Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fried Rice Vice (Lean Cuisine Chicken Fried Rice)

Back in the saddle – sorry, I've been MIA (Missing In Action) for a while, and it's my fault. Between the American Thanksgiving holiday and a killer workload, I've missed two weeks of blogs, and I apologize. To make up for it, this blog is tediously looooong.

Now here's some information that will make your hair stand on end – according to Grocery Retail Online™, "[a]ccording to several research studies, the typical shopping cart handle carries 1 million germs, shopping carts have more germs than a public restroom and food-borne bacteria cause 75 million illnesses annually." More germs than a public restroom? Ick. This may put me off shopping for the entire holiday season! Fear not, though, because apparently there is a company – serendipitously named "Pure Cart Systems LLC" – which is swooping in to save you from those germs, by having developed a cart "purifier." The device seems to work like a car wash…store employees push the unused carts through this large box and 99% of all bacteria and viruses are eradicated with a lemon-scented disinfecting wash which dries rapidly. (Yessirree, you couldn't make this stuff up if you had to....)

I guess plain old Lysol wipes just aren't going to cut it any more.

Turkey turkey everywhere this past week, and yet I threw myself upon my frozen food sword for you, to save you the brain damage of buying bad products. I have two quick reviews for you – one product was edible, the other was dreadful. You say you want the bad news first? So be it:

Lean Cuisine Café Classics Bowl Chicken Fried Rice.

I bought this because (sucker!) the picture looked great. Yes…even I, who know better, can be seduced by the dark side of Stouffer's. Ten ounces of rice, white meat chicken, crispy vegetables and eggs in a sesame sauce; it sounded great. Sadly, it was awful. I try to remember, when I'm eating "diet food," that it's low-cal or low-fat or whatever it is, but this meal flat out sucked. Yes, it was only 280 calories – but who cares? The chicken was edible, although I did get a gristle-y piece; the rice and the vegetables were cooked and mostly inoffensive. The sauce was non-existent in flavor, although evident in a brownish color that became evident when you stirred the "bowl." Nothing I added helped, not even walloping big splashes of Soy Sauce. The meal had that "kiss-of-death-blandness" that cannot be overcome. You might as well be eating cardboard with a splash of teriyaki, because there was no hint of sesame sauce to be had. Not so dreadful that you wouldn't finish eating it, but dreadful enough so that you wouldn't purchase it again, at least not deliberately. Save your money. If you're in the mood for chicken fried rice, grab a $1.00 box of Rice-A-Roni brand Fried Rice and add some shredded or cubed cooked chicken. You'll be far, far happier with the result, trust me.

Banquet Crock Pot Classics Chicken and Dumplings

I've recently had several emails from readers moaning that they can't find Banquet's outstandingly great Chicken and Pasta Crock Pot Classics dinner in a bag, and I'm having the same problem. I seriously hope that Banquet hasn't discontinued this dinner, because it is genuinely comfort food in a bag that I love, and judging from the email I'm getting, I'm not alone in this. I'll keep you posted if I'm able to learn anything further about this particular dinner.

In the meantime, however, when I wasn't able to find the Chicken and Pasta version at the grocer's, I picked up their Chicken and Dumplings dinner instead. The bag is about the same size – 41.5 ounces, or just under 3 pounds – and from the description on the bag, I thought this would be essentially the same dinner as the Chicken and Pasta, but with dumplings instead of the noodles. Same creamy, chicken-y sauce, same vegetables, same chicken, right? Oddly enough, it wasn't.

The Chicken and Dumpling dinner uses thigh meat, instead of white meat, which I do not like nearly as well. It contains carrots, onions and celery as its primary vegetables, while the Pasta dinner uses carrots, peas and celery. There are clearly some seasoning differences, as well; the Dumpling Dinner has a more peppery taste than the Pasta dinner. Nonetheless, there's certainly nothing inedible about the chicken, sauce and vegetables – just not as good, in my opinion, as the chicken, sauce and vegetables contained in the Chicken and Pasta Crock Pot Classic dinner.

I wasn't thrilled with the dumplings. They are modeled on the more southern-style dumpling which is basically a large noodle that gets cooked in the sauce or gravy, as opposed to the old-style dumplings that get cooked on the surface of the sauce, and puff up (rise) like biscuits. I actually like both types of dumplings, provided they are done well, but these are not. They came out like fairly heavy noodles, and were just too doughy for me. I felt like the amount of doughy dumpling overwhelmed the rest of the dinner…that I had to dig over and under the dumplings to find the chicken and veggies. On the other hand, if you're looking for a "stick to your ribs" type dinner, this might be just the thing for you, because it certainly thumps your appetite into submission, and you do feel full for quite a while after eating.

The bag claims that it feeds 8 with 2/3 cup servings, but even with a meal as heavy as this one is, that is probably too small of a serving size. I suspect 5 servings is a more realistic figure, but your mileage may vary. (Served with a cheap roll of Pillsbury biscuits and a side of salad, you could probably feed 8). Each 2/3rd cup serving contains 200 calories, 8 grams of fat, 21 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein. At $5.99, not a bad deal.

Overall, a decent dinner, but I wouldn't look for it like I do with the Chicken and Pasta.

I'm glad to be back on the job! Email us with your suggestions and questions.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Auntie's NutriSystems® Challenge (Can YOU do it at home?)

Well…last week I rashly promised that I would be writing about Auntie’s Nutrisystems Challenge this week. I was an idiot to say that, but say it I did, and I’ve actually done the work needed to tell you how Nutrisystems® stacks up, both financially and diet-wise.

If you go to Nutrisystems’® website, you can’t really obtain any decent information. I selected their “NutriSystem® Nourish™ Women’s Program,” the details of which are basically nonexistent. The gist is that you “select your foods online (or on the phone) and they arrive on your doorstep.” The website does provide a listing of the foods from which you can select, like a Chinese menu – one from column A, one from column B - but all it lists is the name of the meal or snack – for example, “Blueberry Bran Muffin,” or “Teriyaki Sauce and Beef with Rice.” The listing doesn’t tell you calorie counts, weight of the dish/portion or detail other micronutrient information. The current emphasis of the program is eating “low glycemic index” foods as opposed to “high glycemic index foods,” which is the newest dieting fad to reach North American shores.

If you’re not au fait with glycemic index foods, it’s a rating of how rapidly carbohydrates break down in your system. “Low” glycemic index foods (think “good carbs”) break down slowly and encourage stable blood sugar levels; “High” glycemic index foods (think “bad carbs”) break down rapidly, cause your insulin levels to spike and purportedly, according to NutriSystems®, “cause…your body to store fat while also leaving you hungry soon after a meal.” This isn’t really hard to grasp. It’s the difference between eating oatmeal for breakfast or pounding a doughnut.

Apparently, you select all three meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – as well as one dessert and one snack for every day in the month for 28 days (4 weeks). Notably, the desserts and snacks are lumped together in the same category, and are split about 50/50 between savories (salty) and sweets. The lunch and dinner entrees and meals seem, from their names, to be pretty typical frozen meals – Pasta Parmesan with Broccoli, Fettucini Alfredo with Vegetables and Mushrooms, Vegetable Lasagna with Basil Tomato Sauce, as examples. The breakfast foods range from frozen “meals” like “Scrambled Eggs – Smoke Flavor” to your basic granola bar (“Apple Granola Bar”). The desserts and snacks are also not exotic – everything from Almond Biscotti to Sour Cream and Onion Soy Chips. I did note that Soy Chips are predominantly featured among the savory snacks, along with pretzels, both regular and soy versions. If you sign up for “auto-delivery,” a process by which you are basically agreeing to continue to buy their food, month after month, it costs about $10.00 per day - $289.46 per 28-day month on the auto-delivery plan, or $321.62 plus $16.00 for shipping on the one-month (4 weeks) only plan. Anyway…on to Auntie’s NutriSystems® Challenge. Can you match this at home?

I selected one week’s worth of food from the menu choices, as randomly as I could manage. 7 breakfasts, lunches and dinners, along with all of the desserts and snacks. I went searching for suitable substitutes that you could easily purchase at the grocery store. Given that I only had the meals’ names, I had to do some guessing, but I think I came pretty close. As an example, I substituted Healthy Choice Chicken Broccoli Alfredo for NutriSystems’® Fettucini Alfredo with Vegetables and Mushrooms; I substituted Campbell’s Soup at Hand Creamy Broccoli Instant Soup for NutriSystems’® Cream of Broccoli Soup (a lunch selection). Every dish I chose as an alternative was simply heat and eat or unwrap and eat (like granola bars), so that the “work” was equivalent – no cooking or preparation whatsoever. I entered the price for each meal, entrée or snack, adjusted for a single serving size portion in the case of multiple-serving products (like cookies or granola bars), and then entered all of the calorie counts, as well as grams of fat, carbohydrates, etc. I then simply averaged the prices, assuming one type of meal per day, and then totaled the resulting averages.

What’s the result?

Here’s the bottom line: you can replicate the NutriSystems’® plan, with 3 meals a day plus snack plus dessert, for $6.84 per day, averaging 825.71 calories per day. A Hobbit could lose weight on 826 calories a day, and you could save $3.16 every single day, or roughly $100.00 per month, on the “do it yourself” plan. To see the meals, snacks and desserts that I picked, their prices and calories counts, etc., see the tables below, broken out by type of mea - the daily average totals are on the very last table at the bottom. Sorry that the tables are smallish, but bigger ones wouldn’t fit here on Auntie’s Blog; if you click on each table, a much larger, easily readable table will open in your browser window.

Do you want to try it yourself? It’s simple. Just visit NutriSystems’® website, select the monthly plan that best suits you (they have plans for diabetics, men, women over 60, vegetarian diets, etc.), and select 7 days’ worth of meals from their menu selections. Print out their webpage, so you don’t have to write everything down – just use checkmarks or highlighter. Surf the Icebox Diner and/or your local on-line grocery, and find comparable meals – or use the random plan I made up. (If you use the Diner, you can also check for reviews from over 1,000 other folks!). Make up your grocery list, buy only what’s on the list (along with some fruit, please!), and eat from your new meal plan. Splurge that $100.00 you save at the end of the month by getting yourself something special.

So, see you next week! Send email to Auntie with story ideas or product requests!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lo Mein Event (Green Giant Create A Meal Lo Mein)

My much beloved and maligned Spouse – the Hubster – has a long track record of mangling the English language. It’s not malapropisms, like some comedians…it’s more a tongue-twisting that ends up creating phrases that end up living in infamy around here. We have some unique desserts – for example “puddo jelling,” which has always been a favorite of mine, followed closely by “cook and milkies.” (I defy you to read that and not think it from this point forward in time whenever confronted by a Toll House cookie.) The other day, though, he was staring forlornly at some items he had scavenged from the refrigerator, and wanted to know if I could manage to whip something up out of my “trick of books.”

Sadly, I wasn’t able to whip up something from Ye Olden Trick Of Books, but in that vein, I did find something else that will be helpful to those of you that have limited time or energy to cook. I tried one of Green Giant’s Create a Meal Stir Fry dinners (add meat and stir), and selected their “Lo Mein” version. It’s billed as “Lo Mein Noodles, Broccoli, Carrots & Mushrooms in a Flavorful Stiry-Fry Sauce, and after all is said and done, my overall opinion is: it’s not bad, and it’s a very easy way to “home-cook” a meal.

The general idea is that you take ½- ¾ pound chicken or pork, slice it into ½” strips, sauté (fry) the meat in a 12-inch skillet/frying pan for 4-5 minutes, then add water, the provided veggies and sauce…cook another 8-10 minutes and dinner is done. The 21-oz. package has additional serving suggestions printed on it (e.g., add variety by using beef sirloin instead, spice it up by adding crushed red pepper, stir in bean sprouts, etc.). I made it, and it’s extremely easy. You could make it even simpler by either buying meat already cut into strips (like fajita meat) or even using leftovers. If you use leftovers, you would just mix the meat, water, sauce and veggies together and cook the 8-10 minutes specified on the package. The bag claims about 3½ servings, and I think that’s about right – maybe 4-5 if you served it with a side of rice, assuming some of the diners were kids. The Lo Mein has 140 calories per serving (excellent!), 1 gram of fat (even better!), 28 grams of carbohydrates, and 5 grams of protein, so it even constitutes diet food. Granted, you then have to add in the caloric value of the chicken, but still - not bad.

The veggies were pretty good. The carrots were average, the broccoli was crisp and tasty, although the mushrooms seemed less prominent than I should have liked. The noodles held together surprisingly well, and the sauce was reasonably flavorful, although not quite as tasty as I would have hoped. I would recommend that you spice this up with a dash of your own stir-fry sauce, or dribble some Sesame Oil over the dish after you have prepared it. For hardier souls, the red pepper sauce (sold in specialty stores if you can’t find it in your grocery) would be a lovely addition.

This normally sells for $3.99 – which I think is a bit steep – I scored it for $2.75, and that’s a good price. I’m not sure I’d pay the four bucks, but I would buy it again on sale. I still don’t recommend it as highly as some of the other pseudo-Chinese dishes we’ve had around here, but it’s worth a try to see if you would like it better, and a product like this allows you involvement in the preparation of the final dish, unlike most frozen meals.

Still, though, for “frozen Chinese,” I definitely recommend Contessa’s products above all others that I have tried. I had their Chicken Stir-Fry again this past week, and it really is an excellent product…and as you can see from my earlier review, their Kung Pao Chicken really will “wow” your taste buds (particularly if you're an onion fan).

Next week: I’m going to be doing something a little different. You know, you cannot turn on the television, or pick up a newspaper, without being barraged by Nutrisystem advertisements. Now, what is Nutrisystem, really? Basically, it’s prepared foods (like granola bars) and frozen meals (like the ones we review here) used as a weight-loss program. You buy all of your “groceries” from Nutrisystems, you eat their food 3 times a day (plus a snack/dessert) and, purportedly, you lose weight…all for a mere $10.00 a day…$70.00 a week, $280.00 a month. Is it worth it? For that matter, can you emulate the Nutrisystems diet plan and spend less – and still lose weight?

In my next column, I’ll be posting a sample one-week menu, copying Nutrisystems’ meal plans, listing specific brands and meals, estimating what it would cost you to “copy” Nutrisystems’ diet meal plan at your own grocery store. As merely one example – Nutrisystems lists a dinner called “Basil Chicken with Tomato Sauce.” Why not try instead Stouffer's Lean Cuisine Cafe Classics Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce, costing $3.99 (regular price), currently on sale most stores for $1.99, with 270 calories?

Let’s find out if that $10.00 a day is such a great deal, or if you could save money by buying similar products yourself (and still lose weight!) in Auntie’s Nutrisystems Challenge.

Until next week….

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Six Degrees of Chinese (Stouffer's Corner Bistro Sesame Chicken)

The subconscious is a remarkable thing. Sometimes, the things you do without actually using your frontal lobes just make you go “hunh?” I unintentionally picked up not one, not two, but three “Asian” or “Pseudo-Chinese” frozen meals during my last shopping spasm. I certainly hadn’t planned to do so, and to the best of my knowledge, I wasn’t even thinking about Chinese food…but I have been thinking about home (New York) a lot lately – the impending holidays always do that to me – and usually what that means is that somewhere in the back of my mind I am yearning for the ease and tastiness of Chinese takeout, a facet of New York living that I miss enormously, here in the desert life of Phoenix, Arizona. So, this week and next, I’ll be reviewing two very different “Chinese” frozen meals, for those of you that also don’t live in New York, or Los Angeles or San Francisco.

The allegedly Pseudo-Chinese meal I popped into the nuker on Tuesday night was Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Sesame Chicken. As you may know, I’ve been a fairly big fan of Stouffer’s Corner Bistro line – I really do love their Chicken Carbonara, Grilled Rosemary Chicken and Seafood Scampi dinners. I was less impressed with their Garlic Chicken Pasta.

Sadly, the Sesame Chicken dinner falls into that “I suffer so you don’t have to” category of dinner adventures upon which I’ve embarked. It’s not dreadful; unlike the Michelina’s Penne Pasta, which I literally couldn’t eat, I finished this meal. But it’s just…bland. Blah. BORING!!

The “breaded sesame chicken tenderloins” were mushy and flavorless, the coating having succumbed to being stuck inside a cellophane wrapper while being nuked. The noodles were equally insipid, but that’s more forgivable, because they’re noodles, after all. The carrots were actually the one bit of inspiration in this dish, julienne and crisp, providing good texture, which this dinner desperately needed. The sauce simply seemed to disappear into the ether, after providing an initial piquant tease by actually smelling like sweet and sour sauce. I honestly could not tell you what the sauce tasted like…neither sweet, sour, salty…in Stouffer’s attempt to please everyone, the sauce had been rendered so inoffensive that it ceased to exist for all intents and purposes.

Overall – just do NOT waste your money. I paid $4.59 for this meal, which serves one. If you’re in the mood for “Chinese,” you would be far better off grabbing one of Contessa’s stir-fries or Kung Pao dishes. If you’re looking for breaded or battered chicken in that Chinese dish, Contessa’s Orange Chicken is noteworthy, and you’ll get two to three servings from a Contessa dinner for only a dollar or two more than the Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Sesame Chicken.

Calories, 510; Total Fat 15g; Saturated Fat 2.5g, no Trans Fat; 75 mg. Cholesterol, 1380 mg. of Sodium, Total Carbohydrate 72g., Fiber 5 grams, Sugars 19g, and 22 grams of Protein.


Superpretzel – yes, I know I told you I would review Superpretzel this week, but after trying two, I’m still undecided. I paid $2.50 for a box of 6 (regularly $2.79), so they run $0.42 - $0.46 USD per pretzel, which certainly isn’t back-breaking. They’re…okay. They’re not stupendous, and if you’re a New Yorker, they don’t compete with eating off the street. But if you’re a hot soft pretzel fan, and you aren’t surrounded by pretzel stands, they’ll probably do, and they’re cheap enough to try. They’re easy enough to prepare – take it out of the bag, dampen the top slightly, nuke for 30 seconds – voilá – hot pretzel, ready to eat. The actual size of the pretzel is probably slightly smaller than what you would expect from the picture on the carton, but it’s filling enough.

I will warn you that the instructions for salting the pretzel are a joke. Allegedly, you’re supposed to open the salt bag (contains “pretzel salt” – think rock or sea salt) and salt the pretzel before you nuke it. After several tries, I can’t get the salt to stick, not even with slightly dampening the pretzel. I think you would have to hammer the salt into the pretzel to get it to stick, which is tricky with a frozen pretzel. Overall, I found it easier to put the salt on a plate and just dip the hot pretzel into it, along with mustard or other condiments.

I wouldn’t rave about Superpretzel, but I wouldn’t turn it down, either. I don’t think I would buy it again, just because it’s not that exciting, but it isn’t bad, and if you’re a pretzel fan, it’s cheap enough to try. The kids would probably really like them, too.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

WHAT a Crock! (Marie Callender's Crock Pot Meals)

Marie Callender's Crock Pot Meal Chunky Chicken and Noodles
Banquet Crock Pot Classics Creamy Chicken with Pasta

While at the grocery the other day, I noticed that Marie Callender’s has put out a new line of Crock-Pot™ meals to compete with Banquet and the other meal-in-a-bag competitors like Bertolli and Contessa (although neither Bertolli nor Contessa has slow-cooker meals).

Now, I’ve had some pretty terrific Marie Callender’s frozen meals; their Fettucini with Broccoli & Chicken is fantastic, if not exactly diet food. And who doesn’t love their Pot Pies, which are incredibly nummy? So, naturally, I thought that the idea of a Marie Callender’s slow-cooker meal made up of chicken, sauce, peas, carrots and noodles - pot pie without the crust, basically - sounded enticing. The Banquet version had been absolutely to die for (see Diner reviews), so I thought I’d try it and compare the two.

What a disappointment! The cooking is simple enough; open the bag, take out the sauce pouch, stick it under hot running water to defrost it, put the sauce (along with 3 cups of water) in the cooker and stir; add chicken and vegetables, cook for 8-11 hours (or 4 hours on high). A separate bag of noodles is included, which you stick back in the freezer until 30 minutes before mealtime – then you add the noodles to the mixture, cook on High for 30 minutes, and the cooking is finished. As I said, it couldn’t be simpler, and unlike the Banquet version, you don’t need milk.

But any comparison ends there. The Marie Callender’s sauce was insipid and flavorless. It wasn’t quite papier-mâché, but it was close. Unlike Banquet’s delightful, pot-pie type sauce, this didn’t even rise to the level of your basic Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup-type base. The chicken chunks were all thigh meat, some with “icky” parts still visible, while Banquet uses large cuts of breast meat. The two meals are like night and day; Banquet wins, flavor-wise, by a mile.

To add insult to injury, Callender’s charges $7.99 USD for their version, which contains 44 ounces, while Banquet regularly charges $5.99 USD (and you can usually find it for $5.00 or less on sale) for their 42-ounce product. In other words, Callender’s costs more than half again as much. Banquet is dramatically the much better buy, ounce-for-ounce.

Lastly, I really get heated about food companies playing games with serving sizes in order to fool their customers. Callender’s claims that its Chunky Chicken and Noodles will serve 8, each serving being “2/3rd of a cup.” This serving size is nonsense. I’m far from a big eater, and this is about half of a serving for me. Realistically, Callender’s product would serve the same number of people as Banquet’s – 4 or 5, depending upon whether you’re feeding kids, or folks with large appetites.

Here’s what Callender shows as its nutritional information for Chunky Chicken and Noodles, but please remember that this is for their serving size, which is about half of what someone would actually eat: 220 calories, 10 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams Trans Fat, 40 mg of cholesterol, 590 mg of sodium, 18 grams of carbs, 6 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar and 12 grams of protein. Taking into account Banquet’s far more honest serving sizes, the two products are roughly comparable in calories, fat, carbs and protein.

I give this product a BIG thumbs-down. Don’t waste your money. This product doesn’t compare with Banquet’s version, and you’ll save about a third of your food budge by purchasing Banquet's Creamy Chicken with Pasta.

Next week: Superpretzel! Hot or Hype?

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Don't Stew Over It! (Chicken Alfredo Chowder and White Winter Stew)

Around this time of year, I start to yearn for soups and stews...those hearty meals in a bowl that remind me of cold days in my childhood, along with the crusty breads Mom used to make in order to mop up all the stock and sauce. In early October in Phoenix, it's still too hot to spend all day simmering stocks on the stove, so I went out searching for quicker, easier methods to satisfy that comfort-food craving (without going to a restaurant). I found these two, both of which are terrific, and couldn't be easier to prepare. Don't forget to buy a loaf of french bread from the grocery, or a can of Pillsbury's bread sticks to have with these dishes.

Chicken Alfredo Chowder

Yield:4 servings, total time, prep to finish: 30 minutes


  • 1 package CONTESSA CHICKEN ALFREDO Convenience Meal
  • 1 15 ounce can CORN
  • 1 cup SOUR CREAM
  • 2 cups MILK
  • 2 cups MONTEREY JACK CHEESE, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon CAYENNE PEPPER
  • SALT to taste
  • BASIL for garnish (optional)
  • BREAD STICKS (optional)


In a large soup pot combine the Contessa Chicken Alfredo, corn, sour cream, milk, cheese, and cayenne pepper together.

Simmer the mixture (DO NOT boil) on low heat for 25-30 minutes or until the mixture is completely cooked through.

Garnish with basil and serve with Pillsbury bread sticks, or fresh crusty bread, like French or Italian bread. If you really want to blow their skirts up, serve this in a fresh bread bowl!

We thank Joni Hilton for creating this fantastically easy soup – she won $1,000 from Contessa Premium Foods for this chowder, and it’s worth every penny.

Winter White Stew (Chili)

Yield: 6 servings, 30 minutes total time, prep to finish.


  • 1 package Tyson® Fresh Reduced Fat GROUND PORK, 1 lb.
  • 1 medium ONION, diced
  • 1 can CHICKEN BROTH, 14 oz.
  • 1 tablespoon ground CUMIN
  • 2 teaspoons CHILI POWDER
  • 1 can WHITE BEANS, 16 oz., drained
  • 1 can CORN, 14 oz., drained, and,
  • 1 can GREEN CHILES, 4 oz., diced


Crumble up and brown pork with onion in large saucepan. Add cumin and chili powder; stir well.

Stir in all remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through and flavors are blended.

Serving Suggestion: If you're from the southwest, serve with hot cornbread (if you haven't tried Marie Callendar's Cornbread mix, you're missing out) instead of french bread and fresh fruit; I like to top the stew/chili with a dollop of sour cream for a piquant contrast.

Auntie Tip: You can make this White Winter Stew with any leftover pork from a roast; simply brown the onions, adding the leftover meat when the onions begin to become transparent; when the meat and the onions have both browned slightly, add the rest of the ingredients and cook the 15 or 20 minutes until the stew is ready. You could also substitute 1/2-lb. of chicken for 1/2 of the pork to create a variation and to make use of leftovers.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Chicken Fixin' Vixen (Chicken, Broccoli & Rice and Chicken Paprikash Recipes)

This week I recevied a request from a Reader for recipes for "comfort food" for folks who just don't have the time to cook like Mom used to (or some Moms, anyway). So, here are a couple of quick and easy recipes using Tyson “IFF” (means, “individually fresh frozen”) Boneless, Skinless chicken breasts, to make the preparation time short and the enjoyment time long.

Both of these easy, family-friendly recipes use the breasts straight out of the freezer – fully frozen – so you don’t even have to defrost them!

Chicken, Broccoli & Rice Casserole:

4 Tyson® IFF Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts with Rib Meat
1 box Uncle Ben's® Country Inn® Broccoli Rice Au Gratin
2 cups water, boiling
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups frozen broccoli florets
1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine rice and contents of seasoning packet in 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Add boiling water; mix well. Lay frozen chicken breasts on top of rice, sprinkle with garlic powder, cover and bake 30 minutes. (You can cover your baking dish with foil as a cover).

2. Add broccoli, cover and bake 4 to 6 minutes or until chicken is done (internal temp 170°F).

3. Remove foil, sprinkle with cheese and bake, uncovered, 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and begins to brown.

Total Prep time, 5 minutes; total cooking time, 40 minutes. Serves 4, with 572 calories per serving (remember, this is a complete meal), 17 grams of fat, 71 grams of protein and 35 grams of carbohydrate. Serve with fresh hot rolls, to maximize your enjoyment.

Auntie’s Note: I suspect this dish could be easily adapted for your slow-cooker, but I’ve not tried it yet. I would put the rice and water on the bottom, followed by the frozen chicken breasts, followed by the frozen broccoli florets, covered with the cheddar, and put on LOW. If you try this in a slow-cooker, please let me know how it comes out!

Chicken Paprika

4 Tyson® IFF Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts with Rib Meat
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chicken broth (I use Swanson, but broth made from a bouillon cube is fine)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons paprika
1 container sour cream, 8 oz.

1. Rinse frozen chicken with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.

2. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Cook chicken, covered and turning once, 6 minutes or until golden. Transfer to plate.

3. Cook onion in same pan over medium heat 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Sprinkle with paprika; cook, stirring onions and paprika together, 1 minute. Return chicken to skillet; add broth. Cover; cook over medium-low heat 10 minutes or until chicken is done (internal temp 170°F). Reduce heat to low; stir in sour cream. Cook 2 minutes or until heated through (do not let boil).

Serving Suggestion: Serve chicken and sauce over cooked egg noodles (I like to add dill to my cooked egg noodles for this dish) and steamed asparagus spears…don’t forget lovely crusty French bread to really set the stage for this meal!! Cook’s Note: after making this dish, you may decide you prefer more paprika; increase it as you will, but make sure you add it at the onion-saute stage, otherwise the paprika never really blends with the sauce.

Prep time 5 minutes, total cooking time 25-30 minutes; Serves 4, with (per serving) 225 calories, 11 grams of fat, 27 grams of protein and 5 grams of carbohydrate (without the noodles).

Both of these recipes will replicate that "comfort food taste" that you're seeking with a minimal amount of work. (Many thanks to the folks at Tyson for the images).