Food & Drink, Reviews Feed

Food Review: Oscar Mayer Cotto Salami

20220509_121939(1)By Mike Thayer

Lunch meat, I always have some on hand, turkey, ham, roast beef, salami, bologna, it's all good! It's such a convenient and easy grab from the fridge too. There's the obvious in making a quick sandwich, but lunch meat isn't just for sandwiches anymore. It's versatile for all kinds of great lunch, dinner, breakfast and snack eats, you're only limited by your imagination and what lunch meat, a.k.a., cold cuts can do for you.

Always adding to my stash of lunch meats in the fridge or freezer, I picked up a package of Oscar Mayer Cotto Salami when shopping at Dollar Tree recently.

Yes, you read that right, a name brand item at Dollar Tree!

You can't go wrong with Oscar Mayer, it's a quality product.  It's not the absolute best lunch meat, bacon, or package of hot dogs out there, but rest assured, you know it will be good and won't disappoint.

A Quick Salami Education

Cotto Salami:  If you're not familiar with Cotto Salami and/or what makes it "Cotto," this salami originated in Italy and is a cooked salami.  Cotto means cooked or baked in Italian, with the meat being cooked with salt, peppercorns, garlic and spices.

Oscar Mayer Cotto Salami Snack
A quick snack... mustard, cheese & salami wraps!

Genoa Salami:  Also hailing from Italy, with the City of Genoa providing the namesake, this is an uncooked salami that is dry cured but not smoked.  Common ingredients used in the making of this salami include wine, garlic, beef, veal, and white peppercorns.  The word salami comes from the Italian word "salume," referring to the types of salted meat.

Hard Salami:  As the name states, this is a very firm meat where the salami is smoked and dry cured.  The drying process is considerably longer than it is for Genoa. The origins of Hard Salami are unknown, but varieties of it are found throughout east and central Europe.

Now you know about salami!

Oscar Mayer makes a good Cotto Salami.  Made with chicken, beef and pork, it's a medley of meaty flavor with kisses of salt, sugar and garlic.  It's a soft salami making it perfect for sandwiches.  It's tasty in an Italian pasta salad, makes a good pizza topping and is a nice change of pace ingredient in scrambled eggs or an omelette. 

Costing me $1.25 for an 8 ounce package, I'm giving Oscar Mayer Cotto Salami 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  Reasonably priced, it has good but not great Cotto Salami flavor.  It's better than the discount brand Bar-S Foods Cotto Salami however, which in my opinion has a fattier taste to it.  Compare the Dollar Tree price to what you'll pay for Oscar Mayer at the mainstream grocery store, $2.99 but for a 16 ounce package.  Dollar Tree is the better deal, you can get two, 8 ounce packages for a salami total of 16 ounces for $2.50.

4 stars

Related: Food Review: Member's Mark Hard Salami

Related: Food Review: Lunch Mate Premium Black Forest Ham

Related: Lunch meat: Always have some on hand for a go-to snack

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If you appreciate the work I do and want to support more great content, recipes, cost comparisons, product, service and food reviews, recall information, etc., on BachelorontheCheap.com, you can help me expand my consumer information reach with a one-time or a monthly donation.  Thank you so much for your support! ~ Mike


Food Review: Island Choice Sunflower Seeds

20220513_112838By Mike Thayer

Sunflower seeds make a great snack!

Whether in the shell or shelled, these little seeds taste great, are packed with nutrients and it's a budget friendly snack!

WAY better for you than chips or donuts, sunflower seeds are linked to a number of health benefits like lowering your risk in developing high blood pressure or heart disease.  They also support your immune system and boost your energy levels!

Sunflower seeds are versatile too.  In addition to being a great snack, they're easily incorporated into other foods as well.  You can top a lettuce salad with them, mix them into granola or trail mix, put them in baked goods, add them to vegetable dishes or a stir fry, enjoy them with oatmeal.  You can even use them in making pesto, which I'm looking forward to trying.

I picked up a bag of Island Choice Sunflower seeds the other day when shopping at Dollar Tree.  A convenient 5 ounce bag of shelled seeds, a palm full of the lightly salted and roasted seeds delivered on that distinct nutty sunflower flavor, making for a very satisfying bite when on the go.

Costing me $1.25 at Dollar Tree, I'm giving Island Choice Sunflower Seeds 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It's a simple snack that tastes good and is good for you and you don't have to mess with shells.  There was a bit of seed breakage in the bag, but no more than is typical of any brand of shelled sunflower seeds.  Compare the price to a 5.25 ounce bag of David Original Sunflower Seeds for $1.99 at the mainstream grocery store.  The David brand is a bit of a messy eat, having to deal with those shells.

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

If you appreciate the work I do and want to support more great content, recipes, cost comparisons, product, service and food reviews, recall information, etc., on BachelorontheCheap.com, you can help me expand my consumer information reach with a one-time or a monthly donation.  Thank you so much for your support! ~ Mike


Food Review: Lunch Mate Premium Black Forest Ham

Lunch Mate Premium Black Forest Ham
Is the Aldi discount brand as good as the Name Brands like Hillshire or Oscar Mayer?

By Mike Thayer

Lunch meat, I always have some on hand, turkey, ham, roast beef, salami, bologna, it's all good!  It's such a convenient and easy grab from the fridge too.  There's the obvious in making a quick sandwich, but lunch meat isn't just for sandwiches anymore.  It's versatile for all kinds of great lunch, dinner, breakfast and snack eats, you're only limited by your imagination and what lunch meat, a.k.a., cold cuts can do for you.

Lunch meat has become even more versatile as part of the American diet in the last year, thanks to inflation.  Food costs have risen a whopping 13.5 percent in that time, a 43-year high.  In struggling with those higher prices, consumers have made changes at the dinner table beyond replacing steak with hamburger, some folks have substituted standard cuts of meat with lunch meats.

So with that in mind, I recently sampled Lunch Mate Premium Black Forest Ham.  Lunch Mate is an Aldi brand and in addition to the Black Forest Ham produces a variety of lunch meats such as  Rotisserie Seasoned Chicken Breast, Honey Smoked Turkey Breast, Mesquite Smoked Turkey Breast, and Smoked Uncured Ham.

Lunch Mate Premium Black Forest Ham
A sandwich in the making, awaiting mustard and Swiss Cheese...

If you're not up on what makes ham "Black Forest" ham, the name originated in Germany and how they dry-cured and smoked hams in the Black Forest region.  Now popular and produced everywhere pork is sold, the characteristic black edge of the meat is a result of the spices applied to the ham combined with the smoking process.

I sampled the ham straight out of the package, in a sandwich, included it in scrambled eggs and made some ham fried rice with it.  Tasty in all ways, it's good cold and it's good in prepared dishes.  It's lean, slices up nice and doesn't shrink up when cooked which speaks to the quality of the ham.  Adding water in the form of a brine is part of the typical ham lunch meat making process.  Low quality deli ham will shrink up when cooked and/or give you 'watery' scrambled eggs for example.  And since deli/lunch meat/cubed ham is sold by weight, the more water added, means more profit for those lesser ham producers.

Overall, this was good tasting ham, providing the classic ham notes of savory, sweet and smoky.  It's not off the bone baked ham good, but that's not to be expected, it's lunch meat after all and being a processed product won't have the robust flavor that a bone-in ham will.  What this ham does is go toe-to-toe with the name brand ham lunch meats. It's every bit as good as Hillshire Farms or Oscar Mayer and I contend it's better than the discount brands like Land O' Frost or Buddig.

Costing me $3.99 for a 1 pound package, I'm giving Lunch Mate Premium Black Forest Ham 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It's a tasty, smart, economical choice.  Compare that price to Hillshire Farm at $5.29 at the mainstream grocery store and that's for just 9 ounces of meat!  Oscar Mayer, also 9 ounces, rings up at $4.99.  You get seven more ounces of ham for a lot less by buying Lunch Mate at Aldi, equal quality, equal taste.

4 stars

Related: Lunch meat: Always have some on hand for a go-to snack

Related: Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu on a Stick

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If you appreciate the work I do and want to support more great content, recipes, cost comparisons, product, service and food reviews, recall information, etc., on BachelorontheCheap.com, you can help me expand my consumer information reach with a one-time or a monthly donation.  Thank you so much for your support! ~ Mike


Food Review: Oscar Mayer Cheese Dogs

Oscar Mayer Cheese Dogs
The resealable package is a nice touch. You don't get that with a lot of competitor brands.

By Mike Thayer

No fridge or freezer is complete without a variety of bratwurst, hot dogs or sausages of some sort in it.

I love a good hot dog (that’s spelled, D.A.W.G. in my book) and today I'm reviewing Oscar Mayer Cheese Dogs.

Here's the description from the Oscar Mayer website:  Our cheese dogs feature Oscar Mayer classic wieners made with turkey, chicken and pork, stuffed with a delicious cheese filling. Your whole family will enjoy every cheesy bite. Each 10-count pack of cheese hot dogs comes in a 16-ounce resealable pack to keep them fresh in the refrigerator.

These hot dogs aren't made with any fillers or by-products, they're Oscar Mayer after all, so quality isn't an issue.  But how about the taste? 

Oscar Mayer Cheese Dog
Hot Dawg & Tater Tot Comfort Food!

I love these things, so much in fact, after having one for dinner with tater tots, I had a couple for breakfast (no tots) the next day.  It's a good hot dog whether prepared on the stove or on the grill (preferred). You get classic hot Dawg flavor complimented by cheese.  It's a Velveeta type processed cheese flavor, but I don't have a problem with that, it's good stuff.

I wouldn't recommend boiling these Dawgs (I hate that preparation anyway), as the cheese filling tends to leak out.  Using the microwave to reheat them as leftovers from a stove top or grilled preparation is fine, but I would think twice on using the microwave as a primary cooking method and only done if absolutely necessary.  You just don't get a good finished product with a microwave cook, the ends tend to get overcooked before the middle comes to a good temp, with the cheese stuffing having an inconsistent melt.  Don't cook on high, reduce power if microwaving is your only option.  Stove top and grilling delivers superior texture and flavor.

Costing me $3.97 at Walmart for a 16 ounce package, I'm giving Oscar Mayer Cheese Dogs 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  Reasonably priced, these Dawgs deliver a nice hot dog bite with cheese and the resealable package is a nice touch.  The only thing that would make them better is if the Dawg was all beef.

4 stars

Related: Food Review: Parkview Cheddar Brats

Related: Food Review: Parkview Cheddar Brats

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If you appreciate the work I do and want to support more great content, recipes, cost comparisons, product, service and food reviews, recall information, etc., on BachelorontheCheap.com, you can help me expand my consumer information reach with a one-time or a monthly donation.  Thank you so much for your support! ~ Mike


Millville oatmeal is just as good as Quaker Oats

Millville Quick Cook Rolled Oats
A bowl of oatmeal is one of the healthiest breakfast options you can start your day with.

By Mike Thayer

I grew up eating a lot of oatmeal as a kid, a warm bowl of oatmeal flavored with a little maple syrup and a bit of brown sugar is quite satisfying. Born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the city I grew up in is also home to the largest oat mill facility in the U.S., operated by Quaker Oats, so it was always that brand in the pantry.

When it comes to oatmeal, Quaker is THE name brand, prominently placed on the top shelf in every grocery store in the country and they've got a rich history dating back more than 140 years. But is oatmeal made by Quaker the best?  C'mon, we're talking about oatmeal.

I recently sampled Millville Quick Cook Rolled Oats, an Aldi brand, to find out.

I picked up a cylinder container - made famous by Quaker by the way - of Millville Quick Cook Rolled Oats the other day when shopping at Aldi.  I debated getting Old Fashioned Rolled Oats, but decided I don't have the patience for that and the 20-25 minute cooking time of the old fashioned variety.  

Millville Quick Cook Rolled Oats
A look inside the cylinder

For breakfast the next morning and in less than five minutes, I had a nice bowl of warm oatmeal.  When cooking and with childhood memories in mind, I added a bit of maple extract and brown sugar.  Along with a splash of milk, the oatmeal was hearty and satisfying, with just enough sweetness from the brown sugar and added maple flavor to invoke those pleasant childhood breakfast memories.  I haven't eaten oatmeal much as an adult, especially with today's convenience foods in play, it's all too easy to grab a sausage, egg & cheese biscuit when on the go.  But it's time to get back to some healthier breakfast roots.

So is Millville oatmeal just as good as Quaker Oats?

It almost pains me to say it, with Quaker Oats being a home town employer and a brand I grew up with, but I wouldn't be doing my Bachelor in the Cheap duty if I didn't inform you that yes, Millville is every bit as good as Quaker Oats.  It's milled oats, it's not like there's a recipe to compare.  The Millville brand of Quick Oats is right there with Quaker in all facets, quality, convenience, texture and taste.

Costing me $3.69 for a 42 ounce container, I'm giving Millville Quick Cook Rolled Oats 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It takes on added flavor beautifully, cooks up easily and provides a nice nutritional punch for breakfast.  Compare the Millville price to a 42 ounce container of Quaker Oats Quick Cook Oats priced at $5.79 at the mainstream grocery store.  That's a difference of $2.40, which is huge and without a sacrifice in texture, nutrition or taste!  With these two oat products being equal, there's no reason to pay extra for the name of Quaker.

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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Condensed Soup Battle: Campbell's vs. store brand vs. discount brand

20221128_175537By Mike Thayer

Condensed soup, it's a staple in so many American households.

There are all kinds of soup options to choose from, from classic chicken noodle to split pea with ham and bacon. Some soups are great as is, just add some water or milk per the instructions and viola, you've got a good bowl of soup.  Other varieties are better suited for recipes, such as cream of mushroom for a Thanksgiving green bean casserole.

Without question, Campbell's is the King of the Condensed Soup Hill with the largest selection of soups available.  But when it comes to the pantry basics of condensed soups, is Campbell's really any better than a store or discount brand?

Condensed Soup Ingredient Review
For the most part, the list of ingredients for all soups were essentially the same.

I pondered that question when making a green bean casserole for Thanksgiving.  Regular readers know I usually don't get hung up on name brands.  But there are folks out there and you know who you are, that swear by Campbell's because it's "higher quality and tastes better."

Really?

So a debate turned into a challenge.  I went out and shopped for some condensed soup basics.  Some soups I ate in a side-by-side comparison, like chicken noodle and tomato (grilled cheese & tomato soup - comfort food YUM!).  Other soups, I used in a side dish preparation to see if there's any noticeable difference in the dish.

Classic comfort food meal, tomato soup and grilled cheese
Chef's Cupboard Tomato Soup made with milk and a grilled ham & cheese.

In purchasing soups for the Bachelor on the Cheap Condensed Soup Battle, I ran into this inconsistency: The mainstream grocery store, Dillon's (Kroger) on Harry & Edgemoor, was having a sale on Campbell's soups, 4 for $5. I mistakenly grabbed the wrong variety of Campbell's tomato soup, so in running errands I stopped at another Dillon's store, Harry & Webb, same day... they weren't running the same Campbell's soup sale, they were doing 3 cans for $5. I found that a bit inconsistent, store Manager's discretion I guess.

Here's a snapshot of the price differences...

Cream of Mushroom

  • Campbell's:  $1.25 for a 10.75 ounce can
  • Kroger:  $1 for a 10.5 ounce can
  • Chef's Cupboard (Aldi):  $0.49 for a 10.5 ounce can
Chicken Noodle Soup Comparison
No, Campbell's doesn't have any more noodles than the other brands reviewed.

Cream of Chicken

  • Campbell's: $1.25
  • Kroger:  $1
  • Chef's Cupboard:  0.49

Tomato

  • Campbell's: $1.67
  • Kroger:  $1
  • Chef's Cupboard:  $0.68

Chicken Noodle

  • Campbell's: $1.29
  • Kroger:  $0.89
  • Chef's Cupboard: $0.68

With Campbell's being a negligible 0.25 ounces heavier, look at how much cheaper the store brand (Kroger) and discount brand (Aldi) soups are than Campbell's.  So aren't you curious?  Is Campbell's really any better than Kroger or Chef's Cupboard?  Or are you paying more than you should for a name?

Side-by-Side Comparison

Chicken Noodle Soup Comparison
Kroger has the shortest noodle... (there is a joke to be made here, but this is a family blog)

Are the mushroom pieces in Campbell's bigger, chunkier?  Does Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup have more noodles?  Which tomato soup is the more robust?  Does one Cream of Chicken Soup have more meat than another?

Ingredients

In a review of the ingredient lists for all soups, they were for the most part essentially the same.  Using the mushroom soup as an example, all soups contained the obvious base ingredients of water, mushrooms, some kind of vegetable oil, corn starch, flour, salt, cream, whey, yeast extract, garlic, and nuances down the list making each recipe unique.  So on paper, three very similar recipes.  Next up, a visual and taste review.

Visual

  • Side dish idea using Cream of Chicken soup
    A side dish idea (In my case, dinner...), Cream of Chicken Soup over noodles, topped with a bit of parsley.  Just off the stove, it's steaming hot!
    Cream of Mushroom:  No distinguishable difference for any soup in a visual.  Color essentially the same, mushroom bits and pieces all pretty much the same, with varying small sizes, some pieces bigger than others in all cans.
  • Cream of Chicken: Variations of yellow color, with Campbell's being the brightest.  Nothing to distinguish one soup over another when it comes to the chicken meat. 
  • Tomato:  Not much of a visual competition here, it's tomato soup.  Slight variations of red tomato color.
  • Chicken Noodle:  Campbell's and Chef's Cupboard look pretty much the same.  Kroger color is lighter, pale in comparison.  The bits of chicken meat were essentially the same in all three soups.  On the noodle front, I don't know if you're familiar with the Campbell's claim that each can of their soup is made with over 32 feet of fresh egg noodles. And no, I didn't take the time to lay all the noodles out to measure...  But all soups weighed out about the same in noodles.  Campbell's did have the longer noodles, Kroger, the shortest on average.  
Cream of Mushroom Soup Idea
A change of pace baked potato, topped with mushroom soup.

Taste

  • Cream of Mushroom:  I couldn't distinguish any difference between the Campbell's and Chef's Cupboard brands, both were equally good.  The Kroger brand however was a bit 'off' in the flavor department.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, but it had kind of an oily feel to it which was a bit off putting.  Bachelor on the Cheap Recommendation:  Chef's Cupboard.  It tastes as good as Campbell's at less than half the price!  And when it comes time again to make another green bean casserole, I will NOT be buying the Kroger brand of mushroom soup, 'jus say'n.
  • Cream of Chicken: I have to give the nod to Campbell's here.  It has a more robust flavor, with notes of celery, garlic and onion in the finish, ingredients not found in the other brands.  Bachelor on the Cheap Recommendation:  Campbell's.  It's the best tasting and will add a more robust flavor to whatever recipe that calls for Cream of Chicken soup.
  • Tomato: I like to heat up my tomato soup with milk, sometimes heavy cream for an even richer flavor.  I also like to add onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and red pepper flake, but I didn't do the normal doctoring with this review in mind.  Keeping it simple, I added the canful of milk and nothing else.  I enjoyed all soups served with a grilled cheese sandwich and of course, I dipped.  All soups delivered on the comfort food factor, with Campbell's having and ever-so-slight edge in taste over the store and discount brands.  Bachelor on the Cheap Recommendation:  Chef's Cupboard based on price.  While Campbell's did edge out Chef's Cupboard in flavor by a thin margin, the flavor factor isn't enough to overlook the price difference.
  • Chicken Noodle:   For me, canned chicken noodle soup doesn't really need any doctoring, short of a few dashes of black pepper.  I like the broth flavor of canned chicken noodle soup and all three of these were tasty, with no soup being any tastier than the other.  The chunks of chicken were about the same as well.  The noodles were all similar in taste and texture.  It would be fun to do a blind taste test, I don't think there would be a clear winner here.  Bachelor on the Cheap Recommendation:  Chef's Cupboard, based on price.

Campbell's makes a reliably good product and there are so many tasty varieties to choose from, but overall, you are paying extra for a name.  Chef's Cupboard soups are also good, they just don't have the variety.  Stacking up well vs. Campbell's in a soup basics flavor and price comparison, I'll go with Chef's Cupboard every time with exception to Cream of Chicken, where Campbell's stands out.  Campbell's is also the way to go if you're looking for something a little different or a new flavor to try given the choices they provide.  As for the Kroger brand, I rate it a Plan B purchase.  And as for the Name Brand proponent claim that Campbell's uses higher quality ingredients?...  Nothing was found to be inferior in the store or discount brands during the review.  When it comes to the "Campbell's Tastes Better" claim, that holds true with a better recipe when it comes to the Cream of Chicken Soup, it's a negligible factor with the Tomato Soup but doesn't pan out with Chicken Noodle soup and only beats out Kroger with Cream of Mushroom.

Recipes

This post wouldn't be complete without adding a few easy meal/side dish recipes.

Green Bean CasseroleGreen Bean Casserole - You can't have Thanksgiving without green bean casserole, you just can't.  That's like getting a new pair of gloves but they're both 'lefts,' which on the one hand is great, but on the other hand, it's just not right.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 2 cans of French cut style green beans, drained (French cut makes for a nicer presentation and hangs on to the mushroom soup better)
  • 1 can water chestnuts, drained and halved
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 1/3 cups French Fried Onions (amount divided in directions below)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat the oven to 350°F.  Stir all ingredients and 2/3 cup of the French Fried onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper.  Bake for 25 minutes or until hot.  Give the casserole a quick stir and sprinkle with the remaining 2/3 cup onions.  Bake for another 5 minutes or until the onions are golden, brown and delicious.

This dish is also quite popular at Christmas time.  Costing about $6, it only takes about 10 minutes to prep for the oven and feeds a bunch. 

Stove Top Chicken & Rice w/broccoli - I like this recipe because it makes use of leftover rice and it's a dinner that can be put together in about 15 minutes without messing up too many dishes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Healthy pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups of leftover rice
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh broccoli florets

Directions:  Heat up a large skillet over medium heat.  Dress the chicken with the salt and pepper and once the pan is hot, add the olive oil to the pan.  When the oil starts to shimmer, brown the chicken on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.  Add the water, milk, cream of chicken soup and the remaining seasonings, stir to combine.  Add the rice and broccoli, stir to incorporate.  Re-introduce the chicken to the pan, cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the chicken is done and the broccoli is tender-crisp.

Crock Pot Crack Chicken Sliders - This is SO easy and SO delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 - 2 pounds of boneless/skinless chicken breasts or thighs (I prefer thighs, they have more flavor)
  • 1 packet of dry Ranch seasoning
  • 1 can of Campbell's Cheddar soup
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 3 slices of cooked and crumbled bacon (leftover from breakfast)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional garnish)
  • Chopped green onion for garnish
  • One bag of King's Hawaiian rolls (or something similar)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:  Place the chicken in a crock pot, sprinkle on the Ranch seasoning, top with the cheddar cheese soup and cream cheese.  Cover.  Set on low this delicious no fuss meal will be ready in 6 - 8 hours, set on high about 4 hours.  Shred the chicken in the crock pot using two forks.  Serve topped with the crumbled bacon, optional shredded cheddar cheese and chopped green onion on the slider buns.  Don't have slider buns?  No worries!  This recipe is also great served on a bed of noodles or rice.

Soup Hacks

Rice:  Traditional rice is typically made using a 2-1 ratio, 1 part rice to 2 parts liquid.  Water is good.  A chicken, beef or fish stock is even better.  But if you want a creamier rice, use 1 part water and 1 part cream of something soup.  Cream of Chicken is excellent.  Cream of Mushroom is a good option.  Make a Spanish rice with tomato soup.  There are really quite a few good options here, Cream of Broccoli, Golden Mushroom, Asparagus, Cheddar and more.  And don't stop at kicking a rice side dish up a notch, see below!

Potatoes:  Potatoes just about any style are complimented by a cream soup.  Top a baked potato with Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken and yes, there is a Cream of Bacon soup!  Top fried potatoes with Cream of Onion soup.  Hit those hash browns with Cheddar soup instead of ketchup.  Have mashed potatoes but no gravy?  Break out a can of condensed soup.

Gravy Replacement:  When you don't feel like whipping up a scratch made gravy... or what you made is lumpy and not all that good...   Break out a can of Cream of Chicken or Cream of Mushroom soup, add a can of water and boom!  You've got gravy.

Noodles:  You've seen those flavored pasta packages made by the likes of Knorr, but why pay $1.50 for a little 4 ounce package of broccoli & cheddar noodles when you can make a whole mess of pasta for WAY cheaper at home?  Use your imagination, pairing your favorite pasta shapes with your favorite cream soup flavors.

Vegetables:  Pair up a veggie side with Cheddar soup, kids that don't typically like veggies will like this!  Other change of pace options to consider are pairing up veggies with their cream soup cousin, Cream of Broccoli, Cream of Asparagus and there's always the 'Jack of all Trades' soup that always adds flavor, Cream of Celery.

Other:  Tomato soup is a great base for an impromptu red enchilada sauce.  TEASER ALERT!  This soup hack section has motivated me to write a Soup Hack Recipe Post.  Stay tuned...

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Wendy's New Italian Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich is Pretty Satisfying

Wendy's New Italian Chicken Sandwich
A Chicken Parmesan kind of sandwich

By Mike Thayer

Apparently the Chicken Sandwich War is still going on.

Firing a big salvo, Burger King debuted its new "Royal" Crispy Chicken lineup of chicken sandwiches earlier this month, offering three different varieties:  BK Royal Crispy Chicken, BK Spicy Royal Crispy Chicken and BK Bacon & Swiss Cheese Royal Crispy Chicken.

Not to be out-gunned, Wendy's fired back, announcing a limited-time-only lineup of Italian Mozzarella Chicken Sandwiches.  Wendy's has three Italian Chicken options, Classic, Spicy, or Grilled.  All the sandwiches feature not just a slice of mozzarella to give you that Chicken Parmesan feel, but a breaded, crispy, melty and THICK, FRIED MOZZARELLA PATTY.  Wendy's also offers an Italian Mozzarella Cheeseburger option, which I'll sample on a later date.

Wendy's New Italian Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich
A look under the lid, typical fast food prep, a bit sloppy and heavier to one side with the marinara.

To maximize the Chicken Parmesan experience, I went with the Classic option, a breaded and fried chicken breast.  Here's the description from the Wendy's website:  A juicy, lightly breaded crispy chicken breast, topped with deep-fried melty mozzarella, Asiago cheese and rich marinara sauce all on a garlic knot bun. 

This is a very satisfying chicken sandwich that hits all the Chicken Parmesan notes.  The chicken breast was nicely fried, juicy and had a nice breaded crunch.  Adding crunch to the party was that fried mozzarella PATTY, which is really what puts this sandwich over the top, going WAY above and beyond what a single slice of melted but 'naked' mozzarella would deliver.  And Wendy's didn't stop there, they include a melted slice of Asiago cheese in this sandwich, putting even more Italian punch in every bite.  Complimented by a decent marinara sauce that leans sour rather than sweet and a soft garlic knot bun, Wendy's has created a Pub Food sandwich before the Pubs have!  It's appetizers on a bun if you will, not only a spin on Chicken Parm, but a spin on fried mozzarella sticks + fried chicken + sauce = YUM!  Too bad Wendy's doesn't serve beer to go with it.  Watch, you'll start seeing this sandwich on Bar/Pub menus...

Wendy's Italian Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich
That's melted Asiago cheese on top of the fried chicken breast, held up by the thumb is a FRIED MOZZARELLA PATTY!

Costing me $6.99 for the sandwich, I'm giving the Wendy's New Italian Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It's reasonably priced and quite satisfying with a good chicken to bun ratio, and a GREAT melted cheese to bun ratio.  The only knock I've got on this sandwich is the marinara which isn't bad, it's certainly not overly sweet like you get at some joints and I'm thankful for that, but it's not a finger kiss off the lips kind of sauce either.  Available for a limited time, this is a repeat buy sandwich.

4 stars

The Wendy's visited on this occasion is located at 160 S Rock Rd, Wichita, KS 67207.  I hit the place at lunch time, there was a long line in the drive thru so I went inside to place a to-go order.  I was in and out in quickly and the service was polite and very efficient. The self service area was clean and well stocked which can be tough to maintain during the lunch rush.  The new building has a nice modern look with a better customer friendly flow to it.  Wendy's has 'upped' their digs and the menu!

Related: Who makes the best chicken sandwich in fast food? They are listed here from worst to first

Related:   Food Review: Burger King Italian Chicken Sandwich

Wendy's New Italian Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich
It's a satisfying Chicken Parm Sandwich mouthful!

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Who has the best Mac & Cheese in fast food?

Fast food mac & cheeseBy Mike Thayer

Mac & Cheese is a trending side dish, rising in consumer demand and more restaurants are putting the classic comfort food on their menus.  It's always been a standard offering in diners, but now you're seeing it in fast food, fast casual and bars.

I've done a breakdown of not just the mac & cheese offerings from fast food restaurants, but I've reviewed some boxed mac & cheese dinners as well.

And then there's the best mac-n-cheese, making your own from scratch for a baked in the oven delight!

Here are the reviews, starting with fast food:

Arby's White Cheddar Mac & Cheese ranked 2 stars

Chick-fil-A's Mac & Cheese ranked 3 stars

Church's Mac & Cheese ranked 3 stars

KFC's Mac & Cheese ranked 3 stars

QT Kitchens Classic Mac & Cheese ranked 3 stars

Popeye's Homestyle Mac & Cheese ranked 4 stars

Related: Food Review: The Mac & Cheese from Church's Fried Chicken

Related:  Fast Food Mac & Cheese Battle: Arby's vs. Chick-fil-A vs. KFC

Related: Food Review: QuikTrip BBQ Sandwich and a Mac & Cheese side

Related: Food Review: Popeyes' Homestyle Mac & Cheese

And the bar offerings (Whiskey Dick's has a stellar Mac-n-Cheese)...

Related: Best in Wichita Metro Burger Challenge 2022: How does Whiskey Dick's rate?

Related: Best in Wichita Metro Burger Challenge 2022: How does Twin Peaks rate?

And then when it comes to boxed mac & cheese...

Related:  Food Review: Cheetos Mac'N Cheese vs. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese - Bachelor on the Cheap

Related: Food Review: Cheese Club Macaroni and Cheese Dinner from Aldi

And the ultimate, making your own from scratch...

Related: Scratch made Mac-n-Cheese deserves a spot on your Thanksgiving table

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If you appreciate the article you just read and want to support more great content on BachelorontheCheap.com, you can help keep this site going with a one-time or a monthly donation.  Thank you so much for your support! ~ Mike

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Food Review: Season's Choice Potato Puffs from Aldi

Season's Choice Potato Puffs
A 2 pound bag, a handy size if you don't have much freezer space

By Mike Thayer

Out of all the possible sides for a burger or sandwich, I have to say that tater tots are my favorite.  Tots are also versatile, with uses going well beyond being a great side for burgers and sandwiches.  You can top casseroles with them, include them in a breakfast tortilla wrap, use them as a base to make some creative nachos with.

I recently did a review of Kroger Tater "Bites" (Ore Ida owns the proprietary rights to the name, "Tater Tots"), which are every bit as tasty as Ore Ida Tater Tots.

Today, I'm reviewing Season's Choice Potato Puffs.

Season's Choice Potato Puffs
Do those tots look good or what?

Season's Choice is one of the discount brands at Aldi. Specializing in frozen potato products, they offer all the typical ones, French Fries, Shredded Potatoes, Hash Brown Patties, Seasoned Fries, Crinkle Cut Fries, the Potato Puffs and more. 

The Potato Puffs come in a 2 pound bag, a good size if you don't have much freezer space.  But I wondered if the price per pound was going to be close to what I am accustomed to in getting 8 pound bags of Ore Ida at the wholesale club for just over $8.

It is, priced at $2.49, that breaks down to $1.25 per pound, not quite as cheap as Costco or Sam's Club and their 8 pound bags of Ore Ida that you can't find anywhere else in that size, but darn close.

"But Mike," you ask...  "What about the taste?" 

C'mon, they're tater tots, grated potatoes, seasoned, par-fried then flash frozen.

Season's Choice delivers the same texture, the same crunchy exterior, the same fluffy spud interior as Ore Ida and at a very competitive price. It's not exactly an apples to apples price comparison putting a 2 pound bag up against an 8 pound bag benefiting from bulk pricing, so it's actually kind of impressive that Aldi keeps their price so low.  In a true price comparison with the mainstream grocery store, a 2 pound bag of Ore Ida Tater Tots will cost you $3.99 and the store brand, Kroger "Tater Bites" will run you $2.99.  With all tater products of equal quality and taste, it's a no brainer to get the Season's Choice Potato Puffs.

Reasonably priced and an excellent option if you can't make it to the wholesale club for the 8 pound Ore Ida, I'm giving Season's Choice Potato Puffs 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  That rating isn't based on the taste, they're just as good as Ore Ida and Kroger, they're just not quite as cheap as the Ore Ida 8 pounder.

4 stars

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Related: Food Review: Kroger Tater Tots are just as good as Ore Ida and cheaper too


Food Review: Chef's Cupboard French Fried Onions

Chef's Cupboard French Fried Onions
Every bit as good as French's and WAY cheaper!

By Mike Thayer

You can have the Thanksgiving dinner classic, Green Bean Casserole without them.

No other topping does the dish justice better than French Fried Onions.

But do you HAVE to buy the name brand stuff, French's Crispy Fried Onions to make the best casserole?

Not just no, but Hell no!

Chef's Cupboard French Fried Onions are every bit as good as French's and cost A LOT less too!  A can of French's Crispy Fried Onions will run you a whopping $5.29 for a 6 ounce can at the mainstream grocery store.  Don't pay for the name.  You can get a 6 ounce can of Chef's Cupboard French Fried Onions at Aldi for just $1.85.  They taste just as good, they're just as crispy, there's no sacrifice in product quality by making the switch from French's to Chef's Cupboard.  You'll save $3.44 on just this one item!  That's HUGE!  In another comparison, Chef's Cupboard is also cheaper than the mainstream grocery's store brand, which runs $2.92.  That's a savings of $1.07.

French Fried Onions
Crispy, tasty, no sacrifice in product quality vs. French's.

French fried onions aren't just for green bean casseroles either.  They're a great topping for burgers, salads, sandwiches, soups, Mac-n-Cheese.  Use them instead of bread crumbs for chicken, pork and fish recipes.  They're awesome on a loaded backed potato.  Making a meatloaf?  Grab the French fried onions... 

To repeat the low price, just $1.85 at Aldi, I'm giving Chef's Cupboard French Fried Onions 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  Just as good as French's, there's even a green bean casserole recipe on the can.  Don't just pick up one can, get two or three, they store well in your pantry.  Hmmm, one can of French's = $5.29.  Three cans of Chef's Cupboard = $5.55.  Now that's what I call Bachelor on the Cheap wallet friendly!

5 stars

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