Living well on a budget, without being truly cheap.

Chip Review: Kroger Kettle Cooked Reuben Sandwich Potato Chips

By Mike Thayer

Kroger Kettle Cooked Reuben Sandwich Potato Chips
Do they really mimic a Reuben?

This trend into trying to make chips imitate the flavors of iconic foods intrigues me.  Chip makers have now gone way beyond flavor combinations like Mesquite BBQ, sour cream & onion, sea salt & vinegar, cheddar or jalapeno offerings...  Screw the one or two added flavor concept, chip makers are going for entire sandwich and entree' flavors!

I recently did a review on such an offering, you can read that review here: Chip Review: Private Selection Chicken Tikka Masala Ripple-Cut Kettle Chips

Those chips were quite tasty.

So with bigger flavor profiles in mind, today I'm reviewing Kroger's Kettle Cooked Reuben Sandwich Potato Chips.

A Reuben sandwich isn't for everybody but it is an American deli classic featuring corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, topped with Russian dressing and served on grilled rye bread.  It's a tangy sandwich dance in the mouth!

Kroger does a nice job of mimicking Reuben flavors, these are definitely tangy chips!  Up front right away in that chip bite you get the twang of sauerkraut notes.  That fades into subtle spices that make corn beef, corn beef and it's followed by the tomato and spice presence of Russian dressing.  If these chips were served on the side of an actual Reuben sandwich, you would be a very happy camper.  And these are kettle chips, so you've got the crunch factor accentuating all those great Reuben flavors.

Costing me just $1.99 for an 8 ounce bag of snack heaven, I'm giving Kroger Kettle Cooked Reuben Sandwich Potato Chips 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  My only knock on these chips is I wish they came in the wavy cut.  The regular cut is fine, you get a nice kettle crunch, but the wavy cut is just that much better in the crunch department. Very reasonably priced, they're wallet friendly and an awesome change of pace chip from the ordinary, the sour cream & onion, the sea salt & vinegar, cheddar or jalapeno flavored kettle chips.  Kick things up a notch with a Reuben!

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

 


Chip Review: Private Selection Chicken Tikka Masala Ripple-Cut Kettle Chips

By Mike Thayer

Private Selection Chicken Masala Ripple-Cut Kettle Chips
These are no ordinary chips

I love kettle chips, ripple cut kettle chips are even better which seems to pack more of that kettle flavor than regular cut chips.

So when in the chip aisle yesterday and looking for something a little different than your ordinary kettle chip, sea salt flavored or cheese variety, I happened upon a Chicken Tikka Masala flavored chip.

"Really?"  I thought to myself, "A chip flavored like an iconic Indian dish?"

I had to try these.

Private Selection® if you didn't already know, is Kroger's "upscale" store brand, offering unique products and unexpected flavors, an appeal to the gourmet palate.  Well they certainly hit the unexpected flavor category with Chicken Tikka Masala flavored chips!

Not knowing what to expect with that first chip bite, I was pleasantly surprised.  First you get that strong crunch you're looking for in a kettle chip, but then you get hit with the tomato and fragrant spices of the classic curry dish, it's not subtle, in a good way.  No dip is necessary with these chips, and if you feel the need, just a straight sour cream does the trick as these chips pack SO much flavor.

Costing me $2.99 for an 8 ounce bag, I'm giving Private Selection Tikka Masala Ripple-Cut Kettle Chips 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It truly is a unique chip, packs a boat load of Tikka Masala flavor and is worthy of a repeat buy.  Reasonably priced, if you're looking for something different in a chip, you've GOT to try these.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...


Product Review: Tramontina 6 piece stackable sauce pans

By Mike Thayer

Tramontina 6 piece stackable sauce pans
High quality, value priced

Down to my last sauce pan and the Teflon coating wearing thin, I was need of some new pans, like yesterday... 

If you like to cook, you need to have some reliable cookware, something that will last and can hold up to regular day-to-day use.  Buying the el cheapo pans (Mainstays) at Walmart for $7 - $9 a pop and no lid just doesn't cut it.  That's actually what I'm replacing, Mainstays sauce pans, which lasted me maybe 4 years with regular use.  Lesson learned.

I considered stainless steel saucepans, but since I'm not going to be searing anything in these pans - they're sauce pans not skillets after all - they'll be used for soups, stews, gravies, pastas, making mashed potatoes and the like, I don't need to apply high searing heat to brown something in these pans, that's what skillets are for.  And the convenience of easy clean Teflon came into play.

Stackable Sauce Pans
Stackable Sauce Pans, a HUGE plus in a small kitchen

I did some shopping online, I looked at Target and Kohl's, but I found what I was looking for at Sam's Club.

I bought a Tramontina 6 piece stackable sauce pan set for $29.99.  BARGAIN!  I became familiar with this brand when doing some saucepan homework online.

Not only do I get to take advantage of the easy to cook with and easy to clean Teflon surface, this pan set stacks! Not all pan sets lend themselves to easy stacking by inverting the lid, this set does, which comes in handy in a galley style kitchen with limited cabinet space.  Another plus, this easy clean Teflon surface is supposedly metal utensil safe, but I'm not even going to test that.  Using rubber, silicone and/or wood/bamboo utensils extends the life of any pan.  And here's a tip:  Although this set is dishwasher safe, don't do it.  I don't care what kind of pan set you buy, routinely cleaning them in the dishwasher ruins the finish.  Hand wash your pans and do NOT use any abrasive scrubbing pads!  You'll prematurely scratch the finish and wear the Teflon coating thin.  Additional features:  The glass lids are tempered and the pans are oven safe up to 350 degrees.

Tramontina Pans
Melting some butter for a bechamel sauce

I'm giving the Tramontina 6 piece stackable sauce pan set 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  I was looking for high-quality cookware that is value-priced and I found it in Tramontina Cookware.  The set met my budget (it actually came in way under) and totally serves my cooking needs.  I would say this is a repeat buy, but I won't have to, not for quite a few years!  I won't be trashing any of these pans as I did so soon with Walmart's Mainstay pans.  The only knock I have is the set doesn't come in black, I 'had' to settle for metallic blue.  Obviously not a deal breaker.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...


Mike's Balsamic Chicken & Carrots

By Mike Thayer

Here is a nice meal featuring balsamic vinegar that's easy to prepare and tastes delicious, a really nice change of pace kind of meal.   The marinade can be used no matter the method of cooking, be that pan seared, crock pot, or grilling.

Mike's Balsamic Chicken & Carrots

Ingredients:

  • Two chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • One clove garlic, minced
  • One packet of artificial sugar
  • The juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Salt and pepper

For the carrots

  • 5 - 7 baby carrots, Julienne cuts (like match sticks)
  • One Tablespoon olive oil
  • A drizzle of balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Place the chicken breasts into a large zip lock bag or Tuperware container.  In a small bowl, mix together all the remaining ingredients and pour over the chicken.  Seal the bag/container and refrigerate for at least one hour, four hours is better, 10-12 hours is fantastic.  When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and heat up an oven safe pan over medium heat on the stove, coat it with a tablespoon of olive oil and put that marinated chicken in.   Brown the chicken on the presentation side, about five minutes.  Flip the chicken and put the pan in the oven to finish cooking it, about 25 - 30 minutes.     With about five minutes remaining on your timer, heat up a small saute pan over medium heat, saute the carrots in the olive oil for about 2-3 minutes.  Hit them with the salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar and saute for another two minutes.  Serve with the gorgeous chicken you just pulled out of the oven.

It's another dose of YUM!

Related:  Poultry recipes on Grilling Good Eats!


Food Review: Member's Mark Chicken Tortilla Soup

By Mike Thayer

Member's Mark Chicken Tortilla Soup
Super convenient ready to heat and eat soup

When you always seem to be on the go and especially during the winter months when the chilly weather just zaps the energy out of you, it's always good to have something in the fridge ready to heat and eat.

So on a busy Thursday work day and realizing I didn't prep anything for lunch, I reached for some Member's Mark Chicken Tortilla Soup.   

Here's the description from the packaging, Member's Mark hits all the notes for a really nice soup:  Chicken, black beans, roasted corn, colorful bell peppers and crushed tortilla chips, slow simmered in a handcrafted chicken stock and vine-ripened tomatoes, finished with a touch of lime and Chipotle sauce.

Prepared in the microwave per the package instructions, it's a thick soup with layers of flavor, loaded with strips of chicken and veggies.  Topped with crispy tortilla chips, a bit of sour cream and a squeeze of lime, the soup was very satisfying and a perfect, super convenient meal on this day.  Bonus, after serving up a bowl, all I had to do was put the lid back on the plastic container it came in and stick it back in the fridge.  Convenient to heat, convenient to eat, convenient to store!

Member's Mark Chicken Tortilla Soup
Member's Mark serving suggestion

Good on it's own but even better doctored up (wish I would have had some shredded cheddar cheese on hand), I'm giving Member's Mark Chicken Tortilla Soup 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  Reasonably priced at $7.88 for two, 32 ounce containers of soup, it's wallet friendly, super convenient, quite tasty and is a repeat buy.  I'm looking forward to sampling other Member's Mark soups, the Loaded Baked Potato is next!  Shout out to Cindy, who brought this soup to my attention and literally, brought me this soup!

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...


Food Review: Subway's Baja Steak & Cheese Sandwich

By Mike Thayer

Subway Baja Steak & Cheese Sandwich
A Subway Sandwich Combo to go

OK, I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired of the never-ending Subway TV commercials and their "Eat Fresh Refresh" new menu campaign.  Featuring sports stars, the commercials were mildly entertaining at first, but it's now overkill.  Watch a football game and you'll get pummeled with the same Subway commercial over and over again and you're able to recite the lines by half time.

Subway is one of my least favorite sandwich shops, their quality has gone downhill in recent years and in fact they finished second to last in my "Who has the best Sub Sandwich" challenge a few years back and to be honest, I don't think I've eaten there since.  You can read that review here.  Their TV commercials didn't entice me at first - the "Eat Fresh Refresh" campaign was unveiled last fall - but tired of hearing Charles Barkley boast up Subway's  Baja Steak & Cheese sandwich, well I finally decided to give Subway another try.

Subway Baja Steak & Cheese
Toasted

Here's the description from the Subway website:  Spicy, cheesy, smoky — this one’s got it all. NEW Steak meets NEW Pepper Jack Cheese, with green peppers, red onions, and NEW Baja Chipotle Sauce on Artisan Italian Bread. Try not to fall head over heels.

I ordered a 6 inch sandwich on white, toasted.  I didn't get anything extra on the sandwich either, I just wanted to check out the base flavors for this review.  If it's got a good foundation, it would be worth ordering again and perhaps then, build on good base flavors.

In taking that first bite, I was pleasantly surprised. This is the best sandwich I've had from Subway in a very long time and I walked into the shop with low expectations considering they were the 8th best sandwich out of 9 sub shops reviewed in my neck of the woods a few years back.  So faced with some lost market share in the sub market - growth of competitors like Jersey Mike's and Firehouse Subs - Subway seems to have upped their game.

Baja Steak & Cheese
You can't see the Baja Chipolte sauce in this lid flip pic, but it's there, underneath that tender, nicely seasoned beef

My sandwich had a nice portion of steak, it was tender, juicy and seasoned well.  Combined with a generous amount of green pepper, red onion and topped with that pepper jack cheese made for a very nice bite.  But what kicks this sandwich up a notch is that Baja Chipolte Sauce, a nice balance of creamy, smoky spice and the maker of my sandwich didn't hold anything back in applying it.

Costing me $10.73 for the sandwich, chip and drink combo, I'm giving the Subway Baja Steak & Jack 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  They've improved their menu but also raised their prices, but that's OK because I'm willing to pay a little extra for a better sandwich.  I didn't go back to Subway for such a long time because their cold cut sandwich was sub-par (pun intended) and although a wallet friendly eat, the cold cuts weren't the real deal, with the ham, salami and bologna all turkey based, as in, lacking real and authentic flavor. But I'll make a return visit now, the Baja Steak & Jack is quite tasty with quality ingredients and is worthy of a repeat buy.  And hmmm... That Subway marketing pummel eventually worked..  Charles Barkley finally wore me down...  The Baja was worth it.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related:  Who makes the best sub sandwich? They are listed here from worst to first


The Arby's Brisket Bacon 'n Beef Dip sandwich is tasty, but brisket is lacking

By Mike Thayer

Arby's Brisket Bacon 'n Beef Dip Sandwich
It's a piled high and smells wonderful sandwich

I'm always looking at what kind of new items are appearing on fast food/fast casual menus.  Today I'm checking out the limited time offering of a Brisket Bacon 'n Beef Dip Sandwich from Arby's.  I LOVE brisket and combining that with roast beef and au jus?  That sounds rather tasty!

Here's the description of the Brisket Bacon 'n Beef Dip from the Arby's website:  Sliced smoked beef brisket and roast beef with melted Swiss cheese, and bacon on a toasted sub roll. Served with a side of au jus for dipping.

20220112_144659
Not quite bacon in every bite and typical, sloppy fast food prep

The aromas wafting from the bag on the drive home were enticing.  The meats and the seasoned curly fries were teasing my nose!  The temptation to reach in the bag and grab a few curly fries was almost, yes, almost insurmountable.

In unwrapping the sandwich when I got home, those aromas were intensified.  The beef looked piled high and there was plenty of au jus for dipping.  I couldn't wait to take that first bite. 

Arby's skimpy on brisket
Where's the smoked brisket?

It was a delicious bite, but note that 'Brisket' is the first meat listed in the name of this sandwich.  Arby's went a bit skimpy on this.  For the most part this was a roast beef sandwich with three slices of bacon on it.  Don't get me wrong, the roast beef was tender, seasoned well and nicely portioned, but make no mistake the smoked brisket was second fiddle in amount on this sandwich.  Heck, there was more bacon than brisket in this sandwich so make it third fiddle!  And as you can see Arby's is guilty of typical, sloppy fast food preparation, along with the skimpy sliced brisket portion (more like a few chunky remnants), the cheese wasn't exactly melted and came broken apart as in a forgetful afterthought or "Oh Shit" moment by the preparer.  Oh, well, moving on, the bacon was crisp, the roll was warm and toasty and the au jus was spot on.  For the record, the bites where I got some brisket were the best...

Arby's Sandwich
Tasty, but not big or bold in brisket flavor

Costing me almost $12.56 for a medium Arby's Brisket Bacon 'n Beef Dip Sandwich Combo (with seasoned curly fries and a drink), this sandwich tasted good, but it comes up well short on the brisket and is NOT worth the price.  The potential for this sandwich is there, but the care in putting it all together right is not.  Perhaps you'll have a better brisket sandwich experience at your neighborhood Arby's, but I'm giving this sandwich just 3 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars, it is NOT worthy of a repeat buy, especially at that price!  Did I mention the skimpy portion of brisket you get?

3 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...


Food Review: Tattooed Chef Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

By Mike Thayer

Tatooed Chef Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
Good looking packaging

Always looking for ways to minimize my carb intake while also trying to maintain some variety in my daily diet, I came across this "Cauliflower Mac & Cheese" dish made by the Tattooed Chef in Sam's Club last week.

The packaging is quite appealing, I mean, who doesn't like Mac & Cheese, right?!  And with 7 grams of protein and just 10 carbs, plus being gluten free, this stuff would seem to be almost a guilt free cheesy pleasure.

My expectations going in were high, I'm thinking, "What was Tattooed Chef able to do with the cauliflower to make it come off as pasta and legitimize calling it a Mac & Cheese?"

Tattooed Chef Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
How does this transform into looking like the packaging pic? It doesn't.

Epic Fail:  Tattooed Chef has no business calling this a "Mac & Cheese."  This is nothing more than cauliflower with cheese, bread crumbs and a bit of seasoning.  The "Mac & Cheese" label is pure marketing, nothing but and it worked, because I bought a package thinking I would be getting something more than just a run-of-the-mill cheesy cauliflower side dish.  Instead of putting "Contains no pasta" in smaller print on the packaging, Tattooed Chef should put, "NOT a Mac & Cheese substitute" on the box.  "Mac & Cheese" in the big, black lettering should be stricken from the box.

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
Oven baked preparation doctored up with bacon bits, Parmesan cheese and additional seasoning

This dish smells of cauliflower, the texture of the cauliflower was not transformed to resemble pasta in any way, the taste is cauliflower.  The cheddar cheese was unremarkable, not mixed throughout the dish and there wasn't enough of it.  There was a tease of cheese, but it was NOT a "Mac & Cheese" amount of cheese.  The panko bread crumbs did not turn golden brown/crisp up in the oven in following the package instructions and overall, the dish is under seasoned.  I had to doctor this thing up with bacon bits, Parmesan cheese and additional seasoning to make it more palatable.

Costing me about $11 at Sam's Club, I'm giving Tattooed Chef Cauliflower Mac & Cheese just 2 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  I like cauliflower, but to label this dish as "Mac & Cheese" is quite a stretch and this product is NOT a repeat buy.  What Tattooed Chef has put out there is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill cheesy cauliflower side dish with a lame bread crumb topping.  My $11 is better spent on something else with more flavor.

2 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

 

 


Food Review: Wonderful Pistachios, BBQ Flavor

Wonderful Pistachios
The flavor pops in your mouth

By Mike Thayer

In a continued effort to get away from eating too many chip snacks, I recently picked up an 11 ounce bag of pistachios at Walmart.  Nuts are a nice alternative to chips because not only do they deliver some nice texture and a bit of crunch, they provide some protein and don't have near the volume of carbs that chips do. And out of all the nut varieties there are out there, pistachios are my favorite and not just because of the flavor they deliver. You get 6 grams of protein and only 8 grams of carbs per serving, a GREAT alternative to those dreaded chips.

I was reaching for a bag of the regular roasted and salted pistachios however when the BBQ flavored pistachios caught my eye.  I've never had the BBQ flavor before and so today, it was time to try some.

These things are tasty!  You get the hickory smoked flavor, along with notes of paprika, garlic and salt.  They're so tasty, it's hard to stick to just one serving.

Wonderful Pistachios
These things are addicting

Costing me $9.94 at Walmart for that 11 ounce bag, these aren't the most reasonably priced pistachios but they are flavored and without shells.  That works out to some very excellent BBQ pistachio flavor at 90 cents per ounce.  I'm calling this a repeat buy in giving Wonderful BBQ Pistachios 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  If you're looking to change up your pistachio snacking routine a bit, pick up a bag of BBQ flavored nuts!

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...