Broccoli and cheese are one of my ultimate comfort foods. My mom always made a great cheese sauce and I always loved having it over steamed broccoli . This recipe reminds me of having steamed broccoli with cheese sauce because, well, that’s pretty much what it is, except in a casserole.
As much as I love the cheese sauce and the broccoli, there is something else I love even more: the cracker topping.
The crackers I use have a sweet memory for me. When my sister, Danielle, and I were first starting our families…and buying our own food…my sister and I had a snack that we both loved. It was our thing. Our snack was Nabisco Chicken in a Biskit crackers with cream cheese. The two of us could easily finish a box together, pulling out one cracker at a time and giving it a quick spread of cream cheese.
As of right now, this is the only recipe I make that uses those crackers, so it makes me think of our Chicken in a Biskit and cream cheese…and about how much I miss her.
To go along with this recipe, I was invited to do a product comparison of Smart and Final’s First Street brand of frozen broccoli and a name brand of the same. My mission also included comparing First Street Premium Napkins and Vanity Fair Napkins. I headed to Smart & Final to pick up all my ingredients.
As someone who usually buys generic, store brand vegetables and store brand napkins, I was happy to accept the challenge. I wanted to know: am I getting the best quality when I buy the Smart & Final First Street brand?
You can see more photos from my shopping trip here.
To determine the answer for the broccoli, I decided to make two identical batches of my Cheesy Broccoli Casserole. Everything was exactly the same, except for the frozen broccoli I used. In one batch, I used Smart & Final First Street Frozen Broccoli Florets. It was a 32 ounce bag for $3.99.
In the second batch, I used C&W Frozen Broccoli Florets. It was a 28 ounce bag for $4.59.
The first way I compared the two products was examining them right out of the package. I was actually surprised to find that they were nearly identical in color, floret size, and look.
I began preparing the casserole, so I defrosted both sets of broccoli in the microwave and drained off any water. The broccoli for each brand was placed in a baking dish. Again, the broccoli brands were nearly identical to each other when defrosted. I had to pay close attention so I didn’t mix them up!
I created two batches of my cheese sauce and I crushed the Chicken in a Biskit crackers in my food processor. The cheese sauces were poured over each baking dish of broccoli and the crushed crackers were sprinkled over the top of the broccoli and cheese sauce. Each casserole was baking in a 350 degree F oven for about 20 minutes.
(You can find the full recipe at the end of this post)
My thoughts on the broccoli:
- I found no noticeable differences between First Street Frozen Broccoli and C&W Broccoli. My family sampled from both baking dishes and when I asked them to tell me which one they liked better, they were confused as they felt it was exactly the same broccoli in each dish. I also found the taste and texture of each to be identical.
- The First Street Frozen Broccoli Florets were a better deal. They worked out to be 12 cents per ounce, while the C&W brand was 16 cents per ounce. Considering that they were nearly identical to me, I would definitely go with the larger bag for less price.
- I liked that the C&W had a resealable bag, where as the First Street one doesn’t. Would I buy just because of the resealable bag? No, probably not. I would still go with what’s the best value. But, a resealable bag is a nice thing to have.
The second part of my comparison was comparing First Street Premium Napkins and Vanity Fair Napkins. I had bought the First Street brand previously and was quite happy with it, but I had never tried the Vanity Fair Napkins. When I think of Vanity Fair, I have always thought of high quality product, so I was quite interested in how they would compare.
While the image above makes the First Street Napkins look smaller, they are actually the same size at the Vanity Fair ones (225 sq inches). Both are 3 ply and have an embossed design. The First Street brand has a grapevine design. It sells for $2.69 for 40 napkins. The Vanity Fair napkin has a seashell design. It sells for $4.49 for 80 napkins.
My thoughts on the napkins:
- I felt that the First Street Premium Dinner Napkins and the Vanity Fair Impressions Napkins are high quality and elegant enough for dinners where you might not use cloth napkins, but you don’t want thin, cheapy napkins either. I found both napkins to be equal in softness and durability.
- While I think both napkins are pretty, the Vanity Fair Napkins seemed to have a deeper embossing, so the design was a bit more noticeable.
- When it came to price, they were close, but the Vanity Fair Napkins were a bit less. The First Street Premium Dinner Napkins were 7 cents per napkin and the Vanity Fair ones were 6 cents per napkin. With Vanity Fair, the package was larger and it did cost more initially, but the package would also last you twice as long. With knowing that the Vanity Fair Napkins were a tiny bit less, I would consider buying them next time. I had never worked out the “per napkin price” before, so I never realized that they were slightly the better deal.
- 28 ounces frozen broccoli florets, fully defrosted & drained
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups milk
- 6 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
- 3 ounces Nabisco Chicken in a Biskit crackers, crushed
- Preheat over 350 degrees F. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Place broccoli in the bottom of the dish.
- In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk the flour and salt into the melted butter and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes.Gradually whisk in milk. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking often, making sure to whisk is frequently scraping the bottom of the pan. Cook until mixture has thickened and has just barely began to boil. Turn off heat and immediately begin whisking in the cheese. Whisk until cheese is completely melted.
- Pour cheese sauce evenly over the broccoli. Sprinkle with crushed crackers. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until browned.
Disclosure: This #SFTasteTest shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias As always, all opinions are 100% my own.