Thursday, February 26, 2015

New at Costco Wholesale, lactose-free milk and Greek Yogurt with fruit

I've been buying the ShopRite brand of lactose-free milk for several years, but recently, Costco Wholesale in Hackensack introduced Kirkland Signature 100% Lactose Free 2% Reduced Fat Milk for about $2.66 a carton (three for $7.99).

A new item at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack is Kirkland Signature non-fat Greek Yogurt with Fruit on the Bottom.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

If you're lactose intolerant and add milk to your coffee, frittata mixture or an occasional bowl of cereal, you know how uncomfortable that can make you feel.

Conventional milk causes bloating or gas.

I'm a big fan of Starbucks Coffee, but I've never found lactose-free milk there or at Dunkin' Donuts.

So at home, I've been using ShopRite's brand of 1% Lactose Free Milk, usually $3.49 a half-gallon, to add to my morning coffee and in a Nespresso foamer for espresso drinks.

Now, Costco Wholesale in Hackensack is offering Kirkland Signature 100% Lactose Free Milk for $2.66 a carton (three 64-ounce cartons for $7.99).

Costco's product contains 2% milk fat. 

I hope Costco plans to introduce a lactose-free product with 1% milk fat and organic versions.



A natural enzyme called lactase is added to break down a sugar called lactose and help with digestion, according to Kirkland Signature.

Yogurt with fruit

A new dairy product at Costco Wholesale is Kirkland Signature non-fat Greek Yogurt with Fruit on the Bottom: Black Cherry, Blueberries and Strawberries.

Fifteen mixed 6-ounce cups were $10.89 or 69 cents each, compared to about 89 cents each for 6-ounce cups of Chobani Greek Yogurt with Fruit.

Costco's house brand of Greek Yogurt with fruit is sweetened with sugar.

We've been using Kirkland Signature's non-fat plain Greek Yogurt in 32-ounce containers for blending in smoothies or eating with organic agave syrup.



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

On a bitterly cold day, Costco Wholesale shopper tells off piggish driver

When I drove to Costco Wholesale in Hackensack in subfreezing temperatures on Monday with three prescriptions for my son, I saw this silver Toyota Camry parked in two spaces. Another shopper hand-lettered a sign and put it under one of the wipers, below. A couple of hours later, when I returned to pick up the pills, as well as organic spring mix and reduced-fat Swiss cheese, the car was still there, but the sign had been removed or had blown away.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Curry simmered cod, takeout tales, sweet potato frittata and more

Fresh wild Atlantic cod fillet from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack ($7.99 a pound) poaches in Curry Simmer Sauce from Trader Joe's in about seven minutes, and makes a quick, filling dinner when plated with leftover organic quinoa.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

A 15-ounce jar of Trader Joe's Curry Simmer Sauce is a nice change of pace from the Mexican-style salsa I often use to poach fresh fish in less than 10 minutes.

What could be easier than emptying the bottle into a large pan, cutting fresh wild Atlantic cod into serving pieces and squeezing fresh lime juice over them.

Ground Turkish red pepper is optional. Heat the sauce to a low boil, put the fish in the pan and cover.

When the fish fillets firm up and turn snowy white, they are done (seven minutes). 

A jar of Asian Indian-style Curry Simmer Sauce is $2.49 at the Paramus Trader Joe's. I passed on a Masala Simmer Sauce, which contains cream.

Labels don't indicate whether the sauces are medium or hot. They are neither; there is only a hint of spiciness in the Curry Simmer Sauce, despite the red pepper listed among ingredients.

Use the cooking medium as a sauce for the quinoa, rice or pasta you serve with the fish.

I had leftover organic quinoa from Costco I had prepared in a large batch in an electric rice cooker with low-sodium black beans, chopped garlic and organic diced tomatoes.



A perfect, restaurant-quality takeout dinner from Jerry's Gourmet & More, 410 S. Dean St., in Englewood, was $7.99. My Meal To Go included Tilapia Marechiaro (tomatoes, garlic and parsley), Baked Cauliflower, Linguine with Shrimp Scampi and Shrimp & Broccoli Dumplings. Three other dinners included Chicken Cordon Bleu stuffed with ham and cheese or Chicken Cacciatore with mushrooms, plus pasta, vegetable and dumplings or ravioli.
Grilled Salted Codfish is smothered with onions, garlic, sweet pepper and black olives, and served with steamed broccoli and carrots at Fire Pit Barbecue, a Portuguese restaurant at 357 Essex St., Hackensack ($19). We took advantage of free delivery on Saturday night.

Snow prompts call for delivery

On Saturday night, we wanted to celebrate the Chinese New Year with a special Year of the Sheep menu at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack, but a snowstorm changed our plans.

Instead, I picked up the phone and ordered two entrees for delivery from Fire Pit Barbecue, a Portuguese restaurant in Hackensack that uses wood charcoal.

Grilled Codfish with steamed vegetables was $19. A large order of Pork Chops in Garlic Sauce (three large chops) with yellow rice and black beans was $14. Each entree serves three.

A side of Steamed Vegetables was $3, and three Cod Cakes were $1.25 each.

The nasty, subfreezing weather last week also discouraged us from going into Manhattan for the start of Restaurant Week, when hundreds of the best restaurants offer three-courses lunches for $25 and three-course dinners for $38, plus tax and tip.

The promotion ends March 6. See: NYC Restaurant Week


A 10-inch Sweet Potato and Pesto Frittata made with whole eggs, tomato slices and reduced-fat Swiss cheese provides about eight wedges that make breakfast easy to prepare, below.
A wedge of Sweet Potato Frittata served with leftover broccoli and a large baked sweet potato with Mexican-style salsa for breakfast is hearty enough to allow me to skip lunch.

An open-face omelet made with 100% egg whites, a slice of reduced-fat Swiss cheese and smoked wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon, all from Costco, is another filling breakfast when served with leftover quinoa and mashed sweet potatoes.

At H Mart in Little Ferry today, a box of nine large Korean Pears -- weighing a total of more than 11 pounds -- was on sale for $17.99, a discount of $5. The crisp, juicy fruit is a cross between a pear and an apple. 

Fresh Wild Shad were only $1.99 a pound. I bought four whole Porgy for $3.99 a pound.
A whole porgy prepared escovitch-style, pan fried and dressed in a peppery vinegar sauce.

Stewed Tofu with onion, garlic and red pepper from Jinga, one of the Korean caterers that supplies the Little Ferry H Mart. A 12-ounce package is $4.29. 

Potholes and flooding in the Little Ferry H Mart parking lot may not stop shoppers, but using cardboard boxes in front of the entrance instead of a rubberized mat is a lawsuit waiting to happen.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Searching in vain for antibiotic-free Perdue chicken at ShopRite

None of the Perdue poultry I saw this morning at ShopRite in Paramus carried a statement that the chickens were "raised with no antibiotics ever." That claim did appear in a Perdue ad and coupon insert that came with my Sunday newspaper.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Flipping through the coupons that came with my Sunday newspaper, I really was surprised by an ad for Perdue chicken breasts "raised with no antibiotics ever."

Did the processor that has hidden its use of human antibiotics to speed the growth of its chickens for more than a decade finally reform?

On the Web, I found sites that discussed how Perdue is limiting the use of some antibiotics, but I couldn't find any of that chicken at ShopRite in Paramus.



On the wrapper for Perdue chicken without antibiotics, that fact is listed first, above "all vegetarian diet," "no animal by-products" and "raised cage free," according to the ad I saw.

The Perdue ad and coupon I saw. I know "what could be more perfect" than chicken-breast portions raised without antibiotics. Actually being able to find them in a supermarket.

ShopRite has long carried antibiotic-free Readington Farms chicken, such as this roaster. At $1.41 per pound, this naturally raised chicken is actually cheaper than the whole Perdue chicken with antibiotics I saw today.



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cheap wine at Stew Leonard, naturally raised bacon at Trader Joe's

You'll have to run the gauntlet of more expensive bottles to find drinkable reds for under $5 at Stew Leonard's Wines in Paramus, above and below.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

If you are only interested in bottles of drinkable red wine for around $5 each, Stew Leonard's Wines in Paramus will make you work for them.

On Monday, I walked past hundreds of more expensive bottles before I found what I was looking for in the farthest corner of the store -- on a bottom shelf.

The bottles of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Chile carry the Los Caballos label ($4.99 each).

I also found 1.5-liter sizes (equal to two bottles) of Sangiovese and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo from Italy for $9.99 and $8.99, respectively.

Whole Foods Market in Paramus and any Trader Joe's with a liquor department have a wider selection of inexpensive wines.

The Stew Leonard's Wines Web site says the stores are independently owned and operated, not part of a cooperative buying group and not part of Stew Leonard's food chain. 

Stew Leonard's Wines, 396 Route 17 north, Paramus; 201-649-0882. 

Web site: Stew Leonard's Wines 



Trader Joe's in Paramus is offering an organic version of Costco Wholesale's Kirkland Signature Natural Peanut Butter, made only with Valencia Peanuts and sea salt. A 16-ounce jar of Trader Joe's Organic Peanut Butter is $3.49, compared to $10.99 for two 40-ounce jars of Costco's Natural Peanut Butter, which should be stored in the refrigerator to prevent separation.


Trader Joe's and antibiotics

Trader Joe's won't say "no" to antibiotics.

The specialty grocery store still hasn't heeded the call of Consumers Union -- the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports -- to stop selling meat and poultry from animals raised on human antibiotics, as any visit to the Paramus store shows.

On Monday, I drove out of the Stew Leonard's Wines parking lot and into the Trader Joe's lot next door to shop for the meat eaters in the family.

I found antibiotic-free Trader Joe's Uncured All Beef Hot Dogs, but Trader Joe's Jumbo Uncured Beef Franks contain meat raised on antibiotics (16 ounces, $4.99 each).

W brand Uncured Bacon is all natural pork raised without antibiotics ($5.49 for 12 ounces).

However, Trader Joe's Uncured Apple Smoked Bacon is pork that received antibiotics and possibly growth hormones ($4.99 for 12 ounces).

Consumers Union believes "the overuse of antibiotics by the meat and poultry industries on healthy animals is promoting the spread of drug-resistant super bugs that threaten public health."

Trader Joe's, 404 Route 17 north, Paramus; 201-265-9624. Open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.


Monday, February 16, 2015

You can enjoy delicious meals without a lot of unhealthy animal fats

Wedges of a cheese,tomato and pesto frittata with organic whole wheat spaghetti, also dressed with pesto from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

Costco's frozen mackerel stands in for salted cod with ackee, sweet peppers and onion. This breakfast included mashed Kabocha squash with extra-virgin olive oil and a baked sweet potato stuffed with Mexican-style salsa left over from our Super Bowl party.

Organic red quinoa and kale from Costco Wholesale is a great side dish and bread substitute.

Baked sweet potato, mashed Kaboucha squash and frittata.

An 8-inch frittata uses a mixture of whites and whole organic eggs.
Mexican-style salsa accents a baked sweet potato and an egg-white omelet stuffed with a slice of reduced-fat Swiss cheese,

Organic quinoa with organic diced tomatoes, low-sodium black beans and chopped garlic can be enjoyed hot right out of an electric cooker, especially when topped with Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix and cucumbers, all drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Hot Beet Soup at the Empire Diner on Tenth Avenue in Manhattan ($8). A House Salad was dressed in a delicious white balsamic vinaigrette ($10).


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

'They were $3.99 last week,' says customer at ShopRite in Paramus

A 5-pound box of clementines from Morocco was $5.99 on Tuesday at ShopRite in Paramus, the same price H Marts in Englewood and Little Ferry were charging for clementines from Spain.



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

You could shop for food for decades and never figure out when and why supermarkets like ShopRite put stuff on sale.

ShopRite has Can Can Sales in summer and winter, but is that because people don't buy as much food in those months as they do the rest of the year?

At other times, ShopRite promotes its "Price Breaks," which usually last three days.

On Tuesday, the Paramus store off of Route 4 was selling 5-pound boxes of Moroccan Clementines for $5.99, but I overheard another costumer tell her friend, "They were $3.99 last week."

I bought boxes of Spanish Clementines on Saturday and Sunday at H Mart, and weren't interested in the ones in Paramus.

In fact, the only real bargain I found were 59-ounce cartons of Tree Ripe Orange Juice (not from concentrate) for $1.77 each with a ShopRite card (limit of four).




Free-range, grass-fed beef from Australia, on middle shelf, was selling at the Paramus ShopRite for $9.99 a pound side by side with the same cut of conventional U.S. beef for $12.99 a pound, top shelf. Last week, ShopRite had a sale on the same Australian beef for $6.99 a pound.

Late last month, I bought a 40-ounce jar of Victoria Vodka Sauce, which contains no heavy cream, on sale for $3.99 at the ShopRite in Paramus, below. ShopRite's own brand of Vodka Pasta Sauce, above, also is free of heavy cream, but contains xanthan gum, whey protein, and the Romano and  Parmesan cheeses in the sauce contain corn starch and cellulose. On Tuesday, Victoria Vodka Sauce was back to its regular price of $7.99.



Monday, February 9, 2015

Comparing sale prices at the H Marts in Englewood and Little Ferry


I picked up more than 2 pounds of mustard greens, above, and a Kabocha squash, both on sale for 88 cents a pound, at the H Mart in Englewood, but the same store was selling a 15-pound bag of Kokuho Yellow Label White Rice for $2 more than the H Mart in Little Ferry.
This breakfast includes organic brown eggs, organic quinoa and organic fresh salsa, all from Costco Wholesale. Why can't I find a mostly organic breakfast at my local diner?

Editor's note: I continue to be puzzled by varying sale prices at H Marts in Bergen County, and wonder whether I have to start to bring organic food and other items I like to restaurants that don't offer them.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

On the way home from an errand in Cresskill on Saturday, it only made sense to stop at the H Mart in Englewood for fresh greens, produce and a few free food samples.

This Korean supermarket is part of the Hanahreum Group, but you wouldn't know it when you compare it to the larger H Mart in Little Ferry. 

For example, you might find a 5-pound box of Bagu Clementines from Spain on sale for $5.99 at both stores.

Yet, the Englewood H Mart will claim you saved $3 while the Little Ferry store puts your discount at $2.

A 15-pound bag of Kokuho Yellow Label, a white rice grown in California, was on sale for $14.88 in Englewood on Saturday and for $12.88 in Little Ferry on Sunday.



The parking lot at the Little Ferry H Mart on Sunday.


Spinach, red snapper

The Little Ferry store is much larger, but shabbier and sorely in need of a makeover, and employees keep their coats on in the seemingly unheated space.

On Sunday, I saw a few large potholes in the parking lot and a large, frozen pond that blocked access to half of the lot.

The Englewood store, which was renovated a couple of years ago, has a food counter where you can have lunch or buy prepared Korean food to take home.

Little Ferry had a dingy lunchroom, but it is now closed.

Still, Little Ferry offers more free food samples on weekends, and on Sunday, I sampled sushi made with cooked snow crab, broiled eel, seafood dumplings, fresh fruit and sauteed mushrooms.

In addition to the bag of Kokuho rice for $12.88 and clementines for $5.99, I bought two bushels of fresh spinach, on sale for 99 cents instead of $1.49 each.

At the fish counter in Little Ferry, I bought two large, wild-caught red snappers nestled in ice, and had them cut into steaks, including the head and tail ($6.99 a pound).

For dinner, I stir-fried the spinach and prepared the fish with organic diced tomatoes, red wine and fresh lime juice.

Web site: H Mart




Natural sugar oozing from large sweet potatoes I bought at Costco Wholesale and baked at home.

Plenty of restaurants offer baked potatoes, but finding sweet potatoes on the menu is rare.

Even rarer at diners and restaurants are mashed sweet potatoes with garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and other seasoning, including curry powder and cinnamon. Here, I boiled 3 pounds of small sweet potatoes from ShopRite ($2.99) and about a pound of peeled California cloves from Costco.
I've switched to organic whole-wheat pasta instead of the conventional type, and buy imported whole-wheat linguine, spaghetti, capellini, spirals and other shapes from ShopRite, Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's for $1.49 a pound or less. But the only whole-wheat pasta I've been able to find at restaurants is penne. Do I have to bring my own? Above, organic whole-wheat linguine with sardines and anchovies in a cream-free vodka sauce.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Dinner at Bocconi is another reason I don't have to leave Hackensack

Half of a lobster and shrimp with pasta at Bocconi Restaurant in Hackensack.

A half-portion of a chopped salad with bay scallops and avocado.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

We had another great meal on Saturday night at Bocconi Restaurant in Hackensack.

Best of all, we grabbed a bottle of red wine and only had to drive 5 minutes to get to the moderately priced Italian-American BYO.

Bocconi is on Essex Street, next door to another new favorite, Fire Pit, a Portuguese barbecue restaurant.

They share a small L-shaped parking lot that was full when we arrived, but we found a space across the street in the lot of a medical arts building with Starbucks Coffee and Cosi on the ground floor. 


Seafood, salad and pasta

We ordered a salad to share and two entrees, all with seafood, and my wife took home leftovers from her dish, Half Lobster with Clams, Mussels and Pasta in red or white sauce ($23.95).

She asked the kitchen to hold the clams and mussels in favor of shrimp, and had her spaghetti in a white-wine sauce.

My entree was fork-tender Blackened Tuna with a Cherry Tomato and Cucumber Salad ($19.95). 

The wild-caught tuna was cooked more than I requested, but remained moist and delicious under a coating of black pepper.

We started by sharing a tasty chopped Green Salad with Bay Scallops and Avocado ($12.95).

Despite the slight misstep with the tuna, Chef Mario Amon, a native of Ecuador, does a beautiful job with seafood, pasta and salads.



A blackened ahi tuna steak was served with a crunchy salad of cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.

Bocconi is a BYO that adds balsamic vinegar and grated cheese to the extra-virgin olive oil served with crusty bread.

A mural on one wall of the 50-seat restaurant.

At Bocconi, you can usually find a table for dinner without a reservation on weekends, but may not find one of the six regular and two handicapped spaces in the small parking lot.

Two Hackensack favorites, Fire Pit Barbecue and Bocconi Pasta Pronto & More.


Why leave Hackensack?

Adding Bocconi Restaurant and Fire Pit Barbecue to our list of perennial favorites -- Lotus Cafe, Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, and Rosa Mexicano -- could mean we might never have to leave Hackensack to dine out.


Bocconi Restaurant, 363 Essex St., Hackensack; 201-342-3888. Web site: bocconifood.com