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Need healthy and nutritious frozen food

Work has gotten out of hand, so my time to cook has been severely limited.

I need recommendations as to frozen meals (TV dinners) or other foods that are healthy and somewhat nutritious, but that also don't taste like cardboard. I've been subsisting on some passable Lean Cuisines for a week, and need to branch out into other brands.

Suggestions as to things that can be cooked quickly (e.g. 20-30 minutes) and frozen are also welcome.

Thanks!

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  1. reenum, I don't like the price and sodium content of frozen foods, or I would use them more.

    I find that I can throw together a pot of chili very quickly and it can be frozen. You can make it as healthy or not as you like.

    I just made (I won't eat it of course) a massive vegetable/ham soup with red lentils that took only the time it took to clean and cut the vegetables, open the bags of frozen veggies, and defrost the ham bone. It multiplied to an enormous amount of freezer bags!

    There are lots of good suggestions in other threads, if I am not mistaken.

    1. Amy's Organics has a nice variety if you like Southwestern or Indian flavors. They are more costly than LeanCuisine/mass-market brands but the quality is good.

      2 Replies
      1. re: BeeZee

        I like the Amy's frozen meals and soups. Some can be a bit on the fattening side and some have crazy amounts of sodium, but check labels carefully. If you have time one night, cook a huge pot of soup or chili and freeze it in ziplock bags. To reheat, cut away the ziplock (if it's still frozen) and heat in a small pot. You can also leave a bag in the fridge from the morning.

        Quickly cooked items- pasta with a cheater's sauce, salad with grilled or sauteed chicken, rice and beans with cilantro, breaded baked chicken cutlets and roasted asparagus, baked french fry wedges, vegetable stir fry with chicken, tofu, beef

        Most of the meals I make take about 30 minutes.. if there's anything else you can think of.. I'm sure I found a way to make it quickly. I also have been buying some items pre-prepped when I know I won't have the time to do it myself

        1. re: cheesecake17

          I would agree with most here that it's so easy to make planned leftovers on the weekends and then be creative when you bring your lunch...leftover roast chicken can be chicken salad, wraps, even added to ramen soup with vegetables and just use a small part of that sodium flavor packet that comes with it. However, that said, the Amy's line is pretty good and you can find their frozen foods at a pretty good price at Target super-stores, if one is near you. I bring my own lunch almost every single day to work but I do keep a few Amy's frozen Palak Paneers in the work freezer just in case I'm really late and can't pack anything.

      2. Oh, someone into food subsisting on Lean Cuisine, you poor thing!

        For those weeks from hell, I keep my freezer stocked with a lot of good-quality frozen vegetables (a few types of mushrooms, green beans, brussels sprouts, spinach, chopped tomatoes, carrots, artichoke hearts, beans, peas, etc), along with frozen fish filets, seafood, and sausage. I always have garlic, onions, ginger, shallots, and dried sausages in my pantry. If you set the water boiling, then put oil and some aromatics and whatever frozen stuff sounds good in a hot pan, by the time your pasta's done you can toss the two together and have an easy dinner in 15 min or so, most of which you spent sitting down waiting. I do something similar with my rice cooker and the steamer insert.

        1. For crazy weeks at work, I live on Kashi frozen meals at lunch. I've pretty much had them all and they're great (though a few months straight will start to get old). They are made with 7 whole grains (high fiber), are all between 270-310 calories, have low sugar, about 600mg of sodium, and most importantly have high levels of protien so you don't end up hungry again in an hour. Wallmart sells them for about $3 each around here, or they're $4 at the "regular" grocery store.
          Phoo-D
          http://www.phoo-d.com

          2 Replies
          1. re: Phoo_d

            I haven't checked the nutrition info on any of the Kashi pocket sandwich items (which I believe are pretty new), but all the ones I've tried have been quite yummy.
            I'm also a big fan of most of the Amy's products.

            1. re: Phoo_d

              I have only tried the southwestern chicken Kashi but I find it surprisingly good...I always add a good amount of trader joe's tomato-less corn salsa which I find necessary to give it a boost but it's very healthy, natural and delicious, I'm sure many of their other varieties are good too!

            2. TJ's black bean and corn enchiladas are good but not terribly filling. As for quick to make foods, do you have a pressure cooker? Quinoa is healthy and quick. With a pressure cooker, up to pressure, 1 minute (not a typo) at high pressure and natural pressure release. Hummus is a good, healthy, quick protein available pre-made at most grocery stores. Lentils are quick. Most of the frozen veggies at Trader Joes are no salt added. Sunshine burgers ( http://sunshineburger.com/products/so... ) come in handy for quick meals. Simply Vegan cookbook includes some quick, easy, healthy ideas.

              1. If your supermarket carries Dr. Prager's frozen entrees, I suggest that you try them. They are tasty, low in sodium, low in fat, and are made with very wholesome ingredients. They also cook within the timeframe that you specified.

                1. whole foods has a frozen soy ricotta and spinach ravioli that cooks up in 3 minutes. I think they're pretty tasty, and since they are whole wheat pasta and soy, they're pretty healthy.
                  trader joes has some tasty frozen bowl-meals, not terribly pricy either.
                  I like to do something in the crock pot over the weekend that I can freeze portions of for later.
                  good luck!

                  1. If you're near a Trader Joe's, their frozen tamales and frozen dumplings are pretty good. I don't care for the enchiladas or burritos - major sogging problem. I like Tabatchnik frozen soups, which are filling and lowish in fat (but highish in sodium).

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: small h

                      Those tamales are pretty good, but low fat they are not! I keep picking them up and putting them right back down. Sniff.

                      1. re: Vetter

                        Oh. Damn. Thanks, I think. I guess I'll start eating them while I march in place or something.

                    2. When I find that I have a rare day or two off, I try and cook a few things to keep in the freezer for the rest of my days, which are almost always hectic and stress-filled:
                      Lentil Soup
                      Chili
                      Meatloaf
                      Crustless Quiche
                      Some other items that I keep on hand for quick meals:
                      Eggs
                      Trader Joe's Fully Cooked Organic Brown Rice (90 sec in Microwave)
                      Frozen Gnocchi
                      Frozen Waffles

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: CeeBee

                        I'm glad someone mentioned eggs! Scrambled, sunny, or an omelette with whatever leftovers or veggies you've got in your fridge makes a great late night dinner. Or boil them in the evening and take them to lunch the next day. Supplement with toast, crudite, fruit, yogurt, hunk of cheese, cold cuts...

                        To small h, have you tried TJs fresh tamales (in the refrigerator case)? I've only had the cheddar/chili, but compared to the chili cheese frozen, the masa on the nonfrozen is sooooo much better. Real corn kernels and, I suspect, lots more butter/lard.

                        1. re: sasha1

                          re Trader Joe's tamales: I will look for the ones you mention, and thanks for the suggestion. I've only seen the frozen ones. The checkout line snakes in front of the refrigerator case in my local TJ's, and I can't stand peering through the crowd of people to find stuff.

                          I really hate Trader Joe's. I sort of cup my hands around my eyes and tear through the place grabbing what I know I need. If their prices weren't significantly better on a lot of things I eat, I would never go into that hellhole.

                          1. re: small h

                            Sorry for such a delayed response. I checked on the brand last time I was there and it is Corn Maiden. The fresh tamales are located in the same area as their salads, sushi, cold cuts, etc.

                      2. I feel your pain, reenum. I've lived off of Lean Cuisines more than once myself - sometimes you really truly don't have the time (or inclination) to cook anything, no matter how quick and easy it supposedly is. In addition to LC, I buy Ethnic Gourmet frozen meals at Whole Foods - they have some fairly tasty Indian and Thai options, all made with white meat chicken and some have brown rice. Most of them are decent in terms of fat and sodium content. More expensive than LC, but not terrible. I usually add some frozen vegetables to round out the meal - all of these frozen dinners seem to come with more sauce than meat and vegetables.

                        1. I'd second the Amy's (though my go-to is the vegetable lasagna) as well as the soup (I make a lot of soups on the weekends and eat 'em throughout the week or freeze 'em . . .also, think eggs (a poached egg on a bed of spinach or leftover Indian is awesome -- a poached egg on anything is pretty awesome), polenta, make some marinara and freeze it . . .it also doesn't take too much to saute up some spinach with olive oil and garlic, or any other green for that matter. Or to toss some vegetables in olive oil and whatever and roast 'em.

                          And there's always baked potatoes (either white or sweet). It ain't all that healthy (well, they're as healthy as you make 'em, I suppose), but mashed potatoes take no time at all and feel particularly dreamy when you don't have a lot of time to cook because you've been working so hard.

                          1. If you're interested in soup, I really really like Progresso light Italian-style vegetable soup.

                            1. I am in the same boat and would love some suggestions. Here's what I came up with so far:
                              * TJ's Roasted pepper soup + hummus sandwich + salad
                              * TJ's spinach lasagna - they have 3 kinds of veggie lasagna, I only tried the spinach one and it was OK
                              * TJ's also has this shelf-stable multi-grain pilaf that is not bad; pair with frozen spinach and garlic.
                              (And yes, Trader Joe's is my primary grocery stop ...:)

                              1. I don't eat frozen meals so I can't comment on it. But I remember rworange's extensive reviews on something called Organic Bistro.

                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/529123

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  l keep some http://www.michaelangelos.com/ micheal angelos, stouffers...love the stuffed green pepper ,and amys for those times.I really like the micheals and they aren't too bad if you get them on sale.

                                2. A friend of mine gets quite a lot of meals from http://www.homebistro.com/
                                  the meals can be microwaved or heated up by dropping the pouch into boiling water. She and her husband really enjoy their food, and they have a healthy line.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: jujuthomas

                                    My favorite for the emergency stash of frozen food is Schwan's. It's a home delivery service. The assortment is very broad and most of the stuff tastes good. The "LiveSmart" line of healthy foods is quite good. In fact, I can't think of anything that was bad. Go to the website http://www.schwans.com/ and plug in your zip code to see if there's a Schwans delivery route for where you live. I like them a lot better than most super market frozen foods.

                                  2. do you have President's Choice blue menu items where you live? Some of the asian stuff isn't too bad. The Chana Masala is pretty good. I agree with the Amy's mentions, and if you're interested in other veg food, Le (la?) Commensal is also good IMHO. The Dr. Oetker's pizzas are also pretty good.

                                    Since I started spending an extra two hours on the highway each day commuting to work, my interest in cooking for an hour or so in the kitchen at end of work day has also diminished. During my more ambitious times on the weekends, I make large batches of things like chili, soups, kashi meals, and warm salad type things that can withstand freezing, so that i can pop a healthier alternative into the microwave when i'm lazy. I rely a lot on stir fries and curries as well, short cut methods with frozen veg and stuff.

                                    1. Ah, can't remember the brand, but there was a brand of chinese frozen entrees that were pretty good. They came in a box shaped somewhat like the little cardboard ones you'd get at a takeaway chinese restaurant. You just pop them into the microwave, plastic and all, then unwrap, open, stir, and you're good to go. One thing to watch for, there are a few of them that are healthier than others. I seem to remember the bourbon street chicken was fairly low in fat, and pretty low in sodium, too, as far as frozen food goes.

                                      One magazine you might want to look into is Taste of Home's magazine, Quick Cooking. They have articles monthly like things that you can make and freeze, basic recipes that you can make, then use the leftovers in other recipes, full meals that take less than 30 minutes to cook, even things you can use the microwave for, or recipes that you can throw in the slow cooker, and have waiting for you when you get home. I got a subscription a few years ago, and I was definitely impressed with it. I'd recommend giving it a look-in if you can find it!