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Thread: Best and worst T.V. Dinners

  1. #1
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    Best and worst T.V. Dinners

    I'm hungry and don't feel like cooking. It's about time for bed and I'm going to nuke a meal. It's a "Banquet" frozen dinner. One with chocolate pudding. Absolutely terrible.

    I'm wondering what you all feel are the best brands of microwavable dinners... and the worst. I'd love to get some of those old Swanson or Bird's Eye dinners - you know, the true TV dinner with the foil top (that you had to cook in the oven)? I thought those were really good.

    As far as best goes? There this kind that recently showed up at our Supermarket lately. I only get them on sale cause they're expensive, but they're really good. Bear with me here: there's an old miner on the front, packaging has a lot of brown, and I think it's called Miner's Town Dinner? Supposedly true to form for old forty-nines in California.

    So please tell us your best choice, then nominae the worst of class for food, and even include ones that have to be cooked in the oven.

  2. #2
    6th Grade Spelling Bee Loser World's End Supernova Rimbo's Avatar
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    Sounds like you found Claim Jumper. It, like Marie Callendar's, is a restaurant chain here in California.

    But to me the best TV dinner ever was the escalloped chicken & noodles by Swanson. That and their lasagna reign supreme forever. The "Great Starts" breakfasts were pretty good in their day, but they've been through a handful of different owners and aren't packaged with the loving care they once were.

  3. #3
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    Wow, I haven't had a TV dinner in over a decade, but here's what I liked: Swanson's Fried Chicken either in regular or Hungry Man form, which came with mashed potatoes, corn, and a brownie! Not that any of those things tasted a whole lot like the foods they resembled (other than the brownie), but it was good, filling, and great if you enjoyed a high-sodium diet. Swanson's veal (chicken?) parmigiana was also delightfully oily, while their Salisbury Steak is a real classic.

    Now you've done it: I've suddenly got a craving for chewy, salty fried chicken.

  4. #4
    Mad Chester
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    A totally awesome restaurant chain with ginormous portions reasonably priced. Pretty much always a great deal.

    As for tv dinners, I've always been partial to the various meat pot pies from Swanson. Haven't had them in years, but I loved them as a kid moreso than the real tv dinners with meat, taters, veggies and dessert.

  5. #5
    New Romantic ydejin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rimbo
    Sounds like you found Claim Jumper. It, like Marie Callendar's, is
    a restaurant chain here in California.
    IIRC Marie Calendars and Claim Jumpers frozen foods have some of the scariest nutritional numbers I've ever seen. Some of them have well over 100% of your daily cholesterol and/or saturated fat -- the numbers on the box may be lower, but if you look carefully I believe the pot pies for example say that they're 2 servings with 60% of your daily saturated fat each.

    I like Stouffer's new Corner Bistro product line. Also, this isn't exactly a TV dinner, but it's almost as easy -- try the Bertolli Skillet Dinners. Basically you just open the package, toss it into a skillet stir it once or twice and you've got dinner in 10 minutes -- it really couldn't be easier and it seems a bit healthier and a bit nicer than frozen dinner.

    Edit: Some of the non-Bertolli skillet dinner packages actually require work (gasp) e.g., thawing stuff, adding stuff separately at different times, so do glance at the directions before purchase. So far I haven't found the skillet dinners that require more work actually taste better, so the Bertolli's are my current favorites.
    Last edited by ydejin; 08-22-2007 at 03:27 AM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ydejin
    I like Stouffer's new Corner Bistro product line.
    That and its Lean Cuisine offspring, especially the carb heavy paninis and pizzas, have carried me through the last four years. I can't recommend them enough for people exploring the genre.

  7. #7
    New Romantic
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    Banquet may be the worst, but they sell them for 75 cents apiece at the market here. That's pretty hard to beat, but I only stick with the ones I know are good: the roast turkey+gravy, macaroni & cheese, and swedish meatballs. The rest is crap.

    Now, as for the best, Hungry Man would be my pick but they have insanely high amounts of calories, fat, sodium, and cholesterol. I wouldn't recommend eating them every day, make it like a once-a-week treat or something. As for stuff you can eat every day and not die from it, Lean Cuisine's paninis are my favorite. The pizzas aren't bad either (mmm BBQ chicken style) but they tend to be a bit more unhealthy.

    Oh, and some of the frozen Boston Market food is pretty good too, but not very health-conscious.

  8. #8
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    I eat a fair number of TV dinners. My current favorite is the Health Choice Cafe Steamers. Someone finally figured out a way to get decently cooked noodles and veggies in a TV dinner.

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    I forget the name, but those eerily cheap Mexican dinners that could feed two are awesome.

    These days all I eat are lean cuisine dinners, though. Also, don't discount soup as a quick meal. Get some of those microwaveable tupperware things and you can easily warm up some soup in three minutes.

  10. #10
    New Romantic
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    I tend to eat quite a bit of frozen dinners these days as well, but lately I've tried to move away from that and started buying sandwich stuff and making poached eggs (at $1.50 per dozen, that's like 40 cents a meal). It's quick and healthy. Other things I love to eat are those instant $1 Yaki Soba and Chow Mein meals, but they have a shitton of sodium and carbs, not good if you're as inactive as I am.

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    Neo Acoustic
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enduro_Man
    Wow, I haven't had a TV dinner in over a decade, but here's what I liked: Swanson's Fried Chicken
    OMG, these were a real treat back in the day...we'd eat them while sitting in the living room on our avocado-green sofa and watching Barney Miller.

  12. #12
    Social Worker Sam Jones's Avatar
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    You probably don't have the same exact brands in the US, but in the last couple of years in the UK, there have been a number of new brands of microwaveable steamed meals.

    The packs have reinforced film lids which you do NOT pierce before cooking, and the food inside is raw (meat, veg etc). 5 mins and you have a lovely steamed meal, which is nutritious and tastes good.

    Here's an example.

  13. #13
    New Romantic ydejin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Jones
    You probably don't have the same exact brands in the US, but in the last couple of years in the UK, there have been a number of new brands of microwaveable steamed meals.

    The packs have reinforced film lids which you do NOT pierce before cooking, and the food inside is raw (meat, veg etc). 5 mins and you have a lovely steamed meal, which is nutritious and tastes good.

    Here's an example.
    Interesting. Does not look familiar at all. I'm not really sure what the US equivalent would be.

  14. #14
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    Meatloaf was always my favorite in the foil-tray Swanson's meals, but IIRC, it usually came with the awful mashed potatoes (gluey and oversalted) instead of the clearly superior tater tots. Green beans and pudding were always to be avoided, too. Nothing makes either of those things grosser than baking them in the oven for a while. Mixed veggies usually fared a little better, and apple cobbler was always my dessert of choice.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by ydejin
    Interesting. Does not look familiar at all. I'm not really sure what the US equivalent would be.
    I've seen things like that in the US, but only for vegetables. They do turn out very nicely.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_Merritt
    I eat a fair number of TV dinners. My current favorite is the Health Choice Cafe Steamers. Someone finally figured out a way to get decently cooked noodles and veggies in a TV dinner.
    I was about to suggest these too; they seem to work really well and I like how it keeps the sauce separate with the food in its own basket. Its slightly more expensive than the regular entrees (and I think has slightly less food) but it cooks really, really well. You don't puncture at all, just throw it in, cook for X time, done. And it tastes well (I like the salmon, pasta & dill sauce).

    But yeah, this is the steamed meals things you have in the UK, or the first representation of one I'd ever seen aside from bags of veggies.

    --- Alan

  17. #17
    New Romantic Miramon's Avatar
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    $0.02

    I don't much like frozen dinners. However, some of the shrinkwrapped precooked stuff they have now isn't bad. Hormel has a line of precooked food which can be more or less edible, including their meatloaf, but they tend to be pretty high calory foods, and who knows what got ground up to make that stuff. Usually, though, I'd rather just have a sandwich or order out if I'm feeling lazy, but from time to time it can't be all that bad for you.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scry
    I tend to eat quite a bit of frozen dinners these days as well, but lately I've tried to move away from that and started buying sandwich stuff and making poached eggs (at $1.50 per dozen, that's like 40 cents a meal). It's quick and healthy. Other things I love to eat are those instant $1 Yaki Soba and Chow Mein meals, but they have a shitton of sodium and carbs, not good if you're as inactive as I am.
    The instant noodles from a nice asian restaurant (especially the soft soba and the like) blow the supermarket stuff away.

    As for the original topic, I haven't tried the claim jumpers, but for flavor I'm pretty happy with the Boston Market stuff too. (If "flavor" is the right word to use for a frozen dinner.)

    The nutritionals for those things are all downright scary unless you're eating the "healthy" ones. Then they're just not great, but the taste keeps step with that.

    The real trick is to live near a Trader Joe's. Their frozen foods are well and above what you find in a normal supermarket for both taste and nutrition (and if you pick carefully you can have both at the same time).

  19. #19
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    Stouffer's lasagna is probably my favorite heat-'n-eat meal.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesJarvis
    Stouffer's lasagna is probably my favorite heat-'n-eat meal.
    Try Marie Callendar's sometime if you haven't. I used to be a big fan of stouffer's but found MC's has a bit more flavor. (Including the use of something that actually tastes like italian sausage in the mix, which is a plus in my book.)

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    Sounds promising, especially the italian sausage part. I'll have to try it out.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enduro_Man
    Wow, I haven't had a TV dinner in over a decade
    Wow. I'd say 1/2 of our meals are frozen entrees. No wonder I have "issues".
    What do you do when you don't want to cook (or are too tired)?

    Thanks Rimbo - It was Claim Jumper. Their chicken fried steak with gravy is awesome.

    Never seen Boston Market frozen dinners in our supermarket. I'll have to look around.

  23. #23
    New Romantic
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    Quote Originally Posted by jpinard
    What do you do when you don't want to cook (or are too tired)?
    Sammiches.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Sones
    Meatloaf was always my favorite in the foil-tray Swanson's meals, but IIRC, it usually came with the awful mashed potatoes (gluey and oversalted) instead of the clearly superior tater tots. Green beans and pudding were always to be avoided, too. Nothing makes either of those things grosser than baking them in the oven for a while. Mixed veggies usually fared a little better, and apple cobbler was always my dessert of choice.
    Back in the foil-tray day, mine was the "hungry man's" meatloaf I believe. Came with green beans, tots and the brownie. I remember always eating the beans first simply to get them out of the way; the rest was sheer heaven.

    Nowadays, when I load up on the frozen tv-dinner type fare it is mostly 'pot pie' (nod to Marie Calendar's) or 'hot pockets'; neither of which really qualify I guess.

  25. #25
    6th Grade Spelling Bee Loser World's End Supernova Rimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jpinard
    Wow. I'd say 1/2 of our meals are frozen entrees. No wonder I have "issues".
    What do you do when you don't want to cook (or are too tired)?
    We go out, or order pizza.

    I have a wife and live-in nanny, so I pretty much get fresh home-cooked Chinese food every day. The cooking part rarely takes longer than 10 minutes; it's the chopping part that takes time.

  26. #26
    Spinning Toe
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    Hungry Man 3-piece Chicken Dinner, pre-shift to boneless chicken forms. You just can't go wrong. Mashed potatoes, corn, some sort of berry-ish cobbler and 3 chunks of meat and bones ready for full on gnawin'.

  27. #27
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    Boston Market makes the best frozen pot pie in my opinion. I cannot abide the Marie Callender's, since they use kind of an onion cream sauce instead of gravy inside. Haven't really gotten around to trying their other offerings.

    Another really great frozen dinner is the Target store brand Asian bowl dinners, no shit. I think they're endorsed by some semi-famous chef named Ming Tsai. They have stuff like basil leaves and whole pea pods and flavor and texture in them. My favorites are the Orange Beef and the Soy Lime Chicken.

    Also, I don't think I saw anyone mention Amy's, which is a line of organic vegetarian frozen foods. Their cheese enchiladas and bean burritos are excellent. They also make pretty cool pizzas and pasta bowls.

    For worst I definitely have to give the nod to Banquet. One of my friends once bought a Country Fried Pork Banquet meal, and he declared that the entree was in fact Porky Salt Sludge. I can choke down their pot pies (which are like 25 cents each) but everything else is well below my threshold of actual food.

  28. #28
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    I just discovered a pretty decent frozen meal is Kashi's Lemon Rosemary Chicken. Its "healthy" and it tastes pretty good too. I tried a different one from the Kashi frozen range and didn't like it as much, it might have been the shrimp one.

    Non-frozen quick dinners - soup with toast, sandwiches and some of the ready made pastas and sauces you can buy in the supermarket.

  29. #29
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    Freschetta Brick Oven Classic Supreme (pizza). Not too pricey, cooks quickly, and tastes sooooo goood.

    http://www.freschetta.com/products.p...duct=BrickOven

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr_PeaCH
    Back in the foil-tray day, mine was the "hungry man's" meatloaf I believe. Came with green beans, tots and the brownie. I remember always eating the beans first simply to get them out of the way; the rest was sheer heaven.
    Oh, yeah--the brownies were good, too. I forgot about those.

    I don't think I've eaten a TV dinner in 20 years. But they were a childhood staple, so I have fond memories of them. Real TV dinners come in foil trays and bake in the oven, though. None of that plastic/cardboard wrapped crap that they have today qualifies.

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