Sunday, July 31, 2016

Critique: A tale of two beef dogs!

In this post, I will be comparing two 'beef' hot dog wieners; one made by Oscar Meyer labeled as 'Premium beef' and another called 'Jumbo' by Fairgrounds, a product that is distributed expressly for the Save A Lot chain of grocery stores.

Before getting to any remarks about taste, I wanted to inspect the ingredient labels closely on both. Right from the get go, I saw that both had very similar lists of ingredients....

Fairgrounds Ingredients: Beef, water, dextrose, modified food starch, corn syrup, contain 2% or less of salt, sodium lactate, flavorings, sodium phosphates, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrate. Additionally, each link weighed in at 50 grams and give up about 150 calories when consumed.

Oscar Meyer Ingredients: Beef, water, corn syrup, contains less than 2% salt, potassium lactate, dextrose, sodium phosphates, sodium diacetate, flavor, ascorbic acid (vitamin c), extracts of paprika, sodium nitrate. One link weighed in at 42 grams and had about 130 calories.

From a cost analysis standpoint;

Fairground $3.99 for 8 dogs 400 grams/pkg at about .26 cents per ounce cost
Oscar Meyer $4.99 for 10 dogs 420 grams/pkg at about .32 cents per ounce cost
Fairgrounds on the left

Based on the above, I wondered why anyone would buy the Oscar Meyer brand when the other guy gives you a bit more meat at a significantly cheaper cost? Let's move now to the all important appearance and taste tests....

Fairgrounds on left

OK, if you were wondering where that extra dollar went, then just get a gander at both dogs in a side by side comparison. To my way of thinking, the OM dog looked to be a bit darker and when you cut it to see the 'grain', it looked to be more meaty if that is even a term.

Rather surprisingly, both tasted about the same to me...

So, from an appearance perspective, I like the Oscar Meyer dogs and would buy them if serving something like wieners on a toothpick. But, for everyday, the Fairgrounds product would do nicely.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What ever happened to a hamburger and fries at McDonalds?

There was a time, not long ago, when My lunch was typically from a fast food emporium like McDonald's. That was then. Nowadays, I love to make a salad with whatever ingredients I happen to have lying around. This meal contained chopped zucchini, home grown tomatoes, romaine and chicken strips! Not too shabby...

Friday, July 15, 2016

A last visit to Spurt Bagnati's! Chapter One.

Somewhere in the southwest area of the US is a small restaurant that goes by the name Spurt Bagnati's . A rather cryptic name that peaked my interest, so I took a moment to research it on the net. Turned out the name was apparently derived from the Corsican language and meant 'wet armpits'. A rather strange way to describe a steak house, one would think!

I had been on my way to the mecca that is also known the locals as Branson Missouri, and was making good time when I made the 'mistake' of driving thorough a town that had featured such a strange sounding eatery. As I was hungry and it was close to the noon hour, I decided to pull in to dine, (even as a sense of danger tingled my nerves). Where were the customers? I wondered as I surveyed the parking lot. The establishment had a blood red sign that blinked OPEN off and on in a random fashion, so that was encouraging. Somewhat strangely, it acted as though it was shorting out. Squinting through the glare of the noon day sun, I found it hard to get a really good visual fix as the whole building seems to shimmer a bit in and out of focus. Heat waves, I thought before noticing it was actually a rather cool day, but proceeded to enter the lot anyway.

I swiftly pulled into a parking spot that was close to the front door. I turned off the ignition, exited my car and approached to double doors that were the only point of entry. As I tugged on the handle, the door frame made a sort of groaning and rasping sound. With more effort, I was just able to pry it open enough to enter. CLANG! Like a rusty trap snapping shut, that door closed behind me in a way that made me wonder if it would ever open again. Shrugging, I boldly then stepped into a waking nightmare....

I'm not sure if it was the weird visuals or the strange smells that garnered my attention first. It was a dead heat, as I viewed a small tweedy looking bar, surrounded on either side by tables that also seemed a bit dingy with age and neglect. Then there was that smell! I could only describe it as something I had experienced as a youth walking into the gym locker room for the very first time. A heavy astringent chlorine type smell assailed my nose, that tried to mask body odor rather unsuccessfully. Almost at once, my sense of danger had ratcheted itself up a few notches, yet I found I couldn't turn around and leave. That was mostly due to the dead eye stares I was getting from the bartender and what I took to be a cook who hovered just behind her. She had on a drab sort of green outfit that seemed to compliment the rest of the moldy establishment a strangely complimentary manner. The cook was a man of very tall stature who wore a soiled apron that loudly advertised every thing he might have made for the past week. Across the front was large bold and black words that said 'I'LL COOK IT IF YOU'LL EAT IT! OK, I thought rapidly to myself, if I turned around now, I'd look like a wimp! Sighing inwardly, I walked over to a nearby table and sat myself down.

Footsteps from behind me announced the arrival of the bartender (or server or whatever she was). 'Hi! My name's Barbara', she announced and she laid down a menu that had peeling edges. 'I'll be your server. You just take your time and I'll be right back. Oh, and we have a special today on all you can eat ribs.' As she said the word ribs, there was a loud whacking sound that came from the kitchen. And was that laughter, I heard? I wasn't quite sure. 

'Thanks.' I offered lamely, 'but I think I'll just check out the menu first.' Barbara frowned a little and then abruptly turned and marched off towards the kitchen.

I opened the menu and noticed with some distress that the pages stuck a bit and, after I spread it out I couldn't help but smile. There was only one item offered, ribs for $7.99. Oh, and it was on special, every day! Everything else had been crossed out with a black marker with the exception of coffee and Pepsi. Hmm. I thought to myself. Should I bolt out the door now or actually give their ribs a try?

'Oh miss', I yelled loudly. 'I think I'll have have those ribs and a Pepsi.' 'Good choice', someone yelled from behind the bar. Then, more muffled laughter. The whacking sound intensified noticeably....

Ten minutes later, here came Barbara holding a large try. She placed a plate down in front of me followed quickly by a glass of soda. 'Thanks!' I offered meekly as I accepted a rolled knife and fork. As I watched her leave, there was a slight movement that just caught my eye. It came from the plate...

[end chapter one]

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Candidate forum set in Rockaway Beach!

According to the Wednesday, July 13 edition of the Taney County Times, area residents of Taney County will have an opportunity to view and hear from local government hopefuls. The date this will happen will be Monday, July 18 and the location will be the Leonard Steven's Community Center located in Rockaway Beach MO next to the City Hall. The forum begins at 7PM with brief speeches from most of the candidates. Attendees will also have a chance to ask questions that might aid them in choosing who they will vote for on the August 2nd election. Tim Church of KRZK radio will act as the moderator. Additional information can be obtained from city Hall at (417) 561-4424.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pillsbury and their not so hot cinnamon rolls? Wrong!

Recently I made an impulse purchase of Pillsbury Flaky Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel icing. I did this to see if I could possibly push my incipient diabetes over the top....

Whenever I purchase something I haven't tried before, I often like to go to their site to see what others thought about that product. Imagine my surprise when review after review (something like 30 of them), were all one stared! Wow! I've never seen one product get some many bad reviews. My curiosity was peaked to say the least. Here are a few of the reviews;

'These are getting to be my least favorite cinnamon rolls, when you open the package the cinnamon goes everywhere, the rolls are not cut evenly, did not bake properly because of the inconsistency in the sizes of the rolls and never enough icing. I will not get these ever again.'

'Had these this am. Can didn't even pop when opened. And they didn't bake properly, no surprise there. Lots of oil running out of them after baking.... Bought at Walmart, could they have been frozen?'

'It's a huge company and they don't care if some of us miss the hot caramel rolls right out of the oven. Cinnabon will never be as good... so I don't buy these anymore and I guess that keeps my weight down if nothing else. So sad when a good thing is over.'

To be fair, there were some better to even good reviews, but they were relatively few. I wondered. Could they really be as bad as some of these people said? I determined to make them the following morning and find out....

Monday, July 11, 2016

Why do bell peppers cost so darn much?

Uh, kinda of small for .89 cents!
Forsyth MO – It's mid July 2016 and while I was visiting a local grocery store in Forsyth Missouri I had listed bell peppers on my shopping list as an item to purchase. I wanted to prepare a stuffed bell pepper recipe that I also thought would be fun to post that on one of my blogs!

It being mid summer and all, I figured that about a a lot of fresh produce would be hitting seasonal lows at my area stores. Unfortunately, that was not the case with the peppers. The green peppers I saw on that date were really minuscule and were selling for .89 cents each! Whoa! I thought. Was this another example of the California drought disaster? A quick inquiry on the all knowing internet did not yield me any good clues. As a matter of fact, a review of past pepper purchases I made over the last year showed that prices, if anything, had averaged higher in price per green pepper! Even back in 2009, I saw records that indicated I had paid .69 cents for one! WTF? I wondered. More research was needed here, for sure!

One thing appeared certain and that was that prices could be affected by weather related problems in the regions where they are grown as well as by the price of gasoline. Still, I felt like I needed to investigate a little further. Bad weather in some parts of the northern hemisphere were certainly a factor, as I discovered in this article in The Packer. Commodities availability for bell peppers was cited as 'fairly low' with poor harvests cited as one reason. See the most recent reports here.

A two days later, I ventured back to the same store to see if I could snag the Produce Mgr and perhaps gain some additional insights from him. Lucky for me, I did run into the manager and he informed me that the wholesaler that they buy from got a bee in his bonnet to buy from locally grown sources. oh oh, I thought. The thing is, the peppers grown in Missouri and Arkansas don't even hold a candle to those that arrive from Texas and Mexico... yet we pay the same prices for what amounts to an inferior product! So, I plan to avoid buying any more of these guys until the fall when our southern supplies will once again flow!

A simple stuffed pepper!

Every so often, I get a hankering for a good old fashioned stuffed bell pepper. And, as it was the summertime, I had hoped that the peppers would be more affordable! That turned out not to be the case! No matter, here is my personal take on making a meal of one vis a vie the convection oven route!

I'll start with the following simple ingredients:

Ingredients                                                         Cost

¼ lb ground beef, browned                                 .68 (the cost of beef is headed down)
1 large bell pepper, cored                                    .89 (see inflated cost post)
¼ cup cooked rice                                               .35 (white instant)
2 tbsp of shredded cheddar cheese                     .10
1/4  8 oz can of tomato sauce                              .15
salt and pepper to taste ---
                                                              Total   $2.17        Calories 300 for 1/2 serving

Preparation: The peppers gets its top cut off and then is gutted of all seeds under cold running water. I then brown the hamburger in a small frying pan and then drain off the excess grease. Next, I will add in the cooked rice, one tbsp of shredded cheese and half the tomato sauce into a mixing bowl. Using a fork, I will then mix the ingredients up while also seasoning lightly with the a dash of salt and pepper. The bell pepper will then be placed in a small casserole dish where I will then add the mixture. Lastly, I will sprinkle on a bit more cheese after first pouring the rest of the can over the pepper. See? Easy greasy!

The casserole dish with the pepper then goes into a preheated convection oven set at 350ยบF for about 25 minutes or until done! This is a very simple (and pretty cheap) meal to throw together, and is something I promise everyone will enjoy!

Note to self: Make sure to boil the pepper in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes prior to stuffing. I also plan to do a Mexican version of this soon...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

So, you can go this way.... for a while! Opps! No, you can't!

Forsyth MO. – That government owned gate that sits atop Baker Street hill and which leads down in the the federally owned River Run Park is once again open! But wait! It'll be open for just three weeks or until about the middle part of July when the Corps of Engineers have said they will once again lock it up due to 'construction' concerns. That's what I was told by a person that called them up on the phone... only he was lied to as they never did unlock that fk'ing gate. Perhaps the 'construction project' had been moved ahead, I wondered.

But, just what sort of construction would require the closing of a 300 foot segment of a county road that many residents of the Valley View Village community use to get to both the park and Highway 76 on their way to and from work? Was the entire park also to be closed?

That thought brought all sorts of questions to mind. You see, the trouble is that some agencies such as the Corps seems to have trouble corresponding to the common people on a regular basis, in my opinion. I did check their site and discovered that they were still taking reservations all the way out into August! So, I was forced to assume that the park wouldn't be closed, just that short segment of street.

Wait! Maybe it had something to do with the Powersite Sewer Project. After all, they will be digging up the entire area for the installation of a new sewer. No, I called and they said that they too were trying to have access to the same road segment. Well, I thought, what about the bridge the runs over Bull Shoals? I had read somewhere that it was going to be replaced, with work starting just about this time. Nope, a call to MoDot put that idea to rest also.   So, the mystery deepens....

Friday, July 8, 2016

Beef prices moderating in 2016!

Beef lovers, your time of suffering—and paying through the nose for burgers, steaks, and roasts appears to be coming to an end. Beef prices, which have been increasing for years, recently hitting rates high enough to inspire outbreaks of steak thefts at supermarkets and even the return of cattle rustling, are finally coming down to earth.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices for most beef products dropped 2% from December 2015 to January 2016, and year-over-year prices for ground beef, chuck roast, and most cuts of steak are down 6% to 11%.

It’s quite a turnaround, given that beef prices have been climbing steadily since 2010. The average price of uncooked ground beef, for instance, appears to have peaked last February, at a price of $4.71 a pound. It has crept downward since then, dipping to $4.49 at the end of 2015 and $4.39 in January 2016. The last time prices were this cheap was August 2014. Let us hope that this trend continues...

Egg prices back to normal!

As is evident in the chart above, egg prices have fully recovered from the disaster that was 2015 when millions of chickens were culled due to an avian flu outbreak! In June 2016, a dozen eggs could be had for .79 cents at a local grocery store in Forsyth Missouri.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

What's with the price of beer?

The price of a good brew has gone up all over the nation. And OK. I get it. There was a major crop failure of the hops crops in Bavaria two years ago. This represented a major short fall as this state in Germany provides about 35% of the world's supply of this most important beer ingredient.

Then, there was the brutal summer in Russia and the ongoing drought in China that brought down the global supply of grains. Yet another important ingredient of beer.

Finally, there is the greediness factor. When a company like Anheuser-Busch InBev who controls over 48% of the beer market, recent price increases of their cheaper beers to bring them more in line with their more expensive beers were sure to make an impact. And the real crapper is that once prices do go up, it's rare to ever see them drop down again. Even when the supplies of the raw materials increase to more normal levels!

In my mind, however, that did not excuse a local bar, aka the Mug from increasing the price they charge for a glass of beer 25%!! I feel like that is a sure sign of price gouging at a time of flat wages and high unemployment going on in the same area. Well, maybe it's time for me to switch to wine!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Critique: Smart One's Three Cheese Ziti Marinara!

Not true!
Another title might be, 'How the Smart Ones people destroyed what was a good meal!' There were lots of comments pertaining the manner in which the Weight Watcher company 'improved' this offering which I had snagged on sale at $2. According to Heinz, the company that makes the Smart Ones product line, the meal was described as 'ziti pasta in a delicious marinara sauce topped with mozzarella, Monterrey jack and Parmesan cheeses.' And gee, that picture on the package did look sooo yummy, so I figured what the heck....ding ding, my net worth dropped two dolingos.

After arriving home, I was faced with a choice of eating either a baloney sandwich or the Ziti Marinara offering, I elected to do the latter. What a surprise! Ziti pasta is the same type of noodle you see on a box of cheese and mac. So, of course, I already liked that ingredient. And those three cheeses didn't hurt. Finally, at only 280 calories, I have enough room in my dinner budget for a small salad! So, what was not to like?

Preparation was a simple deal of peeling back a corner of the film, nuking for three, stirring and then nuke for another minute. Simple directions for a simple man like myself. I made this meal and had plenty of time to throw together a simple romaine lettuce salad. (I really adore meals that all come together within just a few minutes. It's a lazy guy sort of thing).

Now, I had to admit that the actual picture of this meal did not quite match what I had observed on the package. (Still, it was a far cry better than what you'd see from a stomach cam)! The noodles were Al Dente (firm) and so was quite palatable. To my happy surprise, this meal was pretty darn good overall! I also felt that the sauce was quite good, but admit that I wondered what the 'old recipe' tasted like. The package I had purchased gave me no hint of what version this recipe was... I assumed it to be the new one, though.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Swimming in the smoke!

This lyrical line from Linkin Park's song 'Burning in the Skies' somewhat sums up my feelings as we come round the bend in what was currently the middle of 2016.

Americans have been ever so expertly finessed by Obama and friends. We are now irrevocably divided into two rival camps of thought and beliefs. The last time our Nation suffered in this manner, we were about to enter into a great Civil War. A time of death where millions of brave young men perished trying to prove their side was more 'right'. They burned their bridges freely and even to this day, emotions run deep.

Now, in 2016, we will soon embark to elect a new leader, and our choices are a bit slim. Neither candidate is trusted and one was currently embroiled in an FBI investigation. The stink coming out of Washington has never been stronger. It seems no one has the courage to clean out the rotting garbage that litters congress in the forms of men and women. All across the country lies a pall of mutual distrust and bad feelings. It's gotten so bad, that no matter who gets elected, there will likely be riots in the streets. If it's Trump, the rioters will likely be the anarchists unleashed by people like Soros. If Hillary wins, it may well be the average hard working American who will have reached a tipping point and who fear the complete destruction of a Republic..... either way, we all lose.

The fourth of July has been and continues to be a celebration of the courageous and iron-willed men and women who were labeled criminals by the authorities of their time. But, whose perseverance paid Americans the incredible gift of freedom. And, in 2016, we still owe them and all the millions who have died since, in the service and maintenance of that most precious gift.