Most of you know that I do my share of cooking around here, and that while I do occasionally use some convenience products, my primary focus is on scratch cooking with fresh ingredients. Just like the rest of you though, I have days where I am too hot, too busy or just plain too tired to want to spend any time in the kitchen. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens.
Lots of folks are cutting way back on eating out in this economy and are often so busy that frozen dinners can help to fill in occasionally. They are handy for busy workdays when you can't break away from the office, weeknights when life is a rush to begin with, and especially right now when the thought of cooking in this heat make you want to just skip eating altogether. I also know that many of you are already familiar with, love and use Zatarain's products – from boxed mixes, to pouches, to seasonings. I only recently learned, however, that they were carrying a new line of frozen dinner entrées so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to give them a taste test. There are currently eleven meals to choose from.
The first time I went to the store, I picked out Sausage and Chicken Gumbo and Jambalaya Pasta with Chicken and Sausage. I tried the gumbo first.
My husband had gone shrimping, I had literally been putting away shrimp for the freezer all weekend, and was on my own for supper one night, when I remembered this was waiting in my freezer for me to try. Perfect - because I was tired!
The next time we went shopping, I asked my husband to pick out two that he thought he might like - and I actually remembered to use the coupons this time, unlike the first time. Thanks Zatarain's! He picked out the Red Beans & Rice with Sausage and the Blackened Chicken with Yellow Rice.
This past Thursday, it was so hot and I was tired, so I was more than happy to let Zatarain's do the cooking for me. I tried the Jambalaya Pasta with Chicken and Sausage I still had in the freezer from the first trip.
This one was made with a penne rigate pasta featuring both rotisserie seasoned chicken and smoked sausage, in a tomato sauce base with onion, green peppers and seasonings. I'm iffy with frozen pastas sometimes, but the pasta was still firm and not mushy. Again, the dish had a healthy spicy bite to it, but not overpowering. I thought it was delicious.
My husband had the Red Beans & Rice with Sausage.
Now, I'll be the first to tell you that he absolutely loves my red beans and rice, so I told him not to rate the flavor against my homemade beans. The Cajun said "tastes like New Orleans!" so I'm guessing that he approved. Truthfully I stole a little bite out of it to try before I gave it to him, ssshh don't tell! I thought that there was a nice ratio of beans to sauce to rice, the rice was firm and not mushy, you could both see and taste the veggies, and the beans were nice and tender. The smoked sausage was the same as that in the gumbo and pasta jambalaya, and I thought the dish overall had a nice flavor and a spicy kick, but not so much to burn your mouth. Yes, it's different from my homemade red beans, but I thought it was quite good!
Now, of course, these are frozen dinners, so you can’t really compare them against a home cooked meal, but I do have to say, for a meal that was ready in about 5 to 6 minutes or so, we enjoyed all of the entrees we've tried. They each had the expected Zatarain's flavor spicy kick to them, but none of them were overpowering. Add some kind of bread from your pantry and a vegetable or side salad from your fridge and you’ve got a nice, quick meal, faster than you can change into your pjs.
As with any packaged product, be mindful of the nutritional information if you are having to regulate your sodium intake. Suggested retail price is around $3.50 per entrée but appear to run anywhere from around $2.50 and up, depending on where you live. I think most of us can manage that in our budgets for a good lunch or speedy supper on those busy nights. Be sure to like Zatarain’s Facebook page and sign up for their email newsletter to get in on coupons when they are available too!
All in all, I'd rate Zatarain's new frozen dinner entrees a winner. Zatarain's - a New Orleans tradition since 1889!
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Update: Giveaway is closed!!
Congratulations to mary rs56 (#1) Karen S (#12), Nan (#19) Christina l (#26), Karol Ann (#33), LaRonda L (#49). Please verify you are the winner by your comment number listed, then contact me by email within 48 hours at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address, to claim your coupon for a free Zatarain’s frozen entrée (Current Date/Time: 7/21/11, 12:34 PM) I am not responsible for misdirected mail, so please double check and make sure that your address is correct before you send the email - enjoy!!
➮Giveaway closes on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 12:00 noon CST.
➮Open to residents of the United States, ages 18 and over only please
➮Anonymous entries are okay, however, please leave your name or a way to contact you so that I can identify you should you win!
➮Winners will be announced at the site and will be responsible for checking back and responding with mailing information within 48 hours of the announcement, or an alternate winner will be selected.
Disclosure: Zatarain's provided me with coupons for the products described, both for me to try and to giveaway to readers. I was not required to write a positive review, and I received no compensation for posting this. All opinions stated are my own honest review of the product.