Oscar Mayer's New Coldcuts Are Really Spicy and That's No Bologna

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Two of the new line of "Bold" deli meats from Oscar Mayer

"That's some spicy sliced turkey," is not a phrase I ever anticipated coming out of my mouth. But, then, I also didn't anticipate really liking a sandwich involving cold cuts. While I'm a big fan of Italian deli meats, I've never really latched onto to the standard American sliced turkey, ham, etc. I generally find them rather bland, salty but not savory, with a texture akin to damp felt.

Knowing I am perpetually interested in new supermarket products, a friend of mine alerted me to the introduction of a new line of "bold" cold cuts from Oscar Mayer. I was dubious, but embracing the mantra "everything is worth trying once," I sampled the Cajun Style Turkey Breast, Chipotle Seasoned Chicken Breast, and the Cracked Pepper Turkey Breast.

All are made with no artificial flavors and colors. Good thing, as I shudder to think we are living in a world where manufacturers and consumers prefer to use fake cracked pepper.

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H-E-B Debuts Pretzel Croissant

Categories: Grocery Guide

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
What would a Parisian think about this?

Well, at least they didn't give it some lame-ass portmanteau. H-E-B's newest food creation, the "pretzel croissant" is pretty much what the name implies. Though I will say that when I first saw the sign advertising their new product I envisioned a croissant in a pretzel shape, rather than vice-versa.

This is not the first time the chain has played around with either the soft pretzel or croissant. This past year, the grocery store began to offer pretzel rolls and buns semi-regularly, as well as whole-wheat croissants and glazed croissants (in the donut case).

And, unless you've been hibernating, I don't need to tell you about the cronut, the ultimate croissant hybrid, which some hypothesize exemplifies a cultural trend toward "combo" baked goods as an efficient way to satisfy multiple flavor cravings simultaneously.

I don't know if that's true, but I do know these caramelized croissant French toast sticks look delicious. Also, this this croissant stuffing will be on my 2014 Thanksgiving table.

Shrewd H-E-B capitalizes on the curiosity of baked-good devotees and does not enable you to purchase individual pretzel croissants, only packages of four (for $3). I did ask the bakery manager on site if I could buy just one (hoping he would offer to split up the package) and he apologized and declined my request. "I'm sorry, I don't have a SKU number for just one," he said smiling. Um, make one up?, I thought.

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Ben & Jerry's New Core Sundae Flavors Have Finally Reached Houston

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Salted Caramel Core Flavor

Almost two months ago, I read that Ben & Jerry's had released a new line of ice cream designed to approximate a sundae in a pint. These four "core" flavors (That's My Jam, Peanut Butter Fudge, Hazed and Confused, Salted Caramel) would involve multiple types of ice cream, chunks, and, most importantly, a center vertical "core" of liquid topping. As a huge fan of sundaes, I was EXTREMELY excited.

I promptly began looking for the core flavors when I went grocery shopping (nearly every day), but neither Fiesta, H-E-B, Kroger, or Randall's had them in stock. At one point, I put out an APB on my professional Facebook page for the ice cream but failed to get a response. I guess people were too busy following coverage of the Ukrainian crisis or some sports tournament. #priorities?

Then, suddenly, the "new" core flavors appeared this month in the Buffalo Speedway H-E-B. Or, more accurately, "disappeared."

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Supper To Go From Miss Saigon Cafe

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Blink and you'll miss Miss Saigon Cafe.

Even though I spent five years at Rice getting my graduate degree, I didn't visit Miss Saigon Cafe in the Village until long after I had finished my studies. I think I subconsciously avoided the restaurant because Miss Saigon is the Broadway musical I love to hate. Or actually, mostly hate. (That helicopter scene? Yikes.)

However, because I've been spending more time than I usually do in Rice Village lately, I finally ambled over to Miss Saigon Cafe for some takeout supper one day after a rather intense afternoon of composing elegant scholarly prose watching YouTube cat videos at Salento.

I was and am sort of sick of pho. (There -- I said it! Who's with me?!?) I was more interested in trying one of Miss Saigon's rice and protein dishes. From this admittedly rather broad category of dishes, I was actually able to whittle down my choices to either the caramelized ginger chicken or the stuffed tofu. I ultimately decided on the latter because, while I have mastered making many poultry entrées, I am not so skilled at stuffing tofu.

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Three Happy Cows Yogurt Returns to Houston Market

Categories: Grocery Guide

Photos by Molly Dunn
Three Happy Cows yogurt is back!
Happy cows from California not only make great cheese, they also make great milk, and that milk is used to make delicious, fresh and creamy yogurt in Dallas. Several months ago, the Dallas-based Greek and drinkable-yogurt company Three Happy Cows ceased production after a fire destroyed the yogurt plant.

But the company has returned to the Texas market, more specifically in Houston at Central Market and Sprouts. The packaging on the outside of the yogurt is most certainly different from its original look, but the yogurt on the inside is still ridiculously thick and creamy -- something greatly appreciated by those who don't like the watery layer on top of most yogurts.

I spotted the yogurt cups, with an illustration of three cows happily riding on a tandem bicycle, in Central Market and decided to try a few of the flavors: blueberry, vanilla bean and caramel (the strawberry was sold out). While I'm not sure what makes these cows so "happy," I most certainly was happy with the first bite, and the second, and the third ...

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Chips and Salsa That Are Worth Their Salt

Categories: Grocery Guide

Photos by John Kiely
These tortilla chips and salsa are a cut above the rest in the store.

We're so used to getting tortilla chips and salsa before every meal at a Tex-Mex restaurant that my family was taken slightly aback during a recent visit to San Antonio Tex-Mex bastion Blanco's when none appeared on the table. What we got instead were classic plates of huevos rancheros with golden fried potatoes and beans for just over $4.00, which reminded us that chips and salsa aren't free, just "complimentary".

Of course, chips and salsa for a snack or a party isn't free at all, and what we get for our money doesn't approach the just-fried warm tortilla chips and freshly-made salsa from a restaurant. I'd given up looking for great store-bought versions, and had been satisfied with Tostito's chips and salsa, which are pretty good for mass-market stuff.

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Plucky Eating: Buffalo Wing Bar at Kroger

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Kroger's Buffalo Wing Bar

I'm a latecomer to the world of buffalo wings. I didn't grow up eating them (in fact, there was a definite period in my youth during which I thought some sort of winged buffalo creature actually existed), and my initial wing experiences in early adulthood were unfortunately at lackluster chain restaurants.

My appreciation for buffalo wings has grown considerably in the last few years, thanks largely to my husband, whose love of wings and intrepid cooking skills have led to the creation of some delicious inventively sauced and spiced wings.

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Top 5 Weird Yogurt Flavors

Photo by Bob Page
Our choice in yogurt flavors is very limited in the U.S. Not.

I will never understand America's obsession with yogurt; it just isn't my thing. (Frozen yogurt, on the other hand, is a product I can definitely get behind.) And the diversity in yogurt flavors actually intensifies my lack of interest. These days, it seems as if manufacturers are in some sort of odd competition to produce the strangest flavors, like these top five:

5. Stonyfield "Yotoddler": Banana & Pumpkin. I get that you're supposed to start your kids on vegetables early so they get used to having them as part of their diet. But why do pumpkin and banana need to come in yogurt form when they're both available in pureed form in jars? Fail.

4. Dannon Classics: Coffee. This flavor, I imagine, is a relic of the early 2000s, when the food industry started producing coffee versions of everything (the release of coffee Coca-Cola was the nadir of this era). Today, I'm pretty sure people look to Starbucks, not Dannon, when they need a sweet coffee and/or caffeine fix.

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I Mourn These Top 5 Discontinued Cookies

Photo by theimpulsivebuy
Chips Ahoy Fudge Bites

In a world in which we have shelf space for Berry Burst Oreos, it's a mystery to me why any decent-tasting cookie is discontinued. I guess it's a fact of life that some of the most delicious baked goods go the way of all flesh while far crappier ones enjoy an interminable existence. Sigh. Here are five discontinued cookies I miss dearly:

5. Apple Newtons. Nabisco kept the other fruit-flavored Newtons (raspberry, strawberry). Why single out the admirable apple variety for demolition? And please don't pretend that apple cinnamon spice Newton is the same thing. I used to love warming these up in the microwave and eating them with vanilla ice cream.

4. Chips Ahoy Fudge Bites. Although Fudge Bites were clearly labeled "Limited Edition," I nevertheless hoped Chips Ahoy would consider making them a permanent member of their cookie family. Their simple design (a chocolate chip cookie kissed with a dollop of soft fudge) had broad appeal, and their taste was sufficiently decadent to make you feel as if you were eating a (almost) gourmet confection.

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Battle Refrigerated Biscuit Dough: Pillsbury vs. Store Brand

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Who Is Flakier????

Whose refrigerated biscuit dough brings all the boys to the yard?

This intrepid food journalist decided to find out by conducting a comprehensive evaluation taste-testing of two brands side by side. The contenders: Pillsbury and H-E-B store brand "Hill Country Fare."

Okay, a little more background. Although I prefer making biscuits from scratch, I knew I would not have time later this week to make a carbohydrate companion to my hearty Irish stew (see upcoming post) all in one afternoon, so in preparation I decided to consider my pre-made refrigerated-dough options.

Readers of this blog may have noticed I have given favorable reviews to Pillsbury products and thus may be unfairly biased.

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