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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
No duplicate comments, please. Seriously. I really do check the entries. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. The giveaway starts on March 17, 2011 and ends April 11, 2011.
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.