Friday, November 9, 2012

Newman's Own Complete Skillet Meal for Two--Chicken Parmigiana & Penne

Made By:  Newman's Own, Inc. [USA]
Required to Prepare:  Skillet and Range (or 2qt casserole and microwave)
490 calories per 1/2 package

For dinner tonight, we are looking to the freezer for one of the convenience meals I try to keep available, and we ended up choosing this Chicken Parmigiana penne pasta dish from Newman's Own to try.  I'm not sure I have the usual anecdote about how we arrived at this decision today, but I will say that, as is usual for me, I purchased this while it was on sale with a coupon, so instead of the shelf price of (I think) $8.99, I gave $4.99 for it.

Anyway, we are hungry, so let's get on to the review.  Inside the bag we find par-boiled penne pasta, frozen sauce chips, some things that look like little cubes of white cheese, and six chicken nuggets.  To prepare, we simply empty the contents of the bag into a large non-stick skillet, cover, and heat on high for 4 minutes, then on medium-high for 6 minutes while stirring occasionally.  After the ten-minute cook time advertised, everything is bubbly and hot, and the sauce has thickened nicely, which is frankly more than I was expecting based on my experiences with these bag meals.  Since it doesn't seem to need extra cook time, it looks like dinner is ready to serve!

On first taste, my partner said to me (and I agreed) that it seems to be "missing something."  The sauce seems to be a bit on the sweeter side, which is something I am not used to with a chicken parmigiana.  Another thing I am used to with chicken parmigiana is for it to actually be made with parmesan cheese, which this isn't--the little bits of cheese I saw were mozzarella, according to the ingredients list.  I try adding some shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano of my own to try to rectify this situation, which helped but didn't completely solve the issue with the sweet sauce.  The three chicken pieces we each got were very soft and the breading was quite soggy, naturally; I didn't mind them and sort of enjoyed the salt-and-pepper seasoning of the breading, but my sweetie was a bit put off by the texture.

Overall, it wasn't bad, but it didn't seem especially good either, and really didn't seem to be quite as quality a product as we were expecting from Newman's.  I still have respect for the brand and will be trying some of their other offerings, but I doubt we'll get this one again. :|

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

El Monterey All Natural Shredded Steak & Cheese Burrito

Made By:  Ruiz Foods [USA]
Required to Prepare:  Microwave (or Oven)
280 calories per package

And now for something really different!  After this, we'll get back to ramen for a while, I promise.  (A trip to Uwajimaya is overdue and is in the near future.)  I'm going to admit up front that this isn't the type of thing I normally choose for myself, and that it made it into my freezer, and into the review queue, for one reason only--there was a coupon in the Sunday paper to try one free.  It should go without saying that this was a price the Ramen Butterfly was incapable of passing up.  So for today's lunch, a frozen burrito it is!

Preparation is so simple, I hate to even call it that.  You open one end of the package, and then microwave it for 75 seconds if it was frozen, or for 30 seconds if it was thawed.  (You can also take it out of the package, wrap it in foil, put it on a baking sheet, and put it in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, if you're so inclined.)  I chose to let it stand in the microwave afterwards for a minute or two just to make sure all the cold spots would be gone, and then I take it out of the wrapper.

Okay, I'll start with the outside and work my way in.  The tortilla has a really odd texture... I worried it might turn out soggy and wet from microwaving in the wrapper, but it's not, really; instead it seems doughy, as if the tortilla itself were undercooked somehow.
And unfortunately, the tortilla is the high point, compared to the fillings.  I had a hard time figuring out what I was actually eating, because there was such a disconnect between the flavor and the texture.  As you observe the picture of the inside of my burrito, keep in mind that refried beans are not on the ingredient list.  This must mean that the brown paste you see must be, in fact, the "shredded steak."  Once I realized this, the flavor I was tasting--bland beef and mild cheese--started to make sense.  And there was, in fact, an occasional 'string' here and there to hint that I might be eating a meat product.  But it's certainly a far cry from the picture on the wrapper.

Well, it was free, anyway, so I suppose I got my money's worth.  But for the normal price of $1.29?  Not so much.
I do suppose it's possible it would have tasted a little better if I had thawed it first, or used the oven directions.  And, I'm certain it would have tasted a lot better if I had gone to Taco Bell and got a Burrito Supreme for roughly the same price.  :b