Category Archives: Food review

The hell with organic, I want my produce cheap!

The financial pundits are telling us to cut our budgets by NOT purchasing organic produce.  I couldn’t agree more.

Last week I went on a pilgrimage to the San Jose Flea Market (, which has over 2000 vendors selling everything from tropical fish to sari fabric to haircuts.  Yes, some of the stalls are barbershops!  But I was mostly there to check out their legendary Produce Row, a quarter-mile-long farmers’ market.  Most of this flea market’s denizens are Latino (and most of the signage is in Spanish) so the available produce was primarily stuff used in Mexican cooking.  For less than $20, I picked up:

1 pound of strawberries
5 pounds pinto beans
5 pounds rice
2 pounds of tomatoes @ 99 cents/pound (you’d pay $3/pound at the Ferry Plaza Market)
a few yellow onions
a bag of dried red chili peppers that will last me for YEARS
6 bananas
5 heads of garlic
3 avocados
2 pounds red potatoes

I got home and made a batch of Lazy Girl’s Burritos with my haul and a few things I had at home:

1 medium tomato, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 dried red chili peppers, chopped
1 can (16 oz?) vegetarian refried beans

Combine all above ingredients in a saucepan and stir slowly over medium heat until hot.  Serve with flour tortillas and sliced avocado (and sour cream and grated cheese, if you have it).  Serves four (and you will probably have leftovers).

Closer to home, I like to shop for cheap produce at the Park Farmers Market (400 Irving) and Noriega Produce (3821 Noriega).  Why pay $3.99 for a little box of raspberries at Safeway or Trader Joe’s when you can get the same thing at Park for 99 cents?

Now I’m going to Google “refried beans recipe” and figure out what to do with all these pinto beans.


Review: Trader Giotto’s Alfredo Sauce

Alfredo sauce is so easy to make from scratch — it’s just heavy cream, butter and parmesan cheese (and in my case, lots and lots of pepper and garlic) — that one wonders why anyone would put it in a jar and sell it. We all know the answer to that question: we’re usually too lazy to make it ourselves.

Trader Joe’s version of this simple recipe has waaaay more than three ingredients (what the hell is xanthan gum?) but you sure can’t tell by tasting it. I know it’s supposed to be kind of bland, but this stuff is beyond bland. It doesn’t really taste like anything, but despite being incredibly runny it has a creamy mouth feel. I’ve had better alfredo in frozen dinners (Marie Callender’s is my favorite.)

I made this sauce my own by heating it on the stove top to make it thicker, and by adding salt, pressed garlic and freshly ground black pepper.

If you want make your own from scratch, here’s the Williams-Sonoma recipe. (Nutmeg? Where did that come from?)


Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Trader Joe’s. It’s where I do the bulk of my grocery shopping.

When it comes to New England clam chowder, you can’t top Legal Sea Foods (their secret: bacon!) or SF’s Swan Oyster Depot. But sometimes you have to stay home and eat the canned stuff. I had the clam chowder from Trader Joe’s (labeled “Pilgrim Joe’s”) for breakfast this morning (hey, it’s finals week) and got that feeling I get when I eat most Trader Joe’s soups: major disappointment.

I opened the can, and it smelled GREAT. I tried to pour it out, and nothing happened — it was so thick I had to dig it out with a spoon. I added a can of milk according to the directions, and Ms. Pinky came running into the kitchen. (Anything fishy, to her, is kitty crack.)

“This soup is made with clams which are processed within hours of being caught,” says the label, but “clams” should be in the singular. I think I tasted a total of about three little bits of clam. It’s probably not the worst chowder I’ve ever had, but it tasted pretty bland, even after adding copious amounts of pepper. It’s definitely not the yummy thick chunky stuff they serve over at Swan’s, but it was way better than the TJ’s French Onion soup that made me fart continuously for 24 hours afterwards. I am not looking forward to heating up the bag of Trader Joe’s cioppino that’s sitting in my freezer right now.

Pinky had a taste and quickly backed off because it was too hot; once it cooled down she was no longer interested. (Half an hour later, she threw up.)

So, my favorite white chowder-in-a-can is still Campbell’s Select. And I need to quit procrastinating and finish this damn paper so I can graduate.