It’s The Little Things: The Best Of The Pre-Prepared Meals


My husband’s shifts at work vary. I usually make a meal when he is home about five times a week. There are those nights though when I just don’t want to cook. Either it is just me and the kids and I don’t want to make a huge meal for just the three of us or my kitchen might be clean and I don’t want to mess it up. I can’t be the only one who feels that way about a clean kitchen, right? Please tell me I’m not alone.. Or maybe I am just plain ol’ tired. Whatever the case may be, I have tried many a prepared meal from the grocery store. Here are some that I go to again and again that I felt were worthy enough of sharing:


Raviolis by Rana. I think these are the most authentic tasting Italian items at the grocery store.

I love their lasagna noodles. I use them exclusively for my lasagna. A few months ago I was at the grocery store and a woman was blocking my access to the noodles.

I waited and waited for her to move but she kept studying the packaging.

Finally, I decided to intervene. I assumed she was undecided upon the product.

“They’re really good,” I said.

She looked up at me in surprise.

“Oh! Yes! This is my brother’s company,” she proudly proclaimed. “I didn’t know it was in stores yet.”

We chatted some more and she recommended the pesto product which she used to help sell at the farmer’s market. I am so glad I ran into her because I loved the pesto she recommended and now I purchase it whenever I need it for a recipe.

Isn’t it a small and funny world?

I buy the family ravioli version which is around $8 a package. I add a can of marinara sauce that I have heated on the stove to the drained ravioli. Easy peasy.


Indian food.

Hands down. Feet down. Any old body part you want to throw in right now would be down. Whatever that means. Down is good here. Maya Kaimal’s Indian sauces in a two pack from Costco are the very best preprepared dish I can find. The flavors are so intense and wonderful. I love Indian food and these little containers of curry taste like sauces I would find in a restaurant.

I shred up a rotisserie chicken and add it to the simmering sauce. I also add a half of a stick of butter to it. Because why wouldn’t I? One container serves my whole family of four with no leftovers. I always have these in my refrigerator. I serve them over steamed white rice (perfect white rice is double the water to your amount of rice- I do 2 1/2 cups of rice and 5 cups of water, 2 Tbsp. Butter. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cover with a lid for twenty five minutes. Turn off heat and allow to rest for five minutes before removing lid).

I also serve it with naan bread that I always have in my freezer. And I also chop up some cilantro (another refrigerator staple) and sprinkle it over the top.

My family loves everything about both of these sauces. We cannot decide which flavor is our favorite. They are both amazing. Very spicy but good.


Trader Joe’s Pastas

My family and I actually find Trader Joe’s dry pastas gummy and feel they have an odd off-putting flavor (if I were to guess, I would guess cinnamon). However, their frozen pastas are actually pretty good.

They are not amazing but they are good for a frozen pasta. I am not a fan of frozen pastas with meat in them. I like that these are exclusively noodles and sauce. That is surprisingly hard to find. I buy two and serve them to my children. My daughter likes the marinara version best. My son likes the Alfredo. As for me? I like to mix them.


Of the five brands that I have tried numerous amounts of times, the best pre-packaged spinach is found at Von’s. I know that seems odd, but there it is. The flavor at Von’s is always mild and just fantastic. I use it in my favorite salad at least twice a week.


Foster Farm’s Chicken Tenders

I know. Frozen chicken strips? How original, Jenni. This is more of a comparison recommendation than something that is unique and special. This brand is my family’s favorite. I have tried many brands. In my opinion, these are simply the best. They stay crispy cooked in the oven. The calorie count is not bad compared to fried chicken strips in restaurants. They also make a glutten free version. I serve them with baked potatoes and salad. It does not get easier than that.


Last, these french fries from Trader Joes are amazing. They are oven baked so they are not as bad for you as other fast food fries. I used to grab bags of these from the San Diego Trader Joes because I had never seen them at my local store. The other day, my store had a few bags. I exclaimed to the man stacking them in the freezer section, “Yay! You finally got these fries in!”

He looked at me puzzled and said, “We’ve always carried these. They just sell out.”

So, if you don’t see them at your local store, now you know why. They go quickly!

What are your go-to pre-prepared meals? I am always looking for new ones to try. I was madly in love with Albertson’s frozen manicotti and they discontinued it a few months ago. Do you know any store that sells frozen manicotti with no sauce? Just stuffed shells or noodles? They are more expensive to make than I used to find frozen. Any leads would be very much appreciated. : )

It’s The Little Things: Some Pantry Staples

First, the items I want to discuss are more like refrigerator staples and not pantry staples, because that is where these things are stored. But “refrigerator staples” does not roll off one’s tongue in quite the same way that “pantry staples” does. What? You don’t think “pantry staples” is pure poetry? Next you’re going to say that “Mops and Brooms” is not your favorite song. It’s a rap, by the way. And it’s sweeping the nation.

There are three products I always have in my refrigerator. They are not your typical staples. Let’s discuss:


Trader Joe’s Cilantro and Chive Yogurt Dip is my go-to staple. I love it with my my favorite grilled chicken in the summertime, but I have also paired it with steak and fish and it is equally delicious.

Even served simply with some grilled flat bread and rice is yummy.


It is a greek yogurt (tzatziki type sauce) blended with herbs and it is outstanding. I do not typically care for premade sauces and dips. I much prefer making my own, but this one is perfection. It is easy. I highly recommend it. I always have a container on hand.


This brings me to my next staple. I love Stonefire’s Naan Flatbread (I have found mine at a local little grocery store and in the fresh bread section at Albertson’s). Usually you would serve pita bread with the yogurt dip, but I like naan better. It is wonderful dipped in the yogurt sauce above.

I smear melted butter on each side of the bread and toast both surfaces for a few minutes each in a hot skillet. Then I cut it with a pizza cutter and serve.


This bread freezes wonderfully. When I want to use it, I simply defrost the package for an hour and then I cook it as I previously described. It is a healthy little appetizer served with veggies and the sauce above in case company spontaneously stops by.


Which leads me to the last staple I will be writing about today. Broccoli. It has always been my favorite vegetable. My kids enjoy it, too. Two nights ago my son had two servings of broccoli before he even touched his main course. “The secret is butter.” As it always is. By the way, that’s my second favorite song. It’s creaming its competition.

I love these prewashed and chopped broccoli florets that come in their own plastic bag. You can serve them raw with the tzatziki sauce. But I usually eat them hot as a side instead of with the dip. I puncture the bag with a fork two times and then microwave the bag for three minutes on high. I let the broccoli rest in the bag for one minute then I dump the broccoli in a bowl with two tablespoons of salted butter, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper. I mix it together and serve it as a side to my family’s dinners throughout the week.

When I was taking the broccoli pictures my daughter begged me to make the broccoli even though it was almost nine o’clock at night (which explains the great lighting). I did. And we ate it up. I have heard that eating after nine is bad for you but broccoli doesn’t count right? Let’s see…

Brocolli after nine
Is perfectly fine.
Just drink some wine.
Don’t have a last line.
For this bad rhyme of mine.

What is your favorite pantry refrigerator staple? Do you use any of the ones I mentioned? What is your favorite thing to serve to unexpected company? I would not recommend poetry. They seem to leave after that. Hey, where are you going?

“Mom, You Smell Good!”

That sounds nice, right? Sweet, right?

Well, it does sound nice. And it does sound sweet.

But, unfortunately, it was not.

It ended up not being true.

Let me backtrack.

I was making sloppy joes for dinner. I had wanted to make my Sloppy Joe Pie, but time only allotted for the making of sloppy joes.


I was browning my meat. I was humming. I was drinking my Kung Fu Girl wine. I decided, Hmmmm, maybe someone would like to see how I make my sloppy joes. My husband is smirking at my secret thoughts right now. I added my dashes of worcestershire sauce and garlic powder to my meat. And I took a picture.


Oh, yes! This is lookin’ good, thought my Kung Fu brain.

I took another picture.

Which turned out fine.

But what you cannot see.

What you are not seeing, is me dumping the whole sloppy joe packet down the front of my pajamas (don’t tell me you don’t cook in your pajamas, my heart could not bear it. Actually, I was wearing these pajamas).

It landed all over the floor.

Of course, I thought.

Of course. I am making Sloppy Joes. How could I make them and not be sloppy?

I couldn’t.


My husband sweetly vacuumed up my mess while I finished dinner. Here is a tip: I add a quarter cup of ketchup to my sloppy joe mixture, in addition to the tomato paste the packet calls for (and yes, I had to open up a new packet. Because my other one was consumed in equal parts by the floor and the vacuum).

We ate dinner. I forgot about my mishap. Moved along. Took pictures of my fancy food.


Later, I laid down in our bed to read my husband and my son a bit of “The Magician’s Elephant” (review coming soon. Spoiler: I give it a ten out of ten).

My son cuddled up next to me.

“Mom. You smell good!”

My heart melted.

“I do?” I thought about what it could be. Could it be my deodorant or my IF perfume? I had worn both forever. I was surprised it had taken him this long to comment on liking them.

“What do I smell like?”

He thought. Then he sniffed loudly.

“Garlic bread!” He proclaimed.

“Whhhhhaaaaaatttttt?” I unhappily asked.

He tried to make me feel better. “I love garlic bread!” He assured me.

This was still not what I wanted to hear.

I sniffed my shirt where he had been laying. It did smell like garlic.

I looked inside the pocket. And I gasped. Inside the pocket of my top was half of the sloppy joe packet I had dropped earlier.

I guess my shirt was hungrier than the floor and the vacuum.

I quickly went into the laundry room and changed. But I could not help reflecting on the fact that making sloppy joes had turned out to be messier than I had thought it would be.

I was downright sloppy.

Wait for it.

I was a Sloppy Jenni.

But it was okay.

Little boys are crazy for the stuff.

And I can think of a lot worse things than smelling like garlic bread.

But not much.

P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day! Today I am wearing a bright pink caftan that I bought on sale. It makes me feel ultra feminine and romantic. What are you wearing today? Doing today? We are going out to lunch as a couple and then I am making homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner with the family.

I hope your day is sweet!

And that you don’t smell like garlic. Or sloppy joes! Or worse, Sloppy Jenni!


P.S. I shared this on Savvy Southern Style.

And My Romantic Home.

It’s The Little Things: Cookie Butter!

Oh, yes, cookie butter. I wish I had it on camera, the moment I first saw this spectacular creation on a giant display at the store. I think time froze as I reread and reread the label, my mouth gaping open. Drool puddling on the floor. I, of course, grabbed a jar. When you see something with words that you normally associate the other way around (Butter Cookies), you have to grab it.

I got home and immediately opened the jar. I tried it. Oh my goodness! Heaven. I checked the calories. Ninety calories for one tablespoon. Reality.


I knew I would have to eat this with something healthy to not feel like Goldie Hawn in “Death Becomes Her.” Anytime I eat frosting from a can, my husband reminds me of that scene. So, I tried it with apple slices. I love apple slices with peanut butter. Now, I love apples slices with cookie butter. It is better. Trust me.


And because I am a hoarder with OCD, I rushed out the next day and bought another jar. It tastes like condensed thick creamy spice cookies. Amazing!


I made a cookie butter cake. Um, this is what it looked like for a week. Not my finest creation. How could I ruin my cookie butter this way?


Then I made cookie butter oatmeal cookies. Now we’re talking. Do you hear that? It’s the sound of my thighs clapping. Recipe for this to come. You will be oh, so happy.


I have also learned that Trader Joe’s carries cookie butter. There is a rumor on the internet that they only allow the purchase of two jars per customer. Is this true? I have not stalked the shelves here, yet. They also make a chocolate version and a crunchy version. Oh! The choices. The possibilities. The dirty spoons.

It’s the little things: it’s creamed cookies! Creamed cookies! Dreams do come true.

Have you tried this yet? Do you hoard it? I am scared they are going to run out.