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. : )

Cheesy Salsa Chicken Empanadas

Makes 70 Empanadas


The name “empanada” has always made me smile. I think being a gnome lover has me appreciating the “imp” phonetic beginning of the word. These empanadas are small little appetizer sized delights. Or for a gnome or an imp, a complete meal.

I have been making these empanadas for what seems like forever. I had originally seen Paula Dean make them on her show. This recipe is adapted from hers. Over the years, I have changed them a bit to reflect how I like them to taste. This recipe makes seventy empanadas plus enough mix left over for a dip. This is enough for three meals. The empanadas freeze well and I always freeze a batch and give a batch to my sister because they are her favorite things that I make. The empanadas are time consuming. However, you will be making three meals in one cooking effort. So, I think it all evens out.

Besides, I am not one to overexert myself for anything. Even food. Heck, the other day I drove down to my mail box and it is literally one house away. It does not get any lazier than that. Although, in my defense it was not the effort of the walk but rather the sordid fact that I was on my second day in the same pajamas that forced me to drive and avoid the neighbors. I couldn’t be bothered to shower or change. Wait. That probably doesn’t make the story any better… What I am trying to say is, if I can do it, then you definitely can to.



3 pounds of salsa chicken (recipe here, a separate 4-6 hour cooking time is involved)
8 oz. softened cream cheese
5 packages of refrigerated pie crust (with two rolled doughs a piece)
3 cups shredded mexican cheese
1 finely diced seeded jalapeño
1 finely diced red bell pepper
4 oz. can green chiles
1/2-1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. Olive oil

Optional toppings:

Hot sauce
Sour cream
Chopped Cilantro


Make my salsa chicken in the crockpot.

When the chicken’s cooking time is finished, leave it in the crockpot for the eight minutes it is going to take to sauté the jalapeño and red bell pepper.

Take pie crusts out of refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.


Sauté the jalapeño and red bell pepper in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Usually this takes seven to eight minutes. Add green chiles with juice and sauté an additional minute.

Remove cooked chicken from the crockpot. I set mine into the bowl of my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. If you do not have one of these, put it in a very large bowl. Mix chicken with a bit of its cooking liquid (be sure to remove bay leaf) until nice and moist (approximately 2/3 cup).

All right. I am not sure how to explain the next step without it sounding weird.

Here it goes.

I think you probably started to suspect what might be coming when I had you put the chicken in the mixing bowl.

We’re going to mix the chicken.

To smitherines.

I know.

Just trust me.

One of the best meals I have ever eaten was at a restaurant in Cozumel. Now maybe it was the strawberry margarita the size of my head that accompanied it, but I think not. That might explain the mariachi band on the ceiling, but delicious food? Nah. The chicken enchiladas I had there were amazing. The chicken was mixed like we are about to do here. It all worked out. If you want, I’ll wait for you to grab a margarita before we get started.

Are you ready now?



Now either mix the chicken mixture in your stand mixer on medium speed or with a hand mixer in a bowl on medium speed. Mix until it looks like the above. About two minutes.


Add sautéed vegetables along with 1/2 of the oil and liquid they cooked in into the chicken. Add cream cheese. And mix on medium speed until incorporated for one minute.

Add cheese, 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper. Mix with a spatula into chicken mixture. You don’t want the cheese whipped by the mixer. It kind of gets lost into pieces and won’t live up to its full potential. Taste mix. Add more salt as needed.


Now lay your pie crusts onto a flat surface and use a biscuit cutter to cut circles in the dough. I get seven circles out of one sheet. If you are not lazy, you could save the scraps and roll them out for more empanadas. I am wasteful. And do not. Extra effort and all of that.


Put them into a stack.

Because it is pretty.

Like a doughy imp throne.


Now scoop up a small amount of filling, about one and a half to two Tbsp. I use one of those small handy scoops. And place in the center of a circle of dough.


You will start to get the hang of how much filling to put inside based on the ease of closing the circle into a crescent shape. Fold circle in half and place on cookie sheet.


Repeat until cookie sheet is full leaving space around each empanada.


With a fork, crimp the edges of the empanada and poke it once in the middle to allow for the steam but also because it is pretty.


Put tray into refrigerator for fifteen minutes to set.

Repeat empanada creation on to a separate cookie sheet.


Remove original cookie sheet from refrigerator. Bake if you are eating right away. If not, place empanadas gently into a large gallon sized bag. I put twenty three in each one. Refrigerate if using within the next day. If freezing for a later use, place empanadas lying in a single layer in freezer. Not clumped together. You could always place cookie sheet in freezer for fifteen minutes and then put in baggies so they will not stick. Again, extra effort. I skip that step.

Keep alternating the two cookie sheets and empanadas until all are prepared.


Bake the ones you are eating right away for twenty five minutes.


Serve warm with optional toppings. I also present it with salad.

Now go have that margarita (or second one if you had to get over the shock of our chicken preparation)! And build your imp a new throne. You’re eating his old one. And left him with nada.

NOW CLOSED: 22nd Blog Giveaway: $25 Sephora e-Gift Card

This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to all who entered!

Wow! This month is flying by! I didn’t even realize we were coming up on the tenth! It feels like it was just Christmas. In fact, I still have a pile of Christmas stuff in my living room that needs to be packed away. You know, you think you picked up everything and then there is a wreath here or an ornament there and suddenly you have fifteen items cluttering up your house that you don’t want to deal with.

This week has been hard. My kids started school again and in the overheard words of a child I know, “I’m not ready to start the grind again.”


This month I decided to give away a $25 e-Gift Card to Sephora. I have really been loving experimenting with makeup lately. I recently did a post about my favorite new lipstick set. I wore the orange color to get my hair done this week and after three hours, my sweet hairdresser said, “I can’t believe your lipstick has stayed on this whole time!” I also finally have made a decision on what mascara I think wins the top spot after trying about twenty different ones over the last year. That post will run in the next two weeks. Needless to say that makeup has been on my mind.

To enter for a chance to win this month’s gift card please leave a comment on this post stating a person whose inner beauty you admire. I have two right now: My dear friend Bridgette recently won a television on The Ellen Show and then selflessly donated it to a veteran. My amazing friend Kerri, who I admire so greatly, recently started a new career and she is soaring. Both women are physically beautiful but their inner beauty is what myself and others are most attracted to. I am so inspired by my friends. I am inspired by all of you. If that is too personal, any old comment is fine as long as it is pleasant. You may enter a second time by being a subscribed reader of this blog. There are many ways to do so on the right hand side of this page (which I really need to update all ready). Please leave a second comment if you are a subscribed reader. I count the comments at the end and then I enter everyone’s name into to pick a winner. So, to be fair, it has to be a separate comment.

Limit two entries per person in the forms specified. Must be eighteen years old to enter.

The giveaway runs from January 10, 2015 12:00 a.m. PST to January 16, 2015 9:00 p.m. PST. I will be choosing one winner from the comments entered on this post for the gift card using I will contact the winner on January 17, 2015 and display the winner’s name on this blog on January 18, 2015.

Thank you so much for entering! And for reading! I know I have been behind on comments and blogs. This year came so much faster than I was expecting. I am a bit overwhelmed with my house right now. I have a giant carnival wheel from the flea market that I do not know what to do with and so much to rearrange. Thank you for sticking with me. I know there have been more outfit posts than usual and that is simply because those are the easiest. When I have to choose between posting nothing or posting an outfit post, I have been choosing the outfits. I hope to write some different posts this weekend! However, I have fourteen outfit posts backed up. So please bear with me.

Now for the not so fun details —Wait! What! You weren’t having fun reading my whining?:

By commenting on this post, you are entering this giveaway for a chance to win one $25 e-gift card to Sephora and agreeing to the rules outlined in this giveaway.

I will attempt to contact the winner three times with the email address provided. If I have not heard from the winner within fourteen days from the first attempt at contact, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be drawn.

Past winners are welcome to enter.

* Negative comments (chosen at the discretion of the owner of this blog) will be deleted and that entry will be forfeit.

*this giveaway and post is not sponsored by or affiliated with Sephora.

Dear Children: A Case of the Pssts,


I want to use this letter to warn you of a virus that is going around. It is called The “Psst.”

Please be very careful that you do not get it. It is contagious. It is spreading. It is disgusting.

Contact only derives from the ears.

Beware! The “Psst” is everywhere. It originates from a nasty form of gossip.

Gossip hurts everybody. Please… Do not engage in that form of sickness. It will eventually deteriorate your soul.

Be leery of anyone leaning over to whisper to you in public. They are infected. They do not realize everyone in the room is aware of their infliction.

Nothing good has ever come from a case of The “Pssts.”

The only cure is isolation.

If you see someone who is infected, it is best to ignore them. They might view your vulnerable ears as a challenge.

So, children, I beg of you:

“Cover your ears

And bite your tongue.

A case of The Pssts

Cannot be undone.”

Please be careful. And remember you will never regret the nice words you have said about someone but you will always regret most of the bad ones.

Here are some ear muffs. And a tongue depressor… Just in case.