Thursday, February 23, 2012

Eating Locally - A Beginner's Guide

Omaha is a great place to eat, which would probably explain why we’re all so overweight. Not only are there a lot of amazing local restaurants to indulge in a feeding frenzy at, but Omaha also has a comprehensive amount of grocery stores to do your shopping at - if you decide to dive into a culinary endeavor.

Wise Owl + Sly Fox are always looking for new recipes to try. Wise Owl’s cooking prowess is a little more developed than Sly Fox’s, but combining the two forces always brings delicious foods to the table. Last night, Wise Owl + Sly Fox met to try out some new recipes from Better Homes and Garden’s website. Typically, we choose what to make based on how long the ingredient list is and how long the dish takes to prepare because well, we’re impatient beings. For some reason, we tend to make a lot of appetizers like dips or baked onion rings or fried avocados, we’ve also gone on a big salad kick where each week we tried to mix different toppings and dressings to give a little pizazz to normal ol' healthy eating. If all else fails, one of us will pick up cheeses and a baguette to devour.

As we were saying, last night we made two new dishes (well actually Sly Fox’s dish was not new, we didn’t realize until we put the dip in the oven that we had definitely made it before). To make the process a little more interesting, we shopped at two different local stores. Wise Owl shopped at the ever popular Trader Joe’s - a chain of specialty retail grocery stores offering less expensive organic and healthier eating options. Sly Fox shopped at Wohlner’s - a neighborhood Grocery and Deli with two locations in Omaha, one in Aksarben and one in Midtown Crossing.

Wohlner’s
Wohlner's in Midtown is easy to access with free parking garage parking
The Basics:  Serving Omaha since 1918, Wohlner’s is Omaha’s oldest grocery store.
The Advantages: Wohlner’s has an unmatched meat department. Anything and Everything you would possibly want to buy meat wise is located here – steaks, salmon, liver, chicken, and a huge display of different kinds of sausages/brats is just something you don’t run into anywhere else in Omaha. 
Along with all of the meats comes an incredible stock of local and mass-produced meat cures, sauces, and seasonings. Sly Fox was also pleasantly surprised to find that Wohlner’s has a great selection of Asian and Mexican food options. She was FINALLY able to pick up a bottle of Sriracha, a staple in her residence, which is usually out of stock at the other local chain grocery stores.
 
The Drawbacks:  IT’S EXPENSIVE. Below is everything that Sly Fox picked up to make the dip, and the total for these items was $31 and some change.
Additionally, Sly Fox was not impressed with the produce selection. The Artichoke Asiago Cheese Dip recipe calls for green onions and as someone who purchases green onions almost every time she’s at the store (green onions are great on anything from quesadillas to omelets to sandwiches) she was very unimpressed with the selection to choose from at Wohlner’s as there were only three bundles left all of which looked like they were close to going bad.

Overall Experience: There is something to be said about shopping at a smaller market, you feel like you’re getting more local, fresh food and I am glad to know that they have a full wine, beer, and liquor section as well. Really, the only big hindrance on shopping at Wohlner’s is the price because neither Wise Owl nor Sly Fox are made of money. The service at Wohlner’s was superb and definitely had a feeling of Omaha.


Sly Fox made – Hot Artichoke and Asiago Cheese Dip (select the link to go to the recipe)
Ingredients and Food Processor
Mixing all of the Ingredients Together
  
The Finished Product



Trader Joe's
The Basics: This chain started in California in the 50's and is now nation wide. Their website touts their "innovative, hard-to-find, great-tasting foods." They keep their costs low, and thus our costs low, by selling their name brand items and buying directly from suppliers.


The Advantages: These stores are small so it's easy to memorize the lay out and if you are like Wise Owl and do your grocery shopping on your lunch break, you can get in and out of there quickly because you don't have to wander around a giant store. You can get pretty much all you could need or want from a grocery store, and then some. 


Let me talk about the and then some...TJ's has a GREAT cheese selection, and Wise Owl + Sly Fox love us some cheese. They have your standard cheeses in addition to unique, artisan cheeses. AND they're inexpensive so you can try things you might not have tried because they cost $20.00 per pound elsewhere. They have a modest produce section that you can find pretty much anything you would want in. But what I really like about Trader Joe's is their frozen section of already prepared foods. From orange chicken, to tamales, to mushroom ravioli, to French onion soup, to French toast, Trader Joe's has great tasting pre-made products that are fast and easy to make. Sometimes you just can't sit down and make pizza pockets but you do have 5 minutes to warm something up, and I would choose a Trader Joe's producct to microwave above most. I also love taking advantage of their inexpensive plants and flower bouquets to decorate my house with.


Finally, it's inexpensive! I love being able to try unique products and not pay up the ass in order to do so! I spent approximately $13.00 for the ingredients to make my pizza pockets. 


The Drawbacks: Like I said in the advantages, Trader Joe's has pretty much all you need. However, they did not have the ground sausage I needed for my pizza pockets. They only had sausage in casings and I actually ended up asking Sly Fox to pick me up some sausage from Wohlner's. There was also a time where I needed brown sugar and could not find any. It's really not a one-stop-shop like Super Target or Walmart.


Again, I know I said that Trader Joe's is inexpensive, and it IS. But, the staples in life, such as milk, eggs, flour, butter, ARE more expensive than say Hy-Vee or Baker's.


Overall Experience: I already loved going to Trader Joe's and my most recent experience there did not change my feelings. In addition to the ingredients I bought for my pizza pockets, I got a beautiful little orange begonia plant for $2.49, their amazing jalapeno basil hummus, and lemon cookies. I can't ever just buy what's on my list there.
Wise Owl made – Sausage and Mushroom Pizza Pockets (select the link to go to the recipe)
The Ingredients
The Delicious Filling
Pizza Pockets Before Baking


The Finished Product

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