Category Archives: Food

What’s For Breakfast? Frozen Convenience Foods

Recently our test kitchen came across some new choices in the frozen food aisle for prepared breakfast sandwiches and we’d like to share our opinions.

Longtime favorite Jimmy Dean has expanded its biscuit and croissant line to now include flatbreads and egg whites.  IHOP joins the freezer case with their line of French Toast and “Omelet Crisper” sandwiches.  Special K flatbread sandwiches offer a similar flatbread sandwich to that of Jimmy Dean.  Bob Evans has a Breakfast Bake product.  And Marie Callender’s brings a uniquely packaged sandwich to market.

The most recognized brand for breakfast sandwich would probably be Jimmy Dean.  They have had varieties of sausage patties on biscuits, croissants, and english muffins, both with or without egg or cheese, and a bacon variety on biscuit.  These were tasty and there were some changing of ingredients over the years, most notably the egg patty and the quality of the meat. Taste and quality has not been consistent with Jimmy Dean.

The IHOP sandwich we tested was found to be quite oily and the inability to discern the ingredients was unsettling for our taste panel.  The melty cheese sauce/egg mixture and hammy bits passed off as bacon were “inedible” by one taster’s comments.

Special K flatbread sandwiches were found agreeable by the panel, with a vegetable filled egg white patty with spicy cheese.  The sandwiches did not contain meat and were relatively healthy, but the grainy flatbread got soggy and stuck to the paper towel during cooking.  Flavor rated highly among panel members however.

The Bob Evans Breakfast Bake (Bacon, Egg, Cheese & Hashbrowns) was to be an egg and bacon sandwich, but most panelists felt it was a potato pancake with minute bits of “something else” in it.  Not very flavorful or satisfying.

The surprising leader for taste and product texture was Marie Callender’s “Cheddar Biscuit with Bacon, Egg & Cheddar”.  Using a unique cardboard box with micro-crisp liner, the sandwich is contained in two halves with a sizeable piece of bacon on one biscuit half while the other side has a folded egg and cheese slice.  The 90 second cooking time allowed the biscuit halves to toast up nicely and bacon to crisp.  Flavor of the bacon was excellent and the egg was “buttery tasting” and “real” per our panelists’ comments.  Sodium and calories has never been Marie Callender’s strong suit, but the flavor of this particular variety lead the others by a significant margin.

The Special K sandwich had the most potential for being a better-for-you choice, if slight improvements were made to the flatbread the product uses.


Junk Food Daily: Drake’s is Back

As a kid, my mom was the culprit when it came to bringing sweet things or junk foods into the house.  She had a sweet tooth for something chocolately after eating, and often our house had Drake’s Yodels, Devil Dogs, or Ring Dings.

I still fondly recall how the cakes used to be individually wrapped in foil, and often around the holidays the foil would be different colors.  We would often roll up this foil and our cat would bat it around as a plaything and we’d find foil balls under pieces of furniture months later.

So certainly these snack cakes were nostalgic and a polysorbate-filled helping of comfort food.  I have seen the packaging change for the cakes, from foil to being shrinkwrapped, and the included cardboard tray being removed.  I also took note how the cakes bought at a convenience store in an individual serving, looked and tasted different than the ones that came in a boxful from the grocery store.

The company has changed owners several times since it’s pound cake days in Brooklyn in 1888.  In addition to pound cake and coffee cake, the other varieties are 50-90 years old and have been family favorites to folks along the Northeast for decades.

For the most part, the flavor was somewhat consistent, until Hostess oversaw the company in 2009.  The recipes changed and the company’s corporate debt was a big factor in product quality as the ingredients used changed no doubt.

In April 2013, McKee Foods took over the brand and on September 23’rd Yodels, Devil Dogs, Ring Dings, and Coffee Cakes made their way back onto store shelves in the Northeast.

For the time being the peanut butter based “Funny Bones” cakes are no longer available due to  the need to manufacture this product separately.

Upon discovering the slight packaging change which made me notice the holding company had changed to McKee, I decided to give them a try and was glad to find that Yodels tasted much better than the days while Hostess owned them.  Also, the cardboard tray liner was back!  So the chocolate enrobement that surrounds the cake would keep from cracking.  Now if they’d only get the foil packaging back, I’d be inclined to get a cat again…