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Archives for Frozen Food



[ Currently Eating: Leftover Spaghetti ]

Well, well, well.

Looks like we’re back to frozen food reviews. I’m wondering, what do all the food reviewers out there do to keep their editorial efforts fresh and exciting? Do they attach electrodes to their nipples and hope for a little inspiration-zap from the car battery?

Yes, I said nipples. You know you like it. Woo.

Nipples have nothing to do with pot pies, but it certainly makes for a better intro than “This pot pie was pretty good I guess.”

We’ve reviewed a few different pot pies on Cheap Eats previously, most notably the Marie Callender Pot Pie and the Swanson Turkey Pot Pie. Those frozen selections are pretty far apart on the Pot Pie Scale – sort of like comparing apples and oranges. Or pot pies and nipples.

Hey. I promise you this – I will continue to make the potpie-nipple comparison repeatedly throughout this review. I will take it to new heights. Or lows. So if it bothers you, please pack your bags now. My sincere apologies to all you mommybloggers out there looking to cash in on the lucrative online food review market, who happen to come across this review. I promise I’m not usually a creep.

The 7 oz Banquet Chicken Pot Pie I picked up for a buck at the market seems to be related more to the Swanson type that I reviewed. However, there seemed to be a world of difference in the end result. I actually thought that this Banquet pie was much more cosmetically beautiful. And I DID make it in the microwave, the same one that I used to nuke the Swanson pie.

The instructions say to slit the top crust, so I made several cuts in the top. By the way, you may want to try making a slit in the crust with your nipple. If you do, please let me know about it, because the Guinness Book of World Records has an entry for Longest Slit Made Into A Pot Pie Crust Using Only A Nipple.

Wow, that sounds like terribly like Pr0n.

I’m thinking back and I can’t remember if I made slits in that Swanson pie or not. If I didn’t, maybe I’ll have to revisit the Exploding Pot Pie Due To No Slits theory. It’s like the Big Bang, only with more Pr0n and chicken. In any case, the Banquet pie came out beautifully golden brown. I was almost afraid to eat it, because it looked so nice. Like The Golden Brown Nipples of the Sun. No leakage from the nipples, er, pot pie, and the crust looked pretty nice.

OK, so looks aren’t everything. This pot pie was TREMENDOUSLY salty. OMG it was salty. Salty Nipples, he gratuitously said! Looking at the label on the back, it says that it provides a good 43% of your recommended daily intake of sodium.

America – this is why you’re fat.

It was difficult to get beyond the salty taste, but I have to say the crust was surprisingly nice. It wasn’t flaky like the Marie Callender pot pie, but it’ll suffice for a dollar pie. The chicken was spongy, at best. Not bad chunks of it, but it was definitely lurking in the un-delicious spectrum.

The carrots were OK. The potatoes were OK. The random green-speck-of-something-or-other? I have no idea what that is. I don’t think it has anything to do with green nipples, but man, I just can’t figure out what it could be.

By the way, I will pay anyone $75,000 if you can give me a picture of a green nipple. Kidding, of course.

Overall, I guess I was surprised by this pot pie, in the way that random nipples from Alyson Hannigan popping up joyfully all over the place might cause one to be quite pleasantly surprised. I would definitely keep the Banquet Chicken Pot Pie in the freezer for an “End Of The World Scenario”. But then again…. at the end of the world, I should hope that people of all persuasions and sexual orientations should free their nipples from the oppresive shackles of bras and shirts and pasties and pot pies forever and forever and ever…

Price: $1.00 for 7oz
Found At: Fresh & Easy
Cheap Eats Score: 5/10

[Editor's Note: I know you would like to feel better about yourself, so I will just say that I have very hairy nipples. See? Get down off that ledge. It confuses me why hair will grow joyfully around my nipple areas, but refuses to sprout on the top of my head. This is definitely discouraging to say the least, and results in my having to trim the nipple area of 2 inch long hairs every so often. Oh, by the way, no Nipples or Pot Pies were hurt in the making of this review.]

6/7/10 | CPK Frozen Pizza


[ Currently Eating: Space Time Continuum Crunch ]

[Editor's Note: Drat. I initially started writing this CPK Frozen Pizza review with the intention of having it appear like it was coming from the point of view of a slightly intoxicated alien. About halfway in, however, I realized that it'd be impossible to keep this up. This particular alien's point of view just takes too much fricken work to incorporate. And I don't really think or sound like the alien that I wanted. So, I stopped the joke and I've reverted back to "normal" for the actual review. I'm sure CPK will appreciate that more. Enjoy, or not. ]

Eeetch otch ootch.

Uggabugga.

Now that the usual pleasantries are out of the way, I would like to converse toward you or at you, that is, I would like to pronounce variously diverse syllables of this English lexicon, in the manner of that a humanoid of average influence, so that I may explicate (not defecate!) some ideas about so called “edible” objects. I believe this is known colloquially as “food reviewing”.

You see, I have only recently landed.

Or perhaps rather, what you may call a “spaceship” of mine has come to rest with great force and fire upon the center of the township known as Los Angeles in the grossly misproportioned parcel of land called the State of California, which itself is part of the larger functioning empire known as these United States of Canada’s Large Ballsack. (Excuse moi – I may have got the language incorrect but the general gist or mist of the idea is there.)

And being as it may that the thing which you might call one of my gastrointestinal bodily vessels or “stomachs” that I currently harbor had become devoid of fuel, I endeavored to remedy that situation snappity snap.

Upon entering a “supermarket” (perhaps this is spelled incorrectly, is it “stupormarket”?), I ignored the masses of extremely short, fat, fleeing beings (as I understand, being 10 earthling feet tall, 4 earthling inches wide and possessing the USUAL eight appendages is not greeted with friendliness here) and slithered immediately to where these “foodstuffs” were lined up.

I immediately filled up my second expandable hump (so glad to have had that installed recently) with a large variety of these foodstuffs and voorted the hell in a handbag out of there.

So far I have masticated or consumed a number of these earthling edibles with no ill effects. I must admit some confusion: What, pray tell, is a “pringle”? I shan’t even begin to describe my confusion over why these “hot dogs” are shaped so much like what your earthling women use for…

Sorry, a humanoid dressed in a light blue outfit just came to the hatch door and presented me with a package from a business called Amazonedotcom. I apparently was required to use something called an “oven” to prepare this item known as a California Pizza Kitchen Crispy Thin Crust Margherita Pizza, so I contacted this business to get one. My, their service is quite speedy.

.
.
.

(Alien reviewer suddenly turns back into human reviewer.)

Gah, that was difficult and likely a waste of an hour to write. I promise it won’t happen again.

I’m not really a huge fan of California Pizza Kitchen, the restaurant. To be honest, it’s sorta an embarrassment whenever they have those Best Pizza Joint shows on the Travel or Food Channel. They have New York style pizza, and then they have Chicago style pizza. And then they usually tack on “California” style pizza as an afterthought, so all the rabid fusion pizza eating surfer media mogul dudes won’t go postal.

But I’ve eaten the pizza at the restaurants (usually dragged kicking and screaming there by co-workers) and it’s not bad. The thing is that when I feel like eating A Pizza, I want it to be a dang pizza, not a movie production.

I want crust, tomato sauce, cheese and toppings. Usually, I’d like to have some sort of meat like pepperoni, sausage or canadian bacon on there. Pineapple is pushing it. No sprouts or broccoli. No fricken BBQ sauce. No sweet crap. By the hair of my chinny chin chin, if you put something crazy like ice cream or jello or melonballs on there when I’m hungry for pizza, I swear that I will hunt you down and force you to watch Teletubby re-runs, Clockwork Orange style.

(Italians and such: I know you have something to say about what pizza should be like. We shall have to have that conversation yet another day.)

So I guess that I already set myself up not to like CPK’s frozen pizzas from the grocery store. Let’s get right down to price, which is usually quite expensive. A 10 1/2 inch pie usually runs $5-6. However, I was able to get this Margherita CPK pizza for $3.14. I think it may even go as low as $2.50 if on sale.

This is the Margherita variety which is pretty plain. I actually wanted to get this one, because it didn’t have any crazy stuff on it. Just cheese, tomatoes, olive oil and basil. I guess I’m not such a big fan of pizza that doesn’t have tomato sauce – it’s more like cheesebread if it doesn’t have the tomato sauce (again: Italian friends, we shall talk more about that later, I promise.) I just like the stupid average American pizza the best.

Popped the pizza into the preheated oven for 12 minutes like they said. I cooked it right on the grate as they suggested, instead of using the pizza stone that we got recently. If I remember correctly, they actually said NOT to put it on a pizza stone directly. Interesting.

It came out looking very nice, like what you would expect a frozen Margherita pizza to look like. Overall, the best part was the fresh tomato taste – surprisingly good. The basil flavor was lacking a bit, but I can’t really blame them for that. I know this is probably asking for the impossible, but if they could get a better Basil taste to the pizza then I might be sold.

The crust was crispy but sort of cakey. This seems to happen with a ton of frozen pizzas that I try out. It doesn’t taste like a crispy yet chewy pizza crust. It’s more like a cracker, though nice and thin as advertised. I’ve wondered if it was the cooking method, but I’ve tried all sorts of different ways and it always comes out the same.

The mozzarella cheese actually had good coverage which is sometimes a problem with these frozen pizzas. They made a big deal about the “olive oil” flavor but I guess it didn’t really hit me all that much. It’s probably hidden in the crust somewhere. Not a big deal I guess.

The basil was the main downer – there were sprinkles or flecks of it all over. But, as I mentioned, what do you expect really? At least they were honest in the picture on the front cover. I woulda been pissed if they showed big basil leaves all over the place. I guess I coulda just clipped a few leaves off that plant in the corner (yep, we’ve been attempting to grow our own).

I think overall, this wasn’t as bad as I expected. The crust could use some more life to it, but it was pretty good for cheesebread style pizza. However, I definitely wouldn’t get it if it wasn’t on sale – and even if it was, there’s a ton of cheaper alternatives that to my untrained Americano mouth taste a lot better.

Price: $3.14 for 12.8oz
Found At: Fresh & Easy
Cheap Eats Score: 6/10


[ Currently Eating: Molecules of Moles ]

Truthfully (and when, good peoplepersons, have I ever NOT been truthful?), I’ve been thinking hard about this review for the past month or so.

Thinking hard has gotten me exactly nowhere.

So I decided to sum up what few thoughts these few brain cells have squeezed out about White Castle Microwaveable Hamburgers in two sentences:

John Cho is, like, a god to me.

and

These square hamburgers are rather small.

The End.

I would elaborate more on the first sentence, but I don’t think it’s really worth your time see me heave my enormous Jabba the Hutt bulk up on a soapbox. Or maybe it would be, if I had a fat wormy body like Jabba the Hutt. Jabba the Hutt would probably also have something nice to say about mini hamburgers. OK, I’ll stop saying Jabba the Hutt so you won’t jabba me in the hutt. I mean butt.

Superb. Butt-jokes in a hamburger review.

But if I could just make one little observation: John Cho, and of course Kal Penn (he is also, like, a god to me), have done more good for Asian Americans and White Castle hamburgers than any mortals from this multiverse have ever done.

I speak, with reverence bordering on the supernatural, of that peculiar pelĂ­cula known as Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.

Definitely one of the top 20 films of all time.

I have watched it 813 times, 26 of those in a row while sitting on the couch while eating Pocky and drinking Boba milk tea.

If you have not seen it, you have not lived. Or at least identified heavily with a film about two Asian American guys who don’t kungfu-fight (and also don’t travel through “time and space” with a bad accent) who just want a fricken hamburger. Plus, man, does John Cho has a way with ladies of different persuasions.

You go, Cho.

But all that is water under the bridge, meat under the table, and so on. This is a review about hamburgers. According to the movie (and nearly everyone from the East Coast with a heartbeat), they are supposed to be the shiz. Or is it the shiraz? I’m not a wine person, so you’ll have to excuse me. Or excommunicate me.

To those east coasters who say that I can’t possibly write up a review on White Castle hamburgers without having flown over there and tried the Real Deal, I say, “You’re absolutely correct. Now get on a plane and fly over here and have a real hamburger at In-N-Out.”

No really, I can’t say that. I’m sure White Castle does indeed rock the cow. It’s just that a lot of people from the other side of the continent have a highly disturbing way of dismissing In-N-Out hamburgers as hippy California Pizza Kitchen surfer burgers.

As if, dude.

But in any case, I didn’t expect making these little burgers in the microwave to compare to getting the real thing. Although, they sure look VERY similar. I’m not used to “slyders” or “sliders”, unless you mean the great TV show that they should bring back starring, guess who – John Cho.

I don’t even know if they’re supposed to have what amounts to raw onion chunks sprinkled on each one. I didn’t really enjoy that part so much. Also, I could’ve used some cheese on them. And tomato and lettuce. Heresy, yes.

They came in three 2-packs of hamburgers. You just open up the plastic on a pair of the burgers and separate them. Then you nuke for 60 seconds from frozen. I had a little trouble getting the little buggers, er, burgers, to cook completely. Your mileage may vary, especially if you’re a frequent flyer.

The taste is – not so great. The meat was sort of lifeless (on second thought, that may be a good thing!) and a bit pasty from the steam. I can’t understand what it is with people liking the hamburger and the interior side of the bun to be all sopping wet and melded together. Maybe it’s a West coast thing, but I really like them distinct and separated. I realize that large “Helen of Troy”-type wars have been fought over different hamburger styles, so I’ll just stop there.

The bun itself was OK, but nothing to write home about. I really could not get past the onions – scraping them off proved helpful, yet messy.

The price is the straw that broke the cameltoe’s back for me. At 60 cents each, these just weren’t worth it. I don’t even know – how much do these cost normally at the actual restaurant? I feel they should be a quarter at most for the amount of meat inside. Oh sure, you’re getting authentic White Castle hamburgers. But I’m not sure why anyone would pay the premium unless they’re nostalgic for them. Or, like me, you’ve watched the movie too many times and you just have to try them, and you don’t want to fly across the country.

And now, it is my great pleasure to end this narrative WITHOUT a picture of my original idea for this review which was a photo of my naked chest with two White Castle Hamburgers covering my mannipples like pasties.

Eek!

Price: $3.69 for 9.5oz (6 slyders)
Found At: Fresh & Easy
Cheap Eats Score: 3/10

[Editor's Note: Any fools out there who would like to have a picture of me fondling White Castle Hamburgers on my mannipples, please send $9.95 to "Burger Pasties, 31539 Scam Street, Burger City, CA" Thank you.]

2/9/10 | Pizza Bites


[ Currently Eating: Rainy Day Coffee ]

Pizza Bites - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

I’m in a charitable mood this morning.

That’s right. What I’m going to do right now, right here and now, is NOT wankle around. Wankling – that would be a word that’s a literary bastardization of my own creation. No, nothing to do with a Wankel engine, whatever that is.

Here is my definition. “To wankle” is to veer off topic while writing in a manner that causes surrounding readers to stutter-step and bleed resulting boogers out of their noses. The text created by such a wankler has been the downfall of many an innocent office wanker. Sorry, I mean worker.

That’s how I normally start a review – by wankling around. Wankling, while humorous at times, is not very conducive to the creation of a robust and helpful product review. The review wankler is often so caught up in his own wankling (no, not wanking, you pervs) that he doesn’t realize that he’s not talking about the product in question until it’s almost time to catch the latest episode of Days of Our Lives.

Companies hate reviews that wankle around, because they never quite get to the point of praising their product. To be sure, if the wankler has wankled in a truly artful way, it’s possible to keep readers around until the wankler finally gets bored of wankling and starts talking about the product.

Now, I’m happy we live in a glorious modern age where wanklers are free to wankle (or even winkle, by God) without the fear of persecution. In the old days, if you dabbled in wankling too frequently, you were liable to be strung up with all the other wanklers on a telephone pole line. Or at least fired from your editorial job. Still, the crafty wankler will always keep his wankling somewhat on the down-low. You know, people start to talk: “Did you read the latest product review on Cheap Eats? Man, that wankler is really off his wonker this time. I think we should turn him in to the feds.”

Pizza Bites - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

That’s right, I’m just going to talk about the product. No messy wankling around. See these are Pizza Bites. See, I could’ve come up with endless funny insults about how “These Pizzas Bite”. And so on. That would definitely become the bulk of the review. But no, homie don’t play that today. It’s just me, you and Pizza Bites. Yep, that’s all there is. Straight as an arrow. Clean as a whistle. It won’t make you sad, like other things.

Why, just the other day, I was thinking about how sad it is that most people never get to visit Alaska. Alaska is a great place to visit, a great wild country full of fun things. Lots of polar bears. Haha, made you wikipedia. Yeah, I KNOW there’s no polar bears in Alaska. Polar bears grow on islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Pizza Bites - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

What I like about Alaska, should I choose to visit one day before I die (I’m assured this is NOT their official slogan, but hey, why not?), is that the soil is composed of teeny tiny toasters. Quite handy to just reach down and grab a miniaturized toaster when you need it. These toasters, while obviously handy in case you have miniaturized your muffins a la Fantastic Voyage, will also cook up miniaturized Pizza Bites. Except, you don’t really need to miniaturize your pizza bites, since they’re so small already.

That was lame. What I really need are some miniature polar bears. I would put them in a shoebox, call up Conan O’Brien, and tell him “God damn do I have a hot ticket to the top for you, brotha.”

But seriously, Sarah Palin ain’t all she’s cracked up to be. For instance, I bet she wouldn’t know how to cook these Pizza Bites, bears or no bears. I tried making them in my Alaskan toaster, and I didn’t have much luck. I made two separate batches of them, and both exploded all over the foil I’d thoughtfully placed on the rack. I baked up the first batch at 425F for about 10 minutes. The second batch, I did at the same temperature but for only 8 mintues. I still had 2 out of the bunch explode on me. Maybe my old school toaster is too powerful. Or maybe it’s only meant for Baked Alaska.

I’m wondering if, instead of baking them in the oven, I should’ve instead hired a polar bear chef to deep fry them for me. You just can’t have enough deep-fried-ness. Plus, it’d be nice to have a hairy paw in the kitchen.

The crust on these bites was surprisingly good. A bit crispy and chewy at the same time. I don’t even want to guess the types of things they put in there to make it taste like that.

In general, the filling was paste city. Tomato based, a bit on the salty side, but not the worst I’ve had. There were all sorts of unidentifiable objects in the filling. After reading the ingredient list, it became apparent these were miniscule chunks of pepperoni and both real and fake mozzarella cheese. There’s also parmesan cheese in there. But don’t get too excited. My polar bear friend tells me there’s more Beet Powder than Parmesan Cheese in these.

By now, you’re bored. And I’ve run out of wankling juice. So we’ll just cut to the chase. These pizza bites don’t necessarily bite. They do taste pretty accurately like really cheap frozen pizza. Frozen, like the frozen tundra of Alaska. However, with low grade frozen pizzas being so inexpensive, I’d probably spring for that instead. But the Bites were 99 cents for about 15 of them, so it didn’t break the bank. The novelty factor was also there, and if you were in a hurry, it might be faster than throwing a frozen pie in the oven.

I was going to say portability may be a consideration – it’s difficult to put a full size pizza under your arm and gallop off with the polar bears. But you know what, if the leakage on these things wasn’t just from my overpowered monstro-Alaskan toaster, portability ain’t going to be a possibility. Unless you like tomato paste ‘n cheese glue all over your clean white shirts.

[Editor's Note: I apologize to Alaska and Alaskans. The allusions and references to Alaska in this review are no doubt far-fetched and untrue. I haven't even been there yet, sadly. However, you must give me at least some props for not making more Palin jokes. That would be too easy. Like shooting polar bears in a barrel.]

Price: $0.99 for 7.5 oz
Found At: Fresh & Easy
Cheap Eats Score: 3/10


[ Currently Eating: Ham and Egg Sando ]

Macaronia Fresh and Easy - Cheap Eats

Greetings from the Land of Macaronia.

I bring you good tidings in December. Nutmeg cheese dip parties and Santa Claws Hats.

Fa la la la la, la la la Not.

Well, OK, I’ve just been a little slow on the uptake. Again. It began with getting some sort of wacky stomach ailment the day after Thanksgiving. Monty Python Turkey’s Revenge or something. That put me out for a few days and dampened my holiday cheer. The gastro-problematicos also knocked me off drinking coffee which does not a happy camper make me.

It has also affected my vocabulary skills. (Laughing in the background are readers who insist that nothing has changed: run-on sentences have always run wild, spelling eeror saarienens are everywhere, I make up words and grammatical trees. And snow on.)

Thusly and thus, I will keep this short. I’ve reviewed a few Macaroni and Cheese products on Cheap Eats previously, but they’ve all been of the dry variety. The kind you just add hot water to and pray that all the artificial cake-like preservatives and elbow joints will congeal in an approximation of noodles and sauce.

This is actually the second variety of Fresh & Easy Macaroni and Cheese products I’ve tried. This particular one is called “Classic” Macaroni and Cheese and comes in a box in the frozen food section. The other one was of the “fresh” variety that they produce every day in the prepared foods section. The latter is “decent” as far as sauce goes, but the noodles suffer, like most F&E fresh pasta creations. It is also, surprisingly, more expensive (pound for pound) than this “Classic” boxed variety that I decided to try the other day.

Macaronia Fresh and Easy - Cheap Eats

I wasn’t expecting too much with this macaroni and cheese, so I was surprised it actually seemed to have real grated cheese on the top. The enormous two pound serving comes in a large plastic tub that has plastic wrap film over the top. You pop holes in that and nuke it from frozen for like 10 minutes or something.

Macaronia Fresh and Easy - Cheap Eats

One of the other things that surprised me is that the noodles were of the larger variety. I’m actually an equal opportunity pasta shape eater when it comes down to it, but I kinda prefer the larger ones for Macaroni and Cheese. So that was nice. After nuking, the whole chittybangbang came out pretty decent looking.

Macaronia Fresh and Easy - Cheap Eats

I was pleasantly surprised that the noodes did not suffer the same issues that haunt most Fresh and Easy “daily” pasta items. The macaroni wasn’t mushy and had a tiny bit of bite to them, but it wasn’t raw on the insides. The sauce is light years better, and I mean LIGHT YEARS better, than the orange cheese crud in dry macaroni box packets. I have to admit that there are some days that I like the radioactive orange powder, but I’ll take this kind of macaroni and cheese almost every other time.

The cheese sauce isn’t completely silky. I think part of it has to do with the sauce thickening a bit when cooking, and the external cheese melting down into it. It’s not so much the “custardy” version of macaroni and cheese that you get at restaurants, but it’s not smooth either. I actually like this better than some of the more solid varieties I’ve had. The flavor is pretty good, extra cheesy, but not too overpowering.

The best news was that this was a TON of food. Two pounds of noodles. I know there are big eaters out there, but if you weren’t eating this as the main entree as I was, you could easily get two or more meals out of it. I only managed to finish about 1/2 of it.

I’ve made many a homemade macaroni and cheese simulacrum in my day, and you can probably make it cheaper – but not by a whole lot. Assuming you like this stuff and don’t have a problem with dairy, this is pretty much a home run bargain at under $3. I usually buy one as a backup in the freezer for those late nights (or early mornings, or afternoons) when I’m trying to write up a lame review like this one…

Price: $2.87 for 24oz
Found At: Fresh & Easy
Cheap Eats Score: 8/10

[Editor's Note: This stomach issue is bugging me because now I feel like eating Macaroni and Cheese. I also feel like drinking eggnog. With a side order of beer. P.S. note to self: I wonder if anyone got the spelling eeror reference. P.P.S. note to self: stop writing notes to self, it does not bode well.]


[ Currently Eating: Trader Joes Chicken Pizza ]

Bertolli - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Hullo. I don’t usually wax (on and off, Karate Kid style) poetically about frozen food. Especially high end stuff like these Bertolli Frozen Entrees.

But holy rigatoni, these are probably the best frozen meals I’ve had in a while. And we try a lot of frozen food.

Granted, when you’re eating Banquet Meals on a regular basis, you’re probably going to be blown away just a little bit by such luxurious things as whole cherry tomatoes and grilled steak.

I was sent a few of these Bertolli Entrees and decided to try the Steak, Rigatoni & Portabello Mushrooms Skillet Meal. They come in a bag, weigh 2 pounds, and cost oodles more than a CJ’s Six Dollar Burger.

Incidentally, hey Carl’s Junior: I have a big, fat, enormous bone to pick with you that’s probably going to be the subject of an upcoming rant. I’ve been thinking of writing it for over 3 years now. But you can start with firing all your marketing people, the ones that tell you what your “image” should be and also produce those loathesome commercials. No I’m not Adam Carolla, I agree that guy is a dill-doh. But the bone I have to pick with you stretches magnificently over the course of 25 years. I’m thinking of writing a book about it. I will call it: The Illustrated History of How Carl’s Junior Broke My Heart. More on it later.

Now where was I? Oh yes, the wonderful Mediterranean style Bertolli frozen meals. OK, I know these are expensive. Even though it says “2 Servings of Vegetables & Grilled Steak” on the bag, I was easily able to scarf the whole thing myself. At between $6-8 dollars a pop, that ain’t Cheap Eats. But man, I was getting so tired of reviewing dollar store food. This was a nice change. I felt like I was at the Hamptons picking eggs with Martha Stewart. So upper crust…

Bertolli - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

So, this is a skillet preparation meal – you dump the whole thing frozen into a skillet, cover it, and cook for 10 minutes. Pretty easy – the only thing is I don’t have a skillet cover. So whenever I need to make one of these things, I need to get my second skillet and balance it precariously on top. It’s fun. Wait, no it’s not. But it works.

The ingredients in this thing are pretty damn amazing. I mean, I don’t even buy cherry tomatoes normally. It had WHOLE cherry tomatoes and they didn’t skimp. There were large chunks of yellow bell pepper – not the dehydrated flakes you usually see. There were sliced mushrooms that were actually creminis instead of portobellos – but since the former are baby versions of portobellos, I guess they’re not really lying. There was spinach in it. There was large strips of steak. And there was rigatoni in it that didn’t taste like Campbell’s soup noodles. (Yeah, I know – I actually like the jello noodles in Campbell’s soup too.)

Bertolli - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

I think what impressed me was that the sauce and the overall pasta wasn’t extremely salty like most frozen meals I eat. I mean, I always figured that the cheaper meals jacked up the salt content so that you wouldn’t taste how much the food sucked. But I’ve eaten a lot of high-end meals that tasted like a deer-lick. This had an excellent taste, the noodles were perfect al dente, the salt content seemed about right, and the ingredients were generous. The tang of the tomatoes balanced nicely with the steak strips.

A few things I noticed: the steak in the picture on the bag had grill marks, but the actual steak strips I got didn’t have any. The steak also had a little bit of that “processed” taste – but hey, it wasn’t like salisbury steak or anything. It was real meat. The sauce was a little heavy on the garlic side. But I think I’m really just trying to find something to nitpick on now.

In a perfect world – all frozen meals would taste like this… and they would all cost the same as a Banquet Meal. It’s really an apples to oranges (or a Carl’s Junior to In-N-Out) type of comparison. This isn’t a perfect world, and this is Cheap Eats. But I’m human – so sue me if I liked this high end meal even though two of them cost as much as it does to fill up the gas tank of our Prius. I had to take the score down a notch because it costs so much, but if you happen to win the lottery and you can’t cook, you should fill up your freezer with some of these.

[Editor's Note: I saved the empty Bertolli bag so that every now and again I could huff in some of that wonderful garlicky mediterranean meal smell to remind myself of what a great break that was from reviewing cans of Beanee Weenee. Also, I don't want people to think I dislike CJs because of an isolated incident. They WERE our favorite burger place. This was a decades-long crescendo of gradual disappointment involving our family giving so many CJs franchises across so many states so many chances. I'm no mealy mouthed, one-time customer troll looking to flame a CJ rep. This is something that keeps me up at nights when I should be sleeping. I have insomnia thinking of all the good times in high school hanging with the Happy Star. Sorry, I have a tear in my eye. *Sniff*]

Price: $6-8 for 24 oz.
Found At: Albertsons
Cheap Eats Score: 7/10


[ Currently Eating: Peppermint Tea And Lots Of It ]

Banquet AGAIN on Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Hello there, from the trenches of budget frozen dinner meal warfare. I’ve sort of attempted to stay away from the Banquet frozen dinners for the past couple years.

One reason is that whenever I write a review on one of their meals, inevitably I get bombarded with 10 emails from disgruntled frozen dinner consumers who think that WE are the company. Me: “Sorry, I’ve no idea why you ended up with gristle in your Fried Chicken Meal.”

Actually, I love getting contacted by these whiners – it’s just fun to read. However, what the heck do you expect for a frozen dinner under a buck? It’s darn cheap. If it wasn’t for the fact that these Banquet meals aren’t exactly the best things to eat (an understatement, I believe), I would be stocking up my freezer with them.

But a few months back they were on sale for 88 cents. So I couldn’t pass getting one for old time’s sake. Because, you know we’ve been reviewing all these budget frozen meals here on Cheap Eats before it was “cool” to talk about. That is, before the Eeekconomy completely tanked. Now, it seems like everyone wants in on the action…

I’ve sorta lost count, but I think I’ve done SEVEN Banquet frozen dinner reviews in the past. So feel free to read Part I: Banquet Chicken Nugget Meal, Part II: Banquet Salisbury Steak Meal, Part III: Banquet Fried Chicken Meal Part IV: Banquet Pepperoni Pizza Meal Part V: Banquet Fish Stick Meal, Part VI: Banquet Enchilada Combo Meal and Part VII: Banquet Chicken Fried Steak Meal.

Whew. And I’m wondering why I finally started to gain weight…

Continue reading “Banquet Swedish Meatballs” …




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