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Frozen Dinners – Not Your Mom's TV Dinner Anymore


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#31 David Ross

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Posted 15 December 2012 - 04:46 PM

In general, Stouffer's products were better than some of the other stuff I bought to eat during my recovery. Once again lured by the packaging and photography, I fell for Stouffer's, this time a "Special Edition" side dish of broccoli and cheese gratin. I'm assuming these "special" dishes are put out at the Holidays. (Like the Bob Evan's Green Bean Casserole I've seen in the fresh case recently).

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Stouffer's prints these captions on the film cover of some of their frozen products, apparently an effort to encourage parents to have family dinners. I suppose if the best you can do is putting a frozen dinner in the microwave, that's at least a step in the right direction if the family sits down and eats together at the table-
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Like their macaroni and cheese, Stouffer's knows how to make a good cheese sauce. But that's what I thought was the biggest complaint with this dish--too much creamy cheese sauce. The ratio of broccoli was too skimpy, and odd thing I thought since broccoli is probably the cheapest, most plentiful vegetable on the production line. The bread crumbs were plentiful and crispy, but they were sorta dry and flavorless. When we make bread crumbs at home we toss them in butter and herbs. That's the homemade version. The cover photo was very close to the finished dish.

Grade: B-. Good marks for the cheese sauce but hit low points for the lack of broccoli.

#32 C Simril

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Posted 15 December 2012 - 05:35 PM

I grew up on frozen/canned food in the 50s/60s as my mother was not into cooking and my dad and I were not into being poisoned.Local Indian star restaurant Vij's has take out food which I hear is identical to their restaurant fare. In a Q and A for Eating Las Vegas 2011 I attended at Vegas Uncorked last year, someone asked the authors where to go to get good Indian food in Vegas and the author (I'm guessing Asian food expert Max) said "Vancouver." He was proabably talking about Vij's. A recent poll listed his restaurant as the best in Canada, not just Indian but any kind of food. HIs lamb kabobs are amazing, and I'm not a fan of lamb. Vij's food is available at local Vancouver cheesery L'ami du Fromage, which also has frozen entrees better than most restaurant food in this city, which has a lot of great restaurant food.. The frozen culinary universe is a lot different than it was half a century ago.

#33 Bill Klapp

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 05:32 AM

I am living in Italy, and have an outpost of a French outfit called Picard (apparently not Jean-Luc) nearby. Most of what is sold there is STUNNING by U.S. frozen food standards, both in its variety, the quality of ingredients and the execution. Stuff like the famous Alsatian tarte flambee with creme fraiche, lardons and onions, rather than frozen pizza. The Thai, Indian and Chinese stuff is far better than I can find in local Chinese restaurants (not a very high bar to chin!). In particular, Europe is far more committed to refrigerated and frozen vacuum-packed products than the U.S., and many of them are indistinguishable from fresh (indeed, the refrigerated items ARE fresh). For example, I can buy whole, cooked, large Ecuadorian shrimp that have been cooked and vacuum-packed on the shrimp boat and then shipped refrigerated, rather than frozen, to Italy. They are popped out of the plastic and sold on ice, ready to eat or to cook with. They are crisp, sweet and delicious, better than a lot of the fresh shrimp that I took right from the dock in the U.S.
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#34 xxchef

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 01:39 PM

We've been big fans of frozen dinners for about 15 years but not the store-bought variety.

It started when we bough a little 15' C-class RV for traveling and I couldn't come to grips with cooking on the road a) after 10 hours of driving and b) in a galley "kitchen" smaller than my refrigerator at home. I began making extras of certain meals and freezing them in anticipation of trips. When it was time to go, we'd just load up with prepared "RV meals" and hit the road. Meals included Roast Duck with wild rice, Meatloaf and mashed potatoes and our favorite: full turkey dinners.

We gave up RVing about 12 years ago to move to a ranch and start a goat dairy but we still make and freeze RV Meals for those long days during kidding season or any other time I don't feel like cooking. This past Thanksgiving we put up about 20 complete turkey dinner meals (with stuffing, potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, a couple of vegetables etc.). I can hardly wait until we have a chance to eat them!

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#35 rotuts

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 01:47 PM

Wow so cool how do these work out re 'freezer burn' or freezer 'flavor?'

good for you

looks just like "Pre SV"

#36 radtek

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 03:07 PM

Went for the cheapest in the case: $0.72- sausage and gravy pot-pie! Did it in the toaster oven.
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Some sort of meat product vaguely reminiscent of breakfast sausage. Needed lots of hot-sauce.

#37 IndyRob

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 03:28 PM

A couple of weeks ago, on a whim, I bought some frozen White Castle burgers. They were actually okay in terms of resembling the real thing (although I think I've only been to an actual White Castle once in my life). Bread and grease, as it turns out, seem to be minimally affected by freezing and thawing.

#38 David Ross

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 10:21 AM

I was looking forward to this peach pie from Marie Callendar's. They make an incredibly good apple cobbler. The crust is flaky, buttery and delicious, the filling chock full of soft apples and the brown sugar and butter struesel topping is incredibly like homemade. I guess I got my hopes up with the peach pie.
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I'm a bit wary of putting frozen products with a dough crust in the microwave. I have better luck getting a flaky crust when I put them in the oven and bake it the old-fashioned way. The crust came out golden and looked flaky, unfortunately it didn't score as high as the crust I've tasted on other Marie Callendar desserts. The cinnamon sprinkled throughout the crust was too strong and it wasn't as buttery in flavor as I remembered from the apple cobbler. But the main problem was the filling. As my little pie went down the assembly line, apparently the stuffer must have been clogged because pretty much all I got was sticky, gooey peach filling--sans any peaches. There were a few shards of peach, but the fruit was basically missing, which one would think should be the main element of a peach pie.
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Grade: C for a lack of peaches and missing the mark by not using the same crust they use in their apple cobbler.

#39 weinoo

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 10:39 AM

Man, you are not having good luck, David.
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#40 David Ross

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 11:17 AM

Man, you are not having good luck, David.

No, not very good luck. I've got a stash of frozen stuff that I don't want to eat. But I've progressed since my knee surgery last Tuesday. God Bless my employees, but the casseroles they brought me wouldn't rate any higher than the frozen stuff I've portrayed. I'm a bit stronger on my feet now, so tonight I'm doing chicken and dumplings-made fresh with a real chicken, real chicken stock and real dumplings. Nothing frozen in tonight's dinner!

#41 rotuts

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 11:23 AM

hope to see a pic of those Ck+D somewhere. a favorite of mine and good morale booster!

#42 David Ross

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 06:36 PM

I decided that I better shrug off some of the name-brand frozen foods and try some of the lesser-known products in the hope that it would provide more flavor. While the products from the smaller companies offered more variety--chicken masala and spinach-feta pie with phyllo--the flavors were not really marginally better than what you get with Stouffer's. In fact, Stouffer's lasagna and chicken pot pie were the leaders of the frozen foods I ate, although that's really not a singing endorsement. While I hope I won't have another knee surgery, if I do, I'll be in the kitchen prepping my foods ahead of time and I won't be taking a trip down the frozen food aisle in the supermarket.

The entrees from the Ethnic Gourmet run the gamut of standard Indian Cuisine-
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There was this odd patch of something in the center part of the tray that apparently was intended to be the chicken masala. The only problem, there wasn't any chicken. Oh there were 4 little shards of chicken the size of your little fingernail, but really no chunks of chicken as portrayed on the front of the box. And I thought "artisanal" products would be more honest in their advertising.
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Grade: B-, but only for the decent flavor of the masala. Overall grade: C- due to a lack of chicken and flavorless rice.

I found this Spinach-Feta Pie from Cedar Lane products in the health food frozen case-
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Frozen phyllo dough apparently doesn't endure the rigors of shipping as the broken top of the entree shows. I cooked the entree in the oven and it took double the amount of cooking time recommended on the box to get the phyllo golden and crispy. Sadly I didn't get a photo of the finished dish.
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Grade: B. Cedar Lane gets an A for effort, but the frozen phyllo shattered somewhere along the road from production to shipping and the flavor of the spinach and feta mix wasn't notable enough to raise the grade on this one.

#43 xxchef

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 02:12 PM

Wow so cool how do these work out re 'freezer burn' or freezer 'flavor?'

good for you

looks just like "Pre SV"


Well, it's not like they stay in the freeze for years or anything! We tend to eat them within a couple of months. I've also found that by filling the containers pretty much to the top - eliminating the airspace almost completely, there isn't a lot of frost build-up or problem with freezer burn or drying.

Pre-SV indeed!
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#44 xxchef

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 09:34 AM

hamDinners.jpg Just made a few more "TV Dinners" with the Christmas ham, scalloped potatoes, and winter vegetable medley.
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#45 ElsieD

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 12:43 PM

hamDinners.jpg Just made a few more "TV Dinners" with the Christmas ham, scalloped potatoes, and winter vegetable medley.


What is the texture of the potatoes like after they have been frozen?

#46 xxchef

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 06:12 PM


hamDinners.jpg Just made a few more "TV Dinners" with the Christmas ham, scalloped potatoes, and winter vegetable medley.


What is the texture of the potatoes like after they have been frozen?


Maybe a little softer, but they're fully cooked and in a sauce anyway so it's really not noticeable. Probably comparable to leaving them in the oven for an extra 15 minutes or so when originally baked - nothing too detrimental.
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#47 annachan

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 10:08 PM

When Marie Callender's frozen dinner first came out, they were quite decent. They were larger portion then most other brands and some of them actually tasted quite good. Haven't had them for over 10 years now so no idea what they're like now.

Before moving to Australia, we sometimes get frozen dinners from TJ. The chicken marsala was always decent in a pinch. I quite like the stromboli. Mac n cheese was the favorite though. I used to also get the shelf stabled pasta and meatball as I could leave it in my desk drawer.

#48 Raamo

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 07:37 AM

Tandoor Chef Chicken Tikka Masala

The sauce in this packet is the all time best frozen dinner I've had, my wife pointed out that the link I have above is sans rice... the stuff I usually get comes with rice, I've made Chicken Tikka Masala from scratch by making the tikka's first and then the next day makeing the sauce and the chicken I made was light years better then the frozen but the sauce was almost the exact same. You get real chicken pieces that aren't exactly small either. I've yet to find anything this good from the freezer that's a meal.

Our local high end supermarket has frozen soups that can be gotten on sale for $2 each, it's the same quality of soup we find at the mid tier of resturants that use frozen soup. Very good when we don't feel like making soup. This is one thing I likely can replace when we get a chamber vacuum since I can package soup the same way :)

Edit: Sent the link to my wife and she pointed out the difference :)

Edited by Raamo, 11 January 2013 - 07:44 AM.


#49 weinoo

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 01:30 PM

The "Tandoor Chef" line is definitely one of those that has the seal of approval from my wife :smile: .
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#50 radtek

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Posted 14 January 2013 - 09:30 AM

hamDinners.jpg Just made a few more "TV Dinners" with the Christmas ham, scalloped potatoes, and winter vegetable medley.


This is my basic method except I weigh out the portions while filling the containers. Making my own frozen meals to take to work has saved me loads of cash. Throw one in a cooler bag and pop the meal in the micro come lunch-time.

#51 cave76

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 10:57 AM

If this brand has been mentioned before, excuse me----- I've read most of the posts but may have missed it.

 

In the NW there are some pretty darn good frozen Chinese dinners---- PF Changs. Safeway and other stores carry it. They've made the 'cooking' of it as simple as can be, but a little more than just popping it into the microwave.

http://www.pfchangshomemenu.com/

 

 



#52 rotuts

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 11:10 AM

how is that salt content in those Changs?  in the restaurant the make sure to give you several days head start!



#53 naguere

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 08:39 AM

There is a shop just down the road from me in Cheltenham England that specialises in frozen meals (Award Winning Frozen Meals). All the dishes look wonderful and are delicious my wife tells me, but they are rather expensive. Take a look: http://www.cookfood....hops/cheltenham

On my last post, the above .

 

Since then, my wife was poorly and resorted to their stock, it seems you could do just as well with your own minced beef/chicken breast/and so on. also the rice was £1.20, a throw.


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