Product Review: Birds Eye Chef’s Favorites

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Product Reviews

One of the benefits of being a Foodbuzz Featured Publisher is that from time to time you get opportunities to try new products (ones that aren’t even on the market yet) through their Tastemaker program. In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive the products gratis – despite that, I reviewed the products on their own merits. I was lucky enough to be able to try these products before they were released in stores, but they are widely available in most grocery stores right now.

I tend to shy away from most convenience foods, with steam-in-bag veggies being a notable exception. My diet, in recent months, has been extremely protein-heavy. Although I prefer my produce fresh, seasonal, and local, these bags are a great compromise. So I was extremely excited to receive a box with four bags of Birds Eye Chef’s Favorites – just add a protein entrée to any of them, and you have a complete meal.

I think I was most excited about trying the Primavera Risotto. I love a good risotto, and although there’s really no replicating the real thing, this was a nice compromise – nice and creamy, good herby flavor profile.

Steamfresh Primavera Risotto Packaging

It went beautifully with some pan-sauteed salmon. I’d definitely buy this one again, based on flavor and ease of preparation. Timing was spot-on, too. Both the risotto and the fish were done at around the same time.

Steamfresh Primavera Risotto

I was psyched to see that they had a creamed spinach – spinach has been a favorite vegetable of mine for as long as I can remember, and this preparation was creamy without being overly rich. A nice compromise.

Steamfresh Creamed Spinach packaging

I served this as part of an entire meal along with a pan-sauteed steak and the steamable mushroom risotto.

Steamfresh Creamed Spinach

I have to admit, I wasn’t too crazy about the mushroom risotto, and I’m usually a big fan. I’m not sure if it was a texture thing or a flavor thing, or a combination of both. Maybe I’m too used to the “real” version to accept a substitute. Still, I don’t believe I’ll be buying this one again.

Steamfresh Mushroom & Green Bean Risotto packaging

I did enjoy the addition of green beans to the risotto, which added fresh veggie flavor and a nice crisp texture.

Steamfresh Mushroom & Green Bean Risotto

Which may explain why my favorite of the four was the Roasted Red Potatoes and Green Beans. A lovely creamy garlic sauce lightly coated the “just right” green beans and potato chunks.

Steamfresh Roasted Red Potatoes and Green Beans packaging

This was an absolutely perfect dinner with some sautéed salmon. I actually enjoyed it so much that I’ve had it a few times in the month since I wrote this review.

Steamfresh Roasted Red Potatoes and Green Beans

Overall, I liked these enough that I’ll be purchasing them regularly, especially in the winter when the Ohio growing season is a distant memory.  They seem to be a decent value for the price.

I’m curious to know if you’ve tried these yet. If so, what did you think? What are YOUR favorite convenience foods?

Event: The Making of a Chef at CSCC + Giveaway!

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Charity, Columbus, Contest, Events

As many of you already know, I’ve been attending and blogging about Taste the Future, the annual fundraiser that provides scholarships for those who are going through the Culinary program at Columbus State, for many years now. Off the top of my head, I want to say that I’ve been there every time since 2006. And, at least to me, it’s one of my favorite culinary events of the year. But my participation has always been limited to attending and blogging about it – even though I knew that the money raised would go to students, I had never met or spoken to any of the students.

So when Elissa from CSCC’s Development Foundation asked me If I wanted to sit in on a class, I didn’t hesitate before saying yes. There have been many times over the years that I’ve toyed with the idea of cooking professionally, so it was absolutely fascinating to be able to quite literally see and taste the care and discipline it takes to make it through the three year program.

Each class begins with a mini-lecture that teaches theory and/or clarifies the concepts that the students will work on in the kitchen. Team assignments are made, with each person in the team being given a task to work on. The topic of this particular day was cheesemaking, with the gentlemen of Canal Junction cheeses there as guest speakers.

Before they got started on making three varieties of fresh cheeses (quark, ricotta, and mozzarella), the chefs went to work setting up their mis en place, with their sharp chef’s knives making quick work of chopping up fresh herbs.

cscc_herbs

I had a definite case of equipment envy, especially the Robo-Coupe they used to make pesto.

cscc_pesto

The rest of prep before making the cheese involved roasting garlic, rehydrating and chopping sun-dried tomatoes, and slicing berries. Luckily, they have several hours to prep/cook before presenting their dishes to the instructor and the rest of the class, so the pace is far more relaxed than it would be in an actual restaurant. They get on-the-job training during the 6,000 hours they work in a restaurant outside of the classroom in order to earn their credentials. Most of the restaurants involved in Taste the Future employ CSCC students and alumni.

cscc_addins

Ricotta was probably the easiest to make – the addition of an acid to the milk causes it to separate into curds and whey.

cscc_ricotta

Quark seemed just as simple to make, using a method that can easily be done in a home kitchen.

cscc_drained

Making mozzarella cheese is a bit more complicated because it involves the addition of rennet, which can ruin the whole batch if you add too much. Even though there were some problems along the way, everyone managed to get to the part where you have to stretch the mozzarella well before the deadline.

Stretching the Mozzarella

With the addition of the add-ins the students had prepped earlier, every group made spirals that were popping with flavor.

cscc_rolling

My favorite of the bunch were the ones filled with pesto.

Pesto-filled mozzarella spirals

Quark is a pretty neutral cheese on its own, but can easily be flavored with other ingredients to be sweet or savory.

cscc_quark

We really enjoyed the pesto quark, which had an in-your-face garlic punch.

cscc_pestoquark

The berry quark was equally as good, just In a different way.

cscc_berryquark

And I got to sample almost all of the cheeses Canal Junction produces. Yummy stuff, and local to boot.

cscc_samples

I really enjoyed myself during this class. I had the opportunity to talk to some of the students, and was impressed by the passion and hard work involved in completing this program. I really love what they’re doing there, and your support during Taste the Future allows them to subsidize the cost of the program.

For those of you who have stuck around this long, I’m giving away a pair of tickets ($200 value) to next Tuesday’s event. To enter, go to the Taste the Future website, peruse the menu, and tell me what one item you’re most interested in trying. Leave a comment on this entry with that information, making sure to provide me with an email address where I can contact you if you win. I’ll accept entries until Sunday, September 11th at 11:59pm and draw and notify the winner immediately thereafter. Earn an extra entry by tweeting about this giveaway (make sure there’s an @columbusfoodie somewhere in your tweet so I see it and it gets counted. Limit one entry per person per entry method.

Congrats to LeAnn Purdy, the winner as chosen by Random.org. I will contact you directly to give you further instructions.