04/08/2012This is our last Supermarket Sampler column. Instead of leaving you bereft, we're sharing the accumulated wisdom of 25 years of sampling new supermarket foods that have found a permanent place on our respective grocery shopping lists.
Bonnie: I can now finally admit that I never looked forward to sampling the processed, chemically laden foods for this column. It was a real detour from my usual diet of fresh foods, which I found at the perimeter of the supermarket and at local farms to make meals for my two sons!
In contrast, when we sampled fresh salads, steamed veggies, whole-wheat pasta, beans, cheeses and other real foods, I savored each and every bite. Those products include packaged salads such as Earthbound Farm Organic Baby Arugula or Fresh Express Hearts of Romaine, fresh produce like Melissa's Ojai Pixie Tangerines (currently in season) and Peeled Baby Red Beets, prepared fresh produce like Wholly Guacamole, prepared pasta like Monterey Pasta Company Creamy Ricotta Florentine Ravioli, Ocean Spray's Craisins, Kerrygold unsalted butter, Island Way Sorbets in Natural Fruit Shells, McCann's Quick & Easy Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal, Saco Dried Buttermilk Blend and Chocolate Chunks, Swanson Organic Chicken Broth, McCormick Black Peppercorn and Sea Salt Grinders, and a plethora of wonderful goat and cow's milk cheeses (including Jarlsberg Original and Lite, and Cabot Clothbound, Private Stock and 50 Percent Reduced Fat Jalapeno cheddars).
Carolyn: I've got to agree with you about bagged salads, Bonnie. Those diet TV dinners I love are a little on the small side. Fresh salad is the perfect accompaniment, but I'd never have it but for this miraculous invention.
If bagged salads are the best new supermarket food of the past 25 years we've been writing Supermarket Sampler, the improvement of supermarket frozen pizza comes in a close second. It was virtually inedible when we first began writing this column in 1987; now, thanks to rising crust and other technologies, many varieties of Freschetta and DiGiorno best the offerings at most pizza parlors in this country. We also documented big technical advances in the science of citrus drink mixes (Kraft out-Tanged itself with Crystal Light Sunrise), ready-to-eat bacon (from faux Bac-Os to real ready-cooked) and light ice cream (thanks to the "churning" process used in Edy's/Dreyer's Slow Churned and Breyers Smooth & Dreamy products).
Some other favorite supermarket products I discovered while writing this column include: Pepperidge Farm Double Chocolate Milano Cookies, Tyson Grilled & Ready Frozen Chicken Breast Fillets, Jolly Time Blast O Butter Microwave Popcorn, Propel Flavored Water, Healthy Choice Asian Inspired Cafe Steamers, Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta, Hostess Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins, Lean Cuisine Spa and (some) Culinary Collection Entrees, Pillsbury Pumpkin Quick Bread, Duncan Hines Oven Ready Frozen Brownies, YoCrunch Yogurt, Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso & Cream Coffee Drink, Quaker Hearty Medleys Instant Hot Multigrain Cereal and Kettle Cuisine Chili and Thai Curry Chicken soups.
Bonnie: Multigrain cereal and Kettle Cuisine all-natural soup? Sounds like all these years of my preaching have taken a toll on your junk food philosophy and on your food prep, as I've also noticed you writing more about your cooking and baking escapades. And it seems like even you have come to appreciate some better-quality, less-processed foods sold in supermarkets and to see better nutritionals in a product as an asset.
Carolyn: If the products still taste good -- and that's a big if -- that's probably true. I also think the column has helped you come to a greater appreciation of the products of American technology -- our joint Golden Shopping Cart of the Year award-winners like Ore Ida Steam n' Mash frozen potatoes, pre-cooked Uncle Ben's Ready Rice and Eagle Mills whole-grain-containing Ultragrain Flour (soon to be called just Ultragrain), for instance. I'm happy to have helped you see the light.
I also hope this column has turned readers on to lots of great supermarket foods that they otherwise might never have known about.
Bonnie: And I hope it's helped make our readers smarter supermarket shoppers, understanding Nutrition Facts and ingredients lists, shopping for more fresh foods from the store's outer edge and purchasing foods with clean labels containing recognizable ingredients. And I hope they continue to avoid highly processed foods and nutritional nightmares as much as possible.
Carolyn: Still preaching to the end! Well, I would encourage readers to try a food company's new offerings even in the absence of our telling you about them. They're one of life's most affordable everyday pleasures -- at least, they have been for me. And if you like the new food, keep buying it -- and tell your friends about it. And tell us!
Bonnie: Although we will no longer be writing Supermarket Sampler, we both will be writing about food. I write mainly on my blog/website biteofthebest.com, highlighting products that I actually like (including an expanded list of my top 25 products from 25 years of Supermarket Sampler found at: biteofthebest.com/25-years-3900-reviews-25-favs). The site is also chock full of culinary news, info and restaurant reviews. I write that with my culinary offspring, my two sons who grew up as unofficial supermarket samplers.
Carolyn: And you can reach me and find out about my latest food books, tours and talks at carolynwyman.com. It's just that now I'll be eating and writing without arguing with anybody!
Bonnie: And that's better for the digestion!
(Bonnie Tandy Leblang is a registered dietitian and professional speaker; she has a blog (www.biteofthebest.com) about products she recommends; follow her on Twitter: @BonnieBOTB. Carolyn Wyman is a junk-food fanatic and author of "The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book" (Running Press).
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