When I first saw the billboard announcing “Joy of Cooking” brand frozen foods on a recent trip to Lowe’s, I was slightly outraged. Joy of Cooking is my go-to cookbook for tasty, basic dishes that are easy to modify. I love finding recipes in it when we’re nearing a grocery trip, because I can edit them to suit the ingredients on hand (or just leave some out, as we never have them all. I hardly ever make the recipe as written.) And it’s been my goal this year to try out a bunch of the recipes in the “Brunch, Lunch and Supper Dishes” chapter. But I was interested in seeing how some company was trying to make more monies on a beloved cookbook.
Since it was on sale and I had some coupons (there have been lots of frozen food coupons in the paper recently), I checked out those blasphemous Joy of Cooking Frozen Foods on my last grocery trip. Just looking at the labels of the entrees still available that I initially grabbed, I was surprised at the sodium levels: they were much lower than I expected and lower than other frozen dinner entrees that I’d researched (mostly before leaving the house, and mostly the brands with coupons). I took home “Braised Beef Tips & Egg Noodles“, “Tender Asparagus” and “Joy’s Best Loved Macaroni & Cheese,” all picked because they seemed like foods we would eat and/or like if they were made at home from scratch, and all recipes that we haven’t tried the “Joy of Cooking” recipe. Tonight, we had the noodle dish with the asparagus and were pleasantly surprised. They were tasty! The asparagus wasn’t super-mushy or tasteless! (It was even crunchy!) The beef was tender and didn’t taste overcooked! Yeah, the mushrooms suffered from freezing, but I could have added some extra, fresh ones. There was plenty of sauce (but not too much extra.)
What I liked about these dishes:
- They had both stovetop and microwave directions, a bonus, since our microwave is on its last legs.
- The sauce in the noodle was sort of frozen around the meat pieces, making it easy to pick out the pearl onions, since they were clean, or noodles, or mushrooms. It was easy to separate it all out.
- The sauce for the asparagus was separate from the veggies, so I could add as little as I wanted, or could have chosen to have plain asparagus.
- Directions were easy and fast for prep. TCB left to take his car for a test drive before I started dinner, and it was all ready on the stove before he finished a large trip around the block (that did include a short stop at a store, to be fair.) But both dishes were finished in under 10 minutes.
What I like about all the dishes, after reviewing the other foods on the website:
- All main and side dishes have a serving size of 1 cup, veggies are 1/2 cup, making measuring a serving for a diet or portion control easy. Much easier than trying to measure by weight or adjust serving sizes per dish.
- They have some pretty great coupons for printing on the website, no “special coupon software” needed.
- All the items have “Make it Your Own” suggestions on both the website and packages, ways to change the dish for greater variety. I like it because of the encouragement to use the pre-packaged food as just an ingredient in a bigger dish, or to incorporate fresher items in the fridge or pantry. (I would highly suggest adding the sour cream suggested for the beef-noodle dish. We had it plain, and even Mr. Sour Cream Hater agreed that sour cream would have been an excellent addition.)
- As I said before, the sodium seems lower than other brands of frozen meals/entrees, but give your selection a look, it creeps up to 36% PDV on some of the other dishes.
In conclusion, I kind of liked the items we had tonight, and some more kinds might show up in our freezer, on our table, and in review on here. I mean, I wouldn’t get the carrots with brown sugar butter glaze because neither of us likes to defile carrots in that manner, and I wouldn’t get the roasted red potato halves because that’s an easy dish to make, but I think some of the main dishes would be easy to heat up on nights that we both arrive home late and/or don’t feel like cooking. Certainly, it’s faster, easier and cheaper than ordering take-out, and probably a bit better for us, too.