Monday, April 21, 2014

'Healthy' pork, Starbucks' hummus and more

Putting aside the debate over whether animal fats are inherently unhealthy, you can find ham and pork ribs raised with none of the harmful additives used by factory farms, including a Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Uncured Petite Ham, above, and Homestyle Meals Pork Baby Back Ribs, below.


I spent hours on the road Sunday, but the rest of the family enjoyed an Easter dinner of uncured ham and antibiotic-free baby back ribs.

To beat the crowds, my wife drove the few miles to Whole Foods Market in Paramus around 8:30 on Sunday morning, and picked up an assortment of naturally raised meat and poultry.

A fully cooked Niman Ranch Uncured Petite Ham was $7.99 a pound; Homestyle Meals Pork Baby Back Ribs, also fully cooked, were $15.10.

She also bought frozen Pineland Farms Oxtails, $7.99 a pound; and frozen chicken backs and necks for soup, $1.29 to $2.99 a pound.

I missed the ShopRite sale on sweet potatoes (5 pounds for $2.99), and bought a box at the Paramus store this morning for $3.99 or about 80 cents a pound.

Starbucks' hummus

Homemade hummus in Brooklyn is a distant memory, but I still enjoy scooping up the chickpea dip with fresh pocket bread, as long as it's made with a little tahini and plenty of garlic and lemon juice.

In recent years, I have enjoyed a great substitute for my mother's hummus at Aleppo, the Paterson restaurant named after the Syrian city where my Sephardic Jewish parents were born.

On Sunday, on a road trip to Baltimore, I stopped at the Clara Barton Service Area of the New Jersey Turnpike, and saw that the shortest line was at Starbucks and the longest at Burger King.

I ordered a 12-ounce Starbucks Veranda Blend coffee, and looking over the prepared food, selected a refrigerated plastic clamshell with three or four small pieces of pocket bread, cut vegetables and a small container of hummus.

My friend paid just under $20 for my coffee and hummus, and for him, a ham-and-cheese sandwich and Naked-brand smoothie.

When you're driving long distances on a major toll road, you can't be fussy.

The thick, grainy hummus, with the bread and vegetables, was filling, but not very tasty.

In other words, certainly nothing to write home about.

I noticed the cut ends of the broccoli florets were brown, then popped them into my mouth.

The Starbucks on the turnpike are franchised to HMSHost, an American subsidiary of an Italian highway and airport food-service giant, Autogrill S.p.A.

The hummus package was stamped with the day it was prepared (Saturday), and a label stating that it was for sale until 2:45 p.m. Sunday.

I baked the ShopRite sweet potatoes on parchment paper at 400 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the natural sugar oozed out of them.

Paramus ShopRite

At the ShopRite in Paramus, the 5-pound boxes had "SWEET POTATOES" written on them, but the sign said, "SHOPRITE YAMS."

Elsewhere in the store, potatoes sold loose for 99 cents a pound were labeled "sweet potatoes/yams."

Yams are usually starchier and drier than sweet potatoes.

Half-gallons of ShopRite Lactose Free 1% Milk were $3.49, and I've found this milk sweeter than Costco Wholesale's Organic Low-Fat Milk.

I don't add sugar to coffee or tea. A little sweet milk is welcome.

ShopRite's 6-ounce containers of Fruit on the Bottom Low-Fat Yogurt were 50 cents each, not the cheapest, but the yogurt blend is made with sugar, not fructose.

Fresh Atlantic cod fillets take about 10 minutes to cook in bottled Mexican green salsa with added lime juice and Aleppo pepper, above. The mildly spicy salsa also is terrific for adding a savory flavor to baked skin-on sweet potatoes, below.

The meaty cod cooks quickly in a covered, non-stick pan, and flakes beautifully. 

Cod from Costco Wholesale

I wanted to pick up fresh fish for dinner at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, but I had skipped lunch and my stomach was empty.

Don't food shop when you're hungry, I've read, or you'll buy more than you need.

Of course, I could always try a few free food samples first before I started shopping.

When I walked into Costco around 3:30 this afternoon, I panicked -- no samples, not near the vitamins or the gum and snacks, not near the freezer cases. No cheese, no salsa, no crackers, no nothing.

I still managed to keep my purchases under $100.

A 2.26-pound package of wild Atlantic cod, long-line caught in Iceland, was $7.99 a pound.

Two 1-gallon bottles of Kirkland Signature Fresh Pressed Apple Juice were $7.99; 2 pounds of those incomparable Campari Tomatoes were $4.49; and 1 liter of Kirkland Signature Grade A Dark Amber Maple Syrup from Canada was $11.99.

Two liters of Sambazon Organic Acai Juice from Brazil -- labeled a "super food" -- were $8.99. 

A 28-ounce bag of organic, sun-dried Made in Nature Dates from Tunisia was $8.79, and a 5.5-pound bag of frozen Normandy Vegetables (organic broccoli, cauliflower and carrots) was $7.79.

After a dinner of cod prepared in bottled Mexican green salsa, with lime juice and Aleppo pepper, I had a salad of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix ($4.99 for 1 pound) with crunchy, skin-on Sunset English Cucumbers (3 cukes weighing a total of 2 pounds for $3.99).

No pits, no preservatives.

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