Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013: Why did I eat the whole thing?

An Alaskan King Crab claw from Costco Wholesale was one of 10 items on our Thanksgiving menu. Juggling the preparation of that many dishes on Thursday proved difficult, and there was just way too much food.
We didn't have turkey for the first time in many years. One of the substitutes, lamb chops from Australia, were rubbed with Kirkland Signature Sweet Mesquite Seasoning, both from Costco.


We pulled up the anchor of the traditional Thanksgiving meal -- turkey -- and found ourselves adrift on uncharted seas.

With 10 dishes, our dinner certainly was bountiful, but it lacked the focus of a whole bird or even such dark-meat parts as the drumsticks, thighs and wings we prefer.

For the meat eaters, we roasted lamb chops and heated up a fully cooked, naturally raised Niman Ranch ham.

We also served an array of seafood dishes: 

Lobster bisque, steamed Alaskan King Crab legs and claws; Littleneck clams prepared with sake, garlic and organic diced tomatoes; and leftover organic whole wheat linguine in Victoria Marinara Sauce with shrimp, sardines and salted cod.

In the process, we fell one fish short of the traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes.

A fully cooked, applewood-smoked petite ham from Whole Foods Market only needed to be reheated in the oven.

Flexible menu

On Thursday morning, my wife decided she wanted poultry, even if it was only the three pieces of antibiotic-free Readington Farms chicken in the freezer, and she also prepared a big pot of rice and small red beans.

The night before, I had roasted more than a half-dozen sweet potatoes, but we had so much food to eat on Thanksgiving, they never left the refrigerator.

Our vegetable dishes were about 12 ounces of baby spinach from the salad bar at the hospital where I volunteer on Wednesdays, and broccoli florets from Costco Wholesale we had in the refrigerator.

We blanched the spinach and broccoli in boiling water for a few minutes, drained the pots and added extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and other seasoning.

We drank Costco's Kirkland Signature Champagne (Brut) and Martinelli's Sparkling Cider.

Organic whole wheat linguine from Whole Foods Market in Victoria Marinara Sauce with shrimp, sardines and salted cod fish was the last thing I eat on Thanksgiving, except for tea, a couple of clementines and almonds dusted with cinnamon. The meal was a belly buster. 


This morning, I had one of the untouched sweet potatoes for breakfast, along with broccoli, spinach and a simple egg-white omelet with shredded Parmigiano Reggiano, often called the King of Cheeses.

I also prepared a frittata with lots of diced Niman Ranch ham, sweet pepper and onion, adding Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto after I took it out of the oven.

Black Friday

The only Black Friday shopping I was interested in doing was stopping at Whole Foods Market in Paramus for naturally raised turkey drumsticks, which usually are put on sale the day after the holiday.

But the mall's parking lot was packed with shoppers hoping to find bargains at Target, clothing outlets and other stores, and I turned around and went home.

A frittata with whole eggs, egg whites, ham, pesto and fresh Campari Tomato slices.

Alice Waters on PBS

I was disappointed in both anchor Judy Woodruff and restaurateur Alice Waters, who started the organic and local food revolution when she opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., in 1971.

Woodruff's interview with Waters on the PBS NewsHour aired on Thanksgiving night, but neither discussed the widespread use of harmful animal antibiotics in poultry, beef  and pork that is making humans immune to the antibiotics prescribed by doctors.

Waters stressed how organic farmers are stewards of the land, and how their methods protect growing fields for future generations.

When asked about the expense of organic food, the pioneering restaurateur noted you can pay up front for naturally raised or grown food or pay for the medical care you'll need to treat obesity or other conditions caused by a steady diet of cheap, crappy fast food.

But she didn't explain that organic food is not only free of pesticides, preservatives, antibiotics and growth hormones, but that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) also are barred.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

You can't beat eating breakfast at home

Where can you get a filling and delicious breakfast of organic brown eggs, wild and brown rices, and broccoli with plenty of garlic? At home.
I like the way the cheese in a wedge of homemade frittata with tomato, pesto and smoked wild salmon melts into the organic brown rice when re-heated for a few minutes in the microwave.

Editor's note: I love dinner leftovers for the boost they give me at breakfast. Today, I also discuss picking up the last few items I need for Thanksgiving on Thursday.

By Victor E. Sasson

Eating out is expensive, and you don't always know what you're eating or how it's prepared.

Why stop for one of those egg-and-mystery meat sandwiches when you can buy preservative- and antibiotic-free bacon at Trader Joe's that microwaves in minutes?

Skipping breakfast at home is especially foolhardy, because it deprives you of taking advantage of those great dinner leftovers to help launch your day.

An important component of my weight-loss strategy is to have a filling breakfast at home, allowing me to avoid all those unhealthy temptations at Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts.

And I can skip lunch by relying on snack bars from Kashi and Nature's Bakery (try the terrific Fig Bar available at Costco Wholesale). 

Few places offer such breakfasts as the eggs with fried or broiled whiting you can order at the Golden Grill on Queen Anne Road in Teaneck, where a bottle of hot sauce stands ready on every table.

But when eating breakfast at home, you can always plate a piece of leftover fish -- such as the fried haddock, onions and sweet peppers we had the other night -- with a wedge of frittata and pasta or rice.

Coscto Wholesale in Hackensack was a pleasure in the first hour it was open today, above and below. Maybe the bad weather kept pre-Thanksgiving shoppers away.

Today at Costco

The doors were thrown open well before 10 this morning at the Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, and it was a pleasure for me and other early shoppers to pick up the last few items for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.

There was no line at the Seafood Road Show, and I went overboard, asking for five Alaskan King Crab legs and claws at $19.99 a pound.

They weighed in at nearly 3 pounds or $58.57.

I also picked up a 4.60-pound bag of wild-caught Littleneck Clams for $3.49 a pound or $16.05. 

Among other items, I purchased 10 pounds of organic carrots for $7.99, and 6 pounds of Bosc Pears for $5.99.

As I headed for the exit of the parking lot around 10:20 this morning, I noticed a line of cars going out to the street as lazy shoppers were trying to get spots closest to the doors.

I saw the same phenomena when I visited the Wayne Costco on Monday.

At Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood, the Meals To Go went fast today.

We're sorry

This afternoon, at Jerry's Gourmet & More on South Dean Street in Englewood, the parking lot was full, but the refrigerated case holding Meals To Go was empty.

An employee explained the store prepared a ton of dinners, only to see them sold out during the morning hours.

The restaurant-quality dinners of fish, pork and chicken with pasta, vegetables and other side dishes are only $7.99 or $5.99 after 4 p.m.

Monday, November 25, 2013

This year, we're giving thanks without the turkey

The wine department at Costco Wholesale in Wayne offers some pricey bottles, above. A 3-liter bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne from France is priced at $299.99.

By Victor E. Sasson

Our Thanksgiving menu this year offers a bounty for meat eaters and vegetarians alike, but doesn't include the traditional turkey.

A whole turkey hasn't been the centerpiece of our meal for several years, because we prefer the dark meat and usually visit Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff for naturally raised drumsticks, thighs, wings and necks.

This year, we're picking up ingredients for the holiday meal at Whole Foods Market, Costco Wholesale and ShopRite.

For the meat eaters, we'll serve a Niman Ranch Smoked Uncured Petite Ham from Whole Foods Market in Paramus.

This fully cooked, 3.3-pound ham -- which is vegetarian fed and raised without antibiotics or growth hormones -- was $7.99 a pound. 

We'll also serve a Kirkland Signature Frenched Lamb Rack from Australia ($10.99 a pound) that I picked up today at the Costco Wholesale in Wayne.

Kirkland Signature Champagne, left, and California Cabernet Sauvignon flanking Beaujolais Nouveau.

I drove to Wayne to shop the only Costco wine, beer and liquor department in the area, picking up Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon and Kirkland Signature Champagne (Brut).

A 1.5-liter bottle of the California wine was a bargain at $7.99. 

The champagne, from France, was $19.99, about half the price of such premium brands as Veuve Clicquot Brut (more than $40 at Costco).

I also purchased a bottle of Goerges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau for $8.39, about 60 cents less than elsewhere.

The new wine has always been overpriced, and this year is no exception.

On Wednesday, I plan to shop the Seafood Road Show at the Hackensack Costco for Alaskan king crab legs and mussels.

They will be part of my Thanksgiving seafood meal, which also may include whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce, and sardines, shrimp or salted cod -- possibly all three.

For side dishes, we also have ShopRite sweet potatoes to bake or mash; and broccoli, organic spring mix and Campari Tomatoes from Costco.

As for turkey, I plan to donate a whole one to the Center for Food Action in Englewood, as I do every year.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

At Seafood Gourmet: With great fish, I make poor choices

Almost all of the fresh seafood you see on ice in the market, above, is served in the adjoining dining room at Seafood Gourmet in Maywood.

By Victor E. Sasson

With only about 35 seats, getting a weekend table at Seafood Gourmet in Maywood is a challenge.

The popular fish market-restaurant reminds me of DiSalvo's on Main Street in Hackensack, where I enjoyed many great lunches of fried calamari topped with a spicy red sauce in the years I worked nearby.

But Seafood Gourmet offers a wider variety of seafood and more sophisticated preparations than DiSalvo's, which closed and was eventually replaced by a Cuban restaurant.

I called Seafood Gourmet on Saturday afternoon and was told we could dine at 5 p.m. or 8 p.m. The week before, there wasn't a free table until 8:30 p.m.

Sole Francaise with roasted potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Lots of choice

At lunch, Seafood Gourmet offers 13 different fish fillets or shrimp, scallops, lobster tails and other seafood, either simply broiled or grilled, and at dinner there is a choice of 18.

Fourteen are available fried, and the menu also lists appetizers, salads, sandwiches, a raw bar and even chicken dishes.

A tank in the market held live Canadian lobsters for $12.99 a pound.

Oscar who?

What did I do? I fell for one of the specials, Halibut Oscar ($25.99), prepared with a sherry glaze, topped with crab meat and served with risotto and fresh asparagus.

When I ordered, our waiter said the halibut had run out (at 5 p.m.?), and Chilean sea bass was being substituted.

That sea bass is actually the brutish Patagonian toothfish, which is over-fished and high in mercury, so I asked for something else and was offered wild salmon.

The king salmon, which I also saw displayed on ice in the adjacent market, was nicely prepared and moist throughout.

I liked the dish, but being on a diet, I could have done without all that risotto. With a simply prepared fish fillet, I could have asked for steamed vegetables.

And I wanted a salad, but our server apparently didn't hear me.

He didn't charge me for the cup of delicious Red Snapper Chowder I also picked from the specials menu, and the choice with my entree was either soup or salad.

He did the same for the cups of tasty Lobster Bisque my wife and mother-in-law ordered.

And I heard him offering specials to others, but not to me, including the rarely seen arctic char and grey sole.

King Salmon Oscar topped with crab meat. I asked that the dish be prepared without butter.

Perfect shrimp

My wife had linguine with jumbo shrimp in vodka sauce ($21.99), substituting that pasta for penne and asking the kitchen to hold the scallops that also come with the dish.

She said the crunchy shrimp were cooked perfectly.

And my mother-in-law ordered Sole Francaise in a lemon-butter sauce with roasted potatoes and mixed vegetable (also $21.99).

Neither could finish their meals, and took home leftovers. 

I counted 34 seats in the narrow, somewhat cramped dining room.

We did a lot of waiting for the food, and a takeout order of steamed clams ($9.99) I asked for when the busboy picked up the unfinished entrees to pack them.

It's likely the kitchen couldn't keep up with the orders, because there were three servers and the busboy, and not all the tables were full.

The Restaurant at Seafood Gourmet, 103 W. Pleasant Ave., Maywood; 201-843-8558. BYO, free street parking, open for lunch and dinner, closed Sundays.

Web site:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Food shopping? Take calculator, magnifying glass

Here are some of the 1,000 shopping carts available at the Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

Editor's note: Today, I disuss shopping at ShopRite and Costco Wholesale, and the need to check package sizes and price signs, even during a sale.

By Victor E. Sasson

Package sizes are shrinking before our eyes, and with global sourcing of produce, you can't expect all of those clementines to have been grown in Spain.

And on a couple of trips to the ShopRite in Paramus this week, I also could have used a magnifying glass to read small package type and a calculator to figure out whether I was getting the best deal with 50-count, 100-count or 200-count plastic sandwich bags.

On Thursday, 5-pound boxes of Roxy Clementines were on sale for $4.99 each, a discount of $2. I squinted at the label on the wooden box and saw they were from Morocco.

On Friday, when I went for a refund on two packages of snack bags, I saw a full pallet of Roxy Clementines in the produce section, but these were from Spain.

The Moroccan clementines taste good, but are hard to peel. The Spanish clementines are easier to peel.

At ShopRite in Paramus, Roxy Clementines were from Morocco one day, above, and from Spain the next day.

I picked up the snack bags from a display at the front of the store designed to take advantage of impulse shoppers.

I needed sandwich bags, but focused on the sale price -- 50 bags for $1 -- not on the size.

After I got a refund on Friday, I went looking for sandwich bags in the aisle, and discovered the 50-count box was on sale for $1, like the snack bags, but a 100-count box was a better deal at the discounted price of $1.88.

A 200-count box also was on sale, but it cost more per bag than the 100-count box I bought.

Also at the Paramus ShopRite, I saw whole wheat and whole grain pastas in 12-ounce, 13.25-ounce and standard 16-ounce packages.

Even when the smaller sizes are on sale, they don't represent as good a value as the 16-ounce boxes of whole wheat pasta at Trader Joe's and Whole Food Market that go for $1.39.

Tropicana Orange Juice's 64-ounce carton (half-gallon) disappeared years ago from ShopRite, but can still be found at Costco Wholesale.

You'll need a calculator to figure out whether supermarket sales on 59-ounce containers of OJ are a better deal per ounce than Costco's price for four half-gallons.

A new item at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack is Organic Freekeh, described on the package as an "ancient grain."

'Sale' at Costco

I stopped at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack on Friday for a 5-pound box of Sunset Beefsteak Tomatoes ($6.99), but saw that those incomparably sweet Camapri Tomatoes from the same grower were on sale.

A 2-pound box cost $3.99, with an in-store $1 coupon. 

I bought two and when I got them home, noticed one had tomatoes grown in Canada and the other fruit was from Mexico.

The biggest Campari Tomatoes I have ever seen, top, are from Mexico, and the package below it contain fruit from Canada. Both are hothouse grown and vine ripened.

I picked up a fresh jar of refrigerated Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto, which is great for pasta, frittatas and as a sandwich spread (22 ounces for $7.99).

Four Tropicana Orange Juice half-gallons were $11.59; three half-gallons of Kirkland Signature Organic 1% Milk were $9.99; and 3-pound bags of sodium-free raw almonds were $12.99 each.

I roast them at 275 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes, and dust them with cinnamon. A great snack, and a healthy one, too.

A Costco-sourced frittata includes Kirkland Signature Organic Brown Eggs, 100% Egg Whites, smoked wild salmon from Alaska and Basil Pesto, which I added after browning the dish under the broiler. I also used two reduced-fat cheeses, Jarlsberg Lite Sliced Swiss and shredded Kirkland Signature Parmigiano Reggiano.

Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix was $4.99 for a 1-pound package; and a gallon of apple cider was $4.69.

All the way from Iceland, fresh, wild-caught fillets of haddock, a member of the cod family, were $8.99 a pound.

I returned Kirkland Signature Coarse Ground Malabar Black Pepper for a refund of $5.39, even though I had used most of it, because the strainer top kept coming off with the screw-on cap, and I inadvertently dumped too much pepper into food I was cooking.

I also got a refund for half of a 2-pound package of Jarlsberg Lite I bought on Nov. 14, because the sliced Swiss cheese had gotten moldy.

I have been buying this reduced-fat cheese for a couple of years, but this is the first time it grew moldy only a week or so after purchase.

I bought another jar of ground black pepper and a new package of Jarlsberg Lite ($8.59).

Friday, November 22, 2013

100% whole wheat pasta: Why eat anything else?

Garofalo Whole Wheat Pappardelle from Italy dressed in fragrant Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco Wholesale.

Trader Joe's Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti and sardines glistening with added extra-virgin olive oil.

By Victor E. Sasson

You can find 100% whole wheat pasta in almost any food market, and it's available in so many shapes there is no reason to continue eating the conventional kind.

With whole wheat, you get more flavor, 100% whole grains and fewer carbohydrates, and your body will process it better.

Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Markets sell 100% whole wheat pasta in a variety of shapes, and you get a better deal at those stores than at a conventional supermarket.

At both stores, the whole wheat pasta is organic, and Whole Foods' linguine and shells are made in Italy.

Both also charge $1.39 for a full pound of whole wheat pasta, but at ShopRite, I noticed that Ronzoni's 100% whole wheat pastas comes in 12-ounce boxes at a higher price.

Barilla uses only 51% whole wheat in its whole grain pastas, and sells them in 13.5-ounce boxes.

A brand from Italy I saw at ShopRite comes in 16-ounce boxes, but is priced at $2.49.

Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood sells the Garofalo brand from Italy, and my favorite is the wide, thick, mouth-filling ribbons called pappardelle, especially when dressed in fragrant pesto.

With Garofalo whole wheat pastas, cooking times listed on the package are unreliable.

For example, the pappardelle took about 12 minutes for al dente, not the 8 minutes listed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hitting pre-Thanksgiving sales at ShopRite and Target

Boxes of imported clementines and domestic sweet potatoes were on sale today at the ShopRite supermarket in Paramus.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss items I bought on sale at ShopRite and Target, so-called natural peanut butters from Jiff and Skippy, and promotions at Bel Posto Restaurant and Sushi World in Hackensack.

By Victor E. Sasson

The ShopRite in Paramus isn't my favorite, but I save gas by stopping there on the way home from the gym.

In fact, I can see the store through the window of the gym as I pump the pedals of a recumbent exercise bicycle.

This morning, I picked up clementines, sweet potatoes, plastic snack bags, lactose-free milk and toothpaste -- all of which were on sale.

A 5-pound box of clementines came from Morocco, not Spain. 

They were $4.99, a savings of $2, and the clementines and box weighed about 5.75 pounds when I put them on a store scale. Limit one.

I baked the sweet potatoes at 400 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the sugar came out of them, above. I ate a small one ad it was delicious with nothing added. 

A 5-pound box of sweet potatoes was $2.49 or $1 off, but I was limited to one box. ("Sweet potatoes" appears on the box, but "yam" shows up on the receipt.)

The sweet potatoes will be part of our Thanksgiving menu, which isn't set yet.

Arm & Hammer toothpaste was on sale for $1.99, a savings of $1.50, and I had a $1-off coupon for one tube. Limit four.

Lactaid 1% milk also was on sale for $3.49, the same price ShopRite charges for its own lactose-free milk.

Plastic snack bags were $1 for a box of 50.

A sign at ShopRite in Paramus drives home how the phrase "all natural" is thrown around by food processors. Amick Farms chicken from South Carolina is raised with harmful antibiotics and the wrapper doesn't even claim they are fed a vegetarian diet. That could mean they receive animal byproducts -- bits of dead animals and food scraps.

At Target in Hackensack, so-called natural peanut butters from Jiff and Skippy contain added sugar, palm oil and other ingredients you won't find in Kirkland Signature Natural Peanut Butter from Costco Wholesale (100% Valencia Peanuts and sea salt only).

Jiff natural peanut butter also contains molasses.

Sparkling cider at Target

At Target in Hackensack, bottles of Martinelli's Sparkling Cider and Sparkling Apple-Pomegranate -- both made from 100% juice -- were on sale today at two for $5.

Using a coupon for $10 off a purchase of $50 I found in a sales flier and a Target credit card, I bought 20 25.4-ounce bottles for $38 -- or $1.90 a bottle. 

Using the Target card gave me an additional 5% discount.

That compares to about $2.22 a bottle at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack (four bottles for $8.89); and $2.99 a bottle for a similar cider at Trader Joe's in Paramus.

The Martinelli's sale started on Sunday, so I found only two bottles of Sparkling Cider at the Hackensack Target.

Bel Posto promotions

Bel Posto, the fine-dining Italian-American restaurant at 160 Prospect Ave. in Hackensack, is offering several promotions, according to a weekly newspaper's dining and shopping guide.

Lunch specials on Tuesdays through Fridays are $19.95, and sunset dinner specials on the same days are $24.95.

Specials include choice of salad, chef's daily specials, three entrees, dessert and coffee.

From the sushi bar, on Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., a Ladies Roll special includes choice of any three rolls with wine, beer or soda for $20. 


I returned to ShopRite the next day, again on the way home from the gym, to get a refund for the snack bags, and bought a box of the bigger sandwich bags, which was what I wanted in the first place.

They also were on sale. A box of 50 were $1. But the 100-bag box cost less per bag at the reduced price of $1.88.

I also bought another b0x of sweet potatoes ($2.49) and a second box of clementines ($4.99).

The clementine box carried the same brand name as the box I bought the day before -- Roxy -- but this citrus fruit is from  Spain, not Morocco.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In defense of Kirkland Natural Peanut Butter, Egg Whites

The only ingredients in Kirkland Signature Natural Peanut Butter are 100% Valencia Peanuts and sea salt. The national brands can't match the taste. To avoid separation, the Costco Wholesale peanut butter has to refrigerated right after you bring it home.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss Kirkland Signature Natural Peanut Butter and Egg Whites, two products that divide Costco Wholesale shoppers; Korean takeout in downtown Englewood; a combination electric kettle and glass tea pot; and shopping at Trader Joe's in Paramus and Fattal's in Paterson.

By Victor E. Sasson

You won't find sugar, hydrogenated oils or stabilizers in Kirkland Signature Natural Peanut Butter from Costco Wholesale.

Valencia Peanuts grown in the United States and sea salt are the only ingredients, and the taste is unmatched.

I often open the refrigerator for a spoonful of the thick peanut butter followed by another of fig marmalade.

Refrigerating the peanut butter as soon as you get home is the key to avoiding separation of peanut butter and oil, and keeping the peanut butter spreadable.

The first time I purchased the product, I didn't open it until a two or three weeks later, because we wanted to finish a large jar of Skippy we had purchased at Costco.

But by that time, the Kirkland Signature peanut butter had already separated, and was too dense to remix.

Thin slices of cucumber give creamy peanut butter and jelly  sandwiches a welcome crunch.

Our favorite jelly is Kirkland Signature Organic Strawberry Spread, also available at Costco.

Kirkland Signature Egg Whites work well in a frittata with whole eggs; fresh and sun-dried tomatoes; grated and shredded cheeses; and pesto, above and below.

Kirkland Egg Whites

Kirkland Signature Egg Whites are 100% pure egg whites, but some Costco Wholesale shoppers still aren't over the loss of Real Egg Product, the old version that contained coloring and was thickened with food gums.

It's true that the watery Egg Whites don't look very appetizing when you pour them out of the carton, but they contain naturally occurring sodium and cook quickly.

You can make a plain omelet for sandwiches or just eating on its own, but a little cheese or Aleppo pepper really dresses it up.

Kirkland Signature Egg Whites with foam, the last couple of ounces in the carton.

I cooked the Egg Whites in extra-virgin olive oil, and folded and flipped the omelet, above. It tasted fine on its own.

But a little Aleppo pepper or paprika lends it color and taste.

Best Dumplings

When we lived in Englewood, we were regular purchasers of handmade Korean mandoo or dumplings at Best Dumplings, which originally was located in an industrial area and called Mandoo Inc.

Now, Best Dumplings has expanded its takeout menu to include soft tofu stew, bibimbap, bulgogi and other traditional dishes.

On Monday night, my wife stopped at Best Dumplings for three soft tofu stews with beef ($7.50 each) and spicy spare ribs ($9).

She also purchased two bags of frozen, fully cooked dumplings (50 for $16). Seven types are available.

The soft tofu came with rice and four side dishes, and the spare ribs included two side dishes and a small green salad.

The menu lists soft tofu with seafood, but it wasn't available.

Spicy spare ribs from Best Dumplings in downtown Englewood.

Kimchi and other side dishes with the the soft tofu stew were tasty, but the serving is smaller than what you'd get in a Korean restaurant, where seconds and thirds are available.

We are fussy when it comes to soft tofu stew. 

Best Dumplings version is just OK, my wife said, but doesn't match the stews served at So Gong Dong in Palisades Park ($9.99, including rice, four side dishes and a fresh egg to cook in the bubbling broth).

Best Dumplings, 16 Humphrey St., Englewood; 201-568-9337. Opened 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays.

Web site: Korean Comfort Food To Go

Electric Kettle with Keep Warm Tea Tray from Russell Hobbs.

More than a kettle

We replaced an electric kettle we had used to boil water for tea with an electric kettle and glass tea pot on the same base.

The glass tea pot has a filter basket for loose tea or tea bags.

Now, we can prepare a pot of tea and keep it hot instead of preparing three or four separate cups.

I purchased the kettle and tea pot from for $39.99.

Trader Joe's

I wanted to buy sweet potatoes on Monday from Trader Joe's in Paramus, but neither the organic or the conventionally grown looked very good.

Insects got to the smaller, conventionally grown sweet potatoes before I did or at least that's what I thought from the tiny holes I saw in some of them.

Trader Joe's is a reliable source for antibiotic-, hormone- and preservative-free bacon ($4.99) and hot dogs ($4.49), but was out of its own brand of sliced bacon on Monday.

I bought two 64-ounce bottles of juice, Green Plant ($3.99) and low-sodium Garden Patch ($3.49). 

An 8-ounce glass of regular Garden Patch contains 29% of the daily recommended amount of sodium; the low-sodium version has only 6%.

Trader Joe's, 404 Route 17 north, Paramus; 1-201-265-9624. Open daily.

Low-sodium sardines

At Fattal's in Paterson, I picked up 24 cans of Al Shark Moroccan Sardines in Tomato Sauce for 99 cents a can.

I've been buying sardines with tomato sauce, because a serving (1 can) has less sodium (9%) than the same sardines in soya oil (12%) or vegetable oil with hot peppers (25%).

Fattal's also bakes 100% whole-wheat pocket bread. Six medium loaves are 99 cents and 12 minis are $1.39.

Six spinach pies were $8.99.

Fattal's, 975-77 Main St., Paterson; 1-973-742-7125. Open daily. Free off-street parking.