce from the "sonny's" bbq chain down south. (tomato with vinegar, not sweet).

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                            "Ho-made"??? The vice squad must be making a dent in their business...;-)

                                                            1. re: greygarious

                                                              i know. love it. it always cracks me up, too.

                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                Have you ever tried Bone Suckin' Sauce? It comes in regular or hot and it's a tangy, slightly sweet vinegar based sauce made in Chapell Hill, NC. Bon Appetit declared it the best store-bought variety about 10 years ago. I find it in all the grocery store chains here - but, then again, I'm in NC.

                                                                1. re: lynnlato

                                                                  thanks, i'll check that out when the ho-made runs out (i always stock up in florida).

                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                    Alkapal, my Fresh Market carries the Bone Suckin' Sauce (I'm in Miami, FL).

                                                                    1. re: Mellicita

                                                                      I see Bone Suckin Sauce everywhere in NYC. Does it taste like regular BBQ sauce? I truly dislike BBQ sauce, so I've never bought the Bone Suckin SAuce

                                                          2. Anyone who has to cook for a low-sodium person: most jars of spaghetti sauce have 400-800 mgm sodium but Trader Joe's Organic Marinara Sauce has 25 mgm and it's actually good. Also TJ has a good low-sodium chicken stock with which you can make gravy.

                                                            1. Pillsbury makes a frozen biscuit that comes in a bag in the freezer section that is great. I like them better than the ones in the can because you can bake just one or two where as with the can once you open it you have to cook them all.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: jpc8015

                                                                those biscuits are good, i agree -- but don't let them defrost *any*, because they will then irretrievably stick together in the plastic package (unless they've changed the package of loose biscuits in a large plastic bag). i like the southern style or the buttermilk variety.

                                                                oh, look at this new version of crescent roll dough -- no seams. http://www.Pillsbury.com/products/pro...
                                                                the recipe photos do look very tasty! a lebanese friend of mine here in the states uses the pillsbury crescent roll dough to make spinach pies, and little zataar mini-pizzas (with olive oil). (can't think of the lebanese name)

                                                              2. I really like Fuji Apple Juice from Red Ochard. It really tastes like fresh apple juice that you get from juicing apple yourself. Very freshing!

                                                                I also love Gyu-kaku Shio Tare (salt marinade). You use it straight to marinate all your meat and grill it, and it tastes actually like you get at the restaurant. It uses the marinade for everything!

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: kobetobiko

                                                                  Does the salt marinade come in a box or a bag or a bottle? Will there be englsih on the label and instructions? I hover in the aisles of Asian grocery stores for hours trying to guess/decipher the non-English ingredients and directions. I try to accost others in the store for help, but it isn't always possible.

                                                                2. I found a new dinner roll that is fantastic. It's Sister Schubert's Pre-Baked Dinner Yeast Rolls. They only take 5-10 minutes to cook at 350 degrees, come in a resealable bag, and taste like homemade. No thawing required. They are flat enough that they are perfect for making little sandwiches with, but on so good for sopping up gravy as well. I brushed them with butter on top before baking, and they were very good.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: danhole

                                                                    dani, funnily enough, i made those on turkey day. (they were bogo at harris teeter). anyhow, the buns were good, but i think i overbaked them a little -- so they were not as soft as i wanted. for the brush-on topping, i combined mccormick's salt-free garlic and herb seasoning with butter, and a bit of fresh minced garlic. (btw, that butter -herb combo is GREAT in grits!).

                                                                    we had the rolls with roast duck, but also, i left my host the crabcakes i made, and stuffed each crabcake into one of the leftover yeast rolls. (nice sandwich...and i regretted not taking one home for the next day.)

                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                      there are recipes for sandwiches where you stuff the rolls with beef tenderloin, turkey, whatever and then bake, vs baking roll and then re-heating. We did not bake until they were "golden brown" just slightly brown. They were soft. The butter herb combo sounds really good, but one of the guests would have freaked if I had done that! Next time, though.

                                                                  2. I like Safeway's tomato basil soup. I've served it to guests in Chinese soup bowls with spoons. In the living room, pre-dinner.

                                                                    Also, in a pinch, TJ's risotto in a box. You add all the broth at once. It's not AS good as the slow method but with a little extra broth and cheese at the end, I like it.

                                                                    1. I don't tend to use many pre-packaged or processed foods at all (other than some specific breads), simply because I'm constitutionally lazy, so I learned to cook fairly straightforward dishes using few ingredients, to begin with.

                                                                      But...I do like having on hand a bag of mixed julienned vegetables. Don't recall the brand, but it's some kind of vegetable slaw made from carrots, broccoli stems and one other veggie...celery maybe? Something crisp. When I'm not motivated at dinner time, it's easy to toss in a hot saute pan with whatever spices, herbs or oils that match my mood that evening plus the menu. I can also make a quick soup out of them, either a clear broth based one, or a pureed "cream" soup. Or...I can toss them into a casserole; into a braise pot during the last five to ten minutes of cooking, or into a mixed green salad for the crunch factor. Once I cut them into shorter pieces and added them to a quick savory bread; very tasty. The only trick is to check the sell-by dates carefully. The veggies have so much surface area exposed that they will dry out if close to the expiration date.

                                                                      Other than that...I keep a can of frozen o.j. in the freezer. If a braise, in particular, needs a little something, and orange compliments the particular dish, I'll toss a lump of the oj in, with some water or even ginger ale, or sometimes use it undiluted with honey for a glaze.

                                                                      15 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Steady Habits

                                                                        in a similar veggie vein, i like to have at hand the frozen julienned mixed bell peppers (red, yellow, green) that i get at harris teeter to toss in to sauces, stir-fries, soups, etc.

                                                                        the shelled edamame they sell at harris teeter is outstanding, as well as the bag of frozen chopped spinach (the best frozen chopped spinach!)

                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                          Thanks for that first tip, alkapal. Hubby loves bell peppers, but we've been generally disappointed with the quality of produce in the markets around us this year. And now BPs are out of season, anyway. I didn't know there was such a thing a frozen BPs. I'm going to look for that; it sounds like a welcomed addition to my freezen stash for the ubiquitous soups, now that we're hunkering down for winter. Thank you!

                                                                          1. re: Steady Habits

                                                                            steady habits, next time i go, i'll try and remember to get the brand names of those peppers, edamame,and spinach. are you near a harris teeter, by any chance?

                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                              TY, alkapal. I never knew bell peppers froze well. I guess I thought they'd get mushy, so I'd love to have the name of a brand that someone who appreciates veggies has used and can recommend. I'm not near a Harris Teeter; in fact, I'd never heard of it until the last couple of days on here and had to look it up to see which areas it serves.

                                                                              Oh, btw...you mentioned spinach. There's another one of my shortcuts. I only buy baby spinach, so I don't have to trim the stems or thicker veins of grown-up spinach. Told you I'm lazy. :-)

                                                                            2. re: Steady Habits

                                                                              TJ's also carries frozen bell pepper strips if you're not in a Harris Teeter region.

                                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                I hate to say it, but even Trader Joe's is a bit of a hike for me. Not *far* if I'm doing one of those three-times-a-year supershoppings; however, it would involve packing up the Conestoga for a serious trip. To give you an idea of where I live, our public Christmas decorations consist of a couple of vintage tractors with bows on the grilles set out in front of the town hall. It's been quite the emotional adjustment moving here, realizing just how many lovely consumer goods are no longer five minutes away. However, even we have supermarkets, and one or two of them within a half-hour are even...not awful. :-)

                                                                                Does Trader Joe's have good produce? I'm dying for some...probably literally. I can get great stuff from local farmstands and produce markets, between the Fourth of July and October 1st. The rest of the year finds me fantasizing about ripe fruit and tomatoes. (Except for good cranberries and hard squashes...we always have those.)

                                                                                1. re: Steady Habits

                                                                                  the produce at Trader Joe's is hit or miss, but for the things i buy there, i typically stick to organic. they're a reliable source for grape & cherry tomatoes, bags of refrigerated broccoli & cauliflower florets [only the broccoli is organic], celery & celery hearts [only the hearts are organic], onions, avocado, apples, citrus, bell peppers...the selection obviously varies by season. the one thing about which i would caution you is their bagged greens - they're definitely not worth the money as they always seem to spoil before the date on the bag, and they tend to have a funky chemical odor [even the organics] so they need to be rinsed anyway!

                                                                          2. re: Steady Habits

                                                                            the veggies you're talking about- broccoli slaw or rainbow slaw? If so, I buy it all the time and saute them or eat them with a sesame ginger or peanut dressing. It beats dragging out the food processor every time I want to make something like that.

                                                                            1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                              You happened to catch me at one of the few times I don't have a bag on hand, but, yes, it's a slaw, and I believe one of those. Those dressings sound like they'd be fabulous on a big, crispy bowl of it. So tell me about the peanut dressing (please...didn't mean to sound so bossy, but I'm hungry for some of that slaw now!) I love sate and hot peanut noodles...is it anything like that?

                                                                              1. re: Steady Habits

                                                                                I kind of just throw everything into a little bowl and whisk it up. The amounts vary depending on my mood or who is sharing with me. I put natural/unsweetened peanut butter (or almond or cashew), soy sauce, rice vinegar (whatever flavor I have), sugar/splenda, and toasted sesame oil. Sometimes I add in a little La Choy terikayi and sesame seeds. I love taking a big tupperware of the slaw for lunch and adding the dressing about a half hour before I want to eat. Then I can shake it up and scarf it down :)

                                                                                It's also good with some cold baked tofu or grilled chicken mixed in.

                                                                                1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                  cellophane noodles, soaked in hot water for a bit, can "expand" this without much caloric damage, too. i'd add some garlic, ginger, scallion and fish sauce instead of soy for a little different riff. sometimes even omit the peanut butter.

                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                    maybe add a hit of frank's hot sauce or sriracha, too. i bet peanut butter is good with sriracha.

                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                      my husband is always adding some kind of hot sauce to his peanut noodles, so it's probably a good match. he has his own shelf for his collection, so I have no idea which one he's using, but he claims to love it on peanut noodles.

                                                                                  2. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                    cheesecake, you pull/shred the chicken to go into your cold noodle dish, right? isn't it strange how shredded cold chick *tastes* different than diced chicken? diced chicken in any cold salad just isn't as tasty, imo.

                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                      depends on my laziness level. i usually shred it up, but sometimes i just leave a thin chicken cutlet whole and put it on top. shredded chicken absorbs the flavor better i think.

                                                                                      really lazy- buy a rotisserie chicken. get husband to shred. only prob with that is he makes a mess in the kitchen.

                                                                            2. steady habits, i thought you might like this thread on cold sesame peanut noodles: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/293068

                                                                              (it is "hungry time" for me, so all these threads are making me hungry!)

                                                                              1. pillsbury-in-a-can thin crust pizza dough, placed on an evoo-oiled sheet pan, and with minced fresh rosemary pressed on with your oily fingertips (from oiling up the pan....), and toppings of your choosing.

                                                                                be sure and cook it till it is crispy on the bottom -- don't be afraid of the high brown on the edge crust (especially if you "load it up" with toppings that require quite a bit more time. i recommend sauce plus maybe three (max) toppings -- from experience, as noted below. http://www.pillsbury.com/Recipes/Show...
                                                                                (it is important, imo, that you do bake the pizza until it has a browner crust than what is shown in the pillsbury site's recipe photos).

                                                                                my last combo: homemade "sauce" made with the hunt's canned italian-herb chopped tomatoes http://www.hunts.com/product_detail.j... cooked with a little sugar, then topped with cooked italian sausage, mushrooms, chopped green pepper, leftover rosemary-olive oil-roasted red potato, diced, and sargento's "six cheese italian blend" shredded cheese http://www.sargentocheese.com/product... (Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan and Fontina, plus Romano and aged Asiago). i wished i'd had some artichoke hearts and black olives! sprinkled good parm and red pepper flakes on top, then ate it with those pepperoncini. can you tell i liked that one "loaded"? ;-). (mr. alka, on the other hand, is a pizza margherita kind of guy).

                                                                                try it for a very tasty quickie pizza that is competitive with the flavor and texture of many restaurant thin crust pizzas i've had recently!!!

                                                                                i'm going to try it for stromboli and calzone!

                                                                                happy new year!

                                                                                21 Replies
                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                  i forgot that i also added chopped, shaved fennel to my pizza before baking. yum-eee.

                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                    That pizza sounds delicious... wonder if it would work with the Hunt's fire roasted tomatoes (adding Italian spices, of course) and that bit of sugar to soften the acidity? Recently graduated from a pizza stone (too small for me) to a rectangular baking stone and am still eager to cook my first 'homemade' pizza :-). My mom always taught me that most anything can become incredible-tasting with a little 'doctoring up'... Mom is a Registered Nurse BTW.

                                                                                    1. re: ideabaker

                                                                                      i think i might have used some of those fire roasted tomatoes, too. (my "sauce" had been originally made for a batch of eggplant pasta sauce). i think i added too much sugar initially, then had to add some balsamic/rice wine viinegar -- and then the can of diced toms with the herbs. what a "doctoring" job! LOL.

                                                                                      oooh, now i'm thinking roast eggplant would be good, too, on the pizza.

                                                                                      seriously, it is good and so easy! i don't think i'd use this dough on a stone, cause it seems a bit "wet" -- but you might try it, of course. the sheet pan worked great (and i wasn't stingy with the oil....). i don't think "pam" spray would be good on the pan. definitely use oil on the pan.

                                                                                      baked on the pizza, the sauce was much better than "tasting" off the spoon.

                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                        Sounds absolutely delicious... oil and all! Those Fire-Roasted Tomatoes are a welcome addition to lots of meals. Now you have me thinking of pizza possibilities with them! Thanks, Alkapal!

                                                                                    2. re: alkapal

                                                                                      Wow, alkapal, never heard of thin crust pizza in a can. I'll check it out. I've been on a cooking binge the last few weeks and am ready to take it easy for a while. Thanks for the rec.

                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                        what they'll put in cans these days!! makes me wonder about "these days", too: just yesterday, new year's day, at tyson's corner mall in wealthy suburban d.c., people were sitting with teeth whitening lamps on their mouths in a mall "kiosk", right near lord and taylor, and the hair cuttery and luciano's italian restaurant (which by the way, does have delicious pizza). LOL!

                                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                                          i guess the teeth whitening post got people's minds off of food, somehow!? LOL!
                                                                                          ooooh, no pizza, coffee, tea, coke, tomato sauce, yada yada; my teeth will stain! ;-).

                                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                                            hmmm...I'd do that teeth whitening thing in a mall, especially if it was a demo. I use a threader in a mall kiosk now because I like her better than the one in the salon I used to go to. How is this food related? It gets caught in a mustache! LOL!

                                                                                            1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                              wyk, must. keep. food. related. <repeat.>

                                                                                              1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                                whosyerkitty, love the mustache comment. but threading? you like others to see your pain? ;-).

                                                                                                oops. food. right. trader joe's has a bulgogi that i picked up today on someone else's recommendation. i look forward to trying it. it is in the meat section, in a sealed plastic bag.

                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                  i wasn't impressed with the bulgogi. it seemed fatty to me, and the meat was tough. i confess that i have not given it a second chance.

                                                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                                                            I just tried the canned pizza dough and it's surprisingly good. I especially like that it's soft and it doesn't fight back when you try to put it into the pan. I bought some fresh pizza dough and it tasted delicious but it was so stretchy that it took half an hour to persuade it to take on a proper 'pan' shape.

                                                                                            1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                              Oh my gosh, I got such a ragging on about this on another board :) Developed a thicker skin over that one. I love your description about putting it in the pan I've bought the TJs dough, which I also liked, but "persuade" was the key word.

                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                man, i lost a battle with the tj's dough over stretching out in the pan.
                                                                                                tj's pizza dough "1" -- alkapal "0"

                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                  Just "walking" it out of the bag made me giggle :)

                                                                                          3. re: alkapal

                                                                                            i never buy those canned dough things but just got the thin and thick versions on a whim before reading this post.
                                                                                            now i am more eager to try it!

                                                                                            and i am definitely a loaded girl.

                                                                                            i've got caramelized onions, sun dried tomatoes, baby spinach, potato, boursin, baby bellas, chicken sausage, and the sargento's blend at my disposal.
                                                                                            oh some anchovy paste for good measure.

                                                                                            1. re: dinaofdoom

                                                                                              work in some fresh rosemary with olive oil on the dough once you've unrolled it prior to loading. it helps to mask the sweet-ish dough flavor.

                                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                poo, i don't have any fresh rosemary.
                                                                                                but i will make do and experiment.

                                                                                                1. re: dinaofdoom

                                                                                                  try a *little* dried rosemary, or oregano, or thyme....

                                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                    i made a thick crust with potatoes, chicken sausage, tomato and pesto base, herb boursin, caramelized onions, italian cheese blend and baby spinach on top (i love the way it dries up and gets all roasty tasting).

                                                                                                    i made a second, thin crust version with similar ingredients, plus sun dried tomatoes.

                                                                                                    both were delish, and i am looking forward to all the leftovers.

                                                                                                    1. re: dinaofdoom

                                                                                                      holy moly, dina, you *did* mean "loaded"!

                                                                                          4. i don't recall if i already mentioned the frozen bell pepper strips at trader joe's. it is a mix of red, yellow and green. they are super handy to throw in all sorts of dishes, from sauteed fish, to "paella" to soup to pizza. much less expensive than fresh -- and just as good -- when you intend to cook them.

                                                                                            i haven't yet tried them simply thawed. maybe i'll try that tomorrow, in a tossed salad. (i'm thinking they'd be good in a tuna salad, too).

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                              I buy the frozen onion/pepper strips from Stop & Shop. They're GREAT in a pinch. Love with the onions in them. Funny...just last night I threw them on a tossed salad. They didn't have quite the "crisp" of fresh, but still tasted good.

                                                                                            2. the la zuppa soup range available in Oz is pretty good if you don;t feel like making soup, especially the pumkin. also in australia we have really good pasta sauces avalable especially the ones in the organic stores and i love Bertolli five brothers summer tomato basil pasta its really nice over a bowl of really well done zuchini and eggplant mmmm

                                                                                              1. the "oven poppers" frozen stuffed fish are great -- and sooooooo quick in the microwave. i've been buying these for years, and they've been consistently good. http://www.ovenpoppers.com/products.php#

                                                                                                last night, i just fixed the crabmeat-stuffed sole in the micro, and then doctored it up** with shaved fennel sauteed in butter with some marinated artichokes and capers. i forgot to add my halved cherry tomatoes! <doh!> add a splash of white wine or sherry with the veggies, pour on top of the fish, and you're good to go. **but honestly -- you don't need to do *anything* to them -- they are delicious "as is".

                                                                                                maybe i haven't had enough coffee, but it seems that amazon lists more of the products than the company website: http://www.amazon.com/gp/browse.html/...

                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                  Wow. Great to know. I'll check and see if we have that brand on the left coast. I always do a 180 when I see fish products like that. But your recommendations are always winners. Thanks, alka.

                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                    c oliver, good luck finding it. they say that the crab stuffed sole is their #1 bestseller.
                                                                                                    it is great to make a quick and very tasty dinner -- just slit the individual plastic pouch, put on a plate, and nuke for five minutes. any leftovers (riiiight ;-) make a good sandwich, too -- with a little squeeze of lemon and tartar sauce.

                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                      This is a GREAT thread. I am going to have to start hunting these things down, esp the fish and the Glory brand stuff.

                                                                                                      1. re: lilmomma

                                                                                                        go, lilmomma, go! (i love your screen name. sometimes i call my own mom that name). i'm glad you're liking this thread, and i hope you find the products to be to your taste! happy eating!

                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                          Thanks Alkapal! So far I tried the Glory stuff! Yummy! SO much easier than getting the frozen bags and trying to season it myself. I tried the Idahoan red potatoes too. DH Questioned why I would buy instant when I make good ones from scratch, but he liked them and I will definitely keep them around for emergencies!

                                                                                                2. i forget if i've mentioned the hunt's brand fire roasted tomatoes in a can. pretty good base for a spaghetti sauce or pizza sauce. http://www.hunts.com/product_detail.j...

                                                                                                  1. "texas toast croutons" -- taste just like texas toast. made by marzetti. i like the garlic and butter flavor. same company makes cardini's croutons, whose french bread garlic and butter croutons are smaller and more tender -- just as good.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                      love those!

                                                                                                    2. this one is brilliant -- trust me: birds eye brand frozen boxed "cooked winter squash." https://www.birdseyefoods.com/inspira...

                                                                                                      this stuff tastes BETTER than any fresh winter squash i've had. all i did was zap the box's contents (5 minutes!) and then salted and buttered. it was fabulous -- rich, ultra smooth, intensely winter-squashy. i honestly would not even be tempted to bother with a *fresh* winter squash puree when i have this product. even mr. alka (NOT a veggie-lovin' man, licked his bowl clean. ....well.... spooned his bowl clean).
                                                                                                      ~~~~~~~~~
                                                                                                      i'm also lovin' the birds eye "steamfresh" sugar snap peas. http://www.birdseyesteamfresh.com/veg... bravo! the peas are plump, sweet, and perfectly cooked via the self-contained bag . it is soooooo simple, letting me focus on the other parts of the meal. again, a little butter, salt and some toasted slivered almonds, and you've got a knockout side dish with no work.
                                                                                                      ~~~~~~

                                                                                                      finally, maybe i mentioned this earlier, but the bob evans refrigerated case ready-to-heat mashed potatoes are delicious, both the regular and garlic versions. http://www.bobevans.com/product/Bob_E...
                                                                                                      they're smooth, creamy, fresh-tasting, and a good value. these taters, like the birds eye veggies above, are another terrific -- but delicious -- timesaver!

                                                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                        The cooked winter squash is always in my freezer. If I'm alone, I nuke a package and eat it for dinner with some salt and pepper on top. It really is soo creamy and smooth. Used it a few times as a base for sauce or ravioli filling

                                                                                                        1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                                          cheesecake, i'd eat it rather than dessert, it's so delicious. it's like guilt-free dessert (well....except for the butter, but you really don't even need that). it is naturally sweet.

                                                                                                          i imagine using it in ravioli!
                                                                                                          with gnocchi!
                                                                                                          as soup, with chicken stock.

                                                                                                          and the neat thing is the foil packaging on the box that keeps it protected from the freezer. i honestly don't know how long mine had been in the freezer, but it tasted great.

                                                                                                        2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                          alka, we had the birdseye frozen winter squash in our freezer all the time when i was growing up, and i totally forgot how good it is!
                                                                                                          i need to look into that.

                                                                                                          1. re: dinaofdoom

                                                                                                            yes indeed! it is so delicious and silken.

                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                              Full flavored and not watery? If not it's worth keeping on hand for emergencies

                                                                                                              1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                                with a dab of butter and some salt and pepper, it tastes like the best winter squash puree in a fine restaurant. (yes full flavored, NOT watery in the least).

                                                                                                                get some; you'll like it i ga-ron-tee.

                                                                                                          2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                            I love the winter squash too.

                                                                                                            Put butter, artificial sweetner (diabetic) and cinnamon in it.

                                                                                                            Bingo.

                                                                                                            Trouble is, not ever store carries it year round, at least here in CA

                                                                                                          3. Last year tlegray told me about this Goya product, which they called "pig dust." I bought a box, and put it up, never to find it again. Then I bought another, thought I knew where it should go, and again it got sucked into the black hole I call my pantry. Finally I tried a third time, put it on the shelf and promptly found the other 2 boxes! What a ditz! Anyway it is a ham flavored concentrate that comes in little packets. Doesn't cost much but it puts a great ham flavor into anything you add it too. Now I'm glad I have so much on hand :-) I made a gravy with it and gosh it was so good, but I have added it to canned soup and beans, too. One side of the box is in english, and the other is in spanish. Just look for the pig! And thanks tlegray.

                                                                                                            1. bird's eye "voila!" garlic chicken -- frozen dinner in a bag: http://www.epinions.com/review/Birds_...

                                                                                                              the chicken was tasty, the broccoli and carrots looked like i cut them (not those stupid little crumbly bits, but real slices and nice size florets). the large fusilli pasta cooked al dente and the sauce was lightly creamy and garlicky (i'd like to tweak up the garlic next time, but i love garlic). plus, this could NOT be easier -- just add 1/4 cup water in a skillet and it is done in about 10 minutes.

                                                                                                              i was going to "doctor" it, but decided to try it "straight." let's put it this way, i could have tweaked it to go in more extreme or clear flavor directions (e.g., sesame oil and more garlic...or hoisin...), but honestly, it was quite nice as it was. (i did throw in some freshly-toasted pine nuts that i wanted to use up, though).

                                                                                                              i tried it because i got a great deal at harris teeter. i'll definitely keep a bag in the freezer for those nights when i want hot, flavorful comfort food without any hassle. it sure beats by a mile any other frozen meal i've had.

                                                                                                              i still have to make the chicken alfredo in the freezer, too -- and will report back. right now, after the initial tryout, i am a huge cheerleader for the bird's eye voila!

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                follow up: we had the chicken *florentiine* -- with penne, spinach, tomato and squash, and a nice creamy parmesan sauce.

                                                                                                                what is remarkable about theses voila! is the nice veggie component. the vegetables are a nice size, and well-cut -- how unusual for frozen food.

                                                                                                                also, the flavors are nicely balanced; nothing jumps out as "overdone." there is a nice combination of ingredients, too -- e.g., not too much spinach, or too little parmesan sauce.... there are no weird "flavorings" kind of tastes, or weird "mouthfeel" issues. they are "just right," as goldilocks might say.

                                                                                                                the quality is as if i made the dish myself. i'm really quite impressed. thanks birds eye!

                                                                                                              2. publix -- produce section, "eat smart" pre-cut asian slaw kit, broccoli slaw kit, fresh pre-cut stir fry veg, cauliflower florets, broccoli florets.

                                                                                                                all are good, esp. the broc and cauliflower for a quick roast with garlic olive oil.

                                                                                                                the asian slaw is terrific, and comes with a little pouch of sesame ginger dressing and some crunchy bits in a separate pack inside. i can eat the whole thing at one sitting. highly recommend.

                                                                                                                have been on a good sale lately (in store special, hancock bridge pkwy, n. ft. myers).

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                  costco has the precut bag of broccoli also- it's a huge bag for about $4.99.

                                                                                                                2. for pickle lovers, i've found this: equal to -- if not better than -- claussen pickles are the harris teeter brand dill pickle halves. nice, flavorful, and crrrrunchy! very nice bite!

                                                                                                                  1. Like most CHs, we don't do very much prepared foods. My main problem with most of them is the excess salt, unneeded sugar, partially hydrogenated oil, and/or unpronounceable chemicals most of these products contain. Not to mention the excess packaging.

                                                                                                                    Having said that, we have a few "standbys" for those nights when we need something quick and easy.

                                                                                                                    Barber Foods Stuffed Chicken Breasts fit this bill. http://www.barberfoods.com/Our-Produc... The directions now say "oven only" but that would take forever. So we use the old directions and put them in the microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes before putting them into the toaster oven.

                                                                                                                    Canned pizza sauce, canned red kidney and black beans,canned tomatoes, frozen peas and frozen corn, and Pillsbury crescent rolls and pizza dough are usually in the larder. Oh, yeah...Bisquik.

                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                                      al, please would you tell us what are the specific name brands for your list -- Canned pizza sauce, canned red kidney and black beans,canned tomatoes, frozen peas and frozen corn?

                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                        Tomatoes and pizza sauce are Furmano's, Frozen veg are Bird's Eye, and beans are either Bush or Goya. I have also frozen fresh corn and peas in season.

                                                                                                                        1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                                          Furmano's canned Romano beans are pretty good too.

                                                                                                                          1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                                            i just tried and DO like the furmano's pizza sauce -- i used it to make some "english muffin pizzas" the other day. it has a good flavor -- not too sweet or overly "herbed."

                                                                                                                            i toasted the muffin first, and then topped with the sauce, some grated fontina and parm, a little pico de gallo (excellent, by the way) and some slices of boar's head pepperoni -- then zapped it in the micro (of course the toaster oven would be just as good if not better). it made a tasty and quick breakfast. ;-). hmm, next time i could add some arugula and a fried egg! this also works with toasted pita (and i "toast" the pita just by drying in the micro).

                                                                                                                        2. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                                          I had some Bisquick once, but the pantry got overrun with pantry moths (or some such thing) at some point and I had to throw at least 3/4 of what was in there away. The rest I froze for a month (call me overcautious, you didn't see how many bodies there were). I sort of miss Bisquick,my mom usd it a LOT and it was the darling of the Home Ec teachers when I was in high school, and I can still find a recipe for homemade from MIL's church cookbook. i guess I don't or wouldn't use it much but I can see the need for it, if I was routinely cooking for a whole lot of people on a budget, hells yes.

                                                                                                                        3. this whole grain pilaf is nutty, savory, chewy, and very satisfying -- quick, too: "near east" brand pecan and roasted garlic brown rice, bulgur pilaf: http://www.neareast.com/#products/roa...

                                                                                                                          keep some in the pantry. it is good in soup, too.

                                                                                                                          1. i've been making thai seafood salad a lot these days, and am really enjoying the convenience of the lemongrass paste in a tube. the brand is "gourmet garden" in the produce section. http://www.gourmetgarden.com/us/produ...

                                                                                                                            i will definitely try their new "thai" blend for "quickie" fixes to blah chicken soup, stir-fries, etc. http://www.gourmetgarden.com/us/produ...

                                                                                                                            i noticed in the store (harris teeter) yesterday a "moroccan spice" blend.

                                                                                                                            ~~~~~
                                                                                                                            and yes i know that i can buy the whole spices and grind them myself, etc -- but this is for quick fixes, ya know?

                                                                                                                            13 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                              My favorite go-to lately has been an artichoke tapenade. It's made a great hamburger topping, mixed w/ spinach and parmesan it became an amazing dip, with a little oil, pepper and cheese it was great in pasta and on bruschetta. Also amazing spooned straight from the jar. Thinking about stuffing it into zuchinni blossoms and battering too.

                                                                                                                              1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                who makes it?

                                                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                  Sorry Alka, meant to include that info: Amy's - but NOT the organic food Amy's.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                    i goggled for it, but need to look harder, i guess, because nothing has jumped out at me. this is what i found, from a trip to chelsea market: "Browsing in Buon Italia grocery was fantastic:

                                                                                                                                    …but the sampler plate with mortadella, smoked mozzarella, garlic olives, balsamic onions, and Amy’s organic seed-bread with artichoke tapenade was magnificent:"" http://www.foodsofny.com/press-roadfo...

                                                                                                                                    ~~
                                                                                                                                    ooh, look at this "hand to mouth" brand artichoke "ambrosia":
                                                                                                                                    http://www.ibuygourmet.com/index.php?...

                                                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                      When you get right down to it though, tapenade is what it is; chopped artichokes, lemon, garlic, etc....hard to get wrong. Probably any brand would be good. also occured to me to use this for pizza topping with some feta and olives....

                                                                                                                                      1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                        oh, yes indeedy, mamachef -- feta, artichoke, some kalamata olives!. mmm, it's late, but i'm getting peckish. ;-).

                                                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                          What I love about this site and the people on it is that we can say things like "peckish" and everyone totally gets the meaning - on another site, use of that word would get you a "don't talk dirty" admonishment... : )

                                                                                                                                          1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                            oh gosh, i had to laugh out loud at that one, mamachef!

                                                                                                                                            me and my dirty mind -- peckish, indeed! {;^D. when i'm feeling a little light-headed from not eating, i'll often tell mr. alka, "i need to peck."

                                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                              I tell Mr. Chef: "I have to get my nibble on", and proceed to wolf an entire meal.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                                as long as you don't slip up and say "kibble."
                                                                                                                                                <now i'm thinking of mr. ed with a feed bag. "the empty feed bag blues" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGZwme... LOL! >

                                                                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                  Made me laugh out loud at a memory of trying to get the last crumblets of popcorn out of a narrow bag: Mr. Chef cracked up and told me I looked like a horse with an oatbag. Speaking of which, quick oats are a store-bought convenience godsend, subbing for breadcrumbs, breading, ground into flour for GREAT-textured cookies and pastas (no kidding!), and as a binder for meatloaves and the like.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                                    you mean, like this? http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/images19/...

                                                                                                                                                    ~~~~~
                                                                                                                                                    it is not allowed to leave popcorn crumblets in the bottom of a bag, i agree. even if they choke me.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                      minus the tail, exactly.

                                                                                                                            2. i'm totally into the "christopher ranch" whole peeled garlic cloves in the refrigerated packages. they are "fresher" and in better shape than 99% of the garlic heads i get at the grocery. trader joe's has the same thing under its own name. oddly enough, there's not a big price difference.

                                                                                                                              i got the christopher ranch at the harris teeter in the produce section. well worth it! http://www.christopherranch.com/produ...

                                                                                                                              each sub-packet in the main plastic package is sealed and has about 8-9 good sized cloves.

                                                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                Costco has these too in a ziplock type bag. I believe it's about $5-6 for more garlic than I could use in a month!

                                                                                                                                1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                                                                  then you've got a "costco size", i think. i'll check on the "ounce" size of the "normal" size package! but i do really love it, because -- while i LOVE fresh garlic --i despise the cleaning of the cloves, which so very often are (far) less than optimal! the cleaned cloves make my kitchen life much happier. ;-).

                                                                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                    the package size i get at trader joe's and the harris teeter is 6 ounces. the individual sub-packages allow you to keep many "vacuum-sealed" and fresh, while just using a few cloves at a time. the package -- as configured -- lasts quite a while in the fridge. i think i've had this package at least a month.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                      i love those but no matter how many layers of zip loc bags and tupperware, my entire fridge sticks of garlic so I have to throw them out

                                                                                                                                      1. re: missmar79

                                                                                                                                        hmmm, maybe i'm "immunized" against garlic, but i haven't had that stinky fridge problem.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: missmar79

                                                                                                                                          missmar, i am big on the baking soda to combat garlic stench.
                                                                                                                                          i'm an italian-american woman with a very strong sense of smell.
                                                                                                                                          so, sometimes it's a curse!

                                                                                                                                          the "fridge" plastic pod things are a total rip-off.

                                                                                                                                          i just get the boxes with the cardboard pull out panels.
                                                                                                                                          they are usually in the baking section, and under $1.
                                                                                                                                          get at least 3 for fridge/freezer.

                                                                                                                                2. there is an asian slaw "kit" by "eat smart" that i buy at publix in florida (can't get it here in d.c. area, darn it) that is the asian slaw plus a sesame/ginger vinaigrette and the chow mein noodles and sliced almonds. it is so delicious -- and easy for when i need easy.
                                                                                                                                  http://www.eat-smart.net/products/pro...

                                                                                                                                  i can eat it for breakfast!

                                                                                                                                  it uses the "angel hair" cabbage, which i'm loving more than the broccoli slaw alternative to regular shredded cabbage.

                                                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                    mann's makes a "rainbow cole slaw" that has finely julienned purple cabbage, carrots, and broccoli hearts.
                                                                                                                                    i hate carrots, but i like this stuff.
                                                                                                                                    it's something like $2.50 for a few portions (depending on size).
                                                                                                                                    and, you can microwave steam it in the package.
                                                                                                                                    it's great mixed in with some noodles or sauce.
                                                                                                                                    i've been using it in the place of various starches.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: dinaofdoom

                                                                                                                                      i love the steam-in veggie bags. my sister has some that one can use for any veggies. i asked if they're reusable, but she didn't think so. also, they're a little small. (i'm LOVIN' birdseye steamfresh veggies).

                                                                                                                                      i've had that mann's slaw, and you are right: steamed in the micro, it would make a great addition to noodles. it is good fiber, and a tasty (and guilt-free) "filler-extender."

                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                        apparently, there is a rainbow salad and a broccoli cole slaw.
                                                                                                                                        they both look a lot alike and cost the same.

                                                                                                                                        i used the rainbow slaw for a miso and soba dish, then a peanut sauce and chicken dish.
                                                                                                                                        i recently got the broccoli cole slaw because the nutrition stats were a bit better, but i haven't decided what to use it for yet.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: dinaofdoom

                                                                                                                                          still using the mann's shredded veggie blends as filler/extender, and loving them.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: dinaofdoom

                                                                                                                                            ha ha dina, i went to hit the "like" button for your post. ;-).

                                                                                                                                          2. re: dinaofdoom

                                                                                                                                            I use half a bag of the broccoli slaw when I make a meat loaf. Easy way to get your vegetables.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: dinaofdoom

                                                                                                                                          +1 on the cole slaw! Whole family loves that one.

                                                                                                                                      2. Discovered Red Curry Sauce quite by accident recently when "the shopper" was asked to get green curry paste. President's Choice brand as I remember. We added it toward the end of tender blade steak, onions, carrots, garlic and lots of mushrooms.

                                                                                                                                        1. "Wholly Guacamole" is excellent for making a good avocado sauce when you don't have the time or have ripe avocados. I've just had the "Classic," but they have "Hot" and one with pico.

                                                                                                                                          http://eatwholly.com/

                                                                                                                                          It tastes better than any other store bought guac I've had.

                                                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                            Trader Joe's has a guacamole kit that I love--it has everything you need to make guacamole and sometimes I don't feel like finding and buying just one jalapeno, two tomatoes, one lime, etc. It makes the shopping part quick and easy.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                              the wholly guac is good.
                                                                                                                                              as a single girl in austin the hermetically sealed guac is a good option for me.
                                                                                                                                              HEB (local supermarket) has their own version, plus a kit to put it together, for a reasonable price.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: dinaofdoom

                                                                                                                                                yes, the sealed packets really keep it fresh!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                  And you can freeze the little sealed packets--defrosts just fine.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: pine time

                                                                                                                                                    yes, they do work nicely.

                                                                                                                                                    i took a clue from this and made some guac myself with a bounty of marked down avocados, and froze it in zip-locks with the air rolled out. the guac needs to be stirred once defrosted, or could be drained i guess -- because of the liquid that has been exuded (perhaps from the pico de gallo i used in the guac).

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                      Yup, would guess the liquid was from the pico, 'cause the Wholly one doesn't need draining after defrosting--texture is also fine. Maybe it's some gosh-awful chemicals or something, but works like magic. Jealous of your bounty of cheap avocados, and I'm in San Diego county!

                                                                                                                                              2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                Whole Foods makes a kick ass guacamole! It is packaged in small plastic takeout containers and they fill it to the brim such that when the lid is on there isn't much exposure to air. I have had it stay fresh for up to 5 days with only minimal browning.

                                                                                                                                              3. I use the veggies from the salad bar when making fried rice.

                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: calliope_nh

                                                                                                                                                  sometimes it is cheaper to buy the bell peppers off the salad bar, too.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                    the salad bar here is 7.99 a pound. I guess if you count waste that might equal the 6.99 per pound for the red and yellow peppers.... maybe.

                                                                                                                                                2. birdseye steamfresh bag of long grain white rice with mixed vegetables. it is really nice and super fast. i got the bag for $1 on a great sale at harris teeter about a month ago. i've got the brown rice to try also.

                                                                                                                                                  1. 1) Pepperidge farm puff pastry sheets* - my go to item for appetizers.
                                                                                                                                                    2) Frozen french cut green beans - sautee with S.Indian seasoning & add shredded coconut. HUGE time saver when made for large gatherings. Much better than regular cut frozen beans.
                                                                                                                                                    3) Rao's Arrabiata sauce - probably one of the best tasting straight-out-of-the-bottle products there is.

                                                                                                                                                    *tried the more expensive kind once but didn't think it was worth the cost differential.

                                                                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ceekskat

                                                                                                                                                      what is the "south indian" seasoning?

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                        South Indian seasoning of mustard seeds, urad dhal (bengal gram dhal?), cumin seeds & curry leaves. I also like to put dried red chili to taste. This seasoning can be used for pretty much any veg, lol!

                                                                                                                                                        One of my favorite dishes from "back home" is a chayote squash raita. Cook chayote squash (cut into small cubes) until just tender, salt generously, cool a bit, & then add just enough yogurt to coat the squash plus a tablespoon more may be (don't want them swimming). Heat oil in small pan, use above seasoning sans cumin seeds & pour over raita. Oh, I do add a bit of asophoetida powder to this. I have received raves from EVERYONE who's eaten this. For some reason, DH is not a fan. Phooey.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ceekskat

                                                                                                                                                          thank you! i want to find a way to get reliable and fresh curry leaves....

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: ceekskat

                                                                                                                                                        +1 to the Pepperidge farm puff pastry sheets, my guilty purchase. What do you do with 'em for appetizers? After making my own puff pastry from scratch, decided this was one short-cut that was worth subbing!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ceekskat

                                                                                                                                                          I keep buying PF puff pastry sheets, and don't know quite what to do with them. I can has Ideaz?

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                                                                            i was JUST thinking about that -- watching "aarti party" (which i can't just get "into" for some reason). anyhow, she was making some casserole filling, and i thought, why, we can make any creamy-cheesy or like filling and rolll it up in a puff pastry, like a strudel. i don't know if spiraling it would work, because the inner pastry probably wouldn't cook properly.

                                                                                                                                                            so…. since it is national mushroom month, we could make mushroom, fontina/ricotta, italian sausage, and artichoke strudel. what say you?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                                                                              Just saw a recipe on local news show for an easy tarte tatin. Take a large cast iron skillet, heat on stove top and melt butter and brown sugar in it. Add thinly sliced apples and layer in a circular pattern. Top w/ thawed puff pastry and bake in 350 oven til browned-15 min. or so. remove from oven, let cool and invert onto serving plate. Or cut into strips, brush w/ melted butte and sprinkel w/ cinnamon sugar. Serve alongside ice cream or with hot fudge or caramel dipping sauce. Brush w/ butter and sprinkle w/ parmesean and serve as breadsticks. Cut into circles and bake and serve w/ stew on top or anything you would serve atop biscuits.

                                                                                                                                                          2. Trader Joe's Sweet Chili Sauce (comes in a bottle) as a dip with any kind of frozen pre-fried fish eg fish sticks, Gorton's Filets, whatever. Makes any old fish taste like a good Thai restaurant. Everyone I have served this to has started buying it.

                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                              thanks, querencia! do you doctor it?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                The Sweet Chili Sauce? No, it's good straight from the bottle.

                                                                                                                                                            2. A bag of the shredded cabbage they sell to make coleslaw from makes a good quick stir-fry. Just throw in any appropriate odds & ends that you have lying around, flavor as you like it, and it's dinner. I like it with a teaspoon each of soy sauce, sherry, and sugar.

                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                absolutely! and by the way, the "eat smart" asian salad mix with the sesame ginger dressing is my quickie food fix! LOVE IT!

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                  I do this with my local grocer's "Broccoli slaw" mix. I"ve even used that to make quick eggroll filling.

                                                                                                                                                                2. whole foods brand frozen greens--they're all good for putting in soups, mixing in with hot pasta, etc--curly kale, spinach, collards--unlike the trader joe's frozen greens, these aren't all stems--sure is easier than buying fresh kale etc and going through all that work of rinsing and trimming etc to end up with tiny portion cooked greens!

                                                                                                                                                                  1. not a brand...but i love to use the frozen mixed bell pepper slices/cuts in so many things.... yesterday in my gumbo mix! it is much cheaper than the fresh; and if you want to cook it for a while, it is not a difference.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. I really like Alessi dry soup mixes. We're having the Tuscan Bean tonight.

                                                                                                                                                                      The mixes are really just a jump start. I typically put in some sausage -- tonight I've got chicken thigh meat in there too -- a can of diced tomato, fresh veggies, maybe some extra beans and a Parmesan rind. Mashed roasted garlic if I have any hanging around. Greens. Fresh herbs. But the point is, it's a great product and makes me feel like it's "instant" even if I can't stop messing with it.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. did i tell you all my shortcut for "tex-mex" beans"? soaked pintos, one finely chopped onion, ½ pack taco or burrito seasoning mix, cumin, finely minced cilantro (if desired)….tomatoes added if you like, but only once the beans are done. (if you use the slow cooker, be sure and try those reynolds brand slow-cooker liners. they make clean up a snap).

                                                                                                                                                                        then with leftovers, you can make burritos or add sliced cooked andouille or chorizo for a good hearty bowl of soup.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. we tried this sharwood thai green curry sauce tonight, adding it to some cooked chicken. http://www.sharwoods.com/thai/product...

                                                                                                                                                                          i bought it for a quickie dinner when i didn't really want to hassle and didn't want to go out.

                                                                                                                                                                          anyhow, this stuff was delicious. i was really surprised. quite nice to have in the pantry. it is a little pricey, but look for it on sale.

                                                                                                                                                                          i'd say it is plenty of sauce for maybe a pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts.

                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                            Always have pillsbury crescent rolls in the fridge. Great for last minute appetizers/treats. Fill w/ pizza sauce, mozzarella or ham, mustard and cheese. Endless possibilities. For sweet, make mini turnovers. Press two triangles together, put pie filling on one side, fold over and crimp edges w/ fork. Drizzle w/ glaze when done.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. Since it's close to Thanksgiving, I'll say I make two bags of Pepperidge Farms cube stuffing to one bag of their cornmeal stuffing. I added onion, celery, a healthy grating of nutmeg, dried cherries and cranberries, and I don't care who hates it, I grew up with Pepperidge Farms and I like it a lot and that's what I use. And BTW, I don't stuff the turkey, I cook it separately in a casserole and pour some turkey juice over it and damn it's good.
                                                                                                                                                                            Although my mother-in-law uses Mrs. Cubbinson's, and I thought that was pretty damn good, too. I've had some homemade stuffing that I didn't like as well, probably because of my Pepperidge farms background. But I can't say that I've EVER had bad stuffing or dressing, except the stuff that was way overcooked in muffin tins. Overcooked is the key to making me hate it. Dressing/stuffing shouldn't shred the roof of my mouth.

                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                                                                                              my mom used pepp farm, too! one bag of herb stuffing and one day-old skillet cornbread, sauteed onions, celery, poultry seasoning, eggs and fresh broth. yummm. simple but can be dressed up.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. Alexia seasoned waffle fries are my current kick. They cook up nice and crispy in the oven and are great dunked in a ketchup/sriracha mix.

                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: alliegator

                                                                                                                                                                                when i was in nyc during the 70s tropicana fresh squeezed oj was great. now on the west coast it is available but only good, no better than other brands. i don't know if it changed or is different out here.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: alliegator

                                                                                                                                                                                  I just discovered the spicy sweet potato fries they make.... Really good!

                                                                                                                                                                                2. "boston chowda" brand
                                                                                                                                                                                  "rockport lobster bisque."

                                                                                                                                                                                  wow, this was great! rich flavor with depth, small lobster bits were plentiful.

                                                                                                                                                                                  i got it at harris teeter, frozen case next to the seafood department.

                                                                                                                                                                                  http://www.bostonchowda.com/index.php...

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. a reply from Canada and up here everyone knows Presidents Choice at Super Store (and the various incarnations of the store name back east)

                                                                                                                                                                                    the yorkshire pudding that are in the freezer section are pretty good and easy - i've cheated and microwaved when i had to have a yorkshire pudding fix.

                                                                                                                                                                                    there are many other president's choice products that are really good - the tea (esp herbal chocolate chai), the blue menu butter chicken sauce ( i augment with a can of diced tomatoes etc)

                                                                                                                                                                                    i do use Trader Joe's turkey gravy from the small tetra pak (shelf stable carton) but it's ok - usually we use it just to make more gravy. I wish i knew how to make good gravy on demand - i know about the better than bouillion - we have that brand up here in canada.

                                                                                                                                                                                    sometimes i add a package of frozen mac and cheese to my own or just more boiled and drained noodles - you get that mouth feel without all the salt

                                                                                                                                                                                    that's my main concern about prepared food - given that there are so many fat-free / low fat options - they really need to work on the sodium - i mean, lean cuisine "spa" frozen product might be "only" 250 calories, but you get at least 600 mg (canada metric) of sodium - it's way to salty but probably the food processing process needs all that salt to make it in to lean cuisine mouth feel, etc etc

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. not a short cut, but i'm really liking the "thomas'" corn english muffins. a liitle sweet, but not too much at all. nice flavor and light texture.http://images.search.yahoo.com/images...

                                                                                                                                                                                      ~~~~~~
                                                                                                                                                                                      unrelated: mr. alka and i both LOVE cholula chili garlic hot sauce! good on just about every savory dish!
                                                                                                                                                                                      http://cholula.com/products/chili_gar...

                                                                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                        Cholula is my go-to hot sauce, and the chili garlic is a new favorite.

                                                                                                                                                                                        For me, store brand English muffins beat the way-too-thin Thomas' hands down...no matter what flavor they are.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                                                                                                          Best English muffins, I think, are the whole wheat ones from Trader Joe's. No preservatives, so we slice and freeze them.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                                                                                                            Cholula is great! I have a lovely hot sauce collection and it has a spot right up front for eggs mostly.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                                                                                                              I like Cholula too. I especially like the Chipotle. But I also like the regular.

                                                                                                                                                                                              I discovered Cholula in either Chipotle (restaurant) or some similar type of place. Never used it till then.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I discovered Mancini fried onions, a jarred item in the relish aisle. They aren't what I'd call fried - more like smothered. Half-inch wide pieces in a glass jar. I like to make my own semiprepared onions and freeze them, but lately freezer space has been at a premium, so having a few jars
                                                                                                                                                                                            on hand helps when trying to make a quick meal, or if I'm running low on or out of fresh onion.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. we have enjoyed a couple of the zatarain's rice mixes lately. today i cooked some chorizo in the skillet, added some trader joe's pepper melange from the freezer, and then -- once the sausages were cooked -- the jambalaya (reduced sodium) rice blend. really tasty!

                                                                                                                                                                                              we *definitely* prefer the low sodium versions. http://www.zatarains.com/Products/Ric... (boxes, not pouches).

                                                                                                                                                                                              we've had the caribbean mix and added fresh mango salsa to that with some sausages (or was it white, firm fish?). we also enjoyed the black beans and rice version, and could have added some pepper melange and a can of black beans plus some cumin and oregano (maybe some green onions or chopped white onion) for a nice tasty one pot meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                I love Zatarain's jambalaya.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                                                                                  +1

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Tostito's Whole Grain Scoops -- approved!

                                                                                                                                                                                                Great crunch and flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. WF has a great California olive oil in my area. California Olive Ranch brand. It is cold pressed and extra virgin. I like it the best of any olive oil I've ever used.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  If your market carries any of the Kerrygold cheeses from Ireland, I recommend them highly. They even make a reduced fat version. They have a wonderful buttery flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. sharwood's korma sauce in a jar -- mr. alka pronounces it very authentic (he is from sri lanka, and is very familiar with indian food. http://www.sharwoods.com/indian/recip...

                                                                                                                                                                                                    i was lazy yesterday, and warmed this sauce and added some tyson's pre-cooked chicken chunks http://www.tyson.com/Products/Grilled... that were in my freezer. i also fried up a tawa roti from the indian store, and made some rice with ghee and cumin seeds.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    ~~~~~
                                                                                                                                                                                                    sharwood's thai green curry sauce is also excellent.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    ~~~~~
                                                                                                                                                                                                    harris teeter carries these sharwood products, and it is on sale every quarter or so for BOGO.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. i like the bush's brand baked beans and up till now my favorite has been the vegetarian for its clean, straight-forward flavor. BUT this last week i tried the "onion" version (with bacon and brown sugar and real onions), and it tasted just like my mom used to make as she doctored up pork and beans with onions, bacon and brown sugar herself. now i can get that long-cooked depth of flavor without any effort at all! BIG YAY!

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                        growing up on west coast b&m was the best. but you can't find them anymore and bush is new standard, though a little sweet. but i have since had homemade baked beans from back east and couldn't believe how good they were.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. the chili flakes from toño and beto's are great for your mexican and tex-mex dishes. i just used some of the chiles de arbol flakes and the chiles guajillo flakes, along with garlic and cumin, pinto and kidney beans, chicken italian sausage, a can of stewed tomatoes and two sautéed green bell peppers for a terrific and quick chili that tastes long-simmered.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        i think i got them at publix in florida or maybe at shoppers food warehouse at seven corners, falls church, virginia. i find them really handy and of highest quality. they are not a typical dried chile flake, but are more like finely chopped chile pieces that stay soft.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        http://tono-betos.newtonmarketing.biz

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. harris teeter's pork ribs (in prepared foods case in deli) -- pretty darn good. on sale for $10 for rack of meaty goodness (every saturday. otherwise $13). just heat in oven or on grill (or in skillet, which i did).