Sunday, December 26, 2010


I love frozen pizza.  Not frozen, of course.  I bake it to perfection.  I'm able to bake it to perfection because I treat the cooking directions as a suggestion.  Not all the time.  Tombstone, one of my favorite pizzas, puts good directions on their pizzas.  Who doesn't?  DiGiorno.  Their rising crust pizzas may be the best frozen pizza you can buy.  You know their TV ads, "it's not delivery; it's DiGiorno."  True, their pizza beats many you'll get delivered, and for far less money too. 

My issue with DiGiorno is the cooking directions on their pizzas.  I'll use the Supreme as an example, but it's true for all their varieties.  For a softer crust, they say, "Preheat & bake at 425F.  Place pizza on cookie sheet on center rack.  Bake 25 to 28 min."  Since my home is more than 7,000 feet above sea level, I'm interested in the high altitude directions which read, "Preheat & bake at 375F.  Place pizza on cookie sheet on center rack.  Bake 23 to 25 min."

Wait!  How can you bake a pizza in an oven that's fifty degrees cooler for two to three minutes less time?

You can't.  Not unless you like half-baked, soggy pizza.  When you lower the temperature, you need to increase the cooking time.  That's just plain common sense.  Well, maybe for you and me.  Not the folks at DiGiorno, however.

I e-mailed them to point out the error in their cooking directions (DiGiorno is owned by Kraft Foods), and they were not appreciative.  They told me that their directions were correct, because they refine them in their "test kitchens."  Test kitchens?  Do you really expect me to believe they have a high-altitude test kitchen?  More likely  they just use the upper oven.

Anyway, like I said at the beginning, cooking directions are really just guidelines.  A starting point, if you will.  If you really like pizza, you ought to purchase a pizza stone and cook your pizzas on that.  The results can not be beat.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stop shrinking my food!

If you're the slightest bit observant, you've noticed how the product sizes in your grocery cart are getting smaller.  Is this a move by the food industry to combat your expanding waistline?  No, it's their way of sneaking in price increases without actually raising the posted price of an item. 

So your can of tuna, which was 6 oz. about a year ago is now 5 oz.  The price looks the same, but since there's 17% less product in the can, you're paying 20% more per ounce than before.

From orange juice to kielbasa, soup to nuts, and everything in between, look at the sizes of the products you're buying.  The odds are good that they've all gotten smaller.

I recently wrote to Classico about their Pesto Sauce.  It was pretty obvious the jar was smaller, and my suspicion was confirmed when I compared it to the older one in my food cabinet.  I was dismayed by the response I received. Either they're using the same spin doctors that politicians use to craft their double speak, or they've been duped themselves into believe the bogus claims they spew out.

Someone from the "Heinz Consumer Resource Center" wrote that "the cost of our ingredients and the materials used to make our jars and lids have risen considerably."  Odd they should say that, given that the Producer Price Index (PPI) hasn't increased much.  In fact, the PPI for the "Fruit and Vegetable Canning" industry was lower in October 2010 than it was in October 2008!

Then this corporate hack proceeded to claim that "'the smaller jar size' also had a positive impact on the environment because it reduced Classico's carbon footprint, since less glass means less fuel used in transportation."  Huh?  The smaller size means more glass and metal per ounce of product.  On an ounce-by-ounce basis, they've actually increased their carbon footprint!

Classico's blatant price increase means I just have to buy more jars to get the same amount of product.  But what about Hillshire Farms kielbasa?  They cut their size from 16 oz. to 14 oz.  But when you buy a jambalaya mix or open your cookbook for a kielbasa recipe, it calls for one pound (16 oz.) of meat.  So now you can't even make your favorite dishes the same way.  And you're paying more per ounce for your food.

I don't think any of these companies gave this move enough thought.  First of all, why do they need to raise prices in a tough economic situation when their costs aren't going up?  Secondly, how often can they do this before we're buying miniature sizes of everything?

I know what's going to happen.  Maybe they'll slash the sizes again to sneak through another price increase.  But eventually they'll have to return to the original size.  And I guarantee you they'll splash a big banner on the label that says "new, larger size!"