Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bertolli Premium Meal Soup Tomato Florentine & Tortellini with Chicken

Made By:  Bertolli USA
Required for Preparation:  1c Water, Saucepan & Range (or Microwave)
410 calories per 1/2 package

Tonight's dinner is one of these brand-new Meal Soups from Bertolli!  I've noticed them being advertised heavily, both on TV and through coupon promotions.  So when I saw them on sale in the store, with coupon in hand, I couldn't resist grabbing one to give them a try!

Inside the package we find an attractive assortment of cheese tortellini, some nice-sized tomato chunks, lots of spinach, some chicken pieces, and frozen planks of sauce.  We add a cup of water (which freezes everything together into one giant block for a while), bring the soup to boiling, and then cover and simmer for five minutes.  Easy as that, dinner is ready!

The package makes a very generous portion of soup--each serving is around two cups.  The tomato bisque stock is very hearty, with a sweetly creamy, pleasantly herbed flavor.  The spinach and tomato pieces are very soft, as would be expected, yet they don't seem mushy and retain a lot of flavor.  The chicken pieces are surprisingly firm, yet tender; the pasta is soft but has a nice cheese flavor.  I served it with just a slice of homemade bread with butter, and it made a very satisfying meal.  The other flavors don't sound quite as appetizing as this one, honestly, but this one is good enough that I might give them a try!  It's the best bowl of soup we've had in a long time. :D

Newman's Own Thin & Crispy Uncured Pepperoni Pizza

Made By:  Newman's Own Inc.
Tools Required:  Oven, Pizza cutter
480 calories per 1/2 pizza

Like practically all families in the United States, we enjoy the occasional pizza for comfort food.  I tend to be a bad girl and just order out for Domino's, but I am always left feeling a bit guilty about both the price and the ridiculous number of calories that come with pizza delivery.  Recently I got a coupon for these new Thin & Crispy pizzas from Newman's Own, though, and I brought one home to give it a try!

To prepare, we simply bake the pizza directly on the oven rack at 425° for 10 to 12 minutes.  Some of the pepperoni looked like it had moved around, so I tried to fix the placement of the toppings first, of course.  Has there ever been a frozen pizza that didn't have uneven toppings, though?  We let it cool for a few so I can cut it, at which point we have the lovely pizza pictured!  (The observant may notice that my 'side' is cut tavern-style so it can be eaten with chopsticks more easily.)

And the verdict is:  This is actually a really good pizza!  The crust is pleasantly crispy without being hard, and is sort of pastry-like in texture with a nice buttery flavor.  The sauce is mildly sweet, which I like, and the pepperoni is very high quality, seeming much more like actual slices of meat sausage than what usually comes on frozen pizzas.  The portion is small enough that it didn't quite make a meal for two on its own, but with a side salad it was a nice dinner, and the calorie count was much more reasonable than calling for delivery.  Besides, with just a 10-minute cook time, this one will even make it to the table sooner!  I don't know if I'll go as far as to say it's better than a thin-crust pizza from Domino's, but given the difference in price, it's an attractive alternative, and definitely worth the purchase!  :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sapporo Ichiban Hot & Spicy Chicken

Made By:  Sanyo Foods Corp. of America
Other Stuff Needed:  2c Water, Saucepan & Range
480 calories per package

So after a whole week and four different days of staying home to wait for service calls, I finally have some new appliances!  And of course, the first thing the Ramen Butterfly is going to make on her new cookstove is a package of instant ramen.  I wanted something as ramen-ly as possible to christen the new range, so I picked this new flavor from Sapporo Ichiban to try.

Inside the package, there is the block of noodles and one seasoning packet simply labelled "Soup Base."  The preparation is very standard:  Boil 2 cups of water, add the noodles and cook for 3 minutes, stir in the soup base and serve.  What we end up with is some very typical-looking instant ramen noodles in a pale orange broth that seems a bit cloudier than usual, and an interesting aroma that reminds me of jalapeño peppers.

The noodle texture is on the high end of the American domestic (i.e. soggy) variety--not horrible, but probably below average for me.  The broth, though, has a very interesting flavor; it is only moderately spicy compared to Korean-style noodles like Shin Ramyun, and it has a slightly sweet flavor that has notes of chicken and peppers.  Like the other Sapporo Ichiban products I've had, there is a very generous portion of noodles for the amount of broth; I am actually pretty full by the time I finish the bowl.  While it's not the most exciting ramen I've ever had, it's far from being the worst.  I thought the flavors were interesting and I would buy it again. :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

P.F. Chang's Home Menu General Chang's Chicken

Distributed by:  Unilever
Tools Required:  10" covered skillet, Range
410 calories per serving (2 servings per package)

I picked this up on sale at the local Safeway; although I do like to cook, I can appreciate a nice convenience dinner as well.  I used to have this kind of thing much more often before I started learning to cook, and I remember the skillet meals being fairly good compared to the microwave entrees.  Besides, now that I am part of a couple, "Meals for 2" are the perfect size!  Anyway, we had it for dinner last night, so here is the review!

The entire contents of the bag go straight into our skillet, where we cook it over medium-high heat, covered, for 11 minutes.  We have some breaded chicken bits, broccoli, sweet pepper, and some little square chips of frozen sauce.  We give it the occasional stir during cooking to make sure the sauce melts and coats evenly, and once the 11 minutes are up we cook for a few more minutes uncovered to thicken the sauce.  Then we transfer it to bowls and it is ready to serve!

The sauce is sweet and fairly spicy, although not overpowering; it's not a bad rendition of a General Tso's sauce.  The chicken sort of reminds me of the chopped-and-formed 'popcorn chicken' from the freezer aisle, but the flavor isn't bad and the breading doesn't end up too soggy even after being frozen and simmered in sauce.  The veggies are nicely crisp and enjoyable, especially the broccoli florets, which pick up the sauce well.  I added a bowl of rice and an egg roll as side dishes to fill out the meal, and it ended up being a satisfying dinner.  I don't think it really compares to 'real' chinese take-out, of course, but as a quick and fairly inexpensive convenience dinner I think it was pretty good.  I'd have it again. :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Marie Callender's Fresh Mixers Traditional Stuffing & Turkey

Made By:  ConAgra Foods, Inc.
Ingredients Required:  Water
300 calories per package

(available online through

I think I may have mentioned before that although my partner is very understanding and supportive of my instant-noodle passion, she doesn't necessarily share it.  (Especially when it comes to things like chicken porridge.)  Since the weather is getting cooler and I imagined she would also like to have some hot, convenient lunches, I purchased a selection of shelf-stable entrees.  Of course, since I never turn down the chance to try something new and possibly write about it, I picked up two of everything so we could share.  One of my sweetie's favorites is bread stuffing, so we are trying this one first!

This is the same product line that was formerly known as "Home-Style Creations;" ConAgra seems to have changed the name to make it match their corresponding Healthy Choice product line.  Inside the package, there is an inner tray that has our turkey and gravy, and some Stove Top style dry stuffing mix.  To prepare, we fill the main tray to the line with water, replace the lid (without the protective film), and microwave for three minutes.  For fluffier dressing, I did the optional stir and extra 30 seconds as well.  Then, we vent the sauce tray, microwave that for 30 seconds, and pour it on!

The stuffing seems seasoned a bit more lightly than I am used to; by itself I think it would seem bland, but as a bed for the turkey and sauce, it works.  Texturally it is comparable to other instant stuffing products; it turned out pretty good, not soggy or dry.  The gravy isn't bad, but it's fairly unremarkable--it seems comparable to the average name-brand jar gravy.  The turkey bits are actually pretty good!  There is a decent quantity, and they are much firmer than I expected in a shelf-stable product.  Overall this wasn't bad, and it seemed very satisfying for a 300-calorie serving.  I know my first impression of this product line was less than positive, but after trying this one I am at least a little more willing to give some of the other varieties a chance. :|

Monday, October 3, 2011

Nissin Sauce Yakisoba Karashi Mayonnaise Flavor

Made By:  Nissin Foods (Japan)
Added Ingredients Required:  Boiling Water
530 calories per package

Today, my partner is planning to have lunch out at McDonald's while she is at work, while I am spending the day at home waiting for the handyman to come by.  While her motives are noble (we are suckers for the "Monopoly at McDonald's" contest) I admit I am somewhat envious.  So, I did what any ramen lover would do:  I searched the Noodle Stash for the most decadent thing I could find!  Who needs a Big Mac when they could have a 日清焼そば?

Okay, so the package is completely in Japanese with no English translation anywhere outside of the Nissin logo, which means I am not 100% certain I got the product name right.  I am pretty sure the flavor is "Karashi Meyone-zu," though, so based on that and the picture, I am expecting a mustard-&-mayonnaise-topped noodle similar to the Myojo Ippeichan product that I really liked.

Inside the tray, there is a block of noodles with some loose cabbage pieces floating around, and two seasoning packets--one with powdered seasoning, the other with our mayonnaise topping.  The preparation seems to be the same as the Myojo product--we fill the tray with boiling water and stand for three minutes, drain out the water with the handy built-in drain spout, then remove the lid, stir in the powder seasoning, and top with the mayonnaise.  It looks and smells pretty good; let's give it a try!

The noodles are a similar texture to the Myojo Ippeichan; these may be a bit softer, and they seem to clump together a lot more.  The seasoning base is along the same lines too, with the smoky grilled beef  and Worcestershire sauce overtones.  This version seems a bit lighter in flavor, though.  The mayonnaise topping was a bit less generous too, although it seems to have more karashi mustard heat.  Finally, the cabbage seemed to be even more distracting here, since there were larger and more numerous pieces of it.

I definitely enjoyed this one, and it had the 'fast-food' feel that I was hoping for.  Given the choice, I think the Myojo Ippeichan is the better pick of these two competing products, but if this is the only one that's available where you are, I would still heartily recommend it. :D