Saturday, May 28, 2016

$200,000 Bentley Convertible tries to cut me off at Costco gas pumps

CHANGE FOR THE BETTER: Costco Wholesale's Kirkland Signature Egg Whites have returned. You get six 16-ounce cartons, and the price is lower than the four-carton Egg Beaters we've been forced to buy since the Teterboro warehouse opened last October.

Egg Beaters (four 16-ounce cartons for $9.39), left, and Kirkland Signature Egg Whites (six 16-ounce cartons for $8.79).


In the year since we bought Michelin Defenders for our 2010 Toyota Prius, Costco Wholesale's tire store moved to a new, bigger warehouse in Teterboro.

Teterboro offers a bonus over the Hackensack warehouse -- a members-only Costco gas station selling regular for under $2 a gallon, plus a cash rebate of up to 4% on credit-card purchases.

On Thursday, I had an appointment for a free rotation and tire balancing, so in the interest of conserving energy, I brought a long food-shopping list and figured I might as well fill the tank of my wife's 50-mpg gas-electric hybrid.

6,000-pound land barge

I entered Costco's parking lot, and started maneuvering so my gas door would be next to the pump, when I saw a couple in a Bentley Convertible on a collision course.

Damn if I was going to yield to a driver who blew more than $200,000 on one of the most environmentally irresponsible cars on the road -- a 600-horsepower, 6,000-pound behemoth that supposedly gets 12 mpg.

The bald driver had the top down in 90-degree weather, but didn't even know enough to wear a hat.

He was headed for a premium-gas pump on the far left and I was driving almost straight ahead, so I just hit the gas pedal and put the nose of the Prius in front of that flashy monstrosity, and got through.

The Bentley owner probably has to fill up his 24-gallon tank three times a week, so I guess I can't blame him for going to Costco.

After I filled up for $1.95.9 a gallon, I parked our Prius next to the tire store, and the car was ready before I finished my food shopping -- a little over an hour later. 

$2 off organic eggs

Two-dozen Kirkland Signature Organic Eggs were $4.99 after a $2 instant coupon.

Fresh Blackberries from Mexico were $4.49 (18 ounces), 3 pounds of Organic Bananas were $1.99, and 5.5 pounds of Premium Honeycrisp Apples were $15.99.

I also bought Organic Kiwi Fruit from Italy (4 pounds for $7.99).

I picked up a couple of pounds of fresh wild flounder fillets ($7.99 a pound), caught and processed in the United States, when I didn't find fresh wild salmon from Alaska.

The first Copper River salmon of the season arrived in Seattle on May 17.

On Friday, my wife saw fresh Copper River Alaskan salmon for $35.99 a pound at Whole Foods Market in Paramus.

Last year, the Hackensack Costco sold the first Copper River sockeye salmon for $14.99 a pound. 

Another change for the better at the Teterboro warehouse is Kirkland Signature Organic Coconut Water. You get the same amount as Vita Coco Coconut Water, which isn't organic, for a lower price, $9.99 v. $13.99, below.

Kirkland Signature Strawberry Spread still is made with fresh fruit, but is no longer organic. A 42-ounce jar is $5.99, a dollar less than the same size organic spread I bought in December 2014 at the Hackensack warehouse.

Kirkland Signature Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese from Italy ($8.79 a pound) costs a little more than Pecorino Romano, but it is aged longer, and has one-third less salt and less total fat. Parmigiano Reggiano is made with part-skimmed cow's milk and the other cheese uses full-fat sheep's milk. I like pieces of the crumbly Parmigiano with fruit, such as the delicious but pricey Honeycrisp Apples you can get at Costco.

My wife asked me to buy Organic Coconut Oil, but when I pointed out 1 tablespoon of the Kirkland Signature brand contains 60% of the daily recommended intake of saturated fat, she returned it the next day to the Hackensack warehouse and got a full refund ($18.99).

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fresh herbs from the garden are easiest way to give your meals a lift

Every spring, fresh mint plants fill a box on the deck of my home in northern New Jersey, giving a lift to meals and allowing me to prepare mojitos with Cuban rum. We also grow a little rosemary, oregano and basil.

Chopped fresh mint, basil, oregano and rosemary accent flounder fillets poached in green salsa. I served the fish and spooned the salsa over leftover organic brown rice with organic black beans and organic diced tomatoes.

The flounder was $7.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale, and the thin fillets took less than 5 minutes to cook in a covered pan. The 365 Everyday Value Roasted Salsa Verde (16 ounces) was from Whole Foods Market. I added fresh lime juice.
Chopped fresh herbs are the finishing touch for a simple egg-white omelet stuffed with Kirkland Signature Organic Salsa from Costco and grated cheese.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Searching for bargain fruit at H Mart, snack bars at Costco Wholesale

Shoppers showed little interest in these overpriced Jaffa Clementines at the H Mart in Little Ferry on Sunday.

Seed to Table-brand seedless watermelons on sale for $4.99 were a much better deal. H Mart is at 260 Bergen Turnpike, Little Ferry. If you go, watch for large puddles in the parking lot.


I found good buys on fruit, fresh fish and greens on Sunday at H Mart in Little Ferry.

And free seafood samples -- which disappeared in late April -- just as suddenly reappeared, offering cooked crab meat, seafood pancake, broiled mussels topped with fish eggs and other items.

I grazed on those samples as I waited for a fish counter worker to clean three fresh, wild-caught red snappers I bought at $4.99 a pound or $2 less than usual.

A medium-size seedless watermelon was on sale for $4.99, and 1-pound packages of Driscoll Strawberries were two for $2.49.

Shanghai Green Tips, which resemble baby bok choy, were on sale for 88 cents a pound.

At the Costco Wholesale Business Center on South River Street in Hackensack, I compared Nature Valley Fruit & Nut Chewy Granola Trail Mix Bars, above, with KIND Fruit & Nut Bars, below. Nature Valley offers three times as many bars for a lower price, but only the KIND bar is non-GMO. 

The Nature Valley bar has fewer calories, less fat and less sugar than the KIND bar, but more sodium. The KIND bar has more fiber. I tried the Nature Valley bar, and liked the taste. But is doesn't have the long-lasting satisfaction of the KIND bar. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

When you're retired, losing and keeping off weight becomes full-time job

We bake, roast or grill a variety of fish fillets from Costco Wholesale, but inexpensive whole whiting seems to taste best when it is pan fried in olive oil, and served simply with fresh lime or lemon juice. Side dishes here are string beans with fresh garlic and black pepper, and sweet plantains. An organic spring mix salad completes the meal.

Editor's note: I am the head of a family of four who go through an enormous amount of food, much of it organic and naturally raised or grown. We are divided among meat eaters and non-meat eaters (3 to 1), and on many days, prepare two different breakfasts and dinners. Since I retired, I've also struggled to lose and keep off weight. 


When I retired, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to fill my time.

But I faced a bigger challenge: 

I not only was less active, but I wanted to lose close to 40 pounds I had put on from the stress of a sedentary copy editing job at a daily newspaper in northern New Jersey.

I got a big boost from a trainer at my gym: 

He told me that if I really wanted to lose weight, I should cut out bread and pizza, and substitute such filling foods as sweet potatoes, whole wheat pasta and brown rice.

I also was ahead, because I rarely ate dessert, and satisfied my sweet tooth with fruit.

Stopped eating meat

I had already lost about 5 pounds from giving up meat and poultry, and eating only seafood, so my starting point was 223 pounds.

Bread was my real weakness, even though I had long ago stopped eating one of those enormous Jersey bagels for breakfast every day. 

Favorites were Middle Eastern pocket bread from Fattal's in Paterson, and baguettes from Balthazar Bakery in Englewood.

Part-time jobs

I picked up part-time work, including driving cars into Manhattan, walking and taking mass transit back to New Jersey.

I was eating only two meals a day -- substituting a snack bar for lunch -- and the pounds started to come off.

I lost more than 40 of my original 223 pounds in about a year, but when I gave up the part-time work and started volunteering more, I eventually put on about 10 pounds.

Eating at home

I never leave the house without eating a big breakfast, relying on leftover pasta, quinoa or brown rice to go with an egg-white omelet or a wedge of frittata.

Omelets can be stuffed with a little reduced-fat grated cheese and marinara sauce, salsa or slices of smoked wild salmon.

At most, we eat out once a week and order takeout another night.

But when I cook at home, I prepare large amounts -- 1 pound of pasta, 3 pounds of sweet potatoes or 2 pounds of fish, ensuring a variety of leftovers for breakfast or snacks.

I cook and dress salads with olive oil.

I never eat butter, cream or full-fat cheese or milk, and avoid buying pasta sauces and other prepared food with added sugar.

Bread, pizza

Instead of eating bread two or three times a day, I may have some once a week or when we eat out.

Pizza still is a guilty pleasure every six months or so, such as the 18-inch Veggie Combo I picked up recently at the Costco Wholesale Business Center in Hackensack.

The leftovers are in the freezer.

Now, I see men in the gym who work out week after week, but still are grossly overweight, because they don't follow a diet, such as the one that has worked for me in the past five years.

A 10-inch frittata uses 4 cups of whole eggs and whites, a little low-fat milk, scallions and garlic. Wedges can be served with a spoonful of pesto or organic salsa.

Baked or mashed sweet potatoes are a favorite side dish at breakfast. Here, an egg-white omelet is stuffed with slices of smoked wild salmon and Mexican-style salsa, both from Costco Wholesale.

I often saute organic spinach from Costco or conventional spinach from the salad bar at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center with olive oil, sake and seasonings. Here, I added reduced-fat grated cheese and ate the spinach over leftover organic quinoa with organic beans and diced tomatoes prepared in an electric cooker.

Easy to assemble Icelandic Haddock with Organic Diced Tomatoes, Spinach and Olives is ready after 15 minutes in a pre-heated 400-degree oven. Fresh wild haddock is $7.99 a pound at Costco. Photos below show four easy steps. 

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, add fresh spinach and drizzle with plenty of extra-virgin olive oil. An option is to use sliced mushrooms with spinach.

2. Cut up about 2 pounds of fish fillet, season with Aleppo red pepper and a little sea salt, and place over spinach. Add whole or chopped pitted olives with or without pimientos.

3. Open a can of organic diced tomatoes and spoon over fish. Squeeze juice from whole lemon or lime over pan. An option is to add shredded or grated cheese. Put in oven and set timer to 15 minutes.

4. Plate fish, spinach and olives and spoon sauce over them.
For a pasta-and-eggs breakfast, poach two organic eggs in leftover Classico Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce from ShopRite, and serve with leftover organic whole wheat fusilli. I added olive oil to the sauce, and shredded Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese over the eggs.  

Radish kimchi and other low-fat or no-fat Korean food, including prepared tofu, can be purchased at H Mart and other Korean supermarkets in northern New Jersey.

A 32-ounce jar of Radish or Kahkdoogi Kimchi can be purchased for $15 at Arirang, 1 Remsen Place, Ridgefield, in the H&Y Marketplace Shopping Center, below.

Friday, May 20, 2016

At Lotus Cafe in Hackensack: 8 delicious courses, 6 people, $20 each

Crispy Aromatique Duck is one of eight courses when you order Dinner for Six at Lotus Cafe, a Chinese restaurant in Hackensack ($120, plus tax and tip). A Special Prix Fixe Dinner and Banquet Menu -- for four to 12 people, six to 12 courses -- is available on request.

On Wednesday night, five of us ordered the celebratory Dinner for Six, which also included Three Cup Chicken Casserole, above, and the dishes shown below. We washed down the food with prosecco (a sparkling wine from Italy) and Negra Modelo Beer.
South Pacific Prawns.

Filet of Sole with White Chive.

Beef with Chili Pepper & Mustard Greens was a big hit with the meat eaters in the group.

String Beans with Fresh Garlic.

Dinner for Six starts with Seafood and Tofu Chowder, above, and ends with a Fruit Platter, below, or ice cream. White or brown rice is included. We took home leftovers.

Lotus Cafe, at 450 Hackensack Ave., in Hackensack's Home Depot Shopping Center, is a BYO that is open 7 days a week (1-201-488-7070). Reservations are recommended on weekends, but the price-fixed and banquet dinners don't have to be pre-ordered.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Cilantro, lime, avocado and other bright flavors at Bohemia Restaurant

Fried Green Plantain Cups Stuffed with Shrimp in Garlic Sauce ($10) is one of the appetizers at Bohemia, a Colombian restaurant at Main and Camden streets in Hackensack.  
Another appetizer is Seafood Ceviche served with green banana chips ($14).
A whole fried Red Snapper is served with salad and tostones, which are smashed and fried green plantains ($17). Sides of white rice and black beans were $2.25 each.

An entree of Grilled Shrimp is served with an Avocado Salad ($13).

Carne Asada or grilled skirt steak can be ordered with white rice and black beans ($11).
A highlight of our diner for four on Saturday night was a complimentary salsa filled with cilantro and onions that lent a spicy accent to plantains, fish and other items.

We ordered two sides of Tostones ($3 each). This is only a portion of one of the sides.

On our second visit to Bohemia, we had a $36 Groupon good for $60 worth of food for four people, but that and a photo menu that made every dish look delicious only encouraged us to order too much. The BYO, at 287 Main St. in Hackensack, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. As on our first visit in March, servers took our order right away and brought us batidos and other drinks, but we had a long wait for our appetizers.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

An outdoor company offers timely tips for taking care of your inner self

EDITOR'S NOTE: Cotopaxi sells outdoor products and "funds solutions that address the most persistent needs of those living in extreme poverty," according to its Web site. Noting that May is International Mediterranean Diet Month, the company also has prepared a graphic with tips on healthy living and eating.
I've supplemented that advice with a simple recipe that includes three major components of the Mediterranean Diet -- seafood, vegetables and olive oil.

HEART HEALTHY: Fresh wild Atlantic Cod with Spinach, Organic Diced Tomatoes and Pitted Olives takes about 15 minutes to cook in a preheated 400-degree oven.

HOW TO ASSEMBLE: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, place a half-pound of fresh spinach in a large pan lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper, drizzle with plenty of extra-virgin olive oil, add up to 2 pounds of cut-up pieces of cod fillet seasoned with a little sea salt, spoon on organic diced tomatoes from a can, add reduced-fat shredded cheese and then squeeze fresh juice from a lemon or lime over everything.

SHRIMP WORKS, TOO: We used the same simple recipe with 2 pounds of wild-caught shrimp, which we shelled and deveined.

FRESH TOMATOES: This time, we used fresh tomatoes, and the shrimp were ready in 10 minutes when we preheated the oven to 400 degrees.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Don't forget to bring calculator, magnifying glass to Paramus ShopRite

Last week, I picked up hothouse-grown Big Taste Tomatoes for $1 a pound, but by Tuesday, ShopRite in Paramus had replaced them with Campari Tomatoes for about $2.50 a pound, above and below. Costco Wholesale in Teterboro sells the 2-pound Campari Tomatoes package for $4.49.

ShopRite, at 224 Route 4 east in Paramus, also is accessible from Forest Avenue or Spring Valley Road.

ShopRite Fruit on the Bottom Low Fat Yogurt in 6-ounce cups, made with sugar, were on sale for 50 cents each, but ShopRite Light Fat Free Yogurt uses aspartame, an artificial sweetener. Only the aspartame-sweetened fat-free yogurt is available in boxes of 12, which brings down the price to about 41.5 cents per cup.

Chobani Greek Yogurt with fruit in 5.3-ounce cups was on sale for $1 each. Though it's pricier, Chobani contains about half of the sugar found in ShopRite Fruit on the Bottom Low Fat Yogurt.

I don't eat meat so don't have to try and figure out which package contains beef raised on feed that includes chicken-house waste or bits of dead animals.

Nature's Reserve 100% Grass Fed Ground Beef from Australia doesn't contain antibiotics, and is available with 20% fat, above, and 15% fat, below.

This package of hamburger patties appears to have the wrong shelf label. They are made with Certified Angus Beef Prime, which is raised on antibiotics. Certified Angus Beef Natural is antibiotic free and vegetarian fed.