Making Busy Nights Special (A Stouffer’s Review and $100 Giveaway from BlogHer!)

This is a sponsored review from BlogHer and Stouffer’s.

 
 
Tom and I are simple folk. I can’t recall the last time we planned a candlelit dinner. (I suspect it will be a while before we light any candles.) We rarely eat out, for which I am grateful because at the end of a long day, I’m really not in the mood to get all gussied up to drive to a restaurant. Besides, I don’t even know how to gussy up. It’s a wonder I even know what the phrase means.

 
With two cooks in the house, you’d think dinner would be the least of our worries. But planning dinner is as much a sometimes-painful chore for us as it is with any other busy household. Often, the day’s demands monopolize our hours and by the time either of us even starts thinking about dinner, it’s late, we’re tired, and the freezer/refrigerator/pantry is bare. On a particularly busy day, it’s easy to default to pizza or Chinese food delivery.

 
The thing is, it is especially during those harried days that we could really use a special dinner. A meal that can help us wind down, put the cares of the day behind us, and simply enjoy each other’s company. And so when I read that these Stouffer’s Sautes for Two package promise a gourmet dinner in less than half an hour, with no need for a cutting board (other than to set the packages on so I could take a photo of them), I was intrigued.

 
 
ivoryhut Stouffer's Sautes for Two

 
 
I tried them out with a mixture of skepticism and trepidation. While we certainly use frozen food now and then (Tim loves potstickers and I’ve been known to keep a bag of frozen meatballs handy), we tend to shy from frozen meals because we just haven’t found any that we liked enough to stock in our limited freezer space. So although the description of these Sautes for Two meals sounded promising, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

 
The instructions are simple enough. Thaw the sauce package under cold running water, then pour the frozen ingredients into a pan, top with the sauce, cover and cook over medium heat. After a specific amount of time (anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes), you stir the contents of the pan, re-cover and cook again for another 5 or so minutes. The total cook time comes to 12 to 13 minutes, which is enough time for you to enjoy a cocktail before dinner. The sauce packet takes about 15 minutes to thaw under running cold water, but I prefer to just put it in a bowl of water and let it sit while I prepare a salad.

 
 
ivoryhut Stouffer's Sautes for Two

 
 
I must say that when I opened the package, I was pleasantly surprised to see the pieces of frozen roasted peppers, complete with char marks on them.

 
 
ivoryhut Stouffer's Sautes for Two

 
 
These packages are certainly big on flavor. The Steak Gorgonzola came with roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, penne pasta, and a rich but not overly-pungent gorgonzola cheese sauce.

 
 
ivoryhut Stouffer's Sautes for Two

 
 
The Grilled Chicken with Asiago Tortelloni had spinach and a nice alfredo cream sauce. Paired with a simple salad (the meals are flavorful enough that you don’t want a salad that will compete with those flavors), they made for a surprisingly quick and hearty meal.

Note: I noticed that they were indeed best prepared in a nonstick skillet, as indicated in the package. Because there is minimal stirring involved, you’ll want to grease your pan if it isn’t nonstick.

 
 
ivoryhut Stouffer's Sautes for Two

 
 
The verdict: I have to admit I was impressed. We tried these meals, hoping for the best but also prepared for disappointment. Instead, they exceeded our expectations. There was none of the off-taste that most frozen foods have. They were excellent, and better yet, took almost no time to prepare. Which means you don’t have to wait until after dinner to start de-stressing from your day.

 
The fact that it’s almost effortless means I have more time to spend on other aspects of our evening meal, like preparing a special dessert. As I mentioned earlier, Tom and I are simple folk. It doesn’t take much to make a meal special. Of course, taste is important. But so is presentation, and there’s just something about a well-plated meal to instantly convey that feeling of being special. (Especially since my default is to just throw my entire meal into a bowl, then sit in a comfy chair and put my feet up.)

 
Taking the time to pretty up a plate tells the other person that someone cared enough to make their meal look beautiful. Even when all Tom is doing is making me a sandwich for lunch, he’ll put in on a nice plate, with some cut fruit on the side, maybe a small stack of chips next to the sandwich, all arranged carefully and thoughtfully. And even though I’m deep in the middle of something that needs my attention, the fact that someone put in that kind of effort to make me a meal is enough to pull me away from my desk so I can properly enjoy and appreciate the food.

 
Neither of us is an expert in food styling, but we don’t need picture-perfect meals. All we need to know is the effort the other person put into the meal. Special doesn’t have to be an all-day project (although sometimes, we’ll do that too). Sometimes all I have to do is make his favorite dessert (like baklava) or even something simpler, like jazzing up a store-bought pizza with his favorite toppings. And if we get some help from a meal that only takes minutes to prepare, then that means we also have more time after the meal to relax together, enjoy the quiet, and remember what it is that makes it all worthwhile.

 
 

     
Now here comes the fun part. Want to win a $100 Visa gift card from BlogHer, maybe for a special dinner out or a nice stash of these Stouffer’s Sautes for Two meals and a few bottles of wine? Read on!
 
Rules:
No duplicate comments, please. Seriously. I really do check the entries. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  • Leave a comment below and tell me how you make an ordinary night extraordinary. Any favorite ways to instantly make a night special? Let me know! I could use some new ideas, you know.
  • Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a separate comment below.
  • Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a separate comment on this post.
  • For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. The giveaway starts on March 17, 2011 and ends April 11, 2011.
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.
You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.

Check out the round-up page at the BlogHer Promotions & Prizes section. Read the reviews from the other bloggers, too! You can enter their giveaways for even more chances to win that $100 gift card from BlogHer.

   

 
 
 

311 Responses to Making Busy Nights Special (A Stouffer’s Review and $100 Giveaway from BlogHer!)
  1. Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies
    March 17, 2011 | 1:00 pm

    I’m glad to know that these new meals are good. Stouffers is at the top of my list for frozen food, I love their lasagna more than any my nan has ever churned out, and that’s saying something.

    When James gets home from work at night, it doesn’t matter if dinner is 10 minutes or an hour away, he is ravenous and needs something to eat RIGHT NOW. I try to keep a baguette and really good cheese on hand. We each have a couple wedges of cheese on fresh baguette, a glass of wine, and talk around the island while we wait for dinner to cook.

  2. BeccaV
    March 17, 2011 | 1:06 pm

    I agree, a little extra effort goes a long way! Whether it’s a little nicer presentation or opening a nice bottle of wine, the little things make a differance.

  3. BeccaV
    March 17, 2011 | 1:12 pm

    Retweet of contest!
    bcvannier Becca Vannier
    Check this out! Making Busy Nights Special (A Stouffer’s Review and $100 Giveaway from BlogHer!) from @ivoryhut – http://tinyurl.com/4kdhzfl

  4. Autumn
    March 17, 2011 | 1:17 pm

    Light some candles. It doesn’t take much at our house. :)

  5. April
    March 17, 2011 | 1:21 pm

    These meals sounds awesome!
    I think that my best bet for a special evening is sometimes making a special treat just for my husband and I after the kids are in bed. We snuggle up on the couch and enjoy our treat. For now, that is special :)!

  6. Kierst
    March 17, 2011 | 1:28 pm

    Sometimes the “thing” that makes the night special is when my husband stops studying long enough for us to actually eat together. Pretty simple things at my house :)

  7. Anne
    March 17, 2011 | 1:29 pm

    A long leisurely walk after dinner with the boy :)

  8. Jessica
    March 17, 2011 | 1:37 pm

    Candles always help!

  9. Kristin
    March 17, 2011 | 1:40 pm

    Often just moving our dinner outside to enjoy the beautiful view from our back porch is enough to make the night special.

  10. Michelle
    March 17, 2011 | 1:59 pm

    A way that we make dinners instantly special- roast some garlic and add to any side dish! Delicious.

  11. Jessica A
    March 17, 2011 | 2:17 pm

    Well my hubby just refinished our glorious 1940′s Harvest Gold bathtub so my nights are made special by my hubs drawing a bath for me, pouring me a glass of wine and letting me soak and read while he catches up on the news.

  12. Mami2jcn
    March 17, 2011 | 2:18 pm

    We make it special by sharing a nice dessert.

  13. Mami2jcn
    March 17, 2011 | 2:18 pm

    tweet-http://twitter.com/mami2jcn/status/48447865395232768

  14. Amanda
    March 17, 2011 | 2:37 pm

    The only technique we’ve used lately has been putting the child to bed early so we can eat a slightly nicer meal without interference. :)

  15. Amy Schmucker
    March 17, 2011 | 3:01 pm

    I have “dance Party” on the cutting board special.

    First turn on the radio to your favorite dance music. Close all the curtains so no one can see you make a fool of yourself.

    Take out your biggest cutting board. slice up apples, cheese, pears, ham and turkey from the deli, and your favorite crackers. Add some grapes and grape tomatoes and olives if you wish. Just napkins no plates. spicy mustard or whatever you want on your cutting board is allowed.

    Take the entire cutting board into the living room or were ever you have the radio playing. Dance to your favorite songs or whatever come on. You can eat only after you have danced one song. Be as silly or old school as you wish.

    Get the kids involved. You must dance to be able to eat.
    Then laugh, eat and enjoy each others company and teach each other different moves.

  16. Shannon
    March 17, 2011 | 3:18 pm

    Ordinary nights are extraordinary when you’re aware of what’s actually happening. Children are growing in front of you, your husband and you are growing old together – it’s everything you’ve ever wanted – happening every day!

  17. Bea
    March 17, 2011 | 3:22 pm

    Waiting to eat ’til the toddler’s in bed and actually having two adults sitting and eating at the same time counts as extraordinary in our house!

  18. Lorena
    March 17, 2011 | 3:35 pm

    Ordinary dinners become special when my husband and I cook together — whether he makes the entree and I make sides and/or dessert, it’s nice to spend the time together in the kitchen. No one’s sitting there watching TV while the other cooks, or on the computer. It’s just the two of us catching up on our day as we make a wholesome meal together.

  19. Katy Williams
    March 17, 2011 | 5:41 pm

    Our special night is trying a variety of cheeses from the local cheese factory. We both like different kinds but always try something new!

  20. Brooke
    March 17, 2011 | 5:58 pm

    Im always skeptical about frozen meals, but I may have to try this one!

  21. Brooke
    March 17, 2011 | 5:59 pm

    tweeted!
    @bazcat

  22. Melanie
    March 17, 2011 | 6:35 pm

    I make a night special just by getting rid of the electronics (turning them off), making some sushi or gyoza, and some of our favorite music. There’s something about connecting over a good homemade meal that just makes the night extra-special.

  23. Joan Pratt
    March 17, 2011 | 6:44 pm

    To spice it up once and awhile I set a “fancy” table. China, linens and candles. My daughter loves eating by candle light & there seems to be so much more dinner-time conversation.

  24. Darcy Gray
    March 17, 2011 | 7:52 pm

    anytime all four of my kids are home for dinner makes it special for us. I also like to light a candle, put on some music, a nice tablecloth, set the table nicely, and plate the food creatively to make a special dinner for two or three or however many arrive in time to eat.

  25. amy
    March 17, 2011 | 10:50 pm

    I tweeted about this giveaway. here’s the link.

    http://twitter.com/#!/uTry_it

  26. Jo's Country Junction
    March 17, 2011 | 11:13 pm

    We have friends over quite often on Friday night. I like to cook and it’s all by scratch. Having this would be a great break…

  27. Tabathia B
    March 18, 2011 | 12:21 am

    We cuddle on the couch, lights out and enjoy dessert while watching a great movie

    tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

  28. Tabathia B
    March 18, 2011 | 12:22 am

    tweet’
    http://twitter.com/#!/ChelleB36/status/48599695085404160
    tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

  29. Stacy
    March 18, 2011 | 3:45 am

    My husband and I work shiftwork which is often times opposite shifts so for us we enjoy just spending time together. It really doesn’t matter what we do as long as we are spending quality time together. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  30. shala_darkstone
    March 18, 2011 | 6:06 am

    I make a night extraordinary by getting out the nice dishes and tablecloth and setting the table. I might also make a special dessert.

  31. sandra
    March 18, 2011 | 7:55 am

    my husband and i will watch a movie after the kids go to bed

  32. Susan Zabritski
    March 18, 2011 | 8:32 am

    I love to experiment with different cuisines, new foods…but hubby is strictly meat and potatoes. So for him a special dinner is simple, Mid-west memories of home.

  33. ladywild
    March 18, 2011 | 3:02 pm

    I usually make us good food, but I don’t take much time to make it look nice on a plate. When I want a special night, I pull out all the stops. I make something nice, put on some good music, put a table cloth on the table, light some candles, and get a good bottle of wine. It always makes for a wonderful night.

  34. AngieWhitney
    March 18, 2011 | 8:43 pm

    I make an ordinary night extraordinary by cooking our dinner, packing it up, and taking it outdoors. There’s something so special about dining out in nature…the sounds, the smells, the breeze in the trees…they all add to the meal in a way you just can’t get in your kitchen. The whole family loves it, plus the clean up is a breeze! For a mom, that’s the best part!

  35. sophia
    March 19, 2011 | 1:48 am

    My “special” night is when I read my current book to my husband. I like the idea of his thought being intertwined into mines, into the book. It is literally being on the same page for a short period of time.

  36. sophia
    March 19, 2011 | 1:50 am
  37. Vicki
    March 19, 2011 | 3:46 am

    Dinner is most special when the two of us cook dinner together, or on those Sunday nights when we have dinner at my mother’s house – much of the time, we make dinner for her. At 79, she is still a wonderful cook, but it is time to return the favor as often as we can, she’s certainly cooked more than her share of meals for us!

  38. Sarah @ The Pajama Chef
    March 19, 2011 | 11:58 am

    we always always always have salad as a dinner side. so, to make it special, i like to fancy it up with fruit (fresh or dried), nuts, homemade croutons, etc. :) i also like to make new side dishes from time to time :)

  39. Kelly
    March 19, 2011 | 2:49 pm

    I make a dessert…. And I will consider these entrees – they might come in handy when we are on vacation and it is just difficult to cook in a rental house.

    I appreciate your sense of humor at the beginning of the post – hope things are improving day by day.

  40. Amethyst Moon
    March 19, 2011 | 9:30 pm

    the easiest way to make a night special is to shut off all electronics and focus on each other, maybe even eat outside by candlelight.

  41. Kerri Anne
    March 19, 2011 | 11:15 pm

    Head out for a walk around the neighborhood (or through nearby parks) after dinner. Hand-holding while strolling is the best.

  42. Susan Smith
    March 20, 2011 | 10:02 am

    We make evenings special by making dinner together and turning off our cell phones, computers and the TV and talk about our day.

  43. Susan Smith
    March 20, 2011 | 10:03 am
  44. JennM
    March 20, 2011 | 4:58 pm

    Gosh. I make an ordinary night special by waiting to change into sweat pants until after dinner. :/

    Maybe I should try harder?

  45. Donna B.
    March 20, 2011 | 6:25 pm

    I use candles and the good dishes, lower the lights and open a bottle of wine :)

  46. Lisa
    March 20, 2011 | 7:26 pm

    I make an ordinary night special by serving one of our favorite desserts. Sometimes it’s cheesecake or brownies, other times it might be a favorite ice cream.

  47. Mary M
    March 20, 2011 | 10:15 pm

    Single and so I just look for a quick and easy meal to make after work. I will be trying these meals. They look like I would enjoy them.
    marybug2@yahoo.com

  48. Mary M
    March 20, 2011 | 10:16 pm
  49. Samantha Daleo
    March 21, 2011 | 1:25 am

    For my family, a regular night becomes a special night when I serve a yummy dinner, a yummy dessert and a special surprise DVD to watch.

    Thanks!
    Samantha
    Jamesmadison1974@gmail.com

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about me

I write, cook, play music, and make pictures. Not necessarily in that order. I was born and raised in the Philippines, and it shows. That means I eat rice with every meal, love my cousins like my own siblings, and firmly believe that avocados are best eaten with cream and sugar.

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One summer night in 2010, our house burned to the ground and we lost everything we had. This is the story of what happened and how life and hope can always rise from ashes.



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