Saturday, July 28, 2012

How To Dress Up Boring Frozen Food!

dress up frozen dinnersI love to cook!  I really do. If I had all the time in the world…I would cook every meal of every day. Well, OK….maybe not EVERY meal…sometimes even people who love to cook need a break. And sometimes we just get so darn busy…that a “frozen dinner” is just faster and simpler and the only way we’re even going to GET a meal on the table.

Add the complication of having to eat gluten-free into the mix (and not being able to take advantage of the vast majority of “fast food” options out there)…and frozen entrees (GF of course) are very handy to have on hand.

Tonight was one of those rare nights when I didn’t have anyone to feed in the house except moi. I really didn’t feel like eating fast food…but I didn’t feel like cooking either. So I decided to pull out one of my “diet-friendly frozen dinners”.

dress up frozen dinners

I followed the instructions on the box and when I pulled it out of the microwave and placed it on the kitchen counter….let’s just say I was UNDERWHELMED. :-(

But then I was struck by a flash of inspiration that turned my sad little entree into a healthy, tasty dinner!

dress up frozen dinners

Now doesn’t that look more appetizing!?! :-)

Basically I just added some of my favorite “salad” ingredients that I almost ALWAYS have on hand. Tomato, avocado, cilantro, a little lime juice. I just love “dressing up” plain recipes and/or dishes with fresh ingredients. At the last second I decided to throw in a little chicken from last night’s dinner leftovers.

All of a sudden my ho-hum dinner was turned into something quite delicious and I enjoyed eating every last bite. :-)

For more inspiration on how to dress up your frozen dinners…check out this article I found on Oprah.com: Dinner Shortcuts from the Freezer Aisle. Some REALLY good tips there. :-)

So the next time you pull one of those frozen entrees out of the freezer, don’t feel guilty! Just take a few extra minutes and give it some “love”! You’ll be surprised what you can come up with!

What are your favorite frozen entrees to “dress up”?


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17 thoughts on “How To Dress Up Boring Frozen Food!

  1. Zoquara

    I cover frozen burritos with either green or red sauce, cook in the oven, and melt some cheese on the top last minute. When I serve them, I add toppings according to what each person likes. Lettuce, sour cream, tomatoes, salsa… Whatever we have and whatever each person likes. It’s super easy, and not as bad as just microwaving them!

    Reply
    1. Brandette W.

      We do this same exact casserole! As a matter of fact, I have it on the menu for Monday’s dinner. It is so good, so cheap, so easy! I do change it up just a bit though. I mix a can of hot dog chili with the red enchilada sauce and pour that over the frozen burritos. It makes more of a meaty enchilada sauce and spices things up a bit.

      Reply
  2. ML Bishop

    Gotta tell ya, I’d save the $ on the diet dinner and just whip up some cheap brown rice and beans, and then add your delicious looking add-ons! Definitely more budget friendly that way and waaaaay less sodium and artificial ingredients. Just an idea!

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth

      I was thinking exactly the same thing! ;> I like to make a rice cooker full of brown rice, when it cools, I store it in freezer bags and either keep in the fridge or freezer. Whenever I need something in a pinch, I grab my brown rice and black beans, viola! But, I do love the idea of being able to dress up one of these little entrees for a very quick and delicious meal ~ Thanks for sharing this great tip Jillee!!!

      Reply
  3. Renee

    I’m with ML Bishop… skip the commercial frozen dinner all together and use brown rice, beans, or whole wheat pasta as your base. I’ve always got 4 oz baggies of cut-up grilled chicken (hubby grills 6-8 lbs at a time) and cooked ground beef (96% FF) in the freezer.

    BTW, love your site!

    Reply
  4. Barkley

    You can also take the rice and beans and put on top of lettuce for a quick taco salad. I also like to get the lowfat fettucine alfredo and mix in a bag of frozen broccoli for a quick side.

    Reply
  5. Jan

    I like to nuke a few pieces of Trader Joe’s teriyaki chicken with some frozen vegetables and add it to TJ’s bagged organic lettuce, along with some pre-cooked beans and grains, and fresh basil and parsley from my garden. I like your idea, Jillee, it’s a quick way to add some variety when I just don’t feel much like cooking at the end of the day.

    Reply
  6. Heather

    Mmm that looks delicious! It’s all about planning ahead. I have containers of meals in meal-size and serving-size packages, for just such an occasion. Chili in a gallon-size bag will feed four of us for two days. Chili in a sandwich-size bag will make chili dogs for four of us or a meal for one (maybe two, depending on the day). I make my chili vegan [medically required diet for a family member] so that everyone can eat it, including any of our guests who might be vegan. Store it that way, then I also have serving-sizes of taco meat frozen. Taco meat can be added to chili for meaty chili, but also great for single-servings of tacos/nachos/burritos in a pinch. We can make a big batch of chili up for everyone then add beef, chicken, or TVP to individual servings as diets require. Less sodium and sugar, we know what’s in it. It takes little to no extra time to cook a double batch of chili versus a single batch, same with rice & beans, pasta sauce [I make a plain marinara so we can dress-up to taste according to the meal we're making], sausage gravy, homemade biscuits, mushroom soup, you get the idea. SOME things take extra time to store simply because of using extra containers, but it’s the difference of minutes at the end of the day–and I’ll spend a few extra minutes today to save HOURS of my life later!

    I also have “salad” ingredients sitting around and can’t help but fiddle with prepared foods. Even when I buy a jar of spaghetti sauce, I’m adding seasonings and such! Just makes it all so flavorful!

    Reply
  7. Erin

    Another one I’ve done is buy the cheapest pizza they have in the freezer case (the cheese variety) and add extra cheese and whatever toppings I have on hand once I get it home. Much cheaper than buying the pre-topped more expensive brands and I can put whatever toppings I want as opposed to only getting to choose from the types available. Makes a quick and easy lunch for me and the kids.

    Reply
    1. ML Bishop

      Another way to expand upon your awesome idea, Erin, is to buy raw pizza dough. It’s really cheap at grocery stores or even from local pizza joints- you can take it home and doll up with your own toppings, and it is SO good! It makes a very substantial meal!

      Reply
  8. Heidi

    I saw that you have your cilantro in a jar with some water on the counter. How long does it keep this way? I love cilantro but unfortunately I am the only one in my family that does and I can never eat a whole “bunch” of it before it goes bad. I would love to add this trick to my growing list of “Kitchen Tips” :) Thank you!

    Reply
  9. Dawn

    I like to buy a bag of frozen mixed vegetables (like asperagus stir fry, broccoli stir fry, etc.) Throw it in a skillet with a little butter and olive oil, then microwave a weight watcher meal and toss it in the skillet and mix it all together. The meals with sauce work the best. Angel hair marinera, Chicken alfredo, etc. This works great if you are on a diet too. I did it when I was on weight watchers and it really fills you up and gets plenty of veggies in your diet!

    Reply
  10. CTY

    Not too long ago we drove cross country 3 times 6 weeks. NJ to CA to house shop, CA to NJ to pack up & sell a house (miracles of miracles we sold the house in 9 days) then NJ to CA to our new house. We had our little camper with a refrigerator and stove/microwave which was awesome, but not really enough time to cook dinners. We did eat out, but that got old real fast. So my go to- became mini frozen meatballs, frozen chicken breast tenders & jarred sauces (tomato, BBQ, Teriyaki, Lawry’s specialty sauces) and frozen rolls. We would hit the closest fast food place on route and pick up a salad & called it dinner, or lunch. For fun we added Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider.

    Reply

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