Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bring home the bacon, but don't forget to eat pasta with your eggs

An open-face egg-white omelet with smoked wild salmon from Costco Wholesale and sun-dried tomatoes, served for breakfast over leftover organic whole-wheat pasta corkscrews from Italy that are only $1.25 a pound at ShopRite.

Editor's note: Food prices in most stores usually go up periodically. At Costco Wholesale, they've been known to go up and down without explanation. Now, Trader Joe's, where prices have stayed the same for years, is starting to raise prices on some items, including bacon.


I'm retired, but I still bring home the bacon for the meat eaters in my family from Trader Joe's, a reliable source of uncured, antibiotic-free pork.

For years, you could find Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon for $3.99 and $4.49, but on Friday and on a previous trip, I could not find that item in the Route 17 store in Paramus.

I did find a 12-ounce package of W-brand All Natural Uncured Bacon for $5.49.

Trader Joe's Uncured Beef Hot Dogs and Jumbo Uncured Franks are now $4.99 each, a hike of 50 cents.

Since I stopped eating meat and poultry more than five years ago, I eat pasta -- not bacon -- with my eggs, and enjoy plenty of wild-caught fish.

The pasta also is a good substitute for bread or a bagel at breakfast. 

An organic egg from Costco over leftover pasta made for a quick dinner with a salad and a glass of wine. I used 1 pound of pasta and a 24-ounce jar of Victoria Vodka Sauce, which gets its richness from cheese, not heavy cream. To the sauce, I added red wine, anchovies, extra-virgin olive oil and a can of organic diced tomatoes.

Fresh wild Atlantic Cod fillets from Costco Wholesale are boneless and skinless, and cost only $7.99 a pound. They poach in about 7 minutes in Whole Foods Market Roasted Chipotle Salsa, and can be served over sweet potatoes and peeled garlic cloves mashed with extra-virgin olive oil. 

Bring the sauce to a boil in a covered pan, then add the fish. The serving pieces, dusted with ground Turkish pepper, will firm up and turn snowy white in about 7 minutes in the covered pan. For a thicker sauce, omit the fresh lime juice I used, and add the lime at the table.

Fresh strawberries and 1% lactose-free milk over Bob's Red Mill Hot Cereal is a nice change of pace on mornings when I don't have eggs.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A 'sale' on pasta sauce, pricey Passover ingredient, wild sea bass

On Tuesday, I found 24-ounce jars of Victoria Vodka Sauce, one of the few that doesn't contain heavy cream, on sale for $2.99 each with a store card at ShopRite, 224 Route 4 east, Paramus. The store also had a rare sale on ShopRite Lactose Free Milk for $2.99 a half-gallon, a discount of 50 cents.

A 40-ounce jar of the same vodka sauce was on sale in late January for $3.99, but on Tuesday, the price was $8.49.

You probably couldn't get one of the dozen tables at Rao's, the Italian-American restaurant in the East Harlem section of Manhattan, so why pay an outrageous $8.49 for a 32-ounce jar of the joint's marinara sauce at the Paramus ShopRite?

A 2-pound jar of kosher for Passover Tamarind was $17.99 at the Paramus ShopRite. The concentrated sweet-and-sour fruit , from Thailand, is used in many Sephardic Jewish dishes, including stuffed vegetables.

The $3-plus price spike for Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon at Costco Wholesale didn't stop me from buying this wonderful fish, but the price has settled back to $15.99 for two half-pound portions. Here, I used a few slices to stuff a whole egg and egg-white omelet with fresh spinach, a slice of reduced-fat Swiss cheese and Mateo's Gourmet Salsa, all from Costco.

On Sunday, Fresh wild-caught black sea bass were $5.99 a pound at H Mart, 25 Lafayette Ave., Englewood. My wife pan-fried them and dressed them in sweet and hot peppers, and onions cooked in vinegar. At the Little Ferry H Mart, 260 Bergen Turnpike, a box of 14 Ataulfo Mangoes was $9.99 with a store card.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

For heart-healthy meals at home, add color and flavor -- not butter

Organic brown rice prepared in an electric cooker -- fragrant with chopped fresh garlic, organic chicken stock and extra-virgin olive oil -- gets a bit of color from a can of organic diced tomatoes. The ingredients, from Costco Wholesale and other stores, go into the cooker at the same time along with a little sea salt.

An egg-white omelet fried in olive oil is stuffed with fresh spinach and Mateo's Gourmet Salsa from Costco (32 ounces for $6.39) , which also adds flavor to a square of fresh sesame-seed tofu, left.

Salted Alaskan pollock goes into this colorful breakfast of cabbage and salt fish sauteed in olive oil, made with red, orange and green sweet peppers from Costco and ShopRite.

Leftover seafood frittata and mustard greens make a hearty breakfast when served over organic brown rice and Mateo's salsa.

Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Hot Cereal takes 10 minutes to prepare on the stove top with added dried figs and dates, hemp hearts and chia seeds, pignoli nuts and organic agave sweetener. I added a little 2% lactose-free milk at the table.

At home last Wednesday, I plated and reheated a restaurant-quality Meals To Go from Jerry's Gourmet & More, 410 S. Dean St. in Englewood, including tender Calamari and Shrimp Fra Diavolo, Stuffed Portobello Mushroom with Vegetable and Cheese Ravioli Al Pomodoro. I gave a third component, Roasted Potatoes and Sausage, to a meat eater in the family ($5.99 after 4 p.m.)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Starbucks Coffee helps keep bored luxury wing salespeople awake

A full-fledged Starbucks Coffee is strategically placed inside a luxury wing of Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, the biggest shopping center in New Jersey.


On my first and likely last visit to a luxury wing of Garden State Plaza in Paramus, I didn't see any customers in the stores.

Even more troubling, I didn't see any security guards or Paramus police officers inside or outside a mall that was invaded by a gunman whose random rifle shots panicked customers before he committed suicide in November 2013.

A Starbucks Coffee provides needed stimulant to the bored luxury store employees.

On Tuesday afternoon, I didn't see any customers in most of the high-end stores at the shopping center, and salespeople stared vacantly at the door or through plate-glass windows.

A slice of pizza and a small drink is $3.99. Another food stand is operated by Lasaka and offers sushi. Free samples of tea are available at Teavana.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Window shopping at pricey Mitsuwa, stocking up at Korean markets

The belly meat of even farmed blue-fin tuna goes for $79.99 a pound at Mitsuwa Marketplace, the Japanese supermarket and food court in Edgewater. The portion shown here is only 1.6 ounces and costs $8. Meanwhile, store-made sushi rolls contained added sugar and some salad dressings I saw listed high-fructose corn syrup as an ingredient.
Wagyu Beef, named for a Japanese cattle breed, is heavily marbled with flavorful fat, and priced at $44.99 a pound.


On my rare visits to one of North Jersey's most expensive supermarkets, I buy cheap sake for cooking and a couple of over-sized cans of Japanese beer.

But I spend most of my time gawking at the ridiculously high prices Mitsuwa Marketplace shoppers pay for what is billed as premium fish and beef.

Anyone who thinks Whole Foods Market is expensive will get a reality check at Mitsuwa.

Over the years, I've splurged at this Japanese supermarket on ices delicately flavored with fruit and mackerel sushi rolls imported from Japan.

On Friday night, I picked up a 1.5-liter bottle of Yaegaki Sake brewed in California ($6.99), a 25-ounce can of Kirin Ichiban 100% malt beer ($2.99) and a 1-liter can of Asahi Super Dry ($3.49).

I briefly contemplated going to my favorite Japanese restaurant, Hiura on Main Street near Anderson Avenue in Fort Lee, with the giant can of Asahi, but then how would I drive home after consuming all that beer?

Mitsuwa Marketplace, 595 River Road, Edgewater; 201-941-9113. America Express credit cards aren't accepted. 

In contrast to Mitsuwa's prices for raw fish and meat, stands in the food court offer complete meals for under $10, above and below, and seating at tables with a view of the Hudson River and upper Manhattan.

Plastic representations of food-court meals look good enough to eat.

Shoppers at Mitsuwa Marketplace have the Hudson, but at H Mart in Little Ferry on Sunday, customers found a flooded parking lot entrance full of hidden potholes.

From the Hudson to the Hackensack

At the customer service counter of H Mart in Little Ferry, the young woman apologized for the flooded, potholed parking lot, but said the Korean supermarket chain has no plans to fix it until spring.

I've spoken to other customers who believe the shabby store, which occupies less than half of a large, otherwise empty building near the Hackensack River, will be torn down eventually.

Meanwhile, the store offers some of the best free samples on weekends, making lunch unnecessary.

On Sunday, I tried three or four kinds of fresh and dried fruit, a seafood pancake, cooked octopus slices, green tea noodles and fish cake in hot broth.

I picked up a box of Shin Ramyun, a spicy instant noodle soup, with 16 4.2-ounce portions for $9.99 with a store card, a savings of $7.

Two big heads of leafy baby mustard greens were on sale for 88 cents a pound (regularly $1.69 a pound).

H Mart, 260 Bergen Turnpike, Little Ferry; 201-814-0400.

Arirang Kimchi 

From H Mart in Little Ferry, I drove to Arirang Kimchi in Ridgefield, and purchased a 64-ounce bottle of Mahk or Cabbage Kimchi ($10).

Arirang is in the small H&Y Marketplace shopping center, where I picked up Marinated Tofu ($4.99) and Jun's Wild Sesame Tofu ($5), both made in that Korean supermarket.

Red bell peppers were on sale for 79 cents a pound.

H&Y Marketplace (Han Yang Mart), 1 Remsen Place, Ridgefield; 201-943-7100. Free food samples on weekends.

So Gong Dong, a popular soft-tofu restaurant where a complete meal costs $10, is on the second floor of this Broad Avenue building in Palisades Park. My final stop on Sunday afternoon was to pick up takeout for dinner.

Fruits of my Korean food odyssey at my front door on Sunday.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bones in my seafood frittata, fresh spinach and salsa in my omelet

A homemade seafood frittata uses leftover pan-fried red snapper and smoked wild salmon, plus whole eggs and whites, reduced-fat cheese, tomatoes and prepared pesto. The baked sweet potato with it is flavored with Mateo's Gourmet Salsa from Costco Wholesale.

Editor's note: With great ingredients available at Costco Wholesale, H Mart and Whole Foods Market, preparing meals at home is a snap, and a big money saver over takeout or dinner out at a restaurant.


We had leftovers from three large red snappers my wife seasoned and pan fried, a few slices of smoked wild salmon, egg whites and three whole eggs.

I could make a seafood frittata, I thought, adding plum tomato slices, sun-dried tomatoes, reduced-fat Swiss cheese and prepared pesto.

But I wasn't careful when stripping the red snapper head and part of the body, and ended up with bones in my frittata.

The tail end of a seasoned and pan-fried whole red snapper ($6.99 a pound at H Mart in Englewood), served for dinner with steamed carrots and baby bok choy.

I spooned on Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco Wholesale after removing the 10-inch seafood frittata from the oven, where it browned under the broiler. The thick egg mixture I started with contained red snapper, grated cheese and a little reduced-fat lactose-free milk, all poured into a hot, oiled non-stick pan on the stove. When the bottom set, I moved the frittata to the oven.

I used two whole organic eggs and a little reduced-fat lactose-free milk, both from Costco Wholesale, for an omelet stuffed with reduced-fat Swiss cheese, fresh spinach and Mateo's mild salsa. I served it with leftover organic quinoa prepared in an electric rice cooker with organic diced tomatoes, organic chicken broth and whole peeled garlic cloves, and a baked sweet potato.

Organic quinoa also was the foundation for a dinner of fresh wild Icelandic Haddock Fillets from Costco Wholesale ($8.99 a pound), poached in thick Roasted Poblano Salsa from Whole Foods Market, diluted with a little red wine and fresh lime juice. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

In Englewood, these sushi rolls may be just what the doctor ordered

Spicy Tuna and Salmon Rolls from Maguro Sushi House in Rochelle Park are a recent addition to the fare offered to visitors, employees and volunteers in the cafeteria at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.


A hospital cafeteria might not seem like a good place for takeout in Englewood, where you'll find Balthazar Bakery, Jerry's Gourmet & More and Best Dumplings, just to name three terrific options.

But since I began volunteering at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, I've always used my $8 dining card to take home a hearty soup or fresh spinach, spring mix and other items from the cafeteria's great salad bar.

Now, the Drapkin Family Garden Cafe is offering tasty inside-out rolls from Maguro Sushi House in Rochelle Park and other Asian fare.

I liked the Spicy Tuna and Salmon Rolls I brought home on Wednesday afternoon ($8.63), especially the absence of any sweetener.

Ingredients listed are ground tuna and chopped salmon with cucumber, all mixed with a special hot sauce and caviar.

They have proven too popular. I found some on Wednesday afternoon after 4, but when I returned to the hospital on Thursday afternoon, they were sold out.

Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, 350 Engle St., Englewood. Cafeteria is open until 8:30 p.m. Hospital parking is $5.

On Wednesday afternoon, there were two trays of sushi rolls available, above. But on Thursday, the sushi and seaweed salad sold out before 3 p.m. Fried vegetable dumplings also are available at the cafeteria grill.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

At IHOP in Teaneck, hold the pancakes, cheese, butter and more

A 55+ Omelet at IHOP in Teaneck with added tomatoes and fresh spinach (79 cents each), and a side of hash browns, top.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss sticking to my diet at IHOP; simple cooking at home; and purchases at H Mart, Whole Foods Market, Starbucks, ShopRite and Costco Wholesale.


When a group of friends wanted to stop for lunch at IHOP on Cedar Lane in Teaneck last week, I went along.

But I wasn't about to break my diet.

I ordered a 55+ Omelet ($5.49), which usually is made with cheese and comes with pancakes, toast and hash-brown potatoes on the side.

Hold the cheese, pancakes and toast, I told the waitress, who looked like she was 85 and would understand my diet restrictions, and add tomatoes and fresh spinach (79 cents each).

I also asked her if the kitchen could make my omelet with oil instead of butter. 

That's pretty much the way I eat at home to maintain my weight loss from a no-bread, no-pizza, no-meat diet, and avoid artery clogging butter and cream.

I liked the IHOP omelet, which had as much fresh spinach in it as Greek diner omelets I've had in Paramus and River Edge at nearly twice the price.

IHOP calls the omelet 55+ or Senior, but I didn't find any senior discount on my receipt. 

IHOP, 610 Cedar Lane, Teaneck; 201-836-6500. Open every day at 7 a.m. 

Organic whole wheat pasta corkscrews from Whole Foods Market in bottled Paesana Organic Tomato & Basil sauce with added organic diced tomatoes, chopped fresh garlic and  black olives.

Keeping it simple at home

I don't have the inclination, time or skill to make my own red sauce for pasta, and rely on terrific bottled sauces without added sugar.

I do add red wine, extra-virgin olive oil, dried Italian herbs, red-pepper flakes and a can of drained and rinsed anchovies to give bottled sauce a special, robust flavor without any hint of fish.

You can also stretch a 25-ounce bottle of sauce with Costco Wholesale's Organic Diced Tomatoes, sold under the Kirkland Signature house label.

I found 25-ounce bottles of Premium Organic Paesana Tomato & Basil sauce at Costco Wholesale, which also sells Kirkland Signature Marinara and 40-ounce jars of Victoria Marinara.

Grated Pecorino Romano, a sheep's milk cheese from Costco, adds an Italian accent to pasta, salads, eggs and soup.
Grated Pecorino Romano over two organic brown eggs from Costco. I plated them for breakfast with mashed and baked sweet potatoes and leftover okra.

Organic eggs with Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon from Costco and za'atar thyme mixture from Fattal's Bakery in Paterson.

The 6.8-ounce Protein Bistro Box from Starbucks Coffee in Hackensack can stand in for a full breakfast or lunch ($4.95). I brought this one home last week as a reward for regularly using a Starbucks Card. The box contains a cage-free hard-boiled egg, white Cheddar cheese, multigrain Muesli bread, honey peanut butter spread and fruit.

Discount Mondays at Starbucks

On Monday between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., I went to Starbucks at 360 Essex St. in Hackensack to take advantage of a 30% discount for members of My Starbucks Rewards.

I purchased two 1-pound bags of coffee beans, normally $12.95 and $11.95, for a total of $17.42.

I asked for a Turkish grind of the Willow and Veranda Blonde Roasts.

While I was there, I drank a Venti Jade Citrus Mint green tea for $1.85, plus tax, discounted from $2.65. 

On March 16 at Starbucks, you can get two teas for the price of one, and on March 23, you'll receive a free pastry with a drink purchase.

Part of the parking lot at the H Mart in Little Ferry.

Supermarket purchases

On Sunday, I drove through the flooded, potholed parking lot at H Mart in Little Ferry for a box of 16 Ataulfo Mangoes from Mexico, on sale for $9.99 with a store card (a discount of $5).

On Monday morning, I stopped at the ShopRite in Paramus for a 1-pound package of Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli for $1.25, and a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes that weighed closer to 4 pounds ($2.99).

Also on Monday, my wife bought fresh whole red snapper at the H Mart in Englewood for $6.99 a pound, and seasoned and pan fried them at home, serving them with fresh okra for dinner.

Today, at Whole Foods Market in Paramus, I picked up two 1-pound boxes of 365 Everyday Value Organic Whole Wheat Shells for $1.49 each, and gizzards from naturally raised chickens ($3.99 a pound).

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Don't expect much when dining at Fire Pit Barbecue in Hackensack

Limited parking and haphazard service are only two of the problems we faced when we tried to have dinner late Saturday afternoon at Fire Pit Barbecue in Hackensack after enjoying three deliveries of its Portuguese specialties to our home.

The bare-bones decor includes wooden tables, stained ceiling tiles and a leak in the small dining room. Fire Pit Barbecue will remind you more of a pizzeria than a restaurant.


If you decide to have dinner at Fire Pit Barbecue in Hackensack, the problems begin before you sit down.

How did city officials approve an L-shaped parking lot with only eight spaces (two for handicapped drivers) to serve four storefronts, including two restaurants, Fire Pit and Bocconi?

I doubt a large SUV or even a minivan could negotiate the tight right-angle turn in the narrow lot. A third restaurant near Bocconi has no off-street parking. 

On my first pass late Saturday afternoon, there were no vacant spaces, and I dropped off my two passengers near the front door of the Portuguese barbecue restaurant.

Then, I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw three people climbing into a car. I drove around the corner to once again enter the lot and take the vacant space.

Chilly dining room

Inside, I took off my coat and sat down at a table in the small dining room, facing a counter and an open kitchen, where two workers and two cooks were filling take-out and delivery orders.

One of them came over, gave us menus and took our order for bottled water and juice, and canned soda, which were served with straws, not cups ($1.50 each).

There were only a few other customers eating at tables, but others were standing around, waiting for takeout, and eventually, we saw delivery men with large padded cases to keep food warm coming and going.

At least on Saturday afternoon after 4, the employees worked frantically to keep up with takeout and delivery orders, and to fill the large grill with natural wood charcoal.

We placed our order for a large Fire Pit Salad ($10), Chicken Soup ($3); Grilled Codfish with Potatoes, Peppers and Onions ($19), an entree I enjoyed three times as delivery; Pork Cubes with Shrimp ($16), a dish that was new to us; and a side order of Yellow rice and Black Beans ($4).

The Fire Pit Salad includes tomato slices with little color and no flavor, and the Balsamic Dijon dressing we ordered on the side had no hint of mustard. The "large" salad is on the small side, and isn't worth $10. Nor was the Chicken Soup my mother-in-law ordered anything special.

Bags of natural wood charcoal in the dining room.

We decide to take rest home

After trying the disappointing salad and soup, we decided to ask for the rest of the food to go, adding a side of Sweet Potato Fries ($3). 

Still, we had to wait 20 minutes or more before our order was ready. 

At home, I plated the Grilled Codfish with the steamed broccoli and carrots that come on the side. The flaky, salted cod was as delicious as I remember from three deliveries, but the cook burned the skin, making it inedible.

Picadinho con Camarao or Pork Cubes with Shrimp is a tasty entree, but my wife and mother-in-law said the dish was too salty.

A side order of rice and beans was leaking badly when we got it home.

I tried a few of the delicious Sweet Potato Fries, which were grease-less.
The edges of the aluminum cover (not shown) for the grilled cod's takeout tray, above, are so sharp I cut my fingers in three places, drawing blood.

Fire Pit Barbecue, 357 Essex St., Hackensack; 1-201-489-3473. Open 7 days starting at 11 a.m. Free delivery. Web site: